Previous month:
September 2010
Next month:
November 2010

October 2010

the cat in the hat

the cat in the hat

Well, at least one of the mammals that lives in this house has a Halloween costume. Bishop, anyone? He is known to pontificate loudly when we do something sinful like *gasp* change his brand of food on him.

newborn cubba hat

Actually it's a newborn Cubba hat, from the Wee Woolly Toppers pattern book. Somehow, row by row, I managed to finish this in the past two weeks - Lachlan's first hand-knit. You can see it on an actual baby here - it looks slightly less bishop-ish. Funnily enough, it looks cat-ish!

I used Sublime Organic Merino Wool dk in Asparagus - it's a very fuzzy, luxuriously soft yarn, perfect for newborns. It was a quick knit, if you don't factor in the time it took me to frog the whole top part once because I couldn't properly count to 64, and it took me, oh, twenty or so rows to figure that out.

info packets for quilt market

So yes, I've been spacey. We've all be moving through the days like whirling dervishes, getting ready for Quilt Market in Houston this weekend - our first time. We won't have a booth (goodness, I can't imagine the amount of money and time you would need to put something like that together!) We'll just be milling around, getting a sense of the place, and peddling our wares to owners of fabric stores.

I've been writing copy, laying out promotional packets, slapping business cards on magnets, and cutting, collating, and sewing pages together in an attempt to put together something professional-looking yet fun, minus the hefty price tag of having an actual professional do it.

putting together packets for quilt market 2

As I've been doing all of this, it appears that the actual Cat in the Hat arrived at our house, making it an absolute mess with his mischief, and littering the kitchen with take-out containers while he was at it. So, needless to say, there has been no costume-making going on behind the scenes. Halloween will have to wait until next year, when Quilt Market will likely be held on a different weekend.

putting together packets for quilt market

Finn won't even notice. My mom will meet us in Houston to provide toddler entertainment while Patrick and I hobnob with the big sewing stars.

See you back here on Monday to welcome November with a big sigh of relief. I can't wait to let loose on the holiday crafting around here! Big plans, my friends, big plans.

Happy Halloweening to the rest of you! Eat some peanut butter cups for me, will you? They're my favorite.



Life has been tossing us around the past few weeks. Everyone in this little family has been having good days punctuated by really tough days. The causes are different, of course - the one year-old can point to his problem, a swollen gum waiting for a molar to poke through. The adults? Well, what we wouldn't give for some down-to-earth teething issues of our own.


But you know what? When the going gets tough, I find it helpful to take on one fairly mindless activity each day - an activity that brings some peace in it's ability to ground me in the beauty of the present moment, despite the whirl of emotions in both the past and the present.

Yesterday, that activity was making applesauce.

Need I mention that Finn loved it? Oh, and I should also mention that our applesauce is probably not very sanitary. It does, however, go through a strict regimen of taste testing. As in, every apple gets tasted. Toddler spit only enhances the flavor, claims said toddler.

apple peel swirl

flossing with apple peel

so much fun!

peeled, cored, and sliced

okay, so we might not have the most sanitary apple sauce ever

canning for a new generation

Applesauce is really easy to make. I followed the directions in this amazing book, since I'd never made it before. I actually wanted to make apple butter, but I decided that apple butter is not a recipe for this time in my life. We don't have a slow cooker, so it would require stiring every 10 minutes for several hours to keep it from scorching. Um, yeah. So we made applesauce instead.

apple butter recipe

If you're into preserving, Canning for a New Generation is a true gem. It's full of exotic-sounding recipes, taking your basic sauces and jams to a whole new level. What I really love about this book, though, is that the author also gives you recipes for dishes to make with the preserves - from yogurt to cheese to pastries to savory main dishes. Patrick made some of her four-sticks-of-butter oat scones to go with our applesauce. Oh my.

Today, we're abandoning the Mt. Everest of Dishes that seems to have accumulated in our kitchen to have an impromptu dinner out with friends, because neither of us feels like finding peace in the present moment through washing dishes!

Wishing you all a peaceful weekend,


sweater weather

knitting aspirations

Sweater weather has finally hit our neck of the woods, bringing with it ten restless fingers just twitching to get knitting. I'm a bit surprised by this intense need - I hardly invested a moment's thought in yarn while enduring the oven-like climate this summer. I thought I might never want to pick up a ball of yarn again, for fear of smothering myself.

That familiar yearning is back, thankfully. Now I just have to figure out how to go about this whole knitting thing with a toddler at foot. A toddler who has one of three reactions when I cozy up with a pair of needles and yarn:

1.) Immediately brings over a book to read and sits in my lap, sweetly forcing me to put aside my project.

2.) Says "Up! Up! Up!" or some other urgent demand such as "Outside!" to which I respond with a suggestion of another fun (independent) activity, which might be taken up or might not.

3.) Says "tzat?" which means "what's that?" and results in him wanting to do some of his own "knitting" with my project, which of course puts the project in the gravest of perils.

I should set up his own "knitting" basket with some balls of yarn and a chunky set of needles. Yes. That's what I'll do this afternoon, to see if it buys me another five minutes of knitting time. After all, I really do believe that it's important for him to see me peacefully at work, making something with my hands. That said, I have to let go of this notion of being able to knit anything complicated. It's back to simple projects for the time being, as I move through this phase of motherhood.

With that in mind, I'm eyeing this baby blanket for Lachlan. Simple garter stitch. I think I could pull it off.

love list

dogwood in autumn

A list of unrelated things that bring me joy ...

:: the dogwood tree that's dressed for a party in my front yard.

:: Maya's newspaper garlands.

:: this winter abode for insects.

goblin eggs

:: these goblin eggs from the farmer's market.

:: fabric pens, and the possibilities for holiday gifts made by a certain toddler.

on his way to the park

:: this pouty look, and the ever-awesome stella pixie hat.

:: the acorn cap pattern.

:: this book, in particular this project and this project. I'm totally dreaming in motorized vehicles made from fabric, for Little Mr. Vroom Vroom's Solstice gift.

:: Finn would faint from happiness if he got his hands on one of these.

We're off to the mountains for the weekend, and I'm bringing yarn and needles. Hiking, wood burning stoves, vibrant leaves, and knitting? Yes.


books for toddlers

coffee table books

At any given time in our house, there are around ten books on active rotation in various spots - the coffee table, a basket next to the potty in Finn's room, a few in the book sling, and a few on a small shelf. All are easily accesible to little hands. The rest we keep on a shelf in a closet, waiting for their turn in the rotation.

l'imagier du pere castor

I've had a lot of questions from other parents about what kind of books I would recommend for babies and toddlers. I've put off answering that question until now because I honestly had no clue if my own Montessori philosophy was in sync with toddler tastes or not.

Finn has made his literary preferences known. I thought I'd share them with you.

bird songs book

For the most part, I'm somewhat surprised that his interests are very much in sync with what we learn in Montessori training courses. He loves books about real animals, people, and objects. He prefers books that are beautifully photographed or illustrated over cartoonish books with very "loud" and busy illustrations. He adores being able to name objects that he recognizes from his daily life.

There are a few notable exceptions to this "keep-things-real" Montessori approach (which I am more than happy to oblige, being somewhat influenced by the imaginative Waldorf philosophy, too). He can't get enough of nursery rhymes, nonsensical though they may be. He loves the cadence of the language, and the subtle bouncing and knee tapping that I can't help but add when I read them aloud. In general, we both enjoy children's books that are beautifully illustrated which also contain rhythmical, lovely prose, regardless of their roots - fantastical or reality-based, we welcome them into our home.

The big shocker? Finn LOVES books about motor vehicles. Umm, hello? Have you seen our car, little boy? We are not a family that obsesses about cars, judging from the broken door handle and the logo that has fallen off the back. Not to mention the turquiose, purple, and gray interior straight out of the 80's. Where did this obsession come from? Sheesh.

**One more note about books before I get started on the list: we do not limit his books to board books that can be put in the mouth and whipped about without falling apart. His stash includes grown up photography books and books with paper pages. Every child is certainly different when it comes to their interactions with books, but from the beginning, we've been very clear with Finn that books do not belong in his mouth. It is, perhaps, the first "limit" we put on him as an older baby. There was a time when he was about a year old when he tested this limit and I temporarily removed the books from his reach. In a few days, the books returned without fanfare, and he hasn't tried to put a book in his mouth since. Perhaps another reason why he treats books with respect is that he is mimicking how I treat books: I try to exaggerate being careful with them, turning their pages slowly, and return them to their spot with a certain amount of reverence. Maybe he's just gentle with books, but in case his attitude is generated by his home environment rather than his own personality, I thought it might be helpful to share our strategy.**

the dog book

Reference Books These books are collections of real images or illustrations that are categorized. At first, we would point to an image and talk about it. Then, Finn started pointing to the images he was curious about and we would name the object. Now, he tries to say the names of the objects himself.

L'imagier du Père Castor - In French, but easy to use because of the clear illustrations. Illustrations fall under various categories from daily life, from fruit and furniture to motorized vehicles and clothing.

First 100 Animals

First Animal Encyclopedia

Books about Daily Life and Animals

Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song

Pelle's New Suit

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed

All in a Day


Get Dressed

Wash Up

Yo Vivo Aqui

Mama's Milk

Pancakes, Pancakes!

Be My Neighbor

General Favorites



Mama, Do You Love Me?

Stone Soup

Hush Little Baby

A Giraffe and a Half

On the Day You Were Born

My First Truck Board Book


Have You Seen My Cat?

Global Babies

Carry me

My Very First Mother Goose

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Over Under in the Garden

Seasonal (Autumn)

It's Fall


Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf

I hope you find some books here that will become favorites in your own family. This is just a short list, and it's limited to what we have in our own house, so I'll try to ammend it in the future to include books that we add to our collection. Happy reading!

finn's corner

practical life in the home 2

This past week, Finn came down with a case of the blahs and a fever. Not surprising, given the change of seasons, but it required a slowing down of sorts around here. (And cancelling our trip to Mexico, which we were certainly looking forward to, but the last thing you want to be doing with a sick toddler is international travel!)

So slow down we did. I think the most I accomplished last week, other than getting food on the table and getting an excellent upper body workout from carrying Finn all the time, was put up this little shelf. And to be honest, Patrick really did all the work. I gave him orders from the sidelines.

The shelf is the finishing touch to what I lovingly refer to as "Finn's Corner."  You're probably tired of seeing this this spot by now, but truly, it's the heart of Finn's practical, day-to-day experiences in our family. There's lots of activity in this corner, from serving water to sweeping, mopping, and wiping up spills. It's where I store a few much-used art materials (beeswax crayons and watercolor supplies) as well as where Finn polishes wood and plays with playdoh and has other encounters with art.

practical life in the home

From left to right on the peg shelf (found at Little Colorado): a Mama-made apron from my free pattern; a "wipe-up cloth" which is easy to make - take an old towel, hem the edges, and attach a ribbon loop for easy hanging; his rainbow broom; and his mop. The apron is a new addition to this kitchen/living space. He adores it, and loves that he has his very own now, just like his Mama. We put on aprons when we're baking, washing the dishes, or polishing wood.

polishing wood with beeswax

Polishing wood is the first Care of the Environment Montessori-style activity that I've set up for him. Up until now, he's just been offered the opportunity to mimick us in our everyday cleaning and cooking activities. This little tray is a very simple set-up, perfect for a toddler who has a lot of beautiful, unfinished wood in his life, from wooden toys to wooden plates. Polishing wood with beeswax (I recommend this stuff) is a safe, easy, and fun way for him to contribute to the care and beautification of his home environment.

polishing wood with beeswax 2

I put the soft beeswax in a tiny jam jar, the kind you might see if you go out to brunch at a nice-ish restaurant. I always unabashedly throw a few extra jam jars in my bag when I see them - they're so useful for helping little ones with portion control. I also use them in art activities. They're especially good for storing homemade paste for collage.

The teensy-weensy spoon is about the size of Finn's thumb, and also helps put a natural limit on how much beeswax is appropriate to use. I found it at Montessori Services while I was still teaching.

Finally, the cloth is from a stash I made for my classroom - 10 cm x 10 cm squares of flannel sewn with right sides together. Leave a small opening for turning it right side out, then topstitch along all edges, closing the opening. I have ten of these that I store on his play kitchen shelf; if one cloth gets very dirty, there's a laundry basket on the floor where Finn can place it (as well as dirty clean-up cloths) and then he can find a replacement from the stash on the shelf.

To present the wood polishing activity, I showed Finn how to get one scoop of beeswax from the jar and use his finger to place the wax on a wooden object. I used my index finger to work the wax into the wood, then sat in silence while it soaked in a bit. Finally, I used the flannel cloth to buff the wood, then returned the object and the tray to their respective spots. Eventually, I'll show him how to polish larger items, such as his play kitchen and shelving.

It was an instant hit with the 17 month-old, and I'm sorry I have no pictures to prove it. When it came time to take a few pictures for this post, my little model was running some errands with his Daddy. But you know what? It's hard to take pictures of a wiggly toddler in a low-light setting. All you would have seen would have been a blur of motion, anyway.

The slowing down stops as soon as the toddler feels better. You know how it goes!