Monday, March 31, 2008

Happy Birthday, Benjamin!!

My baby boy turned five and he had a pirate birthday party. I think it went pretty well. His friend from up the street was able to come, and so were our very dear friends from Rochester, Sarah and her fabulous children, so both Benjamin and Sophia were over the moon about that. (And I was pretty giddy myself.)

He had strawberry cupcakes, pizza, little hot dogs, and an ice cream cake. Yep, we cracked those kids up good and then sent some of them home! The mothers probably hate us! I was a little worried about what to do with the kids, especially as we had a range of ages, but they pretty much just ran around the house and entertained themselves. Benjamin had one of his presents, a Pirates of the Caribbean cd player (the actual part where the cd goes is Davy Jones' heart! it glows!!), set up on a table with the goody bags and we had some pirate music. But far and away, Benjamin's favorite thing to play on his new present is Funky-town, as sung by The Chipmunks. He repeatedly asks me if I want to "see his moves".

Sophia made this for the party. She kept saying things like, "I really want Benjamin to have a good party, because he's my little brother and I know he just wants some friends." And I was like, "Gee, it's really wonderful that you care so much about your brother, Sophia, but quit making him sound like a complete social outcast!"

I also made small bags from a pirate fabric I had at the house. These became the goody bags, which we filled with some candy, small pirate telescopes and play gold from the dollar store, and some saltwater taffy. It was very, very easy, and I used some self-adhesive velcro so they fasten together at the top.
Maybe the kids will use the little bags for something aside from the goody-bag lifespan.

So Benjamin had a great birthday, and we had a great weekend with Sarah and her kids. Couldn't ask for much more.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bookish Things

I love children's books. Even if I didn't have children, I would probably be a collector. Don't get me wrong, we love the library and we use it often, but we also own a LOT of children's books. There is a bookcase in each of the kids' rooms that are full and more besides. Some are from my own childhood, many are from my rabid spirit of acquisition when it comes to books. I also own many books of fairytales and books talking about fairytales. What I adore more than anything are books that catch the imagination in such a way that they're almost landmarks of growing up. My favorite book of all time was and is Anne of Green Gables; even the language of that beloved tome is woven so inexorably into my growing up that it continues to shape how I see things.

I mean, "kindred spirits," anyone?

I'm so glad that Sophia and Benjamin see as much magic in books as I do. You know how you always say (and believe!) that it doesn't matter what your kids love, you will always encourage their own interests and passions? Well, yes. But I would have been utterly crushed if they didn't adore books.

I ordered them each a new book for their spring baskets. They didn't quite arrive in time for that, but they're here now and we're poring over them. The pictures are from Benjamin's gift, Peter in Blueberry Land, by the fantastic Swedish author and illustrator Elsa Beskow. We own several already, and they are great favorites of both the kids and myself. Written over a century ago, they are as enchanting as they ever could have been, with the added fascination that comes with seeing aspects of a different way of life. My kids are enthralled with the depictions in some of the books of harvesting, hand making items used in the household, and -of course- the clothing in the illustrations.

The books usually deal with some element of the mythical or magical. The King of Blueberry Land taps Peter on the foot to shrink him down to his size and they go off to meet the blueberry children and have great adventures. Another book shows the life, through the seasons, of the "Children of the Forest", people smaller than mice who wear red spotted caps to look like mushrooms if danger comes near.

Sophia received the first book in the Sisters Grimm series, which I think we will enjoy reading together.

I recently picked up The Other Boleyn Girl on a recommendation. I like a good, enticing, semi-trashy read sometimes. I'm only a few chapters in, but so far I'm not that impressed. Hopefully it will pick up and grab me a bit better as I get further into it. I'm kind of on a York/Tudor kick now, actually. I read The Daughter of Time last week, which deals with the historical accuracy of Richard the Third being accused of murdering his young nephews, the two princes in the tower. Richard was killed at Bosworth, and Henry 7 became king which of course ushered in the Tudors. (It was a good book.) And I'm watching dvds of the first season of The Tudors, with the very yummy Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing an impossibly hot and clean Henry 8. So that's fun.

Sophia has a project in her school's science fair today. She did it on "what's inside an egg." Can you believe 1st graders are doing science projects?! It seems young to me. But she's excited, and she even has note cards and a planned-out hand flourish. I'll let you know how she did.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


My birthday and Benjamin's birthday are only three days apart. I distinctly remember having a birthday while hugely pregnant with him and ordered on bed rest. I made Clint go buy me a ham dinner from Kenny Roger's and watched The Sound of Music with Sophia on the couch. Now my little boy is turning five on Friday and Sophia's favorite actress is still Julie Andrews.

Anyway, my birthday yesterday began with being sung to by Clint as he climbed the stairs in his sweaty PT's, which was much lovelier than it sounds, and continued with a latte and donut and a homemade card from Sophia, which was perfect. Clint bought me this old enamel-topped table which I've been coveting from an antique shop nearby. I am totally in love with it. I've decided that it's my new writing desk. (Now I just have to use it for its intended purpose!)

The kids and I picked up some sushi from the man who makes it at the grocery store for lunch, read a little, I took a short, glorious nap, and then Clint took us out to eat when he got home from work. We went to a fantastic Italian place in was way pricier than we expected but the food was truly an experience so I'm trying not to think about it too hard.

Look at this vintage tablecloth I got at the same antique shop as my table! Complete with the cat, who absolutely refused to move for the picture. I love vintage textiles, and this one is in awesome condition. My mother is going to give me some vintage sheets and such that belonged to my great grandmother for using in sewing projects, so I'm really excited about that. I think they'll make good backings for quilts.

So Friday, Benjamin decreed he wants a birthday dinner of roasted chicken, macaroni and cheese, cucumbers, and marshmallows. Which I think we can do. And then on Saturday he's having a small pirate party. I just can't believe he's going to be five years old.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Handmade for Spring

I'm really invested in choosing handmade as often as possible these days. First of all, I love getting handmade items. A homemade gift is layered with so much thought and intent that it just feels special, ya know? Now, I know that we don't always have the time to devote to handmade items, nor do we always have the inclination toward handmaking something. So the other facet of my newish devotion to handmade is buying handmade whenever possible. I love love love Etsy for this. There are all kinds of vendors on this site, selling knitted things, sewn things, jewelry, art, dolls, paper goods, and it goes on and on. Not only does buying handmade support the people who make these wonderful things (while NOT supporting all the creepy business practices from some large chains out there) but you get a really fantastic, often heirloom quality, product from the transaction.

Anyway, I decided to make something for the kids' spring baskets this year. I got the pattern for these knitted hares from our copy of All Year Round, a seasonal celebrations book, very Waldorf style. (It's little caption says something about Christian celebrations, but it isn't at all preachy and doesn't feel like that. While it has Christmas and Easter ideas, it also has ideas for each equinox and solstice. It's very inclusive.)

These were very easy to make: all you need to know is the basic knit stitch. I got some mohair yarn and cotton stuffing from Michael's, and used some $1 yarn scraps I got from the bargain bin at Target to brighten up their wee necks.

Normally I'd give them their spring baskets today, the equinox, but the books I ordered them haven't arrived yet and my mother is coming to visit on Friday. Since she celebrates Easter, we might wait so she can be included in our celebration.

We are going to make egg baskets from shredded wheat and melted chocolate, a la Angry Chicken and welcome spring our own way.

(Please spring, come here soon!)

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Here we are nearing the first day of spring, feeling the sudden sense of the wheel of our year turning again, and we're still looking at a foot of snow on the ground here in northern New York. And yet...the past few days I've begun to feel spring, somewhere under the snow, under the ground, quickening and stirring and ready to burst out. I always imagine it like an embryo, spinning quietly under the top soil that is still hard and frozen, waiting for its moment. The temperature gauge on my car this afternoon said it was 35 degrees outside, but with some sunshine smiling down on us after weeks of overcast skies, it felt much warmer, and it was almost as if you could smell spring in the wind.

I don't actually mind winters. I rather like nesting down in a warm house, soup simmering on the stove and hot tea and cocoa in mugs, reading or knitting as the snow falls outside. There is something deep down that even needs this "hibernation" of sorts, like anything creative or anything new needs a period in the womb, a period to develop quietly. But I'm really ready for the year to turn now. I'm ready for damp, warmer breezes and rain boots, for the scent of green things popping up, for long walks, for afternoons spent out in the yard. I'm ready for fresher produce. Clint is going to build me some boxes to plant herbs in; we have a fenced-in yard, but it's rather small and I don't want to plant my herbs on the ground because I have more than a sneaking suspicion they'll get peed on by the dog. So Clint is going to anchor some boxes to our fence. I can't wait for fresh mint and basil. I'd like to find a good co-op around the area.

And there is just something exciting about spring, something that energizes. I find that the downward turn toward the autumn equinox fills me with the same kind of energy. It's no surprise that those are my favorite times of year, I suppose.

The kids are doing very well. The picture above is from last month's Peacemaker Assembly at Sophia's school, with the 1st graders singing "What a Wonderful World." Sophia won an award for sharing, which of course tickled her to death. I am also just so pleased and proud of how her reading is going.

Benjamin is getting excited for his birthday, and we have planned a pirate party. He is giving out some invitations tomorrow to some of the neighbor children. He recently got really into a cartoon called "Avatar," and we found a dvd with the first 24 or so episodes at the bookstore. I was able to use a 30% off coupon and get it for a very reasonable price. I can't wait for him to open it. He's going to be very surprised and excited.

And continuing in the vein of new starts, of quickenings, my latest sewing projects have been baby gifts. We had friends over Friday evening who are expecting their first baby, a boy, in a week or two, and I gave them a gift set of a blanket, bib, and matching onesie that I made with my love, my Brother XL-2610. I'm pretty happy with how it all turned out, so I think this is my new gift for babies. And there seem to be a lot of people having babies lately.

Ah, spring...don't leave us waiting too long.