Monday, January 28, 2013

New Books

Ok, maybe this should read, New to US Books, but you get the idea.  The girls got so many wonderful books for Christmas and after our latest big run to the library we are swimming in amazing literature over here.  Just thought i'd take a minute to share all the goodness.

Let's Go Home

Oh my, such  a wonderful book.  Cynthia Rylant is one of my FAVORITE authors and Wendy Anderson Halperin is one of my new favorite illustrators.  This book takes you through the rooms of a home, with beautiful nostaligic language and even more beautiful intriciate illustrations.  Louise could spend HOURS just looking at the pictures.  Me too.  Definitely a new favorite.

Love Is

Another one my Halperin and perfect for Valentine's Day.  Quotes from the bible, illustrated to perfection.  Another one of our favorites.

Snowsong Whistling and Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven

Ok, really, I could talk about Elisa Kleven all day.  I know you're sick of me talking about how great The Paper Princess is so I won't bore you, but here are two of our other favorites by her.

This one is pure fall/winter magic.  It's a bit past season now, but I pull this out at Halloween and we don't stop reading it until the last snow has melted.  I don't think it's possible to capture the magic of the fall to winter season better than this book does.  Far and away my all time favorite.

And speaking of magic, this book has quite a bit of it's own.  A beautifully rhymed book all about a dark cold stormy day (plenty of those of late and to come I'm afraid) brightened by the brilliance of a baker who thinks to make a sun bread to urge the sun to show it's face.  Of course it does and a lively jamboree ensues.  At the end is a recipe for buttery yellow sunbread (which I will shamefully admit we have yet to make) but this would make for the perfect rainy day story and a project afternoon.


Another one of my favorite illustrators, Marla Frazee, in a new book we received for Christmas.  This has to be one of the best bedtime books ever written.  All about stars, real and imagined, with adorable pictures and characters.  It's a bedtime staple around here.  Simply delightful.

One of Each and The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman

Ah Hoberman, another one I talk about too frequently, but the brilliance of Seven Silly Eaters aside, I LOVE HER SO MUCH.  I really haven't ever come across a more brilliant author for little ones.  Her prose is genius, so clever, yet light enough for even the youngest listeners.  I have yet to find a book of hers that I don't adore.  These are two of our new favorites.  I can't WAIT for Ainsley to be big enough to do her read alongs with.  Those look simply amazing too.

Zen Shorts by Kent Muth

I'm always searching for a super calming, lesson learning story that grips the girls' attentions and I must say I've come up short.  There've been lots that I've loved, but no winners for them, until Zen Shorts.  The adorably friendly Panda won them over right away and the zen stories were succinct enough to hold their attention.  Ainsley in particular loves this book and we've revisited it often to talk about the stories.

Silly Books

I Want My Hat Back

If you haven't read this book with your kid, you need to.  It's amazing.

Ponytail by Muncsh

Ainsley got this book for Christmas and it's a new staple for mid day giggles.  She loves the funny story, I love that underneath it's a story about the problem with blind conformity.  I also love that it's made getting Ainsley to put something in her hair a lot easier.

Ain't Gonna Paint No More

Louise recites this book randomly throughout the day.  It's repetition is clearly infectious and the story is so cute and hilarious.  I find it's great for after the girls have made a big mess and I've feeling flustered.  It makes us all laugh.

Books for Cantankerous Kids (and their parents)

As Ian and I delve further and further into this parenting journey of ours we've found it necessary to consult some resources now again for new or persisting troubles we encounter with the girls.  After a particularly rough streak a few weeks back I requested a bunch of books from the library and from those found a few that have proven very helpful.

I've said in the past, and still maintain  that "parenting" books, as a general rule, don't sit with me well.  I don't like labeling any children, especially my own, and find that boxing in their personalities  or my idiosyncrasies as a parent does no one any good.

Still I needed a bit of guidance and these next two books fit the bill beautifully.  I think either or both would work for any child/parent who wants the ultimate goal of their relationship to be one of mutual respect, kindness and love, even in the toughest times.

Unconditional Parenting

Author Alfie Kohn is a name I've heard since my first job out of college.  He's talked about a LOT in the progressive education world, as a strong voice against behaviorism and for unconditional parenting.  This book is really the cornerstone of his philosophy.  I had so many "aha" moments while reading this book.

One of his main tenants is that some parents try to control their children too much, when in essence we really CAN'T control most, or any of their actions.  We can't actually make a kid fall asleep or enjoy eating ALL of their dinner.  We can create encouraging environments and comforting rituals, set examples and above all show them respect and love in everything they do.

I haven't been able to put this book down since I got it.  It's a real eye opener and very very hopeful.

Above All, Be kind

Similar to Kohn's book, this book by Zoe Weil focuses on the humanitarian aspect of child rearing, rather than instant gratification rule following.  I will admit, after reading the first few chapters I ended up skimming a bit as I felt I got her point right away.  But it's definitely worth a trip to the library.  It's helped me refocus my tone and brush up on my own attitude, knowing that the examples that I set for my girls are their most important teachers.

Harriet, You'll Drive me Wild

And now a book for the kids.  Ainsley in particular is quite taken with this story of little rambunctious Harriet and her patient until she can't be patient any more mama.  The brilliance of this book is that it's so simple and a road we've all been down.  Your child makes a big mess, you calmly ask them to clean it up, 10 minutes later they goof up again, you take a deep breath, you ask them not to do it again, 10 minutes later, again, double deep breaths, then while they should be napping they TRASH their bedroom and you LOSE it because you just have no patience left.  The book ends with Harriet and her mom cleaning up the mess together laughing, but the point is clear.  Harriet goofed up, but so did the mom.  We ALL make mistakes sometimes and it doesn't make us anything other than human, and after all is said and done, we of course still love each other to the moon and back.

So there we are, a few new favorites.  Any great finds of late for you?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Little Corners

Hello friends.  It's been a few days.  While finding the time and combined motivation to post seems lacking these days I'm just itching to get a few things out here.  Life lately has been really really good.

First off, my girls.  I've found myself frantically searching for paper and pencil often lately to record the daily hilarities going on around here.  Today while I was cleaning out the craft cupboard Ainsley took it upon herself to dump out a bag of feathers on the ground.  I was exasperated to say the least.  But mama, I just wanted to make a feather puddle she said in the sweetest saddest little way.  I couldn't help but chuckle.  And last night at dinner?  Why Louise got down from the table looked me straight in the face and said  Mama, I don't need these anymore, ok?! and proceeded to take her underpants off.  Then there was the adorableness in the fort yesterday.  The girls were playing "storm" and huddled under a blanket while the "winds raged" outside.  Ainsley was calling the fort her snuggledom, that's a cozy place to snuggle mama, with all my lovies and louise in it. Sometimes they just can't get any cuter.

A quiet solo moment with Ainsley this morning, smiling proudly in front of her stained glass she made at school, and then, well, things just got silly, as they always often do.

We've all been enjoying the thick dusting of snow that we FINALLY got.  I'm finding it increasingly hard to hold my tongue when most adults around me are grumbling about windchills and clothing layers.  IT'S WINTER! I LOVE IT!  I WANT MORE!!!! And tell me a morning spent bundled up at the park watching my girls make snow angels, throw snow, giggle and shoot down frozen slides isn't about the best thing this season has to offer, because it is.   Oh winter, please give us more.  We love you.

sweet Louise helping with dinner tonight

a little of that fort fun I mentioned above

I have a whole post started on books.  We've found so many new amazing ones of late, but this moment?  I just had to share immediately.

reading the book to her baby, because her "big girl dolls" just won't do right now

It's recently occurred to me that I should start talking to the girls about this homebirth we're planning, especially Ainsley.  I'd been looking for a good book to read with them and found Welcome with Love.  I ordered it from the library and brought it home today in our pile of new finds.  I read it twice to Ainsley at the library and approximately five more times before bed tonight.  She is absolutely enthralled.  My curious medically minded girl is so fascinated by it all, remarking tonight just before I turned their lights out that "it's so neat mama, that there's that special place where the baby comes out.  I really like this picture of that.  I like that special place."  She also giggles whenever the little boy narrator talks about how LOUD mum is when she's having the baby.  Ainsley asks me every time if that's true.  If mamas yell when the baby is coming.  Oh goodness yes big girl.  Yes, I yell lots.  She smiles at me and responds "that's ok mama, you're allowed to yell when things hurt.  But then the baby comes and everyone is so happy!  I can't wait."  Me too big girl.  Me too.

This book is beautiful and accurate, still gentle and age appropriate.  While we don't intend for the girls to be present while the baby is actually born, we know enough not to discount the possibility, and it's comforting to know that Ainsley is SO excited about it all, curious and joyful.  I think we have to buy this book.

Books and snow aside, the most exciting happenings in this house, well, for me at least, are food related.  After months and months of struggling with meal planning and cooking something has clicked and my kitchen is my haven again.  Perhaps it's that deep clean I gave it a few weeks back, or those beautiful weck canning jars and new cookbooks Ian gave me for Christmas.  It's all glorious really.

My first batch of homemade jam

baked lentils with cheese, above jam on homemade irish soda bread

crepe night with my girls

I spent a mere $80 on groceries this week and in my opinion, it's been one of the best cooking weeks in months.  Those baked lentils are one of my new favorites, as are the calico beans I made with Louise which yielded enough for two hearty meals.  I'd all but forgotten about the magic of the crepe. How easy they are to make and fun for the girls to fill.  I simply raid the fridge, make a simple roux based cheese sauce, fill and whalla! dinner.

A lot of my new inspiration came from re-visiting More with Less, an old standby of mine.  I've stopped worrying about anything being fancy (because who has time for fancy?) and refocused on flavor and nutrition, really what it's all about.  Ian's a bit bummed that it's been a while since we've had a big piece of meat, but I'm thrilled that we're eating so well and saving so much money.  I think that's an ok compromise.

Another compromise I've made?  surrendering half of our dining room to my artist girls.  After fighting the clutter and dreading the putting away for months and months I gave in.  Took Louise to the Container Store while Ainsley was at school this past week.  Spent about $18 on some new stacking bins and there we have it, a "mostly" clutter free workzone for my girls.  Accessibility is really key at this age.  And while I really was jonesing for some vintage wooden milk crates to use as storage, sometimes you just need a few good stacking bins for instant gratification.

My girls are loving their "new" space.  Everything within reach, so many fun things unearthed in the cleaning out of that tiny cramped cabniet.  Oh the projects they're making.  Wonderful.

And lastly of course, my crafting.  I'm happily buying a few store bought gifts already this year, making this new baby and my two growing girls my priority on the sewing machine and in the knitting bag.  I am SO excited about the girls' quilts.  FINALLY!  I may only get a few squares and strips done a day, but by golly they'll get there.  We've read The Quilt Story quite a few times in eager anticipation.  Ainsley in particular is giddy to have a mama made quilt "that I can bring with me wherever I go mama, even when I move". I don't have any photos of Ainsley's in progress.  I'll try to get on that soon.

Louise's log cabin squares

I am LOVING quilt making.  Once I bit the bullet and spent the 3 hours it took to rip all that fabric into strips it's all been going quite fast.  About 10-15 minutes a square, depending on how anal I get about the color combos.  I love searching for fun patterns, pressing the seams neat and watching the compositions emerge.  I can't wait to see it all put together!

What's really allowed me to get cracking on those quilts, and all the other things to make around this house, is that this baby officially has a few handmade things completed   Their knit blanket is one color change away from completion  and that with the below duo of quick change trousers was enough to make me feel accomplished, for now.  Now ask me in a month how that bonnet and surprise jacket are coming along...

I am excited for this baby for so many reasons, but will happily admit that one that tops the list is the excuse to make oodles of these pants in all sorts of sizes and combinations.  I simple NEED to find a way to make this pattern in larger sizes.  Stopping at a 2T is just not going to cut it.  Louise wore one of her flannel lined versions this past week and 5 separate moms asked me where I got them (one if I made them in adult sizes!).  These pants are golden I tell you.  And if there's anything cuter than roomy 3 month old sizes reversible flannel pants, I don't want to know what it is.

Thanks for sticking with me.  I know it was lots.  One of these days I'll get better about compartmentalizing.  Now excuse me while I go pass out.  this baby's in another growth spurt I believe.  I've done nothing this afternoon other than eat and lounge about and I'm still EXHAUSTED.  Ah.  I can't wait to meet you baby.  We are all SO incredibly excited.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I'm feeling just this side of under the weather today.  Yesterday morning while Ainsley was at school, instead of our usual run around get stuff done morning, Louise and I lay down in my bed.  I napped, she moved on to her room, happily playing dress up and dollhouse while I closed my tired eyes.

Last night after a full afternoon with our beloved Grammy, Auntie and sweet cousin (not to mention the long awaited 20 week ultrasound, nearly 6 weeks late!) I was bushed.  While reading a distraught Ainsley into calm (oh boy, does she hate when her Grammy has to leave) my body relaxed deep into sleep mode too.  By 8:30 we were both out.  I didn't rouse until 6:30, and I still felt tired.

This morning I've been dragging.  Louise is a bit off too, wanting me to carry her through the morning, an increasingly tricky feat for me.  I spent my hour alone this morning knitting in silence, staring off into space.  I spent naptime snuggled up with my baby girl, needing more sleep than her when she awoke 2 hours later.

And now?  I'm still off.  Sluggish and slow.  But my girls are wide awake and the snowless landscape is shining bright.  On a normal non pregnant, feeling great day we'd be out.  But today?  I made a batch of fresh playdough, pink like a Valentine's heart, per Ainsley's request.  I'm pouring myself another large glass of water, snuggling up on the couch, not even feeling like knitting that last row of the baby blanket before another exciting color change (that's how I really know I don't feel well).

I say a quick prayer that this is all this is.  A little cold, needs to sleep all the time bug.  But I also say a prayer of thankfulness.  That this baby looked so darn cute at the ultrasound last night.  Sucking on their hands, rolling about, growing and healthy and alive.  That my body is handling this pregnancy well, that other than the chills and scratchy throat I feel amazing.  That I have two beautiful self entertained little girls who are currently rolling and cutting their playdough into birthday treats for a celebration for their dolls, no wait, now they're playing firehouse and putting out "fires" (chunks of playdough placed all around) with a purple chapstick Louise found.  Next it will be ballerina dress up, then letter writing to loved ones, then around 5 I'll probably cave and put on a cooking show to which Ainsley will respond with intent concentration and Louise will mimic the chefs every moves with her play utenstils and chefs hat.

Ah, so even and off day.  It's really pretty grand.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Craft

Typically after a big crafting surge I take a break.  For as much as I crave and love making, it's a lot of work.  I fondly remember those late summer/early fall days of 2012 with free time spent freely, rather than in front of the sewing machine or fingers cramping from knitting.  Ah, joy.

If I'm honest I was nervous about Christmas.  The one time I did sit down to list it all out the number of "must makes" was ridiculous, IMPOSSIBLE!  Then something kind of all Christmas magicy and wonderful and miraculous happened, I loved it.  

I usually love the beginning of making.  Cutting out new patterns and exciting fabric, knitting that first sock, those first precarious rows, coming up with a new idea and delving in.  That's where it's at for me.  The beginning, the excitement!  But then at some point along the way it becomes work. Finicky seams needing redoing and lots of concentration, blocking and finishing and weaving in pesky ends.  It will amuse you to know that a sweater I made for my nephew was the first gift I started way back in August and one of the absolute last to be completed because I just could not bring myself to sew all those pieces together.  Oh Becky.

But then some flip switched.  I kept waiting for it to be hard, bothersome, BLAH!  But it wasn't.  It wasn't at all.  

Of course I forgot to take photos of MANY of the gifts given.  Just imagine velveteen and satin infinity scarves, wool socks, patchwork baby balls, bo peep skirts, a green roll collar toddler boy sweater, and silk fairy wings...I know you can

I can tell I really loved it because it was all sort of, easy.  No late nights, no worry that things wouldn't get finished, that they weren't good enough.  Somehow in this past year of making I've settled into a groove.  Having a project (or 5) on the sewing desk, cast on needles in the basket, a notebook filled with lists of ideas, shelves full of's become like my morning coffee.  It's just something I do, without thought, with great pleasure, with a bit of decadence.

Good thing too really because oh boy, is there lots to make.  Spring sweaters and sundresses for my growing girls, FINALLY those much anticipated mama made quilts, curtains galore, even a sweater vest for my no longer a student all grown up workin' boy.  And, oh wait, that baby that's making their appearance in a few months, I suppose they need, deserve, a few things of their own.

And may I just note I am having SO much fun getting creative with the whole gender neutral thing.  Who says you need to stick to butter yellow and seafoam green?

 fabric laid our for Louise's log cabin squares quilt  made entirely from her daddy's old shirts and fabric scraps from her babyhood (birthday dresses, crib bumper, summer pants and mama's skirts) Ah, I'm excited for this one, and that soft floral pallet?  That's so my girl.

So this making now?  It's kind of mindless.  My autopilot has switched.  My go to is now my well stocked fabric and yarn closet, not Target or online sales.  When I need more materials I go to the closet or thrift store (umm, except for that new baby's blanket up there, that surely was a splurge of the best possible kind, but all of this kiddos new pants, sweaters, socks and bonnets?  all made entirely from my stash)

I'm only a few years into this and I already love the history it's creating   That as I was sifting through fabrics for the girls' quilts tonight there were so many memories woven in among that cotton and flannel.

Last night the girls and I opened up their summer clothes bin to sift through duds they may have outgrown to give to their littler cousin.  Ainsley gasped with glee and she pulled out favorite dresses and skirts from last season.  Each one was handmade, either by myself or my mom.  This Christmas?  all of my sisters got in on the making as well.  When we craft the girls don the most ADORABLE cotton aprons (that double as handled bags!) made by my big sis.  When we cook?  Louise gets to wear a full on chefs hat and embellished apron made by my younger sister.  When we drink coffee in the morning?  We get to put our hot mugs on handmade coasters by my youngest sister.  And when the girls get dressed in the morning?  For bed?  For playtime?  They are bombarded with the cutest, loveliest choices all made by hands that love them. 

This crafting is catching, and I do believe it's here to stay.