Picking Up Stitches

The autumn has flown right past us here.  Just as the leaves were changing, our lives were caught up in a dervish.  Time stood absolutely still for about a week following the unexpected and tragic loss of our cousin’s beautiful young daughter.  Although no one can truly understand what that loss feels like without having actually experienced it, there is a connection between parents – especially when your children are the same age – that allows us to comprehend some of that shock and pain.

And it made everything else we were struggling with here seem utterly insignificant.  But life demands that we keep up, whether we are emotionally present or not.  There were financial papers to file, bills to pay, work to be done, a farm to be operated, sick children to care for, ministry to be attended to… and a house to work on.  I’m afraid that the houses got the worst of the attention.  Laundry piled up and the farmhouse didn’t get any of our time.  And one of our computers chose this most inopportune time to crash, leaving no readable information on the hard drive.  Unfortunately, the previous back-up didn’t capture everything and we lost all of our photos, website files, and much of my publishing work.

Loose threads everywhere…

But now, we’re settling back into something like a routine, working on something like a plan.  And I have a bit of time to breathe and pick up stitches of a different sort:

{Family Centered Home} | Creating


Any serious knitter will tell you that there is great comfort in rhythmically stitching a garment, yarn sliding through your fingers, needles clicking.  It calms the mind.  And it allows me to focus, with love and anticipation, on the precious person who will wear what I am creating.  On something joyful and hopeful.  So that even when I am frustrated and worried about things I have limited control over, I can make an escape for a time, to a place where all is right and well.

This beautiful ombre wool {Madelinetosh DK in Filigree} will become a romper and pilot cap for this little man:

{Family Centered Home} | Creating


You formed my inmost being;

you knit me in my mother’s womb.  Psalm 139:13


Right after I’ve finished knitting a pair of matching cardis for Sophie and Joséphine {In Threes, knit from Brown Sheep Lambs Pride Superwash in Mysterious Fuschia}:

{Family Centered Home} | Creating


And making reversible pants (so lovely and warm) to match out of these fabrics:

{Family Centered Home} | Creating


And while I’m stitching, our contractor has gone back to work on some final structural repairs to the farmhouse.  We await delivery of cabinets, tiles, and paint.   We schedule time, limited as it is, to finish wood floors, paint, tile, and build cabinets so that we can move into our new home in time to begin a new liturgical year.  And we will need to find a few hours to repair roof damage to our barn resulting from a gust of wind from Hurricane Sandy – before the next snow falls.

How have you been keeping?  What are you creating today?


{Made For Learning} A Moveable Alphabet

Moveable Alphabets are one of the most important (and fun-to-use) tools in a Montessori-style schoolroom.  At least, that’s how our family feels about them.  And they are easy and fun to make at home.  Here’s how::

{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

Sort your letters - vowels from consonants. If you wish, put half of your "Y" s in each pile.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

Gesso, and two different colours of paint. I chose blue and red because they are more traditionally Montessori style (pink in place of red also works). You choose whichever colours you like.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

Paint each letter with a coat of gesso and allow to dry. The gesso comes right off of the brush with warm, soapy water.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

Paint two coats of coloured paint on each letter. Blue for vowels...


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

... and red for the consonants. Next, apply two coats of varnish. You will need to wait a minimum of one hour between coats.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

A purpose-made or purchased box is best for storage, but something like this little box with a clasp will do for a time. You really do want something that will allow you to keep each letter separate... Like with like. I'll show you how to make a proper storage box in an upcoming tutorial.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


Scrabble™ Tiles also make excellent upper case moveable alphabets – and it’s a great way to recycle!  You can also purchase blank tiles from Etsy – purchase alphabet transfers in the scrapbooking supply section of your craft store.  Simple varnish over the top, or apply a couple of layers of Mod Podge.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

Your kids will be saying this about you, too. (Thanks, Will!)


Cut out wood letters available for just under $12 for each set of upper or lower case letters.  I suggest 1/8″ thick baltic birch letters in Arial, (Garamond and Rockwell are also available) – 2″ tall by 2″ wide. {These are my favourite ones, but more expensive}

Cut wood letters sold in packs of 36 are available at Michael’s crafts (and probably at Hobby Lobby) for about $4/pack.  I bought four packs.

Scrabble letters are available on Etsy, and eBay, and can also be found at neighbourhood yard sales, flea markets, and car boot sales.

{Made for Learning} Finger Paint

Do you remember finger paints when you were small?  I remember having little pots of paint, the cool semi-gelatinous texture, and a distinctive smell, not unlike play-doh.  I was five years old.

Finger painting is a wonderful way to introduce little ones to making art.  They have better control of their own fingers than they do a paint brush, and helps them to build a muscle memory of the way certain objects are formed in two dimensions.  Finger painting is an excellent way to re-enforce letter and number formation. It is also a wonderful way to teach children to mix colours.

As they get a little more advanced, finger painting can be a useful introduction to early figure drawing.

Of course, the extent of wonderful artistic activities is only limited by your imagination.  We’d sure love to see what you and your children make with your finger paints!

You’ll need::

  • 1 c. cornstarch
  • 1 c. grated soap (we use plain olive oil soap or goat’s milk soap)
  • 3 c. water
  • 1T. glycerine or white sugar
  • food dyes (we use India Tree plant-based food dye)
  • saucepan
  • bowl
  • wooden spoons
  • 3 flip-top squirt bottles

Also handy::

  • paint pallets
  • pad of large art paper

Gather your supplies... and your little helpers.


Pour your cornstarch (cornflour) into the pot...


and your sugar...


... and add 1 c. of water.


Stir and stir until completely dissolved.


Grate the soap


Luminous curly soap noodles (ours smell like sandalwood)


Add the soap curls to the pot.


Place pot over medium heat and stir constantly. As the mixture thickens, add as much of the remaining 2c. water to make the gel workable.


When it's ready, the mixture will be light and fluffy.


Divide the mixture evenly amongst 3 bowls (or however many you want).


Add food colouring to each bowl. We used 40 drops each, and obtained soft colours. Your results will vary depending upon the food colouring you choose. Paste colurants will give you the most vibrant colours.


Keep stirring until the colour is even.


Pour paint through a funnel into your bottles. Remember to thoroughly rinse the funnel between colours.



Take out the paper and fill the wells of the pallettes.


Magic time.


These finger paints can also be used in the bath!  Since they are soapy, they are also washable.  Lovely!



Brigid’s Footsteps

Photography by John Evans


The footsteps of St Brigid are everywhere I go
Rising out of darkness from the earth below
Little bells of Spring time –
Pure and white as snow.

The footsteps of St Brigid
Have travelled far and wide
Unconstrained by boundaries,
Monarchies or tides –

An abbess and a foundress
A holy one of God
Whose prayers rose up like incense
From rock and field and bog.

O Saint Brigid, Ireland’s children
Still recall with greatest pride
All you did for church and country
With the Cross your truest guide.

Ask the Saviour now to bless us
Ask Our Lady to enfold
In maternal wraps of goodness
All we are and all we hold.

Dear to us is Mother Ireland
Dear to us this faith passed down
Help us to uphold and value
All that won for you a crown.

May we follow in your footsteps
As you look from heaven above
May you shower upon your children
Heaven’s grace and heaven’s love.

Winter has given us a miss, it seems, and we’re headed straight into spring.  While that isn’t such good news for sugaring, we’re happy to have the mild weather.  The temperatures are forecast to reach 60 degrees here today.  On the feast of St. Brigid.  When we are normally watching the skies for freezing rain.

We will still have porridge oats with all of the fixings, and a pot of hot tea with breakfast, despite the warm weather.  Perhaps we’ll make a barmbrack for snack time.  I found a new, gluten free recipe.

I haven’t planned any activities for this feast, as I generally do.  Perhaps we’ll have a go at creating Brigid’s Footsteps (snowdrops) from white packing paper and pipe cleaners.  Something sweet and simple, reminding me so poignantly of the drifts of snowdrops all over England near her feast day.

I hope that your day is blessed in every way.


Conquering a Mountain


“You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.” – James Whittaker {mountaineer}

My to-do list is growing and growing.  There’s something about the beginning of the year, isn’t there?  I mentioned some of the things I had to do here.  And I started pondering some of the other things I want to accomplish this year:

Learn to speak French

Learn how to take better photographs {I’m so serious about documenting our life.  I am pretty sure that I need a new lens.}

Get some more curriculum written.  It may be my grandchildren who use it, but there we are…

– Get through all of the recipes in Mrs. Beeton.  {no, seriously}

– Design and sew some clothes for the family.  I’m so weary of trying to find things that fit both our bodies, and that are my notion of good-looking and practical.

On the Farm: Design our veggies gardens and feed crop fields, schedule tapping for the birches, and decide what to make the remaining trees into.

– Try to come to some conclusion about changes to one of our businesses.

Schedule some workshops, talks, and classes at the farm {cooking, sewing/handcrafts, kids’ classes…}

– Put together an apprenticeship/intern program on the farm with the Office of Youth Ministry.

– Decide how much (if any) wedding business I want to pursue this year.

– Make it all pretty and practical.

– Have myself duplicated, or call on  {a LOT of} help from my friends…or lower my expectations and accept this as more of a wish list than a to-do list…

What’s on your wish list for 2012? 


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