Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pony Express

As we pulled into my father-in-law's driveway, we saw his partner, Granny Sue, waiting for us. She held the halter of a pony, and my first thought was, "Oh my God. Did they get the kids a pony for Christmas?!"

Turns out, this new addition to their farm was saddled up to provide the children with conveyance from the van to the house. Jude was first up for a ride.
 I love how the rusty apples match the details on his hat so perfectly. Photographic serendipity, I love you!
Violet could hardly wait; she popped on her brother's hat, and was completely at home in the saddle. I'm one of those people who have never owned a horse, and has ridden very little, but is convinced that I am, nonetheless, a horse-person. On my list of things to do before I die, owning a horse (or a few!) is in the top five. Until then, we can always visit Grandpa and Granny for a ride!
 Violet's tights were just so sweet in her snowboots, against the detailing of the saddle.
Something tells me that, had they not received any other gifts but this, this pony ride would have been more than enough to make their Christmas bright.

Friday, December 30, 2011

this moment

Violet shakes her gift on Christmas morning.

Please stop by to visit other moments or to share your own!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mermaid Sisters

I knit them simultaneously, so that they'd be finished at about the same time. This "time" happened to be at 1:00 am on Christmas morning. I tucked them lovingly into my girls' stockings, and collapsed into bed. It occurred to me that the hours I spent working on these mermaids exceeded the hours I spent labouring to bring both of my daughters into the world.

They are mermaid sisters, and I explained to the girls that mermaid sisters always look out for one another. They speak nicely to each other, and help and share. I hope their lovely mermaid manners will rub off on my two little women, who go out of their way to aggravate each other.

These ridiculous dolls have quickly taken up residence in our home and my girls' hearts, and are now required sleep-aids, along with the beloved blankies. Violet told me yesterday, "Mommy, do you know why I don't play with my other Christmas toys? Because the mermaid that you made for me is my very favourite". 

I swear, I haven't pressured them in any way to play with them. They sit at the dinner table with us, and we have to act bewildered as first a fishy tail, then a girl's blue eyes peep up over the edge of the table. Then we act amazed at the "magical-mythical-mermaids!" that appear to our astonishment. This has replaced the barrage of knock-knock-jokes-that-make-no-sense that is our usual dinnertime entertainment.

The hours of picky knitting and even pickier making-up of these mermaids were worth it. Like giving birth, I'd do it all again...but only for these two sisters.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On Christmas Eve

I've been so inspired by so many sites this Christmas. Money has been particularly tight for us this December, as our beautiful cat, Camino, came home with a badly broken leg early in the month. Her vet treatments were covered by the money I'd set aside for Christmas. Then our clothes dryer broke. While I found inspiration in the hand-mades I saw online, I walk the line between thrifty and incredibly busy (the last week of school contained two snow days, two Christmas concerts, Mass, Advent celebrations, a pizza lunch, sugar-cookie get the idea); there is only so much time. I was staying up late in the evenings to finish the work-intensive handmades I was creating for my children, burning the candle at both ends.

The day before the last day of school (December 23), we brought Camino in to have her splint changed before the holidays; the news wasn't good. Her bones were not knitting, and were once again poking through the skin. Amputation, to be honest, was way out of our budget, and held no guarantees. Our wonderful vet felt that in spite of the excellent care she'd received, it would be most humane to put her down. Many tears were shed as we made this difficult decision, and said goodbye to an otherwise perfectly healthy young cat.

I'm sure I'm not alone; it seemed that, as the mama of the house, I'd worked my ass off for six weeks making sure Christmas would be bright for my children, my students, my husband, our families...baking, decorating, singing, reading Christmas stories, anticipating, knitting, wrapping, smiling at those moments when I got a good deal or found the perfect gift.

Then, by the time the day came, I felt spread so thin that I could hardly summon the strength to actually enjoy it all! On Christmas Eve, in spite of the beauty around me and my many blessings, I felt sad, stressed, worried, frazzled, and frustrated that I was feeling that way after so much work and preparation!

So, I put on my rubber boots and took a quiet, solo stroll just to the end of our lane way on Christmas Eve.
I looked at our house from the end of the lane. The clutter and mess and unpainted rooms are unseen from this perspective. The children arguing, the parents worrying, the animals demanding: unheard.

All I feel is home.
The rooster was beginning to crow in his cozy harem coop; a heat lamp keeps their water from freezing, and I pictured them roosting together, feathers fluffed to keep in the heat.

 I smile at the burdock (not sure if I've ever smiled at a burdock before), because of the little hats it wears. My grandmother always wore a tam at a jaunty angle, and I'm reminded of her once again.
 I wonder if bangs are in this year; straight but jagged seems to be the style.
 The icy rain that fell a few days ago didn't miss the opportunity to cling to every little strand of chicken wire; I love this icy beehive.
 Even the barbed wire was softened by the appearance of ice; one twang of the fence and the ice would tinkle to the ground.
The smokehouse, with a tiny decorative sled on the door, sits as if in wait for the next photo session. It, of all our buildings, is my favourite subject in all seasons. It calls to mind magical stories of small beings who eat hot buttered toast and tea for dinner, and invite any passersby in to sit by the fire for awhile.
As I step up to the front door, I turn once more to the lightening sky. A deep breath before I enter into the busyness of a Christmas-Eve-Home, a renewed feeling of well-being; sometimes all a mama needs for peace of mind in a hectic time is just her feet taking her out of the house and down the lane way for a few quiet moments.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Merry Christmas to you, from all of us at the Knitty Gritty Homestead! I wish you all peace, rest, and abundant time with your loved ones.

Love, Stephanie

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Stockings Were Hung

When we were growing up, we each had a huge striped knitted stocking, with the letters of our names stitched down the stripes. I loved that handmade stocking (and still have it). As each child reaches the age where they "get" the whole idea of stockings, I've created a handmade for them as well.

Jude's features a quilt-striped motif, with giant buttons as the O's in "Ho, Ho, Ho!"

Violet's was made from a thrifted sweater that I washed in hot water (on purpose!). I then stitched buttons on in the shape of a V. Margot's stocking is the most recent addition; I made it this past weekend! I found the free pattern online, and it includes a boy elf! I may have to make them for all my kids; they're so cute!

 My husband's stocking features a treble clef shaped from antique shell buttons. I love the "old" feel of this one; the buttons are beautiful against the old brown velvet.
Now, to dig out my own stocking, in hopes that Santa will find me worthy of a few treats! I always loved how my parents included clementines and nuts with our stocking gifts; they remembered the joy of receiving their very own orange at Christmas time (oranges would have been exotic in the 40s and 50s, right?). I  continue that tradition with my own children, and hope they will continue it with theirs.

What special treat do you always include in your family's stockings?

Friday, December 16, 2011

::this moment: the multi-tasker::

Visit to share your moment, and to see the others' moments!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Getting Ready

I hear her little voice engaged in a play conversation.

I sneak up to see her playing with our Nativity figures.

I don't know what her game is, or what the figures are saying to one another.

 Her game has something to do with gathering around a fire, standing on trees, and waiting.
 The shepherds guard their sheep, as they should.

Suddenly, she turns to me and asks, "Baby Jesus coming soon?"
Ah. So this is more than just a random game. She's been taking in all the traditions of Christmas, from Santa to the tree to presents, to this sweetest and simplest of stories: the birth of a baby in a humble stable so long ago.

She wanted to make sure the barn was warm enough for the baby, and that the grown-ups were all ready.

Am I ready? I'm working on it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

First Tooth

I can remember the moment like it was yesterday. We were visiting our friends, and Jude was on my lap, happily gumming away on my thumb. Suddenly, I felt the sharpness of his first little tooth, and we rejoiced in this milestone.

Now that baby boy is six-and-a-half, and his adult teeth are coming up fast and furious behind his baby teeth. That first little tooth has been wiggled and twisted, pushed and prodded for what feels like ages. Jude is a bit of a baby when it comes to even the mildest pain (this past summer, when we had to remove some prickles from his foot, he cried, "DON'T CUT MY FOOT OFF!!!" as I approached with...tweezers), so we waited until it was absolutely hanging by a thread.

Tonight, I cajoled him into letting me have a pull. And then there it was in my hand, that tiny little pearl of a tooth. His little freckled face was astounded; he didn't realise what had happened until he looked in the mirror, poked his tongue into the space where his tooth had been, and admired the new grown-up tooth behind it.

The girls were just as excited as he was. We placed the tooth in a little cloth bag, and tucked it carefully under his pillow. I sang them to sleep, as always, but Jude seemed...older somehow, like this new milestone has set him on the path to being a big kid. He reached for my hand as I sang "his song" (I Will, by the Beatles), and I held back a tear.

Tonight I will creep into this room to place this little note under his pillow, written in the tiniest of print:

Dear Jude,
You lost your first tooth! I will take it with me,
and will turn it into a star. Maybe one day you'll
make a wish on it! Take good care of your new
grown-up tooth!
See you again soon,
Love, the Tooth Fairy

This is a first for me, too, and I'm reminded of how much I love this mothering gig.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

For a Winter's Evening

I've had the good fortune of being whisked away twice a year to a cottage in the land of spruce trees and moose-crossing signs. A bag for such a journey is packed quickly: comfy, cozy clothes, a tootbrush, my knitting, a good book, and food. Oh, and beverages.

When we all finally arrive, we hang our bras on the deer antlers, and the fun begins. This year, we added a wintry beverage to the menu: hot whiskey.

Hot Whiskey can be considered a medicinal drink. When my Nanny (who would be 106 years old this year) went to work in the lumber camps as a young woman, her brother used to bring her this drink when her menstrual cramps were bad. My sister remembers Nanny doing the same for her when she was a teen with cramps.

However. You do not need to be sick to enjoy a Hot Whiskey (also called a Hot Toddy).

Here's how you can make your own:

Hot Whiskey

2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar
1 oz. Irish whiskey
2 oz. boiling water
a slice of lemon studded with cloves

Put the sugar in a glass; pour liquids over. Give the lemon a wee squeeze before dropping the lemon slice in.
Curl up by a fire and savour. Then make another.

A friend gave me the use of her fancy phone with apps to take these pictures; she took some, too! Thank you, friend! And cheers to you.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cabin in the Woods, Year 2

This was our second year at the Cabin in the Woods; as we pulled into the lane, Violet exlaimed, "I remember this place!" I put a pot of soup on to heat, added some wood to the woodstove, and lit a candle in preparation for the arrival of my parents, and one of my sisters with her family. In a spark of wintry kismet, we had enough snow to transform the countryside into a veritable wonderland. There was also just enough to go sledding.

I remained in the house while my sister and her husband slid the kids; she assured me that I used to take HER kids out when they were small, because she didn't have the energy. Feeling absolved of any guilt, I took up my knitting, and watched the fun through the window.

Ice popsicles are the perfect snack when sledding, although I don't recommend them if one is hypothermic.

My littlest one is always very reluctant to join outdoor play, and usually ends up back inside after five minutes in the snow. Forget the fact that it takes 15 minutes to get her into her snowsuit. She was happy to join her mother, and mine, in observing the cavorting from beside the woodstove.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

O, Christmas Tree

We live about ten minutes from a tree farm. This year, after participating in a local parade, we quickly picked out a cut-yesterday tree, tied it to the roof of the van with some baler twine, and took three tuckered-out kids home. They waited patiently while we wrestled this eight-foot beauty into the house, sawed a bit off the bottom, got it into the tree stand, and argued the need for extra support in the form of string tied to nails in the wall. My husband assured me that it was fine, and the kids set to hanging the decorations on the tree's many branches.

This is the first year that all of the kids have really gotten into this task. The older two remember their favourites (remember Violet's spawkly staw?), and I too cherished the memories of each ornament as I hung the higher branches. Much discussion was had about who would place our snowflake-star on the top. Daddy had gone out to pick up pizza for dinner, so we decided that we'd wait till he got home, and then they'd EACH take a turn topping the tree.

 We settled on to the couch to read a Christmas story and to wait for daddy.

About three pages in, disaster struck. With barely a whisper, the tree started to lean forward, and with a terrifying crash, it came down, face first, shattering many a glass ornament.

Chaos, of course, ensued. The various links between the Christmas Tree and Santa's arrival were explored in varying pitches of shrieking, wailing, and weeping.

The kids were devastated. I've never seen them like this, about anything. Violet was wailing that Santa wouldn't find us, Margot was screaming that Santa's Grandma (Mrs. Claus) wouldn't come. Jude disappeared to cry alone on the stairs, mumbling that this had been the best Christmas tree EVER.

For long moments, I just sat with my hands over my face. Sometimes this is the best thing a mama can do.

Then I gathered them around me, and asked them all to take some deep breaths so they could listen. I asked them if we'd always celebrate Jesus' birthday at Christmas time. They nodded. I assured them that Santa would find us, even if we didn't have a tree, or if we lived in a cave. I assured them that as soon as daddy got home, we'd fix the tree up.

We sat there, a little circle of disbelieving faces, staring at the mess of pine needles, glass, and spilled water that a few moments earlier had been our biggest, prettiest Christmas tree ever.

I asked them which ornament had been their favourites, and we crossed our fingers in hopes that they'd still be intact.

We cleaned up the mess, and found that the damage was not as bad as it had at first seemed. I lost the super-tacky polar bear-standing-on-a-bulb-labelled-Toronto that my brother gave me last year as a joke, but aside from that, most of the breakage was cheap glass bulbs I'd bought in a set a few years ago. My children's "First Christmas" ornaments were all okay, as were the children's favourites.

As Robin and I finished securing the string to the wall, I overheard Violet telling her little sister, "Mawgot, even if we lived in a CAVE Santa would find us". Margot replied, "Santa's Gwandma, too?" Violet assured her little sister lovingly, as I had assured them all just a while before.
Before bedtime, we spread out a quilt so they could all marvel at the prettiness of the tree. Everyone went to bed peacefully after a busy, Christmassy day. I like to think this experience has added to their bank of memories: that even in the midst of apparent disaster, hope and optimism abounds, and that things aren't always as bad as they seem.