Tuesday, November 30, 2010

With Cardboard, Hot Glue, Tape and a Yogurt Container

Abby was flipping through my old magazines and came across this idea in an old Martha Stewart Kids and set right to work.

a car and truck garage

It is amazing how much play it is getting.   She made multi-levels, with ramps and that yogurt container with the evergreen branch in it is the car wash.  There is a gas pump too.

It has been getting lots of use.

Warm wishes,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Handmade Holiday - 2010

a purse made of scraps from Laura of Getting There

Needle Felted Gifts from Belle + Bee

pear chutney from The Blessed Hearth

wool ornament from The Knitty Gritty Homestead

Visit Our Somewhat-Urban Homestead to see this hand knit Gandalf the Grey from the Lord of the Rings and ideas for making truffles.

crocheted pony reins from Earthboys

Visit the growing list of participants here.

Warm wishes,

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Season of Advent

Some preparations have been made to mark tomorrow as the first Sunday in advent.

We made a holder for our advent candles in a birch branch from a fallen tree.  I still have to add a white candle for the center for Christmas day.

This Sunday we will light one candle and burn it each night with our supper.  Next Sunday we will add another candle and burn two with our nightly meal, and so on.  Each candle represents the following words.

Candle of Hope - the hope we have in Christ.

Candle of Peace - a reminder of the peace that God brings to us by forgiving our sins.

Candle of Joy - represents the joy that God brings into our lives.

Candle of Love - represents God's love.

Warm wishes for a peaceful Sunday,

Thursday, November 25, 2010


As the day winds down I reflect about the beauty and joys the day has brought.

It was with much satisfaction that most of our food was either grown in our gardens, our neighbors gardens, or bought local.

We had our own butternut squash, local organic carrots, the potatoes we dug ourselves and purchased from our neighbors.  I bought stuffing. (in a box... I know... uggg).  Next year my goal is to make my own.  I also purchased canned jellied cranberry sauce.  (again, double ugggg).  Dear husband loves this, but next year I am going to at least buy organic and see about buying some cranberries and making my own.

Our pumpkin pie came from our local pumkins with whipped cream from a farm in our town. 

The turkey was fresh, 23 pounds and also came from a farm in our town.  We are planning to raise our own next year if we can hire or barter with someone who will help us with the processing.

cutting the turkey

pumpkin cooking

finished pies

our table with birch bark napkin rings and birch branch candle holders

I couldn't resist these two wines with the chicken and rooster labels.

It was special visiting with family.

dear husband with his father and brother
As I was washing dishes, I started to get a bit sad thinking of how much we have and of those who do not.  We had just shared in an amazing meal, are warm and have the joy of being surrounded by family.

On my way to town the other day, a church had a quote in their sign that read
"Gratitude is saying thanks and sharing the gifts with others."

Happy Thanksgiving.
Warm wishes, Tonya

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Daily Work

In between the daily baking
And playing
And creating
I have been having fun wood buring ornaments for our shops here and here.

Warm wishes for a beautiful day.  For us it is filled with Thanksgiving preparations, house cleaning, and some last minute market shopping as well as driving the boys to help setup for the free Thanksgiving meal at the Elks Club.  The snow is falling and we are in for a blustery couple of days, but it will make it feel even more cozy in our little home.
I will share our partly handmade and homemade Thanksgiving tomorrow or Friday.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finished Sarah's Hat

Sarah posing for me in her new hat from a free pattern here.  It did come out too big, but she is such a good sport and has worn it whenever we go out anyway.  I love the style, though, the full coverage with the button closure.  It is fairly easy to knit and I look forward to knitting more.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Monday, November 22, 2010

Handmade Holiday - 2010

Handmade Advent bags from Moment to Moment

Handmade Ornaments from Groovy Moments

Lots of Handmade Holiday making going on at Blue Skies Dragonflies

Apron tutorial from Spiraling

A Wool Felted Spiral Advent Mat from Heirloom Seasons

Warm wishes,

(If you requested to be added to the list of Handmade Holiday participants and don't see your blog there, please email me.  I am in between my lap top and a very old desktop as my laptop isn't working on our dial up connection right now.  I apologize if I lost someone's request.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Simplifying with Children

I received an email a few days ago from a blog reader asking me what our children thought of our lifestyle and how they reacted and continue to react to the choices we make each day to not be caught up in the consumer driven society.  She was particularly concerned about how her teenagers might react.

We moved from Massachusetts to Vermont when our oldest was eleven, almost twelve, 5 years ago.  The two years leading up to the move, I had starting talking a lot with my husband about the possibility for a different kind of life, a more deliberate life where our whole existence didn't depend on a 9 - 5 job.  The possibility of connecting with our food and with nature; of using our bodies to build structures and to harvest wood and to work toward our family's economy based on the fruit's of our labors without the constraints of an employer and with the idea of being home-centered.

The children heard this discussion for two years or more.  They travelled with us as we drove to Maine and Vermont looking at land and possible cabins.  We discussed living in a mobile home on land and living primitively until we built up our own homestead.  And even then, we discussed the possibility outhouses and no electricity.  We were ready to make a change.

At the same time, I started making our food from scratch and gardening in our suburban plot and we also removed the television (no cable at least).  We also talked about how nice it would be for Dad to home with the family more.

In the end, we decided to make a slower transition for our children's sake and we rented a home in Vermont for the first year. 

As we had always stressed the importance of family and never were too caught up in lots of outside activities, I think they always had a sense of our priorities - that family was first.

In addition, I started buying less "stuff" for them and started shopping at thrift stores and yard sales and talking to them about the environment and where their "stuff" comes from.

We also talked to them that we felt led by God to move towards this life and that it was ok to be set apart, to be different than most.

When we moved from the village rental in Vermont to leased land in an old mobile home we purchased where electricity wasn't available unless we spent $2,000 (which we didn't want to do since this still wasn't "our" land), we talked about the differences.  At this point, the oldest boys were 13, 11, and 9.  We downsized dramatically.  The children rarely questioned anything.  I think that because Michael (my husband) and I felt in our hearts that we were working towards what was best for our family, the children sense that.  Even without electricity, I can honestly say that there were very few complaints.  I kept a positive spirit and I truly think that is they key, children sense their parent's feelings.

After being in our rustic cottage (with electricity), the children talk postively about our two years without it and of sitting together by lantern light.  In response, we only have one lamp in each room and we use lantern light on our supper table to keep the evenings more naturally lit without too many artificial lights.

Even now when Thomas (now 16, almost 17) walked past me as I was typing this post, he asked me how the business was going and I shared what I was writing about, his response was, "What do you mean?  We have lots of things."   Then he thought about it a bit, and said, "Well, I guess if you go to some of our friends homes and compare what they have to what we have, but... I still think we have plenty."

So, I think the answer is to talk honestly to your older children.  Set goals.  Make sure you feel clear in your heart.  And, make the changes gently and slowly.  Children, no matter what age, look to their parents for guidance.

Warm wishes,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thank You

to Amber of the wonderful blog, Oak Moss, for her generous giveaway that I was so very blessed to win.  I don't enter many giveaways, generally just when a blog that I regularly visit offers one.

I won a whole medium flat rate box filled with soaps and candles from her shop, Oak Moss.
The candles are a soy, beeswax blend with essential oils for fragrance and the soaps are also wonderfully natural.  Amber packages everything in an eco-friendly manner, including the brown tape to seal the shipping box.  (Something I need to research for our business.)

If you have a few minutes stop by her blog as I think many of you will appreciate her simple and gentle ways.

And if you have a certain someone on your holiday shopping list that you have run out of time to make handmade, maybe you might want to consider something from Oak Moss.   

(One thing the world of blogging has affirmed for me, is that the world is full of beautiful, kind people.)

I will be offering a series of giveaways soon as I make visits to our local artists and food producers within our little town and share a little handmade or homemade something from each of them as well as a bit about their family business or art.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yarn Along

I am joining in with Ginny again this Wednesday.  We have begun a new read out loud book to the young ones.  So far they are enjoying it.  I am still reading my same bedside book as last week, Lessons at Blackberry Inn.

I have finished the mittens and cast on some beautiful soft hand plant dyed merino yarn to knit a child's  Aviatrix hat, the free pattern can be found here.  I look forward to adding our handmade buttons.

What are you reading and knitting?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Such a Simple Life

Sometimes as I think about what I am going to write about for a blog post, I am struck with how truly uneventful our life seems to be and maybe it would seem a bit boring to others.  The daily chores, homelearning, cleaning, baking, and handwork take up more than a full day for sure.

Over the past several days we have ~

Had a play date with a friend that lives on an organic farm who just happens to have a daughter born the exact same day and year as our Sarah.  This is in a town with just about 500 residents.  Quite remarkable, I think and they so enjoy their time together.

This past Friday we went over and it was a beautiful November day.  The girls made fairy houses, while our Abby enjoyed rolling in a blown up inner tube and Abraham engaged himself with hoses.

On Sundays we have Meeting at our house and this past Sunday we had a potluck after which was just so nice.  It was especially enjoyable talking while washing dishes after enjoying our meal together.

Although the days have been dark, we have still been spending time outside.

Outside the younger children have been hiking around looking for "Christmas trees" and decorating them with dried vegetation they find nearby. 
Later the same day, found Sarah weaving birch bark in a fence.

And bringing in the wood to fill up our woodpiles on our porch has become more frequent.

I am grateful that the chickens have begun to lay again after about a month of very low production.  I moved them to our smaller coop since it gets light all day.    We have also added crushed oyster shells to help with calcium and scratch to supplement their grain, food scraps, and free ranging.

Thank you for all joining in on the handmade holiday and for sharing.
Warm wishes, Tonya

Monday, November 15, 2010

Handmade Holiday - 2010

Melanie of Our Ash Grove shares her handmade holiday plans - knit animals, a waldorf doll and felted dolls - lots of goodness here.

Beautiful wool felt, hand stitched stockings from The Knitty Gritty Homestead

A sweet hand stitched and needle felted sewing needle keeper case from Natural Suburbia (her post includes a tutorial)

Our Somewhat-Urban Homestead shares here Handmade Holiday To-Do List and her first completed gift.

Thank you for all of the sharing.  I look forward to sharing my progress as well next week.
Warm wishes,

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Pieces Don't Always Fit Together

As Abraham was piecing together a puzzle this morning

after Abby (age 10) read her history selection, she said to me, "Why don't we read about the founding of America from the British point of view."

I loved this.  I loved that she was able to think outside the box; that just because something is written in an educational book that doesn't mean that it is the only point of view.  I liked that she was able to think about how the other side might have felt.  I just loved that she is able to think that sometimes things don't always fit together neatly like a puzzle.
(now I have some research to do...)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mini Twig Trees

Several weeks ago we made little leaf felt fairies after reading about how to make them at the blog, Twig and Toadstool.

Since then we haven't found a home for them.   They moved around from window sill and shelf, never finding a comfortable spot, until I decided to make them their own little tree home.

With a birch branch base, I drilled a hole in the middle and added birch twigs for the branches.  Very simple.
As winter approaches, they may look sweet adorned with mini snowflakes, ornaments, or winter fairies.

Warm wishes for a beautiful day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yarn Along

I am joining in with Ginny again to share what I am knitting and reading this week.

I have cast on for the second mitten I am knitting with Peace Fleece's new color - blue jay.  The pattern is from the book Vintage Knits for Modern Babies.  I rarely buy new books, but this one has many wonderful, simple patterns and it is so much fun to knit for babies.  For the mittens, though, I did size the pattern up and they will fit our six year old.

I just started reading Lessons at Blacberry Inn, Adventures with the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola.    This is such a sweet fictional book told through the eyes of a homemaker in the 1930s as she teaches her children using the methods of Charlotte Mason.  Homemaking skills from times past are also weaved throughout the book

I finished reading out loud to the young ones, The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh.  This is a wonderful tale of a young girl traveling with her father to a new land  and living among the Native Americans as they build their new home to prepare for their entire family's arrival.

Warm wishes,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Receiving Graciously

I just wanted to share with you a gift that was given to our oldest son last week; a gift from a husband and wife that we have never met.  Also to share a bit about my thoughts on giving and receiving.  The former has always been something that has come easily to me, the latter much harder to accept.

Remember this picture I posted here on the blog several weeks ago....

Well, they originally offered to give, yes, give Thomas a snare drum to get him started.  That is what we told him - that a generous couple, whose husband was a professional drummer, would like to ship him a snare drum. 

In the interim, through email correspondence, I learned that they wanted to get an entire drum set together for him.  I left this a surprise.

This past Friday, when UPS arrived and I sent Thomas out to help the driver, his eyes lit up as there was not one medium size box as he had been long anticipating, but two, large, heavy boxes.

And now...

We have had to set up a daily practice time, because yes, the noise is overwhelming at times, and not so plain, but it is oh so joyful.  They are realizing their passion - to write their own music and now to play in their very own rock band.

future drummer

I have realized that the joy that I receive when giving to others, needs to be reciprocal when I am on the receiving end.  I do not need to worry about the giver's motives or what they expect in return, but instead I need to be a cheerful receiver and accept the gifts because by doing so, I am giving back too.