musings on art, life and family from a crunchy mama

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Yarn Along: Cool Affection


I have long wished to knit up a Color Affection. Last fall, I finally picked up yarn for it at a nearby fiber festival. Wandering Wool yarns are the work of a woman living in the DC-area; she hand-dyes them in her small city kitchen. I’ve used the Worsted before (see here and here) and was impressed by the gorgeous color, softness and how beautifully it knit up and held up over time. These skeins of fingering weight – Rock Creek Sock and Ausuble Sock – sat in my stash for months while I worked on gifts for the girls and other little projects. Last week, looking for a simple project I could knit on with the girls around (read: garter stitch), and in the mood for bright greens and blues, I grabbed the fall festival bag from the yarn bin, wound the yarn, and cast on. I’ve just added the first contrast color, so I’m not too far into the shawl, but the vivid, cool colors and easy pattern are very satisfying at the moment and, so far, they are just as lovely to work with as the Worsted. 

I’m listening to One Thousand White Women, recommended to me by a friend. A fictional account, the introduction to the main character’s journals is so convincing I had to look up more information on the book to verify that it was not actually a true account of history. I’m now into the journals themselves and finding it a thought-provoking and well-written story and one that likely has many true-to-history details. 


Favorite Winter & Holiday Books (Holiday Blog Hop #5)

This post is part of the 2013 Holiday Blog Hop.

In the days following Thanksgiving each year, we pull out the Christmas decorations – the festive holiday plates and the gorgeous handmade (not by me) Advent calendar, the First Christmas ornaments for the girls and the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer figure set Keith bought me before we were married. Alongside these items that bring up so many cozy memories are wonderful books specific to the winter season and the holidays, books we only read this time of year, stories that hold their own set of memories between the pages – of the child who loved one book best of all, of the Christmas morning another book was unwrapped, of the countless times a little one demanded her favorite book read, of the cuddles in front of the tree as little voices pleaded for just one more story. Each year we add another book (or two) to the collection, a special story (or two) that will become a tradition of its own over the years. Here are some of our favorites.


  • Story of the Snow Children – This tale of a young girl visiting a snow princess’ birthday party is full of dancing snow children and snowmen who deliver delicious frozen treats and is enough to spark the imagination of any little one watching the snow fall out her window.
  • Trouble with Trolls – A recent addition to our collection, Ani has already asked for this over and over again this year. The story of mischievous trolls causing trouble for a little girl and her dog and the different ways the girl outwits them makes for an excellent read. The detailed, colorful, and lively illustrations – indicative of Jan Brett books – make one feel that they are up in the mountains with her, breathing the cold air, yet staying warm in handknit woolens. The Mitten and The Hat are two more wintertime favorites by the same author.


  • This Is the Stable – This lovely little book about the birth of Christ has some of the most gorgeous illustrations I’ve seen in a children’s book. It’s rhythm is perfect for a calming bedtime story.
  • The Night Before Christmas – There are many versions out there of this Christmas classic, but I quite like this board book version for kids. It’s the complete poem with lovely illustrations and is durable to boot.
  • Home for Christmas – Another Jan Brett book, this story of a naughty little troll learning the value of family, kindness and helping one another is a fun tale with beautifully detailed illustrations.

For more holiday books, please visit the blogs below, but not before you leave your favorite holiday and winter books (or links into your own similar posts) in the comments!

A Homeschool Mom

Pie Jesu

Sure as the World

You Know What Mama

Waldorf-Inspired Learning

Waldorf Salad and Cottage Fries


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Holiday Blog Hop #2: Thanksgiving Resources

Please check out You Know What Mama’s post, Thanksgiving Resource List, today. This Holiday Blog Hop post is full of wonderfully rich book selections, printables and more, all of which I can’t wait to use in our homeschooling lessons and storytimes.

Previous Holiday Blog Hop Posts

Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights, Lavender’s Blue Homeschool.

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Yarn Along – Progress

Joining Ginny for the Yarn Along…


The shawl is looking good. I’ve made significant progress since last week and I’m enjoying it loads more than I was then. I’m almost through the striped section and it seems like the look I was hoping for is taking shape. The stripes are more like ripples, the color fluid and without distinct boundaries. The rows are long at this point and I’m often only able to do one or two at a time during the day, but the progress is steady at night and hopefully by next week I’ll have a completed shawl.

Last night I stayed up into the wee hours listening to the end of State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Bel Canto is perhaps the first audiobook I ever listened to and I still remember the images evoked by the beautiful and heartbreaking prose read to me while I worked in the back room of a bookstore in Indiana. Many years have passed and since that time I have been an avid reader of and/or listener to Patchett’s work and was excited to find State of Wonder on Audible. Neither the story nor the narration disappoints. I’ve been hooked this last week and have been listening as much as possible after the girls are in bed – audiobooks are great knitting companions – and find myself thinking about it often throughout the day. The prose is beautifully written, full of detail and emotion. The story is haunting and thought-provoking, powerful, the end at once infuriating and heartbreaking and thrilling. The narration by Hope Davis is spot on, her voice and rhythm reminiscent of Patchett’s own voice.

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Yarn Along – Not-in-Napa Scarf

I’m joining Ginny this week for the Yarn Along.



One week last winter, Keith went on a business trip to Napa. The girls and I couldn’t go, so I bought yarn; I’d been wanting to make a Noro Striped Scarf for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to start one. Napa versus wool: not quite a fair trade, but close. I call it my Not-in-Napa Scarf and have decided that whenever Keith takes a big trip to some exotic locale or fancy-schmancy conference, I’m going to treat myself to a little something. It’s something to look forward to during an otherwise oft-challenging week. Wool is great because it’s fun for me but usually doubles as either clothing for one of the girls or a gift – either way, some sort of something we would be purchasing anyway.

Though a super simple pattern, the color changes of the Noro Kureyon keep it interesting. I could knit while also being present for the girls, so it was a great piece to work on when the littles needed me to be present and near their play but not actively engaged at all moments. I started it toward the end of winter, therefore I wasn’t in a big hurry to finish it (as it was getting to warm to wear), so could just work on it when I felt like it and put it down quickly when someone would need my attention, without worrying about losing my place.

The colors are not exactly what I was expecting – in fact, when looking closely some of them I really don’t like at all – but somehow it all works together and when I look at it as a whole, it’s much better than the sum of its parts. I’m really looking forward to wearing it (though I’m happy to wait a good long while for scarf weather to arrive).

Ravelry notes here.


I’m continuing to listen to the audiobook for The Help. It is heart wrenching, hearing these characters describe the abuse and hate and discrimination and fear that was so commonplace in Mississippi – and much of the country – in those days. I often find myself near tears while listening and can only hope such a story won’t be warranted about our times.

Yarn Along


A Rare Gem


They come from beds of lichen green,
They creep from the mullein’s velvet screen;
Some on the backs of beetles fly
From the silver tops of moon-touched trees,
Where they swung in the cobweb hammocks high,
And rocked about in the evening breeze;
And now they throng the moonlight glade,
Above–below–on every side,
Their little minim forms arrayed,
In the tricksy pomp of fairy pride.

The Assembling of the Fays by Joseph Rodman Drake

When our oldest was very young my father-in-law gave her several books of nursery rhymes and fairy tales, lamenting how hard they were to find. He’d gone to nearby bookstores and been told that collections of fairy tales were not nearly as popular as books based on Disney movies and Sponge Bob and so were rarely sold in store anymore. Not one to give up easily, he scoured used bookstores and thrift stores in an effort to find his granddaughter the tales he so valued. Two of the books he found are full of lovely, bright images and the nursery rhymes, stories and songs I remember from my own childhood – Humpty Dumpty, Little Miss Muffet and the like. One was a treasury for older children and contains stories like the Little Match Girl and Hansel and Gretel, which we’ve just recently started reading to her.


The last is a particularly old volume, a collection of tales and poems with a faded picture of a fairy and three small children on the cover. Entitled My Bookshop Through Fairy Halls, the pictures are gorgeous and reminiscent in parts of Sybille Von Olfer’s Story of the Root Children.

20110829-033932.jpgThe book is delicate, too delicate for tiny hands that so easily rip books apart (as they were wont to do at the time) so it was placed safely out of reach on a high shelf; there it fell out of remembrance until just yesterday when I happened to notice it during dinner (our bookshelf sits just behind the dinner table).

Not recalling right off where it came from I asked my husband about it. We got it down and I began to flip through it and show off it’s artistry to him and the girls. We all were quickly mesmerized by both the book’s rare and intricate illustrations and the tales and poems inside – true fairy tales we’d never read before as well as some classics we recognized, such as the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson and some tales from far away lands, such as the Moon-Maiden, a fairy tale from Japan.

20110829-033939.jpgThis picture reminds me of the first movie I ever saw in a theatre.
The image of horses rising from waves has never left me.

Aria has been quite taken with fairies of late and Keith and I love tales of magic and fantasy (diehard Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fans here) so I began reading aloud. Then we read from it for bedtime and though I put it away overnight, I’ve not stopped thinking about it.


I researched the book a bit and found that the My Bookshop series, especially those published in the 20s like this one, are fairly rare.


Paul passed away a couple of years ago and he remains very much missed by those he left behind. But the tangible items he left us – his woodwork, this rare book, give us glimpses not only into a creative, imaginative side of him, but allow us to remember and pass on a bit of himself to the ones that will never get a chance to fully know him.  I’m not sure he knew it, but this book he passed along was a rare gem indeed, containing tales and illustrations we never would have come across if not for his diligence and generosity. Though no longer with us, he continues to shape our lives in countless small but meaningful ways.

Lo! here are airy halls and fairy halls
     Where life and joy and all true splendor reign
And be it shining creature with bright wings,
     Or but a little man or queer old dame,
Or talking beast who doth appear to guide,
    Pray let him lead you hither to these halls.

Through Fairy Halls, author unknown

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:little things:

20110802-094511.jpg* The past couple weeks have been busy with lots of summer activity. Aria had summer camp, family-from-far-away visited, and there’s been heat…lots of heat. With high temps come high humidity, poor air quality and an increase in indoor activity.

* While we’ve had more than enough indoor time to last us awhile, we have enjoyed doing some of the smaller activities on our Summer Bucket List: painting, making smoothies on the hottest days and baking on the cooler slightly less hot days, going to the library for lots of books, going to the bookstore for storytimes and a chance to play with the train, picking out more books.

* Aria should be done with the summer reading program at the library at our next visit. She’s very excited about getting her name up on the wall.

* The worst of the air quality issues seems to be past us for the moment and Aria’s asthma is more under control because of it. For that we are immensely grateful.

*My summer cold is on the mend. I’m quite grateful for that as well.

20110801-101150.jpg* I finally got to take Ani to an Itsy Bitsy Yoga class during Aria’s summer camp. Aria loved these classes as a babe and took them from the time she was a few months old until about 3 1/2 years, but because of the “what to do with the older child” issue I haven’t been able to take Ani at all yet.

* To all the yoga/baby gym/music/etc places out there: Holding classes for older kids AT THE SAME TIME as classes for little ones and mamas = More customers = More money.

* This fall I’ll be able to take Ani to Itsy Bitsy Yoga class each week while Aria is in school. I’m pretty excited about it, especially since we’ll have the same awesome instructor that taught Aria’s classes. I think Ani will be too;  she had a great time once she warmed to the new environment.

* Itsy Bitsy Yoga and similar classes for babes provide a great indoor activity for the hottest/coldest/yuckiest days and also provide mama with some adult interaction and babe a chance to play with other littles. I highly recommend them.

20110801-101210.jpg* Yesterday we visited a splash park for the first time (SBL). There are several “spraygrounds” in the DC area (all free, I think) and this particular one in Arlington has both playground equipment and fountains. It was fabulous. I think this will become a weekly outing (at least!) for the remainder of the summer, especially on scorching hot days like today. It’s nearby, clean, shaded in parts, age appropriate for both little gals and bigger girls and totally easy to keep an eye on both – in short, a mama’s dream. I’m not sure why I waited this long to go, except that I wasn’t completely familiar with any one in particular and wasn’t sure how chaotic it would be (it wasn’t).

* Tonight a blissful summertime storm rumbled through, bringing with it a welcome drop in temperature and humidity. It was lovely.

* Our first cherry tomatoes are almost ripe. We are very eager to try them.

* I finally got a chance to make the Little Quinoa Patties from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson this evening. The wait was worth it. They were absolutely delicious served on a bed of arugula drizzled with olive oil and just a touch of Parmesan – a lovely, simple meal that didn’t heat up the whole place.

*** BONUS: The girls ate them without fuss!!! Aria even declared that she LOVES arugula…Well, they didn’t eat Little Quinoa Patties, exactly…They ate Fairy Burgers. The curly bits are made from fairy dust, you see.

* There has been a lot of talk of fairies and dragons of late. What time do they come out?

Note: I received no compensation for my endorsement of Itsy Bitsy Yoga. The opinions voiced here are entirely my own.