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Spring Distractions

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We’ve reached that time of year when I notice that most everyone is behind in math, but the weather is so nice and there is so much to do outdoors that I’m afraid cracking down in the math department isn’t going to happen.  Everyone is caught up in their own projects, and it’s hard to interrupt.  Larkspur is very busy in her garden and I need to get focused on mine.  I have to beg labor from all the boys, and that makes it a little tricky, but preparing soil for planting isn’t among my current abilities.  I wish at least one of them shared my love for growing things so I wouldn’t have to beg, barter, and bargain.  I have a little box of dye plants just waiting to go in the ground, and I’m very excited about transitioning into growing more dye plants.  Jonny started working to get a few beds ready for me this evening, so tomorrow hopefully I can do some planting.

I’ve been working hard to distract Silas from a little winter addiction I enabled, and he fell into:  watching children’s shows on the computer (we’ve never owned a t.v.)  It is so easy to fall into the habit of saying “Yes” to “watching a movie” far too often when you’re tired, it’s cold outside, and the one asking to watch is incredibly persistent.  Sometimes a mom’s got to do what she’s got to do, and allowing a little video watching is a sanity saver.  But some kids can’t seem to watch in moderation, and they essentially become little t.v. addicts and it’s all they want to do.  When Silas asked for a movie recently and I told him, “No, you’re about to go fishing with Daddy,”  and he replied that he’d rather watch a movie, I knew he had a problem.  I discovered a long time ago that quitting cold turkey results in a long, whiny week, but eventually a much happier child, one able to occupy himself without constant movie begging.  Right now I’m reading tons of pictures books, supplying plenty of paper and art supplies, encouraging the building of block houses and train tracks, pulling out the play dough, and of course now that the weather is warm, saying, “It’s a beautiful day.  Go outside and play.”  Together, I think we can beat this.  If we’re lucky, Silas might not even need a twelve step program.

My newest distraction is sock knitting.  I’ve only knit one pair of adult sized socks, and they didn’t excite me enough to encourage the knitting of any others right away.  Maybe the timing wasn’t right.  I have knit lots of baby socks, but those are pretty quick, not to mention super cute.  I blame my new near obsession on Instagram.  There’s a lot of sock knitting going on there.  For some reason the cute little project keepers that people post their socks in progress stored in started to really appeal to me.  So I ordered a few.  (Red foxes here, feathers and blue with gray foxes here).  I also bought a new set of double points.  And while I have plenty of sock yarn, I did buy one more skein, inspired by this photo.  Now I’m knitting socks, and planning for more socks, while my little girls ask when I’m going to finish the baby projects I have going.  Soon, I tell them.  Soon.  But right now, I’m knitting socks!

p.s.  The cake picture:  they made it together–triple layer butter/vanilla cake–gluten free-with caramel frosting.  It was huge and they ran out of frosting, but it was really good and they were proud of it.  However, this pregnant lady is begging, “No more desserts!”  I’ve got to get these kids interested in making dinner!

Booties, Baby Socks, and Books

During our Georgia trip I mainly worked on knitting up a few smaller projects, including a spontaneous pair of baby booties for a friend’s baby’s upcoming baptism.  I gave them to her after a Wednesday night holy hour and she promptly asked one of our priests to bless them as we were standing there.  My first knitting to be blessed!  It made me so happy.

I finished the first of Job’s St. Nicholas day socks the day after Thanksgiving, and the second on the Eve of St. Nicholas day.  They fit, but only barely, really.  I need to go ahead and knit him another pair, this time with a longer cuff and longer foot.

I’ve been thinking and thinking about my favorite books, and those that might be gift worthy.  Books have always been my favorite gifts to give.

So, here are some of our favorites, and there is even a giveaway of A Mother’s Rule of Life included for those interested:

My favorite fiction:
Kristin Lavransdatter is one of my all time favorites. This edition is especially beautiful as well.

I love Rumer Godden, and especially In This House of Brede and Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy. Another favorite is An Episode of Sparrows (New York Review Children’s Collection).

Bel Ria: Dog of War is technically a children’s book, but I haven’t actually convinced any of my kids to read it for some reason. I read it last year (I think?) and loved it so much.

Willa Cather is probably my favorite author and I love these two volumes of her novels: Early Novels and Stories and Later Novels.

Katherine is sooo good.

And Wilkie Collins! I’ve been loving his work lately. The best so far that I’ve read is The Woman in White .

And finally, epic and beautiful if not rather long, The Betrothed: I Promessi Sposi (Penguin Classics).

Jonny’s favorites:
One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, and Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Seth read this one as well).

Jon Krakauer is a favorite author, Michael Perry is another.

If you haven’t read A Severe Mercy, you absolutely must!

I find Mother Theresa’s writings to be very encouraging and recommend No Greater Love and Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta.

I also love St. Therese and while I have read her own Story of a Soul, I also really liked this little book: The Love That Keeps Us Sane: Living the Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux (Illuminationbooks.).

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry is lovely and so is A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul.

I read A Mother’s Rule of Life years ago, and recently Sophia Institute Press sent me a copy of the latest edition. If you’d like me to send it to you, leave a comment letting me know. I’ll randomly select someone later this week.

I’ve emailed the winner!


I am often asked for camera and photography advice.  The book I always recommend, and the one I used to learn how to shoot in manual mode from is Understanding Exposure.  That book would make a great gift for someone wanting to learn.  A similar book by the same author, that I also recommend (and possibly prefer) is Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Photography Field Guide: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera.

Nature and field guides:

For the tree lover, we are on our second copy of Remarkable Trees of Virginia (you don’t have to live here to appreciate this book.)  I also really like The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups.

Some of our most used field guides include: North American Wildlife: An Illustrated Guide to 2,000 Plants and Animals (we’re on our 3rd copy), Wildflowers and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont: A Naturalist’s Guide to the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia (Southern Gateways Guides), Caterpillars of Eastern North America, Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, and A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guides). I don’t have a favorite tree identification field guide, but have Native Trees of the Southeast: An Identification Guide on my wishlist.

Homesteading and Beekeeping:

The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally, Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, and The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers.

The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally is our favorite beekeeping resource, though my favorite book about beekeeping in general is A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them.

Anything by Elizabeth Zimmerman is probably a good choice. I have and love Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac, Knitting Without Tears: Basic Techniques and Easy-to-Follow Directions for Garments to Fit All Sizes, and The Opinionated Knitter.

Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book really is a great resource.

And finally my favorite Stephanie Pearl-McPhee book is Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot’s Bag of Knitting Tricks.

For Children:

We have read several of the books in Tomie DePaola’s 26 Fairmount Avenue Series and I highly recommend them.  Endearing stories of family life with a nice bit of humor, they make great read-alouds that will span a wide range of ages as far as interest goes.  I also think they would make great first chapter books for young readers.

We have really enjoyed this Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales for years.  You can’t go wrong with Beatrix Potter!

We also really like the Calla edition of Stories from Hans Christian Andersen. The illustrations by Edmund Dulac are some of my favorites.  Many of the Calla Editions look really beautiful.

James Herriot is another favorite.  This volume for children looks beautiful: James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small (we have an older version of it.)

Picture Books:
(the images themselves are links to the books, more fun that way for pretty children’s books!)

(I better stop now!)

Board Books:

And finally, there are some good lists in my Amazon bookshop including my favorite books written and/or illustrated by Tasha Tudor, and some of my boys’ favorite chapter books, along with more favorite picture books.

I love making booklists!

My previous gift list is here.