Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reflections on Halloween

I remember that odd feeling of timelessness, as we wandered out at night, our real selves hidden by masks and makeup and costumes...the glimpses into neighbours' kitchens, seeking out those who gave out the best treats (homemade fudge from Mrs. Scott), avoiding the groups of big boys who were surely egging and soaping store windows downtown, the sounds and strange sights of Halloween. 

It was a delicious feeling, silly and scary at the same time, staying up past the time we were usually in our pyjamas, dragging home a pillowcase of loot. Sorting it into piles of chips, gum, chocolate, candy kisses, chips. Eating it quickly or stashing it away, depending on your personality. Counting out how many of your school lunches could contain a tiny bag of chips, based on how many you'd been given.
And now, costumes arise organically from whatever we find around the house. We don't plan too far ahead, as thoughts and inspiration change from day to day. This little mauve coat, a gift from my brother, made my mom think of Little Orphan Annie. Violet has been singing "Tomorrow" for weeks in anticipation of this big night. I could hardly let her go out the door, so sweet was her face amidst all those red curls.
Margot vacillated between princess and cowgirl, then finally settled on a dragon costume borrowed from Grandpa's costume stash. I had to draw the line when she wished to be a "cow-dragon" because her cowgirl boots would hurt her feet before she was done her rounds.
Dusty Bottoms evolved the same way as Margot's costume: a gift of cowboy boots combined with lots of cool accessories scavenged from Grandpa's house had Jude changing his mind: robot to wizard to cowboy. He's got the swagger and the stance down pat. And I have to say...he rocks a mustache as only an seven-year-old can.

After a full two (exhausting) days of Halloweening with my two groups of Kindergarten students, I had to let this sweet trio venture out with just Daddy tonight. Armed with a backpack (for when the girls' bags get too heavy), water bottles, and a watch, he'll escort them around the nearby small town for an hour or so. Then when they get home, we'll all walk down the lane way in the dark to visit the neighbours across the road (who always make homemade caramel popcorn!). I wish I could see this night through their eyes, because Halloween is full of wonder and magic of its own, isn't it? 

But my childhood memories are so vivid, I'm content to let my children hold on to their own. It is the experience of Halloween that we treasure most, long after all the candy kisses are gone.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Yarn Along: Preparing

My mother presented me with this little pair of socks, accompanied by the yarn she used to make them! With a strand of lace weight yarn in the same shade, I've started another Maile baby bonnet (free pattern available here!) I made earlier this week, but the dark yarn I used didn't really do the lace pattern justice. Isn't it just delicious to make tiny things, imagining the round little head or teeny little toes that will fill your work in a few weeks' time? Because my older three children were spaced fairly close together, I didn't have as much time for knitting. This baby has a veritable trousseau of hand knit garments to keep her warm!

Alice Hoffman is a favourite these days, with her magical realism, small town settings, and delving into the things that haunt us...our past, lost loves, family history, and so on. As I slow my pace down and prepare for the beginning of maternity leave (Friday is my last day of work!), I'm craving long mornings in bed with a good book. Now, I'll admit, I've always been a fan of this activity from an early age. But now it is sinking in that my days of relative freedom are drawing to a temporary close as I prepare to nurture this babe and her big sisters and brother through the next stage of parenthood.

Be sure to pop by Small Things to share in Ginny's brilliant Yarn Along!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Alteration

We all have an image in our minds of what it is to be pregnant.  This picture, taken recently by my mother, captures the way I feel at this 35 weeks, I start drifting into that dreamy, soft place where everyday cares make way for thoughts of tiny bonnets and onesies, of having a peaceful birth, and of that timeless moment when mother and babe first look at one anothers' faces. It is a blurred, pastel-coloured time, and one I always cherish....before the exhaustion, physical recuperation, and non-stop tending begin.
I figured it was time for a last hurrah, and going out dancing for Halloween with some of my best girlfriends seemed like the best option. But first...the costume:
I know. I just look gross, don't I? I think my husband's words, in regards to the mustache, was "dirty". For school, I usually dress up as a princess of some sort, to the delight of my Kindergarten students. For going out, I usually don a colourful bobbed wig, sparkly makeup, and some confection of a costume involving wings, belly dance coin scarves, veils, and so on.

To say that this costume was a stretch out of my usual boundaries would be understating it.

Dressing up allows us to alter our personalities for an evening. I ran into several parents of children I teach, or have taught, and it took them several beats to even recognize me. I walked, sat, spoke, and danced as if this Dwayne character was who I really am. The belly? Too many beers. I wore my husband's favourite red y-front undies, and drew on belly and chest hair. 

We had a hoot, to say the least. I shook my belly and swaggered around like I was the hottest thing on earth.
It was refreshing to not be pretty, graceful, or sexy on Halloween night. I scratched my belly, hitched my pants up, and sneered at every chance. Getting out for one more night of fun before the pastel-days arrive was just what the doctor ordered. 

What will YOUR alter be on Halloween night?

Friday, October 26, 2012

::this moment::the tumble::

Pop on over to to see other moments, and to share your own.
May your weekend be filled with portrait-worthy moments!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Yarn Along: Remembering

Although it is Halloween that is approaching, I've been knitting and reading along the theme of remembrance. In Canada, we commemorate Remembrance Day on November 11. Having recently re-read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society* (which takes place in the Channel Islands during World War II and shortly after the war), I thought I'd search for a Guernsey sweater pattern, and came across this free pattern (don't you love when people share so generously?), and immediately got to work on one for our babe. By the way, you should read the GLaPPPS!*

As you can see, I need to knit sleeve two, and the button band/collar. I love the moss stitch detailing on the yoke. The sleeve turned out a bit skinnier than I like, so I plan to redo it without the decreases.

In our school staff room today we were discussing how we can make Remembrance Day more meaningful for our young students. They just can't relate to the poppies-on-white-crosses imagery. I dug out this book from my collection teaching resources. Too Young To Fight: Memories From Our Youth During World War II. It is a collection of memoirs by Canadian authors (like Janet Lunn, Jean Little, and Roch Carrier) who lived through the war as children. It is an enlightening peek into what those days were like for those who were young enough to be spared the duty of going overseas. 

I've also been reading more Alice Hoffman; Illumination Night was enjoyable, and I started Practical Magic then realised I've read it before! So I stopped. I had a sleepover at my mom's, sans reading material, so I picked up a Nora Roberts novel off her shelf. I will reluctantly admit that I couldn't put it down! Guilty was called The Search if you're curious! :)

Pop by Ginny's blog to share what you're reading and knitting these days!

Very Tiny Rope: a tutorial

Little hands have been busy all weekend at the Knitty Gritty Homestead.

Here's what they're doing:

1. Cut a square out of cardboard. Snip off the corners to create an octagon. It doesn't have to be geometrically perfect! Snip a little slit into each straight side, for a total of eight slits.

2. Cut seven lengths of yarn (for the littlest hands) or embroidery floss (for older, more patient hands); about 8-10 inches long should be about right. *For 3-4 year olds, using seven different colours could be helpful!*

3. Tie a knot at one end, to combine all strings into one big hank. Poke a hold in the middle of the octagon, and push the knot through just so it sits on the back side. Working from the top, put one strand of yarn in each slit, leaving one empty (so that the yarn hangs down).

4. Instruct your little one to put the empty slit at his/her bellybutton.

5. Count up three strands on the right; pick up the third strand and pull it up and out of the slit.
6. Take that strand, and slot it into the empty slit at the bottom (near your child's bellybutton!).

7. Turn the octagon clockwise until the NEW empty slit is again lined up with the bellybutton.

8. And repeat!

We tied a beer opener to the bottom as  weight, and every now and then you'll need to gently pull down on the centre of your work (as you do when using a spool knitter). 
After awhile, you'll see all this work resulting in a tiny rope! Longer strings will yield a necklace, shorter ones a bracelet. If you make most strands one colour, you'll get a spiral effect.

Violet and a friend of Jude's were mesmerized by this handwork and worked away all weekend at their creations. 

Have fun!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Promise

While driving along a country road the other day, Violet, Margot and I were discussing the changes we were seeing around us as the seasons change. They mentioned the leaves, the bare trees, the fields all plowed and ready to rest for the winter. We talked about the cooling of the air, and what was happening in everyone's gardens: namely, that the flowers had all gone to sleep.

Suddenly, Margot burst into heartfelt, heart-wrenching tears, gasping between sobs that she didn't WANT the flowers to die! She didn't WANT to go through winter. She wanted it to be Spring next!

I explained that the flowers worked hard all summer, showing off their pretty colours, providing food for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and others with their pollen, nectar, and seeds. The flowers were tired and needed to rest up so that come Spring, they'd be all ready for another show!

The next time we were at the grocery store, I almost walked past a display advertising tulip bulbs for sale...three boxes for $10! The kids each picked their favourites, and yesterday we got to work under the chilly October sky. They each chose a spot, and I dug a hole for each.
Violet thought the bulbs looked like gnomes. Margot wanted to know why they didn't look like light bulbs. Jude planted his so quickly that I didn't even get a picture of him doing it!
Hands in soil, carefully placing the bulbs point-up, and a promise was made: the promise of bright, brash tulips to greet us in April when Spring comes to visit us again. I expect this promise will keep our spirits up through the long days of late winter. I may just have go back to the store to get a few more boxes of promises!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

::this moment::the boot::

Please visit to join in this week's "This Moment"....

...and may the stones in your boots be tiny.

Monday, October 15, 2012

33 weeks

At 33 weeks, the mind starts shifting inward.

This abstract soul that I've carried all along becomes more real to me as the weeks pass: knobs of knees and elbows sliding along under my skin, the push of a bum up high with the answering pressure of a head that has settled low into my pelvis, the delicate tap dance that moves from under my right ribcage, evolving into a tiny hand's push against my navel, the amazingly hard weight when Braxton-Hicks contractions come to call.

I imagine her marvelling at her siblings' voices raised in song, laughter, and battle. I feel her turning towards the warmth and purr of a cat using her as a pillow. My bellybutton protrudes, my sciatic nerve whispers through the day then yells by evening, and I celebrate a full night's sleep if I manage to get through without getting up to pee.

The days swirl past like leaves from the trees, and I wonder how it is that I've come so far. Four more weeks till my leave begins, with three weeks to rest and prepare my mind for that journey into Labour and Postpartum Land. The time for washing tiny clothes and packing my homebirth labouring kit is nigh. The midwives will visit soon, and we'll start thinking about that December day in earnest.

And always, through all the busyness and planning, wondering and preparing, I feel that tiny little girl's weight shifting and twirling in her watery world, this world within me, and can hardly imagine not feeling her there. I wrap a towel around my tall son after his bath, hold my big girls in my arms while they straddle this saddle of a belly, and marvel that their limbs, organs, minds and spirits once rested within the world of my body.

I know the day is coming soon when this girl will fill my arms and heart as her siblings do, and that miraculously, I'll once again forget this feeling of harbouring another's life in my body as I have before. I am reminded to rejoice in her random shifts and dances even as I grow to an uncomfortable girth.

I am 33 weeks pregnant today, with my fourth child.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

You Spin Me

Sometimes I wish to post, and wonder...what should I write about? I sift through the week's photos, moments many and mundane, wondering, would they care about this? 

Sometimes I stumble across a photo I took but forgot about, like this one:
And everything comes full circle (no pun intended) when I realise that I once posted about spinning this little girl around on my hip. The clinging hands, the giggles and cries of "Again! Again!", the sheer joy...all brought me back to the times when I've spun my kids around, and back further to when I was small enough to be spun on a grown-up's hip.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Yarn Along: Colours

Among the many annoying things about working full time is that I don't often get home in time to take pictures by natural light. I am not a fan of flash photography so please accept my apologies for the flashy look I get these days!

That neat blocky thing (that will desperately need blocking when it's done!) is our baby's blankie. I've never made one before and usually avoid knitting things like this (I like small intricate things that require shaping to keep my interest). But Margot and Violet, who both have ragged, filthy beloved blankies that were hand knit for them by other kind folks have insisted that what this new baby needs most is her own blankie! 

I'm using the Moderne Baby Blanket pattern from Mason-Dixon Knitting (by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne).  I opted for bright pastels as I feel they're more appealing to babies than the suggested "modern" (monochromatic) colour scheme in the book's sample. As I knit along, I imagine teaching her her colours with this blanket as I did with the bright stripes of Margot's blankie.

It's knit in Debbie Stoller's (of Stitch 'n' Bitch fame) Bamboo Ewe which I can pick up handily at our local farm-supply store in lots of colours. 

I just finished Alice Hoffman's The Red Garden. It was a hard-to-put-down read and I highly recommend it. It chronicles the ordinary and extraordinary people and events that take place in one small Massachusetts town, starting in the mid-1700s right up into the present day. Stories and legends get passed down, and the characters all connect through the founding families of Blackwell. As in so many of Hoffman's books, there is a sense of "magical realism" that is just delightful!

I hope to check out more of her books when next I visit our library. 

Please drop by Small Things to share your Yarn Along or to see what others are reading and knitting these days!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


In Canada, we are celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend. We haven't hosted our family gathering since our first fall here at the Knitty Gritty Homestead, and my sister and her husband had this idea that we just couldn't refuse.

Our baby is due in December. We heat with wood. We both work full time, and spend much of our time at home just keeping on top of things like feeding our children, keeping them busy, and washing their clothes. The woodpile was slowly shrinking, in the small amounts of time that my husband could dedicate to blocking and splitting it by hand.

So, my industrious sister, who realised that she wouldn't be able to come and help after the baby was born, thought it would be cool to have a work day here, followed by a Thanksgiving feast. After borrowing our neighbour's wood splitter, everyone got to work. Mom and I spent a lot of the day in the kitchen preparing the feast, but I managed to slip out now and then to take some pictures.

People used to do this kind of thing as a matter of course. A big job that was hard to accomplish on our own would be shared amongst the community, and the workers would be bolstered by hearty food provided by the grateful recipients of the help. The best part of the day was how much fun everyone had; conversations flowed with the hands that cut and chucked the wood, tears flowed in quiet moments of stacking wood in the basement, workers were called in for baked beans and pork-roast sandwiches, the kids felt useful and learned to work carefully around machinery, and in the end, there was the profound, primal satisfaction of being prepared for winter.

Seeing that wood piled in the basement, with more in the woodshed, is more exciting for me than any baby shower could be at this point in my mothering journey! I am so thankful for the time and energy that everyone brought to our farm yesterday. Three generations, plus friends and their kids, all putting their hearts into helping us prepare for our winter, followed by a beautiful turkey dinner. 

I say it so often, because I recognize that it is true:
I am so very blessed!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Yarn Along: and more socks...

Joining in with Ginny over at Small Things in this week's Yarn Along!

The one-pair-per-child-before-baby's-birth sock project is carrying on as planned. For anyone out there thinking, "I could NEVER do socks!" or think I'm fiddling around with four tiny needles, think again! These are toe-up socks with NO grafting, NO seams, and only one long, circular needle. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's what you need to learn: the Magic Loop cast on. It changed my life, and my children will be the glad recipients of lovely hand-knit socks because of it. Find someone who knows who can teach you, or brave the world of Youtube knitting tutorials.

I just have to knit about two more inches onto Margot's pair, then I'll cast on for Jude's. I admit, my enthusiasm for sock knitting is waning a bit, but I can't leave him without a pair. He picked this great Regia yarn from the stash...a blend of reds, greens, purple, brown, and tourquoise. He maintains that it is not too girly. 

I've been reading Agatha Christie lately. Did anyone out there read her politically incorrectly titled "Ten Little Indians" back in high school like I did? I haven't looked at her books since. But I've heard a few references to Miss Marple and her knitting in the past month so finally picked up a few titles at the local library. And what can I say? I LOVE Miss Marple! She clicks away on her needles by the fireside, appearing to count purls and knits while really, she is applying her uncanny knowledge of human nature to figure out whodunnit. 

Just the kind of reading I love when gestating a baby!

I'll admit, that this has also become a watch-along (at least for me). I do my knitting while watching DVDs I borrow from our library. Right now, I'm working my way through all the Grey's Anatomy seasons...on Season 2 right now. Yes, I've seen them already. And I'll watch them least until Season 3 of Downton Abbey is released on DVD!

Do pop by Ginny's blog to see what everyone else is knitting!

Please come back to visit, as I've got some lovely baby-knits planned for as soon as Jude's socks are done!