Monday, April 22, 2013

Manly Flowers

My sweet friend Jen of Two Trees Farm recently gave me one of her pretty know, those cheese-cloth things for wrapping babies, and which only come in ugly (to me) baby prints...

Well, brilliant Jen went to a fabric store and bought some much more grown-up looking muslin. Manly flowers, she calls them. (Jen has four little sons. "Manly" is important, yes sir.)  Rafe is past the baby-wrapping stage, but Jen's muslin makes a great scarf! And it smells like Jen's house, which is heaven. (Jen makes soap)

Anyway this is all by way of introduction to the concept of manly flowers, because I've been putting manly flowers on my boys (the ones that are too little to mind). This Easter I made Matthias some dashing new pants...
the elastic hasn't been added yet, so he is *even* lower slung than usual! The low pockets are for the fake low-slung look, but thanks to his nice flowered cumberbund, the pants stay on his waist!

I think they're pretty snazzy. And luckily for me, Matthias and I see eye-to-eye on most things.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Another issue of Soul Gardening is coming out!

Monday, April 15, 2013


Last week when I was doing the all-important pre-renovation shop-vac-ing, I snapped a few of my favourite corners of the new housse.
"Jedrzej" built the house...This particular little piece of Ontario was settled by farmers from Kaszuby (Poland-Lithuania)...I love this little piece of history on our laundry room wall. And I think that Jedrzej would be happy to see a family living here again.

 I'll do an official "before" photoshoot soon. Just as soon as this ice storm is over and we get back at the cleaning!

Saturday, April 13, 2013


I accidentally deleted a post. It had my mitten-making pictures. Did you catch those MITTENS? You did? Oh good! Now we can talk about them! I can hardly hold up under the excitement of designing my own mittens.

First, the show and tell: This is my third pair of Chevalier Mittens this winter. (by Mari, a lovely Finnish crafter). I don't normally enjoy repeating a project, but the finished result here is just so very beautiful.

giving you the finger with a wooly mitten
I made brown pair for my mother-in-law for Christmas and Will was totally admiring and covetous (Will doesn't exactly share my passion for wool craft, although he's a patient listener when I'm on Ravelry and always compliments the finished project. He's a good soul.) So I made him a pair for St. Patrick's day; appropriately green and appropriately cabled. 

He LOVES these mittens, which shows he's cool and has good taste.

So then, with two weeks till my parents birthdays, I cast on for two more pairs: cherry red chevalier mittens for my mother, and a daring original design project for Dad.

not quite sure what that red mark is;  random bits of thread always show up in my photos

I wanted something more "manly" than cables; something geometric, something subtle, something Nordic or Baltic. But I couldn't find a pattern that was right (or free, one of my knitting disciplines). So I took a hint from Elizabeth Zimmerman (the magnificent), got the squared paper, and one thing led to another....


During this flurry of knitting, quite a bit of David Copperfield (audiobook) was revisited, a few favourite tunes added to the list, like these lovely lads (Mumford and Sons) and these fun people (oh my, how I love their names!) and the often replayed Barton Hollow (Thank you Angela. Really now, how would I ever learn about anything cool, without you?). I also checked back to Elizabeth Zimmerman's pithy (but obscure) directions in Knitter's Almanac. Elizabeth Zimmerman EMPOWERS.

Knitting Talk:
I learned a lot with this project. I'm not crazy over the ribbed cuff for one thing. It's a bit plump and loose and dumb. Next time I'll try a smoother, fitted cuff, maybe with an idiot cord border. Also, I used an even number of stitches in the front pattern, which is less pleasing to the eye and harder to design than the traditional odd-number built around a single middle stitch. Am I getting technical? Try it, you'll see what I mean.

Also, the palm pattern falls apart at the thumb increases....(not the thumb, just the pattern) ...which expalins the traditional ladder border around the thumb, I guess.

red Chevalier mitten, very useful for mug-holding

Anyway, there's my record of wooly goodness for you and for posterity. MP.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

These Pictures Aren't Fake

 Such delicious homeschooling is happening thanks to my mother.  Mum has been taking my kids' education in hand and I've been eavesdropping to learn her tricks. It's so great.

The biggest revelation so far is the great missing link in learning to write: tracing. Lots of it, piles of it.

I'm good with the math. I love all the literature and nature study and art that just kind of evolves out of the seasons, liturgy, or whatever interest is de rigeur with the kids.

But teaching writing stresses me out. How did I learn to write? I don't remember.

tracing—piles of tracing—really helped William with speed and confidence
My kids are full of verbal acumen, stories and jokes and poems. They're managing alright, if slowly, to put letters together to spell simple words. Well and good. (We've also done a fair amount of dictation, especially for letters and nature journals: they tell me what to write, I write. It's great for reinforcing the whole brain-to-paper thing and loosening up their natural powers of expression.) But when I sit down to get them writing on their own, they panic. Or I panic. We all panic, and get stressed out and the kids drop their pencils, and then go looking for their pencils, and escape out the back door...

The fact is, I get overwhelmed by the stupidness of English spelling and I get mad because they (Willy) can't write fast enough.

illustrations for Bucephalus

So how do you go from basic phonics to writing confidently? My Mum has been practicing a simple—and natural—middle step. William dictates a story (his own words of course). She writes it in pencil. He traces in pen. It sounds too simple, but it's working! His hand is loosening up, he's gaining speed, it's starting to flow!

This is only one piece of the writing puzzle of course. He's also writing comic books which I don't touch. (I don't want writing to be "school work" but another medium of creativity like his pencil crayons and markers.) He does a few phonics lists with grandma, and letters to friends that get corrected for spelling.
The alphabet box: Hugh and Matthias are finding little objects to match the phonetic letter. This picture isn't a fake! They really do this!
So it's all coming together.
building the little houses of straws, sticks, and bricks for the Three Little Pigs story

The most important link, the mortar for all these little bricks, is the sound of beautiful literature in their ears. We read to them every day. Right now it's The Princess and the Goblins, The Lord of the Rings (at their request. I don't approve, but Will needs no excuse to read Tolkein out loud), lots of little nursery stories....

The boys are busy finding and burying caches of quartz, map-making (in case they forget their cache locations), watching chickens, sandbox construction, comic-book illustration, and live-trap designing for the mysterious predator of Grandpa's chickens. (Three dead chickens since we've arrived. Oh my, the carnage. The drama. Did you know that weasels pin their victims down, bite them under the wing, and suck blood? And racoons decapitate. Cruel, cruel mother nature! This city girl has a lot to adapt to.)

Here's Will looking handsome as he stares into the glow of the computer screen. He's finding parallels in Divine Comedy and listening to the best of the Beatles. And may I just tell you (since he won't do it himself) that his medieval Italian has advanced so far in the past weeks that he does all his own translation for his papers? "Rigorous" his instructor called him. I knew there was a reason I married you, dear: you're "rigorous"!!