Monday, December 30, 2013

52 Weeks of Happy - 52/52

Joining in with Jen, here are four happy photos from the past week, the final installment for this wonderful project.

My paperwhite narcissus has a bud. I noticed it on Christmas morning, a happy holiday surprise.

We figured out how to make foamed milk, using our immersion blender. It's stupidly easy, just heat the milk in the microwave and whiz until foamy. We felt silly for not learning sooner, but we're enjoying our homemade lattes.

I've been crocheting with pearl cotton, making tiny items for the GB's new dollhouse. It's fiddly but fun. I'm using my tiniest hook, which looks a bit like a dental instrument. It's just like crocheting with yarn, but on a smaller scale.

I found the GB in deep concentration with her potholder loom. Last spring, I bought that bin next to her at a yard sale, filled with many hundreds of loops, for $2. She hasn't made a whole potholder yet; she usually rips them out and starts again when she notices a mistake. But she loves working on it, and I enjoy watching her determined little face.

I can hardly believe that I've completed an entire year of this project. This has been a remarkable way to appreciate the simple, happy things in my life. Every week, I've kept my eyes open for the small moments and simple joys that make up the world around me. It hasn't always been easy, and sometimes I've felt I had to scramble to find four separate things that worked with the theme. I tried to stay away from things I bought, but I did use them here and there. I tried to concentrate on things that are really important to me - such as my children, my home and my hobbies - but some weeks brought less to work with. All in all, I think I've been successful and I feel that I've gained a new way of looking at my little world. I think I have happier eyes now.

As much as I have enjoyed this project, I will end it here. I want to try blogging without a prompt for a little while. I do think that having a weekly prompt, that sort of pushes you to blog at least once a week and to stick to a theme, builds your blogging chops. I am very glad to have chosen to do something like this throughout my first year of blogging. I may join another weekly prompt in the future. Soulemama's {this moment} photo project is particularly compelling and I enjoy every installment, on her blog as well as others. We'll see. I'm rather looking forward to being a free agent for now. Thanks for reading along and leaving thoughtful comments as I worked my way through the year.


Hello and welcome, new readers and followers! I'm really glad you're here. I hope you enjoy your visits to my blog. Thank you for your continued supportive comments on my posts. I really appreciated the comments you left about my blogging-anniversary post; it's nice to know that people like my little contribution to the blogosphere. I hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year's Eve and I wish you all health and happiness in 2014!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

In which I reflect on a year of blogging

A year ago tomorrow, I hit the little orange button on my first post to this blog. I began because I loved reading blogs and thought I might have interesting things to share too. I'm a proud, devoted parent, I love to make things, and I enjoy decorating and sprucing up my home. Using my free time in productive ways is really important to me. I felt I could share all of these things if I had my own space.

More than this, I hoped to increase my sense of mindfulness about my little world. I wanted to create a record. I have always loved to write and I kept notes about daily minutae from an early age. I now understand this was, in part, a response to certain difficulties in my life. But it stuck: in adulthood, and especially in parenthood, order is a tenet of my life. Some might call me a control freak. I prefer to think of myself as hyper-organized - I know where everything is, I know how to get more if I need it, I know what's coming next. Blogging, for me, has been a healthier outlet for these tendencies - healthier than obsessive list-making, for example. Blogging helps me rein in anxiety in a positive way. I believe this is one of the most important exercises in personal growth that I have ever undertaken.

I'm very pleased, yet a little surprised, that people have greeted my blog so warmly - people are actually reading this! People are actually reading this? - it see-saws in my head sometimes. I'm a quiet person; I mostly keep to myself. The response to my blog has taken some getting used to, but I am immensely grateful, and I have made true friends through this blog, which is definitely unexpected. I've won generous giveaways and received surprise gifts and cards in the mail. I appreciate every person who takes the time to visit and offer insights and support. You've helped me gain self-confidence.

Blogging is now an integral part of my life. I love having the opportunity to enhance my writing skills, and what was once a lukewarm interest in photography has become a true passion! I adore taking photos. I would be crafting anyway, but what a wonderful platform for sharing my creations - with like-minded people who really appreciate the time and dedication which go into finished projects. I'm getting more comfortable with sharing my family life too; I'm very proud of my family and I love sharing what we do and how we live. I'm happiest at home, and that was always the main idea behind my blog, which I plan to continue to emphasize and share.

Thank you all for being here over the past year. I am so glad you found me and that you've stuck around. You're lovely and sweet, every one of you, and I can't wait to see what this year brings for our wonderful blogging community.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


What a peaceful, relaxing week we're having, just the four of us at home. We've had long walks in the sunshine, lots of good food and time for reading, crafting and watching movies. It's cold outside but very bright and sunny, and we've tried to get outdoors every day. We'll go out for real today, for the first time since Monday, to do a couple of errands and maybe some dinner. I've enjoyed the cooking, but I'm feeling ready for a little break. I made lasagna and a green salad for Christmas Eve, a spiral-sliced ham for Christmas. With the ham, we had latkes (I always make them on Christmas and often Easter too, a remnant of my own upbringing in a mixed-faith family), green beans, fresh cranberry sauce and dinner rolls, with homemade cheesecake for dessert. I really love cooking for holidays; it feels more important, somehow. There has also been brie, pinot grigio salami and shrimp stocking stuffers such as Tunnock's Tea Cakes, Haribo Peaches and lots of nuts. The daily walks are integral to our survival, I think.

Our Christmas was wonderful. We limited our expenditures, feeling better about a simple holiday as we always do. But everyone got things they love. Both small Bears received plenty of fun and useful gifts, as did we. The GB got her very first dollhouse and so far, it's a hit with both children. I'm working on some crocheted items for it and feeling a little nutty about the tininess of the work...and the squinting it induces. I got two books I'd been wanting for awhile, Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook, an amazing compendium of information and techniques for every job around the house, and Little Stitches, Aneela Hoey's embroidery book. I've got two excellent embroidery books now and I'll be practicing more soon. It's a craft I really want to get better with. I also got a beautiful "mother's bracelet" made with Swarovski crystals and the small Bears' names spelled out in silver beads, and some crafting supplies like rubber stamps, washi tape and yarn. These Bear folks really know me.

My crafty life has been such a pleasure recently. I have finished the Winterwoods Sampler and framed it myself (with help from the ever-practical Bear). I need to get the proper hanging apparatus for the frame (weirdly, it didn't include any), and then it's going to be hung in the dining room, along with some other items that I think will look nice in a grouping with it. This particular wall has driven me crazy all the time we've lived here because it's huge and I searched for the right way to fill it up. But now I think that a slightly random, slightly kitschy, completely homey grouping is the way to go. I've also been sewing. I hadn't done much sewing this fall, as I devoted most of my crafty time to the LB's Manny Stripe and other, smaller crochet projects. I bought a jelly roll of 1930's reproduction fabrics last spring and it called out to me for months. It wanted to be made into log cabin blocks. And so I've made a few. More on the sampler and the blocks another time.

What are you doing on this day after Christmas? I hope you're enjoying good weather, time with friends and family, delicious food either made by you or made by someone else because you finally got out of the house...ahem. I hope you had a lovely Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

52 Weeks of Happy - 51/52

Joining in with Jen, here are four happy photos from the past week. This happens to be the 200th post on my blog!

The famous paperwhite narcissus continues to enthrall and delight. It's growing a little every day and is already a bit taller than it was a few days ago when I took this photo. The bulb is rising up on a springy bed of roots and a new shoot emerged just yesterday. No visible flower buds yet, but hopefully soon. I'm so excited for the flowers.

I've been playing with yarn again. I haven't started a project but I've been moving balls around, thinking about colors. The basket was one of my birthday gifts from the Bears, to be used as a yarn-carrier, and I'm planning to make a fabric lining for it. Right now, it's a handy mixing bowl for my yarn. I want my next blanket to involve a lot of gray...

I happen to think that one of the best smells in the world is fresh minced garlic sauteing in olive oil. I was making pasta fagioli (macaroni with cannellini beans - simple, hearty comfort food) on a chilly evening. I saute garlic often, but I never get tired of the aroma. It just means home to me.

This little elf had a ballet "sharing session" during the week - dimpled elbows, swishy ponytail and all. The girls donned red tutus with their requisite blue leotards (the lone boy wore a felt "elf collar" with bells). They showed us what they learned over the fall semester and had a surprise visit from Santa Claus. It was excellent entertainment.


Hello and welcome, new readers and followers! I'm glad you're here. Some asked about the clay birds on my last post about Art and Poetry Night at the LB's school. Those were made by students in the middle grades (6th through 8th grades). They used polymer clay (Fimo, Sculpey, etc.), believe it or not. They made their own "canes" which they sliced into sections to create the birds' feathers. Amazing work! Thank you for your comments on the artwork. I'm hopelessly behind on blog-reading right now with all the holiday fun, but I hope everyone is having a smooth run-up to Christmas and I wish you all a lovely, peaceful holiday with your loved ones.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Art and poetry

Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

On Wednesday night, the LB's school held its most popular annual event, Art and Poetry Night. This is an open house-style celebration of the students' artistic and creative writing efforts during the fall semester. Their work is impressive. The event entails visiting each classroom in the building to see the work on display. Every classroom is transformed into an art gallery, with black hanging fabric, twinkle lights and bright spotlights. There's also a silent auction of some of the creations (we won two items) and a bake sale. The tour through the classrooms is hectic, noisy, dazzling in its sheer quantity of things to see, a riot of color and light on one of the darkest nights of the year.

I'm looking forward to both small Bears being at school together next year. It's a wonderful school. Academics are very important to the curriculum, but so are creative pursuits. It's a public school but it's unique because the program is based on a combination of traditional classroom time with homeschool; currently, we do about 12 hours of homeschool per week. It's the best of both worlds on good days. It can be a frustrating situation on the bad ones. But we chose it because we think it's a good compromise for our children's needs and the way we hope our children will learn. Parents are students there too, by the way; we take classes in how to teach our children, as well as workshops in the subject matter itself. It's a big commitment, but on Art and Poetry Night, it's easy to feel completely enamored with all of it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Calm and bright

Pause. Breathe. Twinkle.

The lull is here. The busyness of the season relents with the close of this week. Today is the LB's last day of school, tomorrow is the GB's. We've had a guitar recital and a pre-ballet performance, and we've watched professionals perform the Nutcracker Ballet. We've had a preschool Christmas pageant (featuring one little girly piglet) and an elementary-school art and poetry exhibition. We baked approximately eleven dozen cookies (and ate a fair few, but gave most of them away). Tomorrow night, in our annual tradition, we will drive around nearby neighborhoods to look at the Christmas lights. We're thinking about letting the small Bears put on their pajamas first, just for fun. There will definitely be pizza.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of fun and festivity, and not a little stress. We've had good times with friends and classmates, office luncheons and cookie exchanges. It was wonderful, but now we're ready for our own simple holiday at home: two weeks off from school and work, cold weather soon to return after a warm spell, a quarter-cord of firewood, and a houseful of books, movies and crafty projects - not to mention woolly slipper socks. Everything I need: right here. If only those gifts could wrap themselves. Cookies will see me through.
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