Friday, November 30, 2012

{this moment} - building the nativity

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. See Soulemama to play along.

(Our nativity set is the old style Haba Nativity set that I bought many years ago.  I can't find it anywhere on the internet anymore, but this set on Amazon is strikingly similar.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Yarn Along

For this week's Yarn Along, I'm reading books that have been seen here before, but they are my very favorite books to read when December is drawing near.  The Christmas Almanac and Christmas in the Family both help with planning our advent activities, and I generally try to include a new activity or recipe from one of them.  Not to mention, they really get me in the mood.

My knitting this week is a R2D2 beanie for Paulie. He saw a Star Wars craft book at a friend's house over the summer and desperately wanted the R2D2 beanie from that book.  Alas, it was crocheted and my crochet skills are not such that I can follow a pattern very well.  So we found a similar knitted one on Ravelry. While it probably won't be much of a surprise when he finds it in his stocking, at least I know it's one that will make him happy.

What are you knitting and reading right now?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Little Red Riding Hood

One of my favorite things about the approaching holidays is discovering new ways to make a gift that one of my loved ones might enjoy.  From knitting to bath salts, I've handmade many gifts through the years and keeping the gifts fresh and tailored to each individual is a goal I strive for each year.  We also give gifts that are handmade from others and even some gifts from stores, but I truly relish seeing my family take pleasure in something I've made with my own hands.

And so, when I was finished with my Martinmas crafting a few weeks ago, I couldn't help but think that the little lantern child might make a great Little Red Riding Hood. I shortened the cape to make it more "hood-like", and of course, made it red.  All of the yarn I used came from the scrap basket.  I stuffed Little Red with a wooden peg doll from our basket so I didn't need to buy anything to make Little Red at all.

I decided to make a grandmother from the same pattern, although she's only wearing a bonnet.  I started the cape pattern at the neck, only doing the increases so that she could wear a little bonnet in keeping with my grandmother vision.  I also used scrap cloth to make her little 9 patch quilt. (I probably should have made 1 inch squares instead of half-inch as it's a wee bit small.)

The wolf was a bit trickier. We love our other little wooden animals from Jupiter's Child, and they are very reasonably priced. I decided to use the fox from them as our wolf.  The size is pretty close to a wolf size when compared to the dolls.

The book I used to accompany this Little Red Riding Hood playset is the version illustrated by Bernadette Watts.  Her illustrations are my favorites for fairy tales. I purchased one new copy from Amazon and another used copy from our local used bookstore.

I ended up making 2 sets of this little playset, one for Finn and one for a friend's children.  Since everything besides the books and the little wolves came from items on hand, it was a very reasonably price handmade gift.  If all of the children receiving this gift enjoy playing with it as much as I enjoyed making it, Little Red Riding Hood will be a well-loved toy indeed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

advent activities

The last few years before advent, I've made a list of the activities we'd like to do to help celebrate the season. Sometimes, they are as simple as hot chocolate in front of the fire; other times, they are an involved craft that take quite a bit of time.  In the last two years, since my kids figured out that I have a list, they ask me almost every morning of December what the activity is for that day.  They really enjoy knowing that I've planned something special to help us celebrate the entire season.

I try to match up bigger activities with the weekends and age-appropriate activities depending on who's here that night. (For example, since we share custody of Paulie, Elizabeth, and Philip, I planned the Santa Claus paper dolls for the night they are at their other parents because it's an activity geared more toward Finn.)

A few of the activities on my list are available in my local area, like Tanglewood Lights and Old Salem, but most can be done anywhere with readily available materials.

It seems as I'm reviewing this list that I might more complex crafts than I have in years past.  My kids are now ages almost 6 - 13, and they really are at the perfect ages to accomplish a great deal and continue to really enjoy the process.  I'm not sure how many more years of this I may have before my oldest kids lose interest, and I intend to take full advantage while I still have 4 capable, engaged children.

I placed below as many links as I could find to the activities I have in mind.  Please feel free to share more if you have a good idea not mentioned here or a particular activity that your children enjoy every year!

Sunday, November 25, 2012


We're just finishing up our holiday weekend and getting ready to say goodbye to my brother's family.  I hope your weekend has been similarly filled with family time and sweet moments. Don't forget to check back tomorrow morning to find out the winner of the dagger giveaway!  If you haven't yet entered, there are a few hours left!

Friday, November 23, 2012

{this moment} - cousin warfare

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. See Soulemama to play along.

**Don't forget to enter the dagger and holster giveaway that ends on Monday!**

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

::right now::


::eating by candlelight with a thankful heart::

::playing with cousins::

::being chased by a bat-wielding uncle::

All of the things that are so near and dear when having out-of-town family around for a week.  We are enjoying these things fully.  My presence might be scarce in this space for the next few days, but don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Monday, November 19, 2012

GIVEAWAY! Made by Alejandro

Sword and dagger play is one of the favorite kinds of imaginative play for my boys.  From the wooden swords they bought at the Tower of London years ago, to Michaelmas celebrations, to the wooden dagger and sheath one received for a birthday, swords and daggers have long been a popular staple of outdoor play here.  They transform us into knights, noblemen, pirates, Medieval characters, and Indiana Jones. 

Although swords and daggers have long lived at our home, there have never been any as popular as these leather swords and daggers by Made by Alejandro.  Alejandro's work is impecable, authentic, and extraordinarily detailed, and each sword is emblazoned with a distinctive symbol. These sabers are second to none.

These blades are not only built for play, but they are built to last.  My grandkids will likely be playing with these same swords and daggers.

And while my kids are off playing with their favorites of these amazing toys, I have a fantastic opportunity for you!

Alejandro has generously offered the blue dragon dagger and sheath to one lucky commenter here.  All you need to do to win is leave a comment here telling me your favorite item from his expansive shop.

And because we're feeling particularly generous, you can earn multiple chances to win by liking the Made by Alejandro Facebook page, or sharing this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or another social medium. Just be sure to leave another comment for each extra chance telling me how you shared the giveaway or whether you liked the Facebook page.

This giveaway will accept entries until November 26 - Cyber Monday! I'll announce the winner here then. The winner, as chosen by is #11, Knitty Gritty Homestead! Please send me your address so I can get the prize out to you as soon as possible.

Also, Alejandro is offering a coupon code, anartfamily2012, good until 11/28, for 10% off any purchase at Made by Alejandro. What a perfect beginning to your holiday shopping! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

school projects

Paulie and Elizabeth have been busy this weekend with school projects that are due in the next week or two.  Mostly, they have been fun to work on and I thought I'd share.

Elizabeth is constructing a timeline about Harry Houdini's life to go with a book report that she has due shortly after Thanksgiving.  Her school is fortunate to take off the entire week of Thanksgiving, but with family coming into town today, she didn't want to spend her whole break working on the project.  She diligently worked all morning yesterday to get the timeline finished. 

Paulie has been swamped with projects lately, but at least the 2 he had due at the end of this weekend were fun.  He worked on this Facebook page for Immanuel Kant.  Much of the information was gathered during class. He only had to create the Facebook page this weekend.

Paulie's bigger project that took quite a bit of time was a cell cake.  The entire cake had to be a 3D diagram of the parts of a plant cell.  He was a bit stumped at first as to how to make an entire cake within the parameters of our family food values, ie. no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, etc.  We bought a variety of candy from Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and used some fruit leather and homemade cranberry jelly to supplement.  Everything in this cake is organic and all-natural. I think he did a fabulous job!

Be sure to stop back by tomorrow to enter a giveaway that I'll be hosting through the Thanksgiving holiday.  I promise that it's an awesome one! ;)

Friday, November 16, 2012

{this moment} - neeeeigh!

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. See Soulemama to play along.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

the mill

An hour from my home, nestled in between miles of farmland, stands a mill.  Lindley Mill. Started in 1755, the owner likes to brag that the mill is "older than the United States of America". The mill is a registered historic place with markers noting both the age of the mill and the date of a fierce battle fought here at the end of the Revolutionary War.

This mill is not only a historic destination, it is a working organic grain mill, milling only organic flours since 1976.  I was fortunate enough to learn of it's existence a few years ago, and I have only purchased flour directly from the mill ever since. I was close to needing more flour and a friend wanted an introduction to the mill, so we embarked on an adventure yesterday with her little ones in tow.

My usual buy of 25 lbs of organic all-purpose and 25 lbs of organic whole spelt was adjusted yesterday as the spelt truck had some problems and was running a few days late.  I asked for a list of the flours again and realized that they also sell organic sprouted grains, but only by the 50 lb sack.  Well, I couldn't pass up a $37 bag of 50 lbs organic sprouted wheat, and I'm already eagerly awaiting my next trip where I hope to get organic sprouted spelt.  The only problem: lack of freezer space.  After quite a bit of rearranging of the summer harvest of zucchini, green beans, butternut squash and apples that formerly resided on this shelf, I managed to fit the all purpose flour here as well so that the sprouted wheat could take up the entire bottom shelf.

And the small amount of all purpose left in the freezer from the last trip, well, there clearly wasn't room for it any longer.  So I made a loaf of rosemary-olive oil bread and took it to Finn's teachers this morning.  I've actually become quite a fan of this crusty bread recipe.  Very easy and if you substitute 1/4 cup of buttermilk for some of the water, you can make it into a soaked grain bread as well.

Monday, November 12, 2012

::right now::

::returning to our autumn and winter tradition of candlelight dinner::

::drying cilantro from a friend's garden::

::keeping a lotion bar by the sink to combat that winter dryness::

::enjoying the return of the turkeys::

::counting down the days until his Christmas birthday::

Sunday, November 11, 2012

our Martinmas lantern walk

Martinmas is the most difficult to photograph of all of our festivals, but I think the glow, the shadows, and the descending darkness of winter are well captured despite the blur.  We gathered as a community, as we have the last few years, for a meal of soup and bread, a lantern walk, and a release of light and warmth into the world.  Our host told the story of Saint Martin, and how he shared his cloak with the beggar, who appeared to him later as Christ, and we gathered warm clothes for those in need, this year for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.  We also spent a few minutes at the end of our lantern walk, gathered around a fire, singing by the light of our candles.  A much needed self-reflection during the inward time of lengthening darkness.