Monday, November 27, 2017

A Different Kind of Advent

For the past couple of weeks I've been ratcheting down our academics in favor of rest, food, family, puttering around the house, and Christmas prep.  And over the next few weeks I anticipate more of the same: less time spent following lesson plans, more time spent enjoying the season of Advent together.  What does this look like, exactly?

For the past couple of years I've reached Christmas with a nagging feeling that I was too distracted, too busy, too ambitious.  Last year around Christmas my son even went through a period where he said he felt like I didn't love him. I tried to figure out the root cause of this (I am quite affectionate!) and realized: of course he thinks this....he's used to a different life, and a different mother!  In the weeks leading up to Christmas I had become dominated by my to-do list, my calendar, and my obligations.  I had also, in the course of that, become a little snappier, more exhausted, and more on edge.  A child notices even a subtle difference in his mother.

So this year I am aiming to be intentional in the way I spend my time during Advent.

The must-dos:
*piano recital
*violin (!) recital
*church Christmas play/program
*co-op Christmas party
*gift wrapping/prep

The wishlist:
*nightly Advent readings
*morning Advent readings (for me)
*hot cocoa by the tree
*reading our many Christmas and Advent books....every day!
*reading my favorite Christmas book
*visiting the Fancy Hotel in town with all the decorated trees
*attending a musical concert
*baking a plethora of Christmas goodies 
*singing carols together at home
*at least one or two Advent weekend hikes
*making a gingerbread house
*creating some herb wreaths
*decorating the chicken coop (don't laugh....okay, go ahead and laugh)
*lots of Christmas sewing (this borders on a must-do)
*driving around to look at Christmas lights
*make a Jesse tree (maybe a little ambitious)

In addition to wanting to enjoy the savor the season, I'm also scaling back on school now that we're nearly done with one "term."  It's always good to learn new things about oneself.  This term I think I've learned that I'm a hopeless case when it comes to curricula.  I like having resources and a booklist, but lesson plans?  No.  Not so much.   I've felt a little over-burdened this term, to be honest. My children have even felt the pressure of not having as much margin in their days as they are used to having.  Today Finn, celebrating his freedom from most formal lessons, spent about 2 hours at the piano.  Who can say that time wasted because it wasn't spent in a "balanced" way between more subjects?  I can't!

Seasonal living feels right to me, and I think it helps us live more fully in the present moment.  So I'm committed to a different kind of Advent this year.  

Friday, November 24, 2017

Sewing Room Mirror

Technically, it's the laundry room, which is also the passageway from the schoolroom to the garage.

*But* since my husband's wonderful suggestion to convert it into a sewing space, I'm calling it the sewing room.  

And finally: we have the perfect mirror.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments

Do you read The Prudent Homemaker website or blog? I love it.  So many inspiring ideas for saving money and doing it all very prettily.  I have read her for a long time and hope she never stops writing.

Given that we're in a Spending Season right now, where property taxes, insurance payments, winter travel, and Christmas converge, I am focusing on little things I can do to save money, so I thought I'd join with Brandy's weekly "Frugal Accomplishments" this week. Here are the frugal things I did last week......

*I created a comprehensive list of all the Christmas gifts I want to make. (Ideally I would have done this in September, but we have been so busy with school that I simply did not take the time.  We took this past week off so that I could breathe.)  I'm making every item with fabrics and supplies I already have on hand, which is frugal indeed.  Honestly, my fabric chest overfloweth, and I need to sew through it.

*I shopped at Sam's and Aldi.  (If you keep track of unit prices, you can find some great deals at these stores.)  I was stocking up for Christmas baking.

*One night I made pizza instead of getting takeout pizza.

*I made a batch of granola (my first from a new recipe). My husband *loves* it and asked for me to make it for him as part of his Christmas present.

*I made a batch of natural deodorant.

*I cut my son's hair. He asked for me to trim his bangs, but then I got carried away and trimmed everything!

*We took a plate of homemade gingerbread to our neighbor as a thank-you for looking after our outdoor animals while we were out of town earlier in the month.

*I found an item that I wanted, and had priced on Amazon at $30, at the thrift store for $3.99!

*I bought fabric to use to make a zippered tote bag for Finn for Christmas.  It was $1 at the thrift store (a Martha Stewart curtain, I think). I'll also have enough of it leftover to make a pillow or two for my sister's contains the exact colors she wants to use in her living room.

*Harvested and dried sage, rosemary, and lavender.

*I made a batch of laundry soap.

*My neighbor was selling her outdoor sofa.  It is this brand.  She sold it to me for $75!  It is six feet long and very, very comfortable. I don't like the color of the cushions, so I will probably re-cover them using fabric I already have....probably a project for later in the winter. :)

*We accepted multiple herb plants from my neighbor: rosemary, lavender, and German thyme. I planted them yesterday, and I hope they'll survive the winter.

*On Saturday I did some Christmas shopping.  My sister wanted a few more bowls, plates, and mugs. I found some in her exact color scheme (teal/yellow) at my favorite thrift store for.....$2!! (Total.)

*I visited the usually-overpriced-antiques mall and found a beautiful mirror that is perfect for my little sewing/laundry room. I've been trying to find something to hang above the vintage sink since we finished our basement four years ago.  The mirror was $15 (!).

*I accepted three large planters from my neighbor, who was getting rid of them for free. One of them is an urn-style and they'll all look great on our new patio/deck.  I am so grateful for my generous neighbor. 

Happy Thanksgiving! I spent all morning today cooking, then practiced violin, then spent more time procuring food, then cooking some more, then church.....sometime I really do need to start sewing!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Birthday Bouquet

My stepmother sends me flowers every year for my birthday.  It's the sweetest gesture!  On the rare occasion that she's with us for Easter, she also purchases corsages for all the ladies in the family to wear to church on Easter morning. 

This year it was autumnal--perfect for late September in these mountains.

In other news, Finn is furiously learning new songs for his Christmas recital. He has chosen Tchaikovsy's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies" (as a duet with his teacher; he asked me, but I declined, being a little overrun with my own musical endeavors) and today he decided on "Carol of the Bells", which is actually sort of difficult in spite of its repetitive theme. He's in his fourth year of piano and he sight-reads better than I do.  He also practices with diligence and plays with confidence.

As for me?  My violin teacher informed me that my recital is December 10th. I can't stop laughing at this vision: half a dozen darling children in their Christmas finery, playing the violin beautifully, and then one old lady squeaking out the most basic song.  My husband, so impressed with my abilities (note: he doesn't play any instruments), recruited me to play as an opening to our Christmas program this year at church.  I declined.  A little kid eking out a simple song is cute, but an adult doing the same thing?  Awkward!

Nevertheless, I continue to love the violin with a passion unspeakable.  It's so hard.  

And so fun.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thoughts for Election Day

From my one of my fifth grader's schoolbooks, originally published in 1909:

"We need faithful, unselfish public servants who really think of and work for what is best for the community, that is, for all of us.  Such men we shall honor and reward for their honesty and efficiency. In men who use their office simply to benefit themselves or their friends, we shall have no confidence.  If they consider what is good for any small group of men or for any corporation rather than for the people as a whole, they are not faithful servants of the public.  They are servants of the few--of men who possibly reward them with private gain, while we, the public, are ignored as of no importance.  We shall not trust men in office when we discover that their character is not that of honest public servants." 

--The Young Citizen's Reader by Paul Reinsch

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Colonial Williamsburg: Useful Things

With no artificial light and no plastic anythings, the shops and artisans' workshops were just beautiful.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Beautified Bookcase

A few months ago my neighbor gave me a free bookcase that needed some TLC.  I painted it soon after we got it, using leftover paint I had in the garage from previous projects. 

It now holds an array of history, science, and religion books for children....and our nature field guides, too.  

Now I need to start daydreaming about having new deck furniture, and maybe that'll appear at the doorstep. You never know....a few years ago I got a couple of chairs for free...!!