Sunday, January 30, 2011

Art Matters.

There is an artist that resides in all of us. There is also a loud-mouthed critic. Sometimes the voice of the critic shouts down your desire to create. It tells you your art is dumb. It whispers that you should give up, that no one wants to see your art, that you might as well just buy some mass-produced print at Walmart rather than hanging something YOU made on your wall.

I'm close neighbours with my inner critic. But as I get older, I am learning to ignore that voice. I don't intend to sell my art. I don't foist it on friends as gifts that they'll feel obligated to display. I might make a wee picture on a card to be mailed, and am not concerned with what becomes of it once viewed by the recipient.

I used to have lots of fun with watercolours, when I was single and had the time. I painted little things like this:
Thistle-down fairies at play...

This is delightfully tiny, created specifically for this yard-sale frame.

At a recent artistic retreat, I attended a workshop called "Knocking on Hidden Doors". We discussed the images that arise from our subconscious, and the practice of meditating before creating in order to tap into that deep inner stillness for inspiration.

I spent the first hour of the workshop trying to shush my critic. I found myself searching desperately for that deep, symbolic image I would paint. Finally, in surrender, I just started to create. This is what came out:

Each item on the clothesline represents one member of my family (the red Y-fronts are my husband's). Interestingly enough, I realised afterwards that I had SIX items of clothing on there, instead of five...

Art does not always need to represent something. And sometimes, when you think it doesn't, it does. These two images represent what is most important in my life: my home (gardens and animals), and my family. They are simplistic and whimsical, and bring me pride and delight each time I look at them. I may see about getting them printed on notecards, I like them so much!

Hush up, inner critic. I'm going to create in spite of you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Beating of Our Hearts

A circle is formed by the women who until now have been chatting in excited little packs, anticipating the challenges they will face in the next two and a half hours. A lovely young dark-eyed woman, curvy with pregnancy, sits on one side of me; on the other, a blonde with a German accent and high cheekbones rests her strong, dye-stained hands on her drum. Two French-Canadian women converse quietly along one side. A woman in her 60s brushes her bobbed hair back off her cheek. A woman with naturally curly hair, a tie-dyed shirt, and beautifully-sewn moccasins sits across from me. There are others in this circle as well.
Our leader, our teacher, settles into place behind a large djembe, showing us how to align the trail of the goat’s spine that bisects the skin so that our hands hit on either side of it. This symmetry pleases me.
Jean has the sparkling eyes and easy carriage of a woman who has chosen her own paths and followed her own passions, a woman who has settled comfortably into life’s joys and woes with grace and humour and optimism. Her long silver hair floats softly around her face, crowned with a black beret that sits high on the lovely curve of her forehead. Her earrings don’t match: in one ear a moon, in the other, an exotic coin of some sort. This asymmetry pleases me. A trace of unrest shimmers just below the surface, but is harder to see when she begins to drum.

She talks of grandmothers, of the eggs we carry being passed down from our mothers, and their mothers’ mothers. My eyes spill water I didn’t know was there. She talks of how we already know how to drum, because we spent nine months listening to the drumbeat of our mothers’ hearts. I resist the urge to place my hand on the pregnant woman’s belly. I think about my mother and grandmothers, and of the many women that trace a line back from me to the beginning of humanity. I think of African women beating the dusty earth with their feet, and Celtic women leaping to the low tattoo of the bodhran. I see Anishnabe women shawl dancing and Arabic women belly dancing and Hawaiian women hula dancing; I see hips shaking, bodies undulating and shimmying, and feel the irresistible pull of the drum in all cultures.

After a short while, I stop thinking and my hands are drumming, vibrating with the impact, thrilling to the ancient sounds they are drawing from the drum. It is a concert; we are a community, we are playing a game of hide and seek, give and take, whisper and listen…I hear crickets and frogs, grass rustling, hoof beats on soil, claws on bark, wind chimes and wind. I hear the breaths and sighs and moans of the women present, and of those not present.

At first I am self-consciously aware only of the sounds from my drum; then they are blissfully lost, happy and mingling with the many other beats that spread out and fill this room. Each woman that wanders into the room for water or a snack can’t help herself; she bounces and thrusts and raises her arms in praise.

My eyes are closed, my mouth and heart open in a smile, and my hands?

My hands are drumming.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Baby, Remember My Name

I have an auto knitter. It’s a hand-cranked, designed-during-the-industrial-revolution sock-knitting machine. By machine, I don’t mean something with a plug that does all the work for you. I mean a heavy cast-iron thing with gears and screws and needles and a carriage. You sit and crank, carefully counting rows, create a heel, crank some more, and create a toe. It takes all of an hour to make a pair of socks, once you factor in picking up dropped stitches and grafting the toe. These were my go-to gift for several years. After our move to the homestead, the pieces got divided amongst boxes, the needles stored somewhere safe. The place I chose was so safe that I’ve been unable to find them. So, the Autoknitter is sitting idle, patiently awaiting my return.
All the socks I made on it have worn through at the ball of the foot, but I haven’t had the heart to just throw them out. I don’t want to waste the time and yarn I used just because the toes have worn through. So I kept them in a pile for years.

The other day I got a notion to cut the toes off. And I’m thrilled with the result! I like to be barefoot, but our wood floors are chilly in the winter. These little babies keep my ankles and legs warm, but give my toes freedom!

Plus, I feel like a dancer from Fame, all calloused feet and slouchy legwarmers. I’m gonna live forever!

Friday, January 21, 2011

We Interrupt This Program...Again

Ah, rural internet service. It's not great. I have some great posts written and ready to post. But our internet is not working. I'm posting this at the library to say, "Bear with me!", and hopefully I'll see you next week!

Have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I know that by the time most of you read this, it will be Wednesday. But I'm writing it on Tuesday, and GratiWednesday just doesn't have the same ring to it.

So often I notice things for which I'm grateful. "They" say it's a good practice to write down a gratitude list every evening, just to count your blessings and to shed a light on how sweet life is. I'm never great at the regimentation of doing the same thing EVERY night, so I'm going to start with Tuesdays. Just because GratiTuesday is such a fun thing to say.
Here's my random, off-the-top-of-my-head list:

::finding eight eggs in the henhouse BEFORE they froze.
::another two inches on my socks!!
::kids in the early morning:

::the ornithologically comical loveliness of wild turkeys!
::pretending we're underwater or in outer space while driving in the van
::Jude's drawings of aliens shooting lasers out of their eyes
::the smell of my niece's neck when I kissed her there today
::my new journal and the sequel I've been waiting for...

::Jude's freckles (this somehow always makes my list)
::a little pile of kindling and bunched newspaper, left by my husband to ease starting the fire
::the hats worn by all the ladies in a 1950s photo of my Grandma at a Catholic Women's League convention!
::finding my bellydance groove again after all these years
::rosey cheeks + runny noses = kids who've been playing in the snow
::a naked toddler after her bath, all damp skin and wet curls
::giggling aloud in the bookstore at this:

Might have to add this to my birthday wish list!

::being able to catch up on some bills with an unexpected gift of cash
::planning what to bring on my upcoming retreat: a weekend of women being artistic together!
::my husband taking over the bedtime routine so I can blog/write/rest/read/knit
::Violet wearing my coin belt and shimmying around the house
::these incredibly whimsical socks from Vogue Knitting, Winter 2010/2011, designed by Lisa Whiting:

There. I'm overheating from the woodstove right now so I'll stop there. In your comment, give me 3 things you're grateful for today. Next week I'll try to get a linky Widgety thingy up so you can share your links! Maybe we can get this GratiTuesday list going on a weekly basis!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Get Your Tea; I'm On a Rant.

Last night we had a lovely evening with friends down the road. This was our first visit, and we looked forward to it because they have a son about Jude's age (I was already thinking, "sleepovers, bike rides to each other's houses, camp outs" and so on). When you live rurally, you think about things like finding friends that live nearby so your child won't always need a drive into town!

Safe in a leafy embrace.

Things did not get off to a good start. Jude found a little handheld gamey thing (no, I have no idea what it's called) while the other little boy was still outside. When he came in, he was very upset that Jude was using his game without his permission. Jude looked confused (because he did get permission from the boy's mother) and close to tears (because he didn't get why the boy was so mad). There's a reason my son is so enraptured with handheld devices. We don't have any in the house, not even a cell phone (please note that my kids are not completely sheltered; they do play parent-supervised educational games on the internet!) Things escalated to the point where I quietly suggested that the game be put away and another more interactive game (by this I mean kids playing with kids) be played.
Zucchini love.

I remember children at our wedding six years ago, finding themselves in this great outdoor celebration surrounded by cousins and other kids, choosing to sit on the front step of the cabin playing handhelds. Or at a family reunion a couple of years ago, saying jokingly to my cousin's son, "Why don't you put that thing away and come hang out with all your cousins?" He snapped at me (again, without looking at me), "I've been away all week and haven't played with it at all!" After grandma died and my cousins arrived, many of the kids were so engaged with their games that they didn't even talk to each other. I had been telling Jude that he'd meet some boys his age and they could play together, and was dismayed to realise that he'd be left out because he didn't have a DS. Do I think it's neat that while playing guitar and singing around the campfire, someone can find the lyrics to a song we're struggling with? Kind of. But I also kind of miss the days of humming and laughing at people's attempts to remember the words.

I'm on a rant. Bear with me...*takes deep breath*...

I'm a kindergarten teacher. At circle time, when we share stories about exciting things that have happened in our lives, I'm as likely to hear "I got a new DS" as "I went fishing with my Grandpa". While assessing one of my Junior Kindergartens on his letter recognition (we've learned 15 so far, reviewing and playing games with them daily) I saw that he didn't know any of his letters. That's okay (*takes another deep breath)...but then he saw capital B and that sparked him to go on a tangent (as they do) about Woo-eegee (Luigi!) and Mawio (Mario!)...this child just turned four. In my quick internet search for information on this topic, I learned that "preschoolers aged two to five play an average of 28 minutes/day. The amount of time spent playing video games is increasing, but not at the expense of television viewing which has remained stable at about 24 hours/week". (see the whole article here).
If a child has a DS at the age of 3 or 4, what the heck do you buy them for their 10th birthday? I imagine by then there'll be some newer "must-have" on his list...

Fresh air and a good book!

I grew up in the 70s and 80s. I remember which friends had microwaves and VCRs (we used to rent a VCR on a rare weekend, and this is why I have certain 80s movies completely memorised: we'd rent two for the weekend and watch them over and over again!). I remember seeing my first CD player in about 1989; it had been purchased in the States, and was likely the first of its kind in the Ottawa Valley.

We just weren't a family that was into gadgets, whether by principle or by budget, I'm not sure. We watched TV, but were more likely to go for walks in the winter forest, Sunday drives with a picnic in the car and a lake-destination in mind, or to just play outside. I never felt deprived or left out. I still think my microwave is pretty darn neat.

Watermelon snack, sun on shoulders.

I'm not afraid of gadgets. I KNOW they're cool. I know there are amazing Apps that are educational and fun. What scares me is how addictive they are. I avoid getting an iPhone because I know I'd be on it all the time. I also worry about what is happening to our brains. I heard of a recent study on CBC radio that stated that our brains are actually changing because of the use of GPS systems. They affect memory and spatial orientation. What? You mean reading maps is GOOD for our spatial sense? Frankly, the idea of our brains evolving in response to gadgets that are younger than me gives me the skeevies.

So the question begs to be asked. If a child learns about social cues, conversation skills, reading body language, and eye contact by interacting with the adults and children around them, what is happening when the children sit around playing on computers and handheld devices all day? There were six children at our gathering last night; two were fighting over a game, one had a DS, and two were watching videos on youtube. That left Margot to climb on laps and make us laugh with her antics. It was quiet; it gave the adults time to sit and chat. But the lack of noise and activity kind of saddened me.

Nanny and Papa's card game finale.

In our family, my nieces don't have games either. So when we all get together, one adult is usually sitting with the kids, colouring or crafting, or the kids are off running wild together, or once they get old enough, they're sitting with the adults and learning to play cards. It takes energy to do this. If we need to get something done, they might watch a movie, but more often than not, they're busy playing.

When I non-judgmentally express my misgivings to other parents, I'm often bemused by their responses. It's as if they agree with me, but are kind of confused about how their kids ended up with a game. They always agree that playing outside or with other kids is better for their child, but feel that their kids are too attached to ever get rid of the thing. Huh? Who's the parent here?

Let's be honest. A handheld game, like the television, is a babysitter. My kids watch a movie each day, for "afternoon quiet time" (which is when I make dinner or do housework). Gadgets can keep kids quiet in the car. It occupies them so parents can do their own thing. God knows I could use a little less whining when we take the kids out for a long drive. But I know that if we get a DVD player in the car, "I Spy", pretending we're in a submarine, singing songs, or looking for farm animals will no longer entertain them. My parents drove across Canada (from Ontario to BC and back) with four kids (aged 6-16) in a CAR in the early 80s. We did scavenger hunts, counted license plates from different provinces and states, had contests to see who could make their Lifesaver last the longest, and weren't bored for a moment. It took energy and effort on my parents' part. And it's one of my best childhood memories. What memories would I have of the Canadian landscape if I'd been staring at a screen the whole way?

The wonder of the human body in movement.

The argument that handheld games improve hand-eye coordination makes me pffft! Playing sports improves hand-eye coordination. Playing an instrument, or learning to knit or draw, or carving with a jackknife improves hand-eye coordination. Don't get me started on "Guitar Hero" or "Rock Band".

It's hard to put my finger on why I find this love of gadgets unsettling. While I worry about the social abilities of children who play with these things, ironically, I worry that my kids will be socially left-out because they don't play with them. I worry that I'm just a paranoid dinosaur, afraid of what I don't understand. But I know that when I go to a live show and see that everyone has what my husband calls "blue face" because they're all watching the show through their cameras/phones, texting to their friends that they're AT a show, or posting videos of the show to youtube, I'm saddened. People are increasingly disengaged from life, experiencing everything through a screen. After I watched my son's first Christmas concert through a screen as I recorded it for posterity (and basically missed the experience of watching it real), I vowed to never film another one. I'd rather be in that moment, seeing it as a whole.

Summer dance!

I worry when I read quotes like this: Electronic games are now an everyday part of childhood and adolescence. The debate has moved from whether children should play video games to how to maximize potential benefits and to identify and minimize potential harms, as if we as parents have no control over them. It's the same feeling I get when I hear about the corporatisation (did I make up a word?) of our food sources, overuse of pesticides, and genetic modification in our food, as if we have no choice but to feed our kids fast food.

Playdough alien heads on action figure bodies!

I feel as if I'm a traveler from the past, trying to fit into a future I don't understand. I'm teaching my kids to knit and draw and grow a garden and take care of animals and climb trees. I'm teaching them to swim and write thank you notes and look people in the eye when they speak to them, to give a firm handshake and a strong hug. Am I somehow depriving them of an essential element of modern life? Will they suffer if they can't talk to their friends about the game they just got? Will they not be invited to sleepovers where the activity of choice is sitting around engaged with a DS? I worry. But I know it's a choice I'll have to live with.

Because we do have a choice. It's hard to resist the pull of shiny new things that somehow jar our sensibilities when there's madness all around, and people act like it's normal to answer their cell phone three times during a meal with friends. It's hard to deny our children things that "all the other kids have". As an aside, we don't deny our children access to technology. They get to take pictures with the digital camera. We record music on the computer. I blog and write. We find crafts, song lyrics, games, humour, and inspiration on the internet. We use technology as a means to achieving creative and artistic goals. I know the day will come when a Wii will rock my kids' world on Christmas morning, and when they'll be able to spend money on whatever gadget they want. I can see how an iPad with educational apps will be an exciting addition to our collection of games and activities. But not yet. I still have a choice, and for now, I choose real life over virtual worlds.

Sticky face sees fireworks for the first time.

I'll leave you with this quote: "Video games are natural teachers. Children find them highly motivating: by virtue of their interactive nature, children are actively engaged with them: they provide repeated practice: and they include rewards for skillful play."

I'd like to edit it as follows:

"People are natural teachers. Children find them highly motivating; by virtue of their interactive nature, children are actively engaged with them; they provide repeated practice and they include rewards for skillful play."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pilgrim's Progress

I feel like a pilgrim, on a journey towards the unknown but assuredly blessed destination: a pair of handmade socks! Not just any socks, but a pair made just for me, she of the eternally cold feet. When learning a new skill or concentrating very hard, the human face contorts. My husband's mouth moves unconsciously when he drums, lips pulling in, pushing out, popping open and closed with the beats. Michael Jordan used to stick out his tongue when going in for a dunk. My bellydance students laugh at themselves when I gently suggest they practice facial expressions in the mirror, as their fierce frowns of concentration kind of detract from the beauty of the dance.

As I began my socks, trying to remember how to do the magic-loop cast on while calculating in my mind exactly how to do TWO at a time (with no instruction on this last bit), I knew I was making the face. My husband captured it: proof that those two lines between my brows are not from frowning in a bad mood, but from extreme concentration!
Note the wee face peeking over my left shoulder.

The aha! moment of delight..."I did it wrong," (and had to frog it), "but now, By George, I think I've got it!"

Margot shares in my joy. She still says "cheese"!

If you, like my husband, are mind-boggled at the idea of knitting two socks simultaneously, I assure you: it's not magic (although it's pretty darn close!). You can see the toe of the sock taking shape, and the two balls I'm working with. Basically, I knit across the sole of one sock, then switch yarn and knit across the sole of the other. Then I turn it all around, pull the needle through, and knit across the instep of the second sock, and then across the instep of the first. Easy, right?

These lines on my face will be deeper by the time these babies are done. I'm aiming to wear them on my 37th birthday. Hand knit socks bring the same pleasure as wearing fancy lingerie under jeans and a t-shirt. No one can see them, no one knows they're handmade (and no one cares)...but YOU know. It's a decadent pleasure, a bit of luxury on the least luxurious part of our bodies, our feet. They fit delightfully, look gorgeous (when you pull up your pantleg to show them to people who don't really care), and are something practical and just for you.

Find someone to teach you, and get knitting!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Peanut Gallery

An unsettling phrase keeps emerging from my mouth lately.
In the library, when we’ve stayed just ten minutes too long, and Margot is pressing the wheelchair-access button that opens the door to the parking lot, Violet is yanking her little sister back to safety, Jude is marching around in his boots leaving bits of chicken poop on the floor, and I’m standing at the counter waiting to sign out our books and movies.

At the grocery store, when I’ve given Margot a flat of blueberries to occupy her while I shop and she spills it all over the produce section floor, and Jude and Violet are long gone, doing the small-town kid laps of the store (knowing that everyone knows them and will send them back to me, as if I couldn't hear them screaming and laughing three aisles away).

At lunch time, when I've placed three healthy, colourful, balanced meals in front of them, I’ve just sat down to eat, and everyone asks for juice. Or spills their juice, rice, and peas all over the floor that I’ve just finished scrubbing for the first time in months (it only took me 3 hours, with all the interruptions).

When they're all occupied with games in the livingroom and I sit down with a cup of tea and a book, and they find me, clamouring to be on my lap, burrowing into me as if they're trying to get back inside me.
“It’s a wonder I’m not nuts”.

I always say it with my tongue firmly in my cheek, the picture of a good-humoured, well-balanced mother, a smile on my face as I wrangle my unruly children out the door. Older women smile at me, remembering when. Men and people without kids might purse their lips at how little control I seem to have over them. I remember judging women with unruly kids, back before I had my own.

The fact is, I'm exhausted. I'm always exhausted. Five minutes into the day when Violet and Margot are already starting the "Mine!" "No, MINE!" routine, I wonder how I'm going to make it. I know I'm not alone. I don't think any mother really knows what she's getting herself into. When we are pregnant with our first child, we imagine ourselves as the serene, beautiful mother we see on the front of greeting cards, gazing into her baby's face, confident that she will handle all future parenting situations gracefully and successfully. We swear we will never be that mother who snaps at her kids at the grocery store or is short-tempered ever, let alone in public.

When the rude fact appears that we have, in fact, become that mother, it can be disheartening. To the top of the list of perceived parenting failures, we can add the fact that we are not always patient, not always gentle, not always good role models, and not always good at mothering.

The reason my statement, "It's a wonder I'm not nuts" is unsettling is because...well, maybe I am nuts. I must have been nuts to get myself into this in the first place...then to do it again, and yet again!

What comforts me is that I'm not alone. If I'm nuts, then so are you...and you, and you. We're nuts because we keep getting out of bed, keep doing our best even on days when all we get in return is backtalk and misbehaviour. Mothers of children with special needs might get less than that, and work 100 times harder than mothers of healthy children.

Somedays we feel like we could just drive away and never look back. But somehow we don't. If you looked up the words "determined" and "resilient" in the dictionary, you just might see a picture of a mother. Below the picture would be a note: "see also nuts".

Have a wonderful day, all my nutty friends out there. I love you all, and know you're all doing the best you can. Keep up the good work.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sock Bliss

Having been thoroughly intimidated by the 'knit lists' of other bloggers, where they chronicled the things they knit in the past year (fourteen sweaters? twelve pairs of socks AND seven shawls?), I have set a new goal for myself. I am going to knit ONE pair of socks (for myself) AND a sweater for each of my children this year. If I accomplish these tasks, then I'll maybe knit something for my husband before 2012 rolls around.

For the kids, I'm thinking I'll crank out a few of these Scrap Cardigans (pattern is available for free on Ravelry!)...looks like a fun knit (from the neck down), and a great way to bust my stash of worsted weight yarn!

Today I attended a sock-knitting workshop taught by the knowledgeable, humourous, and infinitely patient Nancy of Log Cabin Yarns. I finally learned the Magic Loop cast-on, and actually completed a child's sock (knit from the toe-up) in about 3 hours!

We were all excited by our success, and the thrill of learning a few new techniques (including various binding-off methods). Is there anything more exciting for a knitter (besides a handful of cash and a yarn sale, that is), than learning something new? Whether it's accomplishing your first purl stitch, casting on by yourself, learning to knit in the round, or trying a cable, there's always something more you can add to your knitting repertoire.

I had to use the flash to demonstrate the lovely shades in this Noro yarn I picked up today. The title of that sheet of paper is "The Dreaded Sock Math" which allows one to calculate the exact measurements to create a sock that fits just so. After preparing food to begin a cleanse tomorrow, making lunches, and laying out school/work clothes this evening, I hope to cast on TWO socks to be knit simultaneously. My husband is suitably impressed by this prospect, although he's having trouble wrapping his mind around exactly how I plan to do it...ah, the mysterious knowledge of knitters!

In your comment, tell me one thing YOU hope to learn or accomplish in this brand new year!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dust of Snow

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

~Robert Frost

The Homestead, Winter 2009-2010

I like to think I'm outdoorsy, when in reality, I am the one knitting by the fire, sipping coffee laced with something boozy, napping and hoping the real outdoorsy folk are enjoying the snowy weather. I imagine the future, when my husband will take the kids out skiing or skating, leaving me at home to read and knit in peace and warmth. I want them to be outdoorsy..."do as I say, not as I do", indeed!

In spite of the momentous task of dressing three little ones in snowsuits, I always say "Yes", when my kids ask to play out in the snow. I squeeze myself into my snow pants (pre-children snow pants, hence the squeezing!) and venture out. Inevitably, I enjoy myself. I slide down the hill. I make a snow angel. I lie down on my back and imagine the drifting flakes are tiny fairies, just as I used to when I was a little girl. My mood is invariably lifted by the simplicity of playing in the snow with my kids.

Looking at these faces always cheers me up, too!

We've been blessed with a mild winter so far, and have only had to have our lane way plowed three or four times. We've been able to keep the chicken coop door open during the day, and are managing to collect both chicken and duck eggs daily without them freezing first. The mild weather also means that their water doesn't freeze every night.

I always dread the idea of the birds being locked up tight all winter (being mildly claustrophobic), so seeing them emerging gingerly to peck around in the snow has done my heart good! It looks like our wood is going to last us through till Spring; only 10 weeks to go till the Equinox! It's likely that we'll still be using the wood stove well into April, to ward off those chilly Spring evenings.

For now we're hunkering down, and making the best of being Canadian in the wintertime. It is almost unimaginable that in 6 months we'll be outside in bare feet, surrounded by green and growing things, heading to the beach, getting sunburns and bug bites, and enjoying campfires well into the evening. I've always loved the wonderful variety of seasons we have in Ontario; just when you think you can't bear another moment of one season, the next is upon us.

For now, I'll settle in with some hot chocolate and my seed catalogues, knit a few more cozy items, and enjoy the rest of the winter.