Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Exquisite Anticipation

"Mary and Margaret opened their window and watched the singers at their work....Mr. Annett conducted vigorously and the singing was controlled as well as robust. As the country voices caroled the eternal story of joyous birth, Mary felt that she had never been so happy.  Across the road she could see the upstairs light in the bedroom of the Emery children, and against the glowing pane were silhouetted two dark heads.

"How excited they must be, thought Mary! The stockings would be hanging limply over the bed rail, just as her own and Margaret's used to hang so many years ago.  There was nothing to touch the exquisite anticipation of Christmas Eve. 'Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the new-born King,'
fluted the choir boys, their eyes on Mr. Annett, their mouths like dark Os in the lamplight.  And the sound of their singing rose like incense to the thousands of stars above."

                                  --Village Christmas, Miss Read

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Our Advent Hymn

This month we're singing "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" each morning. It's a beautiful song...and easy to learn, with only two stanzas. 

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free; 
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art; 
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born they people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever, 
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in our all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit
raise us to the glorious throne.

We are reading through the Bible and yesterday we read the story of Abraham and Isaac.  It's always a tough one to read, but Finn gets it: the only, beloved son of a loving and devoted father, forced to carry a bundle of sticks on his back up to the place where he would be sacrificed.....I asked Finn "who does that sound like?"  And he knew.  

We read God's promise to Abraham that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed. How? I asked Finn.  He got it: because Jesus was descended from Abraham, and Jesus came for the entire world: every person of every race and every nationality on earth.  And then we sang the hymn that echoes this ancient blessing: dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

I don't orchestrate these intersections; they just happen naturally.  But they make me happy.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Best Thrifting Day Ever

And I mean, ever.  

Today Finn, Annie, and I spent the afternoon delivering cookie trays.  After we finished our deliveries we went to the local thrift store in hopes of finding a nice red sweater that Finn could wear for his piano recital next week.  After scouring the children's racks, we found a perfect red sweater for him as well as a pair of corduroys, a pullover, a polo shirt, and a pair of casual pants.  Annie chose a skirt and a dress. I was very content, but decided to swing over and check out the ladies' dresses.  

Lo and behold, I happened upon an Ellen Tracy cocktail dress in beautiful, perfect condition. It's black with beading at the neckline and lace at the top of the back: gorgeous.  But it was two sizes too small.  I plucked it off the rack anyhow, thinking I'd try it on just for fun.  But lo and behold again, I think I have dropped a size.  Zipping it up was no problem......and it cost less than $5. My cocktail party days are long gone, but it would be perfect for dinner out with my husband or even an evening wedding.....

I was more than content at this point, but I always wheel through the housewares.  I found a little old dirty taped-up box with genuine Wedgwood inside--candlesticks and two darling little boxes.  I adore Wedgwood but have never purchased any.  This box o' goodies was only $3.99.  Sold!

At this point I was quite elated with my finds.  The children went to look at the toy section and I went to the last aisle of the domestic section. I always skim the artwork--I'm an amateur collector of original art, thanks to my parents.  We have a little over a dozen paintings we have collected over the years, through inheritance, purchase, and commission (don't be too impressed; it helps to have artist friends!), and I love each one of them.  Over the years I have also found several paintings at thrift stores--usually nice amateur art, but original, unique, and thus charming to me. 

 A framed painting caught my eye, and I picked it up, thinking that the woodland scene with its pink blooms would look sweet in Annie's room. The framing job was beautiful, and the art was original, and I knew she'd like the colors and the scene, so I put it in my cart.  

And then.  And then!!!

I realized there was more original art there. A lot more.  I looked at each piece; it was not amateur work.  This was work done by someone who could paint light beautifully.  And it was all oil.  And they were all signed with the same name.  Some had notation on the back--"en plein air" with the location and date; one had a dedication to the recipient on it. None of them were framed. I didn't love every single one, but I liked them all, and I did love several.

 Now, I'm a frugal lass and not much of an impulse buyer, but I knew I'd regret leaving those paintings. So we bought them all....all ten of them!  The largest one was a whopping $3.99. 

Back at home, I googled the artist's name.  Her work is displayed in various galleries, and sells for much, much more than I paid.......

I won't be selling these, though.  They are my treasures.  I am their caretaker, and I will love them and respect them and never, ever send them back to the thrift store.

Welcome home.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Schooling at Christmastime

This year I considered taking a lengthy Christmas break from school; after all, the public school children here get about three weeks, and I have several homeschooling friends who take off the entire month to focus on baking, events, and fun!  

But as we've gotten deeper into December, I realized that I don't want a long break.

What's wrong with this picture?! Shouldn't I be ready to stop??

I blame Charlotte Mason.  The thought of not reading our books for an entire month makes me feel rudderless and sad.  I don't want to skip daily French practice, stop reading Pollyanna during Morning Time, miss all those wonderful Christmas poems, wait to see what happens to our pilgrim in John Bunyan's classic, pause our studies of history. The books we read are too good to leave unread for a month!

So instead of stopping, I'm swapping.  Instead of our regular hymn, we are singing "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus". Instead of focusing primarily on Longfellow and Robert Frost during poetry time, I'm expanding to read other Christmas poems as well.  Instead of listening to Beethoven, we'll listen to hours of Handel (of course!).  We may learn a Christmas song in French. Finn's piano lessons have ceased, but he'll play Christmas carols.  Instead of recitation, we'll learn the children's lines for their Christmas program--a play that my husband writes and directs for our church each year. It's a subtle shift, but one that will incorporate the Advent and Christmas tidbits we love into the the daily rhythm we enjoy.  At this rate, I don't think we'll stop school until December 23rd!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Great Baking Week*

I got a head start on this week sometime last week, but this is the Great Baking Week here.  Finn is trying to raise money to help fund a medical clinic in a developing country, and we're selling Christmas treat trays.  Delivery is this Sunday!

I'm making 10 different types of goodies.  Yesterday we did the labor-intensive chocolate truffles and peanut butter balls, and today I baked magic cookie bars and Italian nut cookies (delicious little gems rolled in crushed pecans with a wee dollop of red raspberry jam in the center).  Each day has clearly delineated work to do! The List is my friend because it keeps chaos at bay.

By the end of this week, the rest of my baking (vegan goodies for my husband and traditional fruitcakes for my father) will seem like a walk in the park! I'm having fun, though...mostly because I am following The List.


*Having a Great Baking Week not recommended for anyone with children under the age of 5 (unless you have some seriously helpful teenagers or adults around).  Trust me on this.  Trust me on this.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Moleskine Planner (aka My Brain in a Book)

My fresh new plum-colored Moleskine is just waiting for me to start littering it up with plans, but in the meantime I thought I'd share what a workhorse my lemon-yellow Moleskine has been this year.

As a "lefty" I love Moleskine because there's no spiral spine to get in the way of my left hand!  But I also love the minimalism of the Moleskine look, the size (fits perfectly into my purse), and the font on each page.  

Here's how I use it!

First, I use these re-stickable tabs so that I can easily reference any section in the planner--this year my tabs are: month, week, create, cleaning, to-do, and pray.  I keep a lot more than this in the planner, but I only use six tabs. 

The month layout is one page per month.  Frankly, until now, I've always used a two-page per month layout and I was not inclined to like this one.  But I've discovered that it's nice to see two months on one page!  So I can live with it. 

The weekly layout contains all the days of the week on the left page and a blank page on the right.  I didn't think I'd love this, but I have come to adore it.  I can jot down all my random things on that right page (phone numbers, vague things I should do during the week that aren't assigned a day, menus, etc!). The left side of the page always get cluttered and crowded, but it works.  I put anything we do in the evenings in the lower right corner.  I cross things off as I go and sometimes circle something that needs to be shifted or moved.  It's not pretty but it's effective.

Under the "Create" tab I have a running list of my ideas--stuff I want to create (sewing projects, knitting ideas, etc).  This is the second page of 2016--the first is full.  I also will sometimes jot down ideas for writing projects here as well.  

And I like to keep a little list of homemade stuff I want to try--like vanilla sugar or apple butter.

The "Cleaning" tab is pretty unimpressive, and I'm probably going to ditch it in 2017.  I just have a list of my daily routine tasks, but I keep that on the fridge anyhow.  I use a rotating cleaning system (also on the fridge) for my non-daily cleaning tasks. 

The "To-Do" tab is where I keep the long, long, long list of Stuff I Need to Do.  This is like the spot for the brain dump. If I think of something, it goes on this list.  The list becomes pages and pages long, and many, many things are crossed off during the course of the year.  When I'm planning my week, I like to glance through the list to see what I can tackle during the course of that week.  It's so handy!

The To-Do list is actually on the address book insert.  I don't need an address book in my planner, but I didn't want to waste all those precious pages.  So I just ignore the "ABC" tabs and use the lined pages for my lists and plans.

Later in the "To-Do" section I have a "To Buy" list.  You know--stuff you might forget, like snow pants.  A floor lamp.  Leggings.  That stuff. 

Not pictured, but also in the to-do list section, is my handwritten comprehensive Christmas list.  

I also have a page for interesting homeschooling-related ideas I see.  As you can tell, I tend to stick with my plans and not really use these 'other ideas,' but I like having this list in case I want to bring something fresh into our day.  Pinterest scares me, so a simple list is best for me.

Another random list: my shopping plans for Operation Christmas Child.  

I also have a personal goals list here--things I'd like to do in the next 1-5 years.

The "pray" tab: I keep my prayer requests on post-it notes.  They change and shift and morph and this allows some flexibility.  

 And I reserve the last couple of pages for "Funny Things the Children Say"--all the stuff I think I should write down, and then forget....I now try to jot it down as soon as I can so I don't forget it!

I will say that I do not put homeschool plans in the planner.  I use index cards

As I mentioned, my chores are on the fridge. (A list for the rotating chores and a chart for the daily chores.)

And I have a daily routine/schedule I loosely follow, along with an exercise plan and my own meals, that I keep on a different chart as well. 

That's it! My approach is very simple and straightforward. I love my Moleskine!