Friday, June 25, 2010

The Tonkas

A few years ago…when I was a little girl running wild with my own band of marauders in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts one of our favorite toys was a set of Tonka Trucks.  They weren’t the plastic ones of today…they were “made-for-anything” metal ….and boy did we test that!  They were most often used as riding toys as “much-too-big” boys and “silly-enough-to-follow” girls rode them down our mountain driveway.  The old school metal Tonkas that grace our own yard (and are in serious need of  a paint job) were taken to vegetable garden recently to help with “all those peas”!  It turned out that the fun was in driving the Tonkas all the way to the garden and down the path to the pea bed…and not so much in loading them up with peas.  In fact…they really didn’t load peas into anything but themselves!!!  June 225

June 222By the way…has anyone ever repainted a rusty Tonka?  Any tips?!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


It all started with a face plant (oddly enough the first…!).  And quickly turned into a riotous bout of silly sliding.  Giggles and squeals, very happy faces, and very dirty little bodies.  It was truly a joy to watch such sibling silliness.  Thankfully (and luckily) bath time and bed time came before someone got hurt…a miracle really!  You know its been a full day when children need to be rinsed off before taking a bath…(yikes)!!   Sometimes you just need to sit back and bask in the silliness of childhood that surround you.  Ah…sweet childhood! 

June 179 June 172June 188June 167June 180  June 191   

It was our dream that they would love to play in their little garden…and oh do they!  Incorporating the existing slide, play house front and seesaw was genius (if I do say so myself!).  It turned the whole area into a truly magical place.  Flowers and vegetable plants whether in pots or planted in the ground are a very easy way to transform a play area.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


June 236Do you remember our “calapitters” from a few weeks ago?!  Well our cocoons have worked their magic and we welcomed four little moths into the world.  Truly magical!  One by one she lifted them carefully out of the tub on her finger and held them up to take their maiden flight.  (Once they made their cocoon we moved them from the original home to a larger one so once they emerged they wouldn’t run the risk of breaking their wings in such a small space).  With a face full of complete joy she watched them make their way into the wide wide world.  Now, each time we glimpse dark moth during our outdoor adventures she is certain that it is one of her own dear creatures and calls a greeting.  June 232June 233June 235

Goodbye little ones…thank you for your visit! 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


There is something comforting about the return of a beloved harvest.  It is a bit like the return of an old friend.  Familiar, exciting, busy, and oh so yummy…yes…very much like a visit from a dear old friend.  Pea season has come again for us.  Plump little green pods fill the tangled mass of plants in the garden bed.  Deceptively hollow sounding as they knock together while little hands (and big!) search for ripe pods.  Not hollow at all, but rather filled with neat tidy little rows of healthy green peas, this is truly a vegetable to please mama and littles alike.  I appreciate the order and consistency and general sanity (which is so lacking at times around here that even finding it in a pea pod is calming!) of the neat little row of peas.  While the littles have yet to lose an ounce of fascination with opening up the plump little pods and one by one eating those yummy little bits of green.  Today actually, a (very dirty) little man cub figured out his own way to get inside the pods unaided…it involves both teeth and fingers and is quite darling to watch.  And oh is he proud!  June 213

All the peas picked must be shelled!  We have been (surprised) and pleased that our little girl really enjoyed shelling peas with us this season.  The surprise and pleasure wasn’t in her enjoyment of the work…she loves to work with us…but that peas were actually shelled and collected rather than eaten.  It is true that a massive amount of peas have been eaten by both of them!  In fact yesterday she told me that her favorite meal was strawberries and peas.  June 228

Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, and Baby Carrie joined us yesterday as we shelled peas together.  It was quite lovely actually.  The repetitive and productive handwork of shelling peas, not to mention the important work of helping the family, combined with enriching and inspiring stories of another little girl hard at work to help her own family, is an education that I am so thrilled to be able to join my children in.  It is real life.  Healthy and good…green and delicious.

Welcome back Pea Season you yummy old friend! 

  June 208

Monday, June 21, 2010


slow down…wander…pause…explore

June 139 June 140 June 141

Friday, June 18, 2010


In between a whole lot of this

June 109

we managed to find a bit of time to spend in the workshop recently.  Those poor tools…they’ve been quite depressed with the lack of company and appreciation.  And with all the sewing that’s been happening around here lately it was nice to change mediums for a bit.  Although the project did require some sewing too…! 

The littles have been dealing with a bit of a conundrum regarding the swings.  They love to swing…and love to play with their dolls and animal friends and give them turns with the swing.  But how to swing themselves and give the dolls a turn…?!?!  While this challenge was being discussed with emphatic hand gestures (oh my!) I came up with a simple little design for a doll swing that I thought I could pull off.  It turned out just as I hoped and everyone is very pleased to say the least.  The pattern is remarkably simple and it was quite easy to put together…even with four extra little hands and a constant stream of curious questions. 

We made two swings…because sometimes making two of something is just as easy as making one…and sometimes having two of something is much easier than having one! 

June 022  June 027 June 033 June 034 June 035  

I do so love to put some creative energy to use to inspire and bring joy to my children.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I can’t help but laugh whenever I see the face of this boy of mine with his twinkly eyes and giant grin.  But can you see it?  Can you see the capability and potential for monkey mischief there?  Oh do we see it!  Potential…realized…in progress…anticipation of…oh do we see it!!!

June 148June 160  June 156

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Little House

When I was as little as I can remember, and looked shockingly similar to the little girl you see in this space each day, I loved to listen in as my father and mother read the Little House on the Prairie books to my older brothers and sisters.  As I got older I listened more and more to these beloved stories and as the older children finished the last book we started all over again, this time reading to myself and my younger brothers and sisters.  My parents took turns reading, though to be perfectly honest I mostly remember my Dad reading.  Perhaps this is because my mother was always reading to us and her turns reading the Little House Books just blend into the million other stories she read.  Though when my Dad read he always skipped over the descriptions of the dresses…”too much about bodices” he says!  Even his editing is held close to the hearts of our family as we reminisce about the treasured time spent reading these stories together.  They became such an integral part of our childhood.  We became Laura, Mary, and Almonzo…living and making decisions that would create a life to be valued as their lives are valued.  These books provided infinite launching points for further study and learning.  They truly are magnificent.

We recently finished reading E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, another childhood classic, to our little girl.  When we finished and started discussing what to read next we landed on Little House in the Big Woods, the first of Laura Ingalls Wilders classics.  I was not expecting what it would mean to start reading these favorite books to my own children.  I was a bit overcome with the connection to my own childhood, my own parents, and my own treasured experience reading these books when I was her age.  And I was a bit overcome with excitement for her as she begins a journey through another little girls life that holds so much richness and experience to learn from.  Yes…it was no insignificant moment as I walked across the sunny porch and joined her in the chair to begin what is surely to be a most excellent adventure!

June 072

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Young Mr. Robin

We have had a visitor in our garden the past few days.  Remember the egg that we found a week or so ago?  Well I think we have met his brother!  We still haven’t quite figured out where the nest is…but we have watched his first explorations of the earth, wild hops, and tentative flights.   Such wonders for little eyes!  With a little bird to be very careful of and Mother and Father Robin hopping and chirping anxiously from nearby perches it has put favorite playing spots off limits for a bit.  But he is such an adorable grumpy little fellow that it is hard to begrudge him!  And how often do you get to be this close to a healthy little baby bird. 

June 137

Isn’t he darling!  He looks like a grumpy old man to me!  An adorable grumpy old man.  Kind of like the policeman we saw at a local parade recently.  Except he was grumpy in the least!  Which I am sure it the case with this sweet young Mr. Robin as well! 

June 127

June 117

June 128

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Lupine Lady

Miss Rumphisus is one of our favorite books.  It was one of my mothers favorite books…and was read to us so often that it has become a part of me, and now it is becoming a part of my children.  Barbara Cooney is simply delightful and if you have never read any of her works go get one … right now!  One of our other all time favorites (written by Donald Hall) illustrated by Barbara Cooney is The Ox Cart Man.  But back to Miss Rumphius!  At a very young age she is taught that she must find some way during her life to make the world a more beautiful place.  Pretty hard she muses, as the world is a pretty beautiful place already.  But she finds a way… and in a small corner on top of a small hill in our small little spot here on earth we have made it more beautiful.  And we are loving it. 

What a beautiful thing Miss Rumphius teaches us.  We teach our children to love the world around them.  To respect it and use the things that it provides us carefully.  We teach them how to use the plants and herbs on the earth to make yummy and sustaining food, and then how to grow more.  And now…with the gentle reminders of a beautiful children’s book we will teach them to make the earth more beautiful.  June 075

Our children’s garden is doing fantastic.  The perennials we transplanted are taking hold and establishing their place, the seeds so carefully planted by little fingers are up and reaching for the sky, and each day we see new growth and blooms.  Little toes run in and out of the garden, pausing to shut the gate so the rabbits don’t get in to nibble the plants (really…!), and each day we rejoice in the little bit of beauty that we have helped to bring to the earth.  In reality, or how it feels to me, the earth has simply graciously allowed us to reach out and touch it as it shows forth its glory.  For the earth itself is the one creating the beauty…we are just allowed to help once in a while.  But help we must! 

June 073  June 077 June 078

Saturday, June 12, 2010


This is one of my favorite sights:

June 063

You might ask why a bowl of green strawberry tops evokes any kind of feeling at all…let alone a highly positive and satisfying one.  You see…a bowl of strawberry heads chopped off of their lovely little berry bodies means only one thing…that somewhere…very close… something lovely and very yummy is happening!  Baked into a pie…jammed into jam…or simply popped into a mouth, strawberries are such a divine way to welcome in the season of bounty. 

The patch in our yard, though doing well, doesn’t satisfy the appetites of the littles and the needs of strawberry shortcake and pies.  Berries for jams and freezing have to be picked elsewhere.  Which we don’t mind at all!  We had a wonderful adventure to our favorite local U-Pick berry farm this week.  The little man cub saw enough tractors and over-sized trucks to fill any going-on-2 year old with complete glee!  The three of us really have the perfect situation for picking berries.  With two littles completely absorbed by the immensity of the berry patch, the infinite berries to find and eat, and the fascinating “big farm life” happening all around them, I could fill our flat just about the time that they were “done”.  Good things can still happen even after children are “done”, but oh is it so much more fun for everyone if we are all happily on the same page!  June 065

It is familiar work, kneeling in damp straw searching beneath green leaves for brilliant bursts of red.  My hands have been at this work for as long as I can remember.  Knife in hand I hull and slice berry after berry, my mind in the studio, or in a book, or creating an imaginary tale for a little one, as the work of the hands needs no attention.  It is comforting to do something with your hands that is so familiar it is a part of you.  It is work that binds the past and the present.  It is work that has built the foundation of our very souls.  It is work…but it is joy as well. 

Remind me of these sentiments when produce to be processed is coming in by the bushel load day after day after day will you please!!!!!

The berries picked the other day at the farm have been turned into yummy jam.  The first canning of the season!  I use a very simple jam recipe.  Simple is good. 

Strawberry Jam

4 : 3 ratio berries to sugar.

So if you had 4 cups of berries you would use 3 cups of sugar…12 cups berries 8 cups berries…etc.  I actually use this same recipe for all my jam whichever fruit I am using.  Cook over med – high heat stirring constantly.  Never fear…if something comes up and you have to leave the stove just turn it off, cover it up, and start it up again as many times as you need before it “jams”. 

I tried something new with our strawberry jam this year and have been thrilled with the results.  Instead of slicing the berries for the jam I simply cut off the tops and put them through the meat grinder at the widest setting.  My hope was to avoid the huge berry globs that happen with strawberry jam…but keep the juicy yumminess!  Huge success!  Not only does it make a fantastic consistancy for the jam but it cuts the job of preparing the berries for jamming down to almost nothing!  And…as jam making is mostly done over the stove and is off limits for my kidlings this is one more (very fun for them!) jam job they can help with!  Win for all! 

  June 068

What bit of yumminess are the strawberries in your kitchen being transformed into? 

Friday, June 11, 2010

{this moment}

{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. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

May 350

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Past

Among the zillions of questions that come out of my 4 1/2 year old daughter’s mouth each day is an almost constant request for stories.  Some of her favorites are stories about my husband and I when we were little.  How strange and interesting to her little mind that we were once little like her, having adventures like her, learning and growing like her.  It ties us together, those stories, in a magnificent way. Connected to the past, embracing the present, and looking forward to the future occurs naturally and with ease through the stories of our lives, and our dreams for the future.  May 299

Recently, when visiting the childhood town of my husband we stopped by the home he lived in when he was her age.  Many of her favorite stories of his childhood take place in this home and she is quite familiar with it in her imagination.  The home is vacant right now and rumored to be scheduled for demolition.  Despite this I have to admit that my design mind was racing with ways to turn it into a darling little happy home again.  It has lots of potential don’t you think!  May 303

We explored the yard and the infamous playing spots of my husband and his band of brothers, peeked though the windows, and relived the stories of his childhood. May 306 I recommitted during this visit to the art of recording our past.  Not just the events and joys of our lives together…but where we live those lives together.  It may seem like just a place to live at the time…but to our children and their children it is the backdrop of our lives.  A home is truly central to all that is our lives.  And recording those homes with images and descriptions provides an instant and powerful connection between the past and the present.  It is not just a picture of a house you once lived in…no, it is so much more. 

  May 296

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Ice Cream Dress

Wow…there’s been quite a lot of sewing going on around these parts lately.  It has been lovely!  I fell in love with the Oliver and S Ice Cream dress the moment I saw it.  What’s not to love in a simple, quick as a wink to make, easy breezy summer dress!  The thing with summer dresses around here is that they change with the weather to be worn over pants in the fall and covered with a cardigan in the winter and worn again as tunics in the spring.  They are all season pieces…so practical…so perfect!  With only pockets of sewing time here and there it is always reassuring to know that the things that make it out of the studio corner completed will be used for longer than the time that it took to make them!!! 

Oh…and did you know that wearing the Ice Cream dress necessitates eating ice cream! 

I do believe this will be the first of many Ice Cream dresses! May 385

May 396

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


We spend a good deal of time in the kitchen together baking and creating meals together.  Mama and the littles, a bit of a mess, and lots of yummy goodness.  We do love it so!  The littles take it very seriously too.  They know their roles and fulfill them very enthusiastically.  One thing that is taken very seriously is the choosing of aprons.  This is no light matter!  Each time a different one is chosen from the collection with great deliberation.  Well…for one of them at least…!  The other is content (for now!!) to wear what is carefully selected for him by his sister!  Everyone likes to dress for a party…and as cooking is a regular party around here we do so love to dress for it!!

Recently we happened upon a church rummage sale in town.  We had so much fun poking and looking at all the treasures.  Tucked away on one of the tables was a stack of impeccably kept vintage aprons.  They were starched and ironed by a true 1950’s housewife in such a way that made me cringe at the apron drawer in my own kitchen that holds a slightly tangled but clean bundle of children’s aprons.  Ah well!  They were darling and we deliberated for quite a while before choosing two to come home with us.  We have a very happy little cook…who for the present is wearing them both!  June 052

I do believe there will be some pattern making from these little bits of loveliness! 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sailor Pants!

There has been some fabulous sewing happening for my little man cub lately!  Lots of winging it…which is always tricky, and sometimes a total disaster!  We have been lucky this time, with the little mancub ending up with a few new pieces of clothing and I ending up with a solid handmade pattern to rely on…again and again and again!  I have big plans for keeping my boy in the cutest pants and shorts around!  It’s actually pretty tricky to keep up with the needs of his legs…he started out so long (23”!!!) and has just kept stretching and growing at alarming rates.  The joy of boys!!!

I fell in love with sailor pants this spring.  On boys or girls, skirts or pants, I think they are just darling!  And it turns out they are super easy!  They are worn (a variation of them at least) by the boys in the amish community nearby and the dear woman that owns the cloth store there that I frequent as frequently as I can (!) shared the construction techniques, and her pattern with me. 

The fates aligned the past few days when our boy grew out of his last pair of church pants and I ruined a pair of my husbands khakis.  (The ruining was actually a joint effort…he didn’t take the wallet out before tossing it into the hamper and I didn’t notice!)  One of the fabulous things about having a tall husband is that his pants have a lot of great fabric left for repurposing even if he’s worn out the knees…or in this case stained the backside with black leather…ahem!  With my little guys current size it’s as easy as pie to turn one pair of Daddy pants into a pair of little man cub pants! 

A few particulars…I left the original hem of the pants, partly because I liked how wide it was and partly (mostly) to save a step!  Also the buttons aren’t functional…there are huge snaps sewn on behind.  A trick I learned from my amish friend! 

We are all thrilled with the results and I can’t wait to delve into the stack of fabrics I have set aside for more sailor pants, sailor skirts, and sailor shorts…! 

June 057

(These pictures were taken after a trip to the strawberry patch so there’s a few pink spots on his pants.  I think there are going to be pick spots on his clothes every day for the next few weeks!!  They sure do love that strawberry patch…and with her being able to reach up on those tippy toes and unlatch the garden gate they are quite unstoppable!)

June 056Wishing you some very happy summer sewing! 

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Wishing you a very happy outdoorsy sort of weekend!  May 388May 389 May 390 May 391 May 392