During this time of darkness, Advent is a journey that leads us toward the light. It is a time of peacefulness, and calm, and for our family, a time to share our love and light with others. Our Advent gnome will make his appearance on Sunday morning, bringing with him a little scroll. Reece will no doubt be a little excited, and with anticipation will open the scroll and ask me to read it. I will share the gnomes little message with him, and we will then determine how best to incorporate that wish into our day.
Of course, this is all well planned out by me, but Reece doesn't know that. The first scroll tells us to cut our tree, and decorate it, and to set up our Advent wreath/spiral. Over the coming weeks there are scrolls with activities for us to do...visit the One of A Kind Show, go on a family hike, enjoy dinner with friends, take an evening drive to see the holiday lights. Some scrolls include crafting fun...making wool angels, creating a beeswax star garland, threading button snowflakes, hand stitching sun ornaments for Winter Solstice. Other scrolls invite us to share our light with others...buying food for Christmas hampers, giving a gift to those in need through World Vision, making cookies to share. Each day a scroll for an excited little boy to open as we move through the season.
These are all simple things, yet they are full of love and light, and I think perfect for this quiet season of Advent.
We love our backyard birds, and you will often find one, two or all three of us at the back door, binoculars to our eyes, spying the birds at the feeder, or the ones waiting in the trees. There are two times each year when we get really excited about the birds...spring, during the migration, for obvious reasons, so many wonderful birds coming through, spending a few days in our backyard, before they travel a little further north, and late fall, when our winter birds return.
The winter birds will hang around through the cold and snow, visiting our feeders every day. You would think after years of watching them we might get a little tired of it all, but we don't. I stand, many times throughout the day, watching them, identifying them, if it is a new to us bird, and marveling at their beauty.
The feeder you see above is one of two we have, this one is on the back sliding door, and the other one is on the kitchen window, right where I do the dishes, and prepare our meals. No matter the time of day, early morning as the sun rises, noon as I prepare lunch, or as the sun sets and I start the preparations for dinner, the birds are there, hovering around the feeder, bringing a little magic to my day.
Over the last few weeks our bird list has grown as the birds slowly find our feeders. So far the following birds are spied each day:
:: red breasted nuthatch
:: white breasted nuthatch
:: white throated sparrow
:: blue jay
:: dark eyed junco
:: tree sparrow
:: hairy woodpecker
Do you notice the birds in your backyard? If so, what birds are visiting your feeders?
Community is important to me. Hosting people in our home for potlucks, coming together to celebrate festivals, gathering with like minded people to celebrate the winter or summer solstice, and making time once in awhile for a mama afternoon are deeply satisfying to me. When our home is filled with the people we walk this path with I feel blessed, and full of gratitude that our journeys brought us together.
On Saturday, inspired by this, written by Amanda, I hosted my first handmade/homemade mama swap party. It was a small affair, with some mamas I spend a lot of time with. I think it was a huge success, and I think I speak for all of the mamas when I say we had a wonderful time. We sat in front of the fire, food spread out before us, cups of tea in our hands, and we chatted about motherhood, work, passions, our kids, and life. Towards the end of the afternoon, we gathered our swap gifts, opening them together while the person who created the gift shared the story of the creation. So much goodness was created...a festive room spray, herbal tea, note cards, a calming and relaxing pillow spray, a thieves oil foot rub, crocheted dish clothes, a beaded necklace and a fabric framed picture board. Such thoughtful, creative gifts.
My contribution to the swap was some note cards created with some of my photography, a hand knit, felted bowl, and samples of my body butter, lip balm, hand salve and healing salve.
After all the mamas left, my heart was full and my soul inspired. I spent the evening jotting down a few ideas that were floating around in my head for future gatherings...definitely another swap, I think spring might be a good time, mama crafting days, a knitting afternoon and so much more.
"A photo of my little man, once a week, every week, in 2014"
Reece, what a week! The snow just kept on falling, and you were so excited. It was a joy to watch you enjoy these first snowfalls, to see you running, jumping, and sliding in the snow. You truly enjoy each moment in every day, inside or outside, and I am so happy to be along for the ride.
I stood at the window, watching you. It was the first time you had asked to go outside by yourself. After lunch you asked, "Can I go outside?" "Sure," I replied, "Give me a minute and we will bundle up and head out." "I can go by myself," you said. "Oh, okay," I replied, a little surprised. So I helped, when asked, to get you in your winter gear, and you happily ran out the door. You headed straight for the shovel and soon our yard had become a maze of pathways, created by you. I saw your lips moving, maybe you were talking to yourself, or singing. I can't say for sure. You worked hard, pushing, lifting and moving the snow. Every once in a while you stopped, to catch your breath, push back your hat, and look around. You seemed pleased with your work. After quite some time, you stopped, dropped the shovel and headed to the workshop. You opened the door and called your dad. With the biggest smile you brought him out to show off your work, with much pride. I could feel your excitement over this accomplishment.
Inside, I walked away from the window, I popped some popcorn, made tea, and grabbed the latest book we are reading together. It was all ready, on the coffee table. I sat, patiently waiting. I wanted to call you in, I look forward to our reading time, but I didn't want to interrupt your work. So I waited. It wasn't long before the door opened with a crash, and you came bustling in, smiling. Together we stripped away the winter layers, and you headed right for the sofa, claiming your spot and a bowl of popcorn. I snuggled in beside you, and we started to read. I read the title of the chapter, and just before I started the first sentence you looked up at me and said "I love you." And at that moment I felt so much love, my heart was overflowing, and I couldn't help but look down at you, and smile, and tell you just how much I love you too.
Keeping my family healthy is so very important to me, as I am sure it is for many of you. While it is difficult to keep illness at bay all the time, I do my best at prevention. We eat well, choosing organic whole foods, I cook from scratch, and we eat very little processed food. We exercise, and get outside daily. We ensure adequate rest for all of us, we take our supplements, and we listen very carefully when our bodies are giving us the signal to slow down and take it easy.
While we can't prevent coming into contact with pathogens, they are everywhere, we can strengthen the body, and the immune system. Doing this will not mean never getting sick, but it does mean being stronger and more resilient should illness take over, which in turn means a quick recovery, with less down time.
My little apothecary is filled to the brim with goodness that helps keep us healthy, and boost our immune systems during the cold and flu season. From supplements, to homeopathic medicines, to herbs, both from my garden and purchased. Over the last few days I have been busy making medicine...elderberry syrup, a vitamin C syrup and a herbal tea, that acts as a herbal multivitamin for Reece. These are the things we will rely on during the coming months, to keep us healthy, to support our immune systems and to heal us, when we are ill. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me. She shares her beauty with us, allowing us to connect to her, and in turn, a deeper part of ourselves. She whispers to us to pay attention, to seek comfort in her arms, and to run free in her space. She gives us powerful medicine to help strengthen and heal us. She is amazing, and each day when I walk upon this earth I am grateful to have found the power of Mother Nature.
Well, I guess we are about to find out just how well this fall/winter gardening thing works. Snow fell all day Sunday and Monday. The photo above was taken Monday morning, and I checked in on the gardens and took the rest of the photos yesterday afternoon. Shall we take a peek inside?
Everything looks good, well protected, and happy. This is a huge experiment for us this year, and we honestly have no idea how it will go. So far, all is going well, and each day that I harvest food from these beds I offer gratitude. We are feeling so blessed that we are still harvesting food from the backyard well into November.
The cold frame was covered in snow, I swept it off so the sun could do it's work. Most of the food has been harvested from the cold frame, there is some lettuce left, and a row of beets. We ate from the cold frame first as most of the greens were too tall. If they are touching the glass of the cold frame they will suffer frost damage, so it made sense to eat this bed first.
The back beds are now tucked in, and sleeping soundly under leaves and snow. As you can see, the nettles didn't get cut back. I know we will have a few warmer days ahead and this will be the first thing I do. I did get the raspberry bushes cut back, but didn't manage to get any straw on them. Again, as soon as it warms up, they will get a layer of straw that will keep them well protected for the winter.
I wasn't sure how it would feel getting myself dressed up in winter gear to head outside to harvest food for dinner. It wasn't that bad. I gave it a bit of thought, and decided that Reece and I would do our nature walk first, and then before heading inside I would harvest. I knew after walking, chasing Reece, and pulling him in the sled I would be warm, and the few minutes it would take to harvest wouldn't cool me off too much. I was right, it was perfect, and I think that will be the routine for the winter. Our first harvest in the snow was a success...a little kale, Swiss chard and carrots. I really can't tell you just how delicious, and satisfying that food was.
I started and finished my Christmas shopping this weekend! I only had to buy three gifts, the rest is being made, so it wasn't that hard. I do have to pick up a few stocking stuffers, but that will wait a few more weeks. When I got home from shopping, I spent time outside decorating the outside of our home. Greenery was put together in boughs, ribbon was added, and they are now hanging on the front fence, and the front porch, covered with a magical dusting of snow. Later in the afternoon, while Justin and Reece played, I headed out for a before dinner run. It was chilly, but the falling snowflakes made up for that, creating a lovely setting for my run. We enjoyed dinner, and then all of us fell into bed early.
Sunday was a planned power outage in our area so hydro could do some maintenance work, we had an early breakfast, I wrote a few letters by candlelight, and then we hit the woods for a hike. Our favourite spot kept us busy for a while, feeding the birds, tying to coax a squirrel to eat from our hands, visiting with the geese and wild turkeys, and experiencing the joy of having a large male hairy woodpecker swoop down to eat from my hand. It is pure magic in action every time we visit this spot. We went out for a late lunch in Port Perry, a quaint little town, walked around a little bit and headed home, with fingers crossed the power would be back on. It wasn't, but it did come back on shortly after arriving home. We had a delicious butternut squash soup for dinner, and once the little man was tucked in both Justin and I sat in front of the fire reading.
And now, here we are at the beginning of another week. Wishing you the most wonderful week my friends.
"A photo of my little man, once a week, every week, in 2014"
Reece, our favourite place to be, in nature. Sometimes we go alone, just the two of us, other times daddy joins us. On this day, we were with friends, exploring, wandering and just enjoying the beauty around us.
Over the last few months, Reece and I have been slowly making our way through the Little House series, following the Ingalls family through the trials of moving west into unknown territory. Each night we read a few chapters as we snuggle in Reece's bed. As I read the struggles the Ingalls, and the other families, faced I am connected to the past in a strange sort of way. Most of you know that we live in an old schoolhouse, circa 1878. At the time it was schoolhouse number 20, also known as New Park School. As I read about Mary, Laura and Carrie attending school in the little schoolhouse my mind is transported back to the days of our old schoolhouse. The long walk made daily by children attending school, the wagons that must have passed by in front each day, the farming that was done on the land that surrounds us. It all happened here, and we are connected to it through our home.
We have had the honour of meeting the man, who as a boy had the responsibility of keeping the fire going during the school day, and we have met the man who used to ring the bell each day. We have family names written down showing the land they used to live on and farm. We have photos of a teacher and her students taken in front of the schoolhouse (our home!) in 1930. We have visitors drop in to say hi, and check in on the old schoolhouse. At first it was elderly men and women who attended school here, now it is grandchildren and great grandchildren of those people. Reading the Little House series has given me a deeper connection to the past, a past that I never asked to be connected to, but I am.
They say when you start a family, and find your home, that you put down roots. The roots were here already, they ran deep and were, and still are, solid and strong. We didn't need to put roots down. Instead we have entwined our roots among theirs, connecting to the past in a way we never dreamed of.
I love family traditions, they are such simple and joy filled ways to mark the passage of time. A tradition that we have all come to love is that of new, handmade, mama knit hats for Winter Solstice. The hats are done...one for Reece, Justin, and myself. You will notice an extra hat in the photo, a pink one, for the little one who joins us to homeschool. We thought it appropriate that she too get a hat this year since she is such a big part of our days.
Our tradition has always been to surprise Reece with his new hat on the morning of Winter Solstice, and that will continue this year. Justin and I will open ours on the same morning, and then we will put on our new hats and hit the trail for our Winter Solstice hike.
P.S. If you haven't entered this giveaway yet, you should!
Our preparations for Martinmas began last weekwith the making of new
lanterns, learning some new songs and verses, and talking about our own
inner light and how we can share it with others through
acts of kindness and love. On Saturday afternoon we gathered with
friends for a lovely lantern walk in the woods. As we walked, we sang
our lantern song, chatted, and enjoyed time together in the beauty of
nature. Following our lantern walk, everyone came back to our home where I shared a lovely story
about tending our inner light through the long, dark, cold days of
winter, and then we enjoyed a delicious potluck dinner, wonderful
conversation, and lots and lots of fun play among the kiddos. Coming
together with other families to celebrate this festival was truly
wonderful, and I was filled with so much gratitude as I looked around
our home at everyone there.
you are not familiar with Martinmas, it is the story of St. Martin. St.
Martin was a soldier in Rome in the 4th
century. Legend says that one wintery night he met a poor beggar,
half-naked and freezing. Martin removed the heavy military cloak from
his shoulders and, drawing his sword, cut it in two, and gave half to
the beggar. That night, Christ appeared to Martin in a dream, wrapped in
the same piece of cloak Martin had given the beggar, and said: “Martin
has covered me with this garment.” Martin became the patron saint of
beggars, drunks and outcasts, dedicating his life to assisting the
unfortunate and downcast. Martinmas celebrates his kindness, compassion
and selflessness. Lanterns are a traditional part of the celebration as a
reminder of the light that shines in each and every one of us, and that
we must share and spread this light.
Martinmas falls on November 11, also Remembrance Day in Canada. Over the years it has become our family tradition to be present at our local cenotaph for the Remembrance Day ceremony honouring those who have fought, and those who continue to fight, for this life we are so blessed to lead. We then head to the grocery store to buy food for the food bank in the spirit of St. Martin. This year, instead of food, we decided to buy hats and mitts, and yesterday they were delivered to a local non-profit organization that supports young mothers.
Martinmas is a beautiful festival that speaks to me on so many levels. As the years go by, I know Reece will develop a deeper understanding of its meaning, and my hope is that he comes to truly understand how beautiful his inner light is and that he will let it shine bright on those who need it most.