Archive for December, 2007

For the Commonplace Book: The Hidden Art of Homemaking

December 30, 2007 @ 9:27 am | Filed under: , , ,


"On the route to Aigle from Ollon, where we live in Switzerland, one passes an orchard. Neatly planted rows of trees are beautifully pruned and trained to form straight aisles for fruit-picking, with a grassy carpet beneath. But the thing which causes most passersby to turn and look, and look again, slowing up the car if they are driving, is the touch of an artist indeed. Planted at the end of every row of trees is a lovely rose bush, and in midsummer these bushes are a riot of color in a variety of roses. There is just one rose bush at the end of each line, but this is enough to lift the entire work, which could be merely efficient fruit-farming, into a work of art, enjoyed by hundreds who pass each day—bringing influence into lives as well as being a subject of discussion, and bringing about, in other gardens, results of which the ‘artist’ may never know."

—The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer

Lazy Saturday

December 29, 2007 @ 11:31 am | Filed under:

I’m sitting in our patio room, a pleasant many-windowed room off the kitchen. From this cozy pink chair—a hand-me-down from our friend Marianne in Virginia, but dubbed "Mr. Dave’s Chair" by Beanie because it was Mr. Dave who carted it from Marianne’s house to ours in his pickup truck three or four years ago—I have a view of the kitchen table, where Rose sits finishing her breakfast, and beyond her to the Christmas tree in the front corner of our living room. The star I put atop the tree is too heavy and has flipped down backward. The tree lights are still on even though it’s past ten in the morning. We’re all still in our pajamas.

I love Saturdays.

I overhauled this whole room yesterday, and it feels great. The kids got a bunch of board games for Christmas, and making a space for them had a sort of Flylady-shine-your-sink effect. You know how once the sink is shiny, you want the counter next to it to sparkle too, and suddenly you find you have cleaned the whole kitchen? Same thing here. We have a little round table in the patio room that hasn’t been used for much lately besides collecting clutter. There are some white shelves behind it, and I wanted to clear them of books and abandoned art projects to make room for games right next to the table. This room is cold in winter, especially at night, and we hadn’t been using it much. But it’s such a nice sunny room, and it’s where most of the little kids’ toys are. Scott’s sister gave us her kids’ old Brio train table when we moved to Virginia (we are big on the hand-me-downs), and the battery-operated train set my dad brought a few visits back is a great favorite with Rilla and Wonderboy. Rilla is sitting on the train table right now, looking at an Each Peach Pear Plum board book and singing "Bee-bee, bee-bee," over and over.

Scott’s at the desktop computer on the other side of the train table, with Wonderboy at his knee, as usual. This is what Saturday morning usually looks like around here, except in the past, Wonderboy had more teeth. Thursday morning’s dentist appointment was quite short: long enough for the dentist to look in his mouth and say, yup, those teeth need to come out. I can do it this afternoon. We took him back later that day—Scott met us so he could go to the treatment room with the boy while I waited up front with the girls—and the dentist extracted both teeth. The boy was amazing. They didn’t have to put him out, just gave him Novacaine. He came trotting out to the waiting room afterward, actually laughing. Even when the Novacaine wore off, he didn’t seem bothered by the pain. The dentist had to put one stitch in. She said the two teeth that got shoved into the gum when he fell were waaaay up there, interlocking in a way that made them hard to remove. Scott turns pale if you ask him about the procedure. I wouldn’t ask, if I were you.

The dentist gave me the teeth in a tiny blue treasure chest, but I haven’t had the heart to look at them yet. His four-tooth-wide gap, flanked by fangs, is totally adorable, though. And we’re all glad that chapter is (dare we hope?) finished.

Now Jane is reading Rilla’s book to her, waiting for me to brush her hair because that’s been tricky to do herself since she got the cast on.

"I spy…everyone!"

"No, bee-bee."

Anyway, yesterday I cleaned out all the spiders and dusted everything and carried the clutter to the laundry room. I don’t so much declutter as move clutter. It’s a failing. But at least I’m pretty good at keeping it out of the main living spaces. This patio room looks so much better today. The round table is cleared and ready for games. There’s an amaryllis bulb in a blue pot spiking up its leaves in the middle of the table. Maps on the walls, and some art prints, and bird posters from Project Feederwatch. A Leslie Austin house garland wishing us a Happy Christmas and a Bright New Year from the top of a bookcase. On the next shelf down is a berry-studded basket containing my unaddressed Christmas cards. I decided that at least the project could look pretty while it’s being neglected.

Now all the kids are in here too, and I’ve brushed two heads of hair and listened to Beanie’s narrative of a terrifying hallway encounter with a daddy-long-legs. We are always on the edge of danger around here. Scott is playing Avril Lavigne on his computer to tease me. I was walking around earlier this morning singing "Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?"—I have no idea why. I was mixing up a suet ball to hang in our backyard, but it wasn’t complicated at all. It’s generally too warm here to leave suet out long, but all we’ve been getting at our feeders are purple finches and house sparrows, and I miss the nuthatches and downy woodpeckers who used to visit us daily in Virginia.

I’m the only one still in my pajamas. While I’ve been sitting here in my comfy chair, they all got dressed. But I haven’t been writing the whole time. I nursed Rilla and put in Wonderboy’s hearing aids and (speaking of extractions) extracted a half-inch-long sticker from the tongue of Jane’s sneaker. Rose brought Scott ‘one last Christmas present’—a framed photo of Rilla, which made us all howl, because it’s no secret that daddy is mushy over his baby daughter. "For your office," says Rose. "So you won’t miss her so much while you’re at work."

A year and a half later, we’re all still adjusting to having Scott work away from home.

The kitched clock just chirped eleven: our beloved old bird clock that Veronica Bellucci gave to Jane on her fifth birthday. They are Eastern birds and many of them are absent friends now. The 9:00 cardinal is Rose’s bird (she claimed it at age three, so don’t even think of saying it’s your favorite—not if you’re her sister, at least). I miss the chickadees most. There are probably lots in the mountains east of here, but I haven’t seen any in this part of San Diego county. We have a phoebe, though, and I adore her. She has the coloring of a slate junco, charcoal back and creamy ivory breast, with a tufted head like a cardinal or titmouse. She perches on our back fence every day and radiates silent disapproval at the purple finches squabbling like ruffians at the feeder.

We had hummingbirds last winter, nicknamed "Panty" and "Sock-sock" by the children (I guess I didn’t have to add "by the children"—you know I am never going to name a bird "Panty"). I haven’t seen them in a long time, though. I hung another basket of red flowers outside the kitchen window—I can see it from this chair—because the one I hung last year, the one I let die over the summer, tsk tsk, brought the hummingbirds a-visiting several times a day.

The house has become suddenly quiet. Scott took all five kids to the library. I think this is only the fourth or fifth time I’ve ever been completely alone in this house. Only Avril and I are left, and since she’s just playing on a YouTube clip, I think she’s about to hush too. I have to think what to do with this unexpected space of time. Answer mail? It is still piled up, horribly so, in my in-box. Finally get to the Christmas cards? Work on the baby sweater I’ve been crocheting at the stunning rate of approximately one row per month for the past year? Write thank-you notes? Finish my planner reviews? No, not a computer thing. I think I’ll continue in yesterday’s vein. It felt so good to spruce this room up. And look how everyone flocked here this morning, like birds to a freshly filled feeder. I want to tackle our bedroom next. It’s a closet, both in size and in terms of clutter storage. If I showed you what it looks like right now your eyes would burn. I’m craving a peaceful sanctuary—but of course the post-Christmas budget requires this little project be done in "use what’s in your hand" fashion.

I’m off. Time to go get dressed and not be lazy.

On the Third Day of Christmas…

December 27, 2007 @ 8:27 am | Filed under:

…I looked at my box of Christmas cards and thought, hmm, maybe tomorrow? And planned a trip to the dentist instead.

Wonderboy made it through the holiday with no infection, woohoo! His gum where the teeth got shoved up (and are still up there) is horribly red and swollen, still bleeding on and off. I watched him like a hawk for fever all week, but he’s been fine. Whew. The gum still needs attending, of course, so after breakfast, off we go. I bet they’re going to have to pull those teeth. (Not today.) Argh.

But our Christmas was lovely, lovely. On Christmas Eve we took a drive to the mountains, lunching in the same little mountain town Scott and I visited on my birthday. The girls marveled at the wildfire damage we saw on the way up, lots and lots of it.


I put a bunch more pictures on Flickr, if you’re interested. I snapped them all as we drove past, so some of them are blurry.

Julian is famous for its apples. In the autumn, San Diegans flock to the pick-your-own orchards surrounding the quaint little gold rush town. (Well, not this year. First, an early frost decimated the crop; then the wildfires overtook picking season.) The old-timey main street boasts a pie kitchen every hundred yards, more or less. We wanted to bring home a pie for our Christmas Eve dinner (bit of a pie theme going right now), but our first choice of bakeries was closed, and our second choice had a line out the door and down the block.

Scott ducked into a nearby garden shop we’d visited the week before (and where I found the perfect Christmas gift for my mom), purportedly to ask for a pie-shop recommendation. In a town famous for its apple pies, choosing the right pie shop is serious business. I took the kids to the "candy mine" in the basement of the neighboring drugstore. Mining for candy (filling a tin pail with bulk candy from the vast array in a sunken cavern) is also Serious Business, so this kept us occupied for some time, and I didn’t notice that it took Scott an awfully long time to get that pie-shop recommendation. On Christmas morning he surprised me with a dear little robins-egg-blue pitcher I’d been sighing over during the first trip, while shopping for my mother.


Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2007 @ 11:01 am | Filed under:

I wrote a post earlier in the week, but it got zapped. Short version: Jane’s pinky fracture landed her a cast up to the elbow (pleasingly purple), and poor Wonderboy’s mouth continues to provide suspense. He doesn’t seem bothered by the injury, beyond needing me to cut up his sandwich into bites since his biting teeth are AWOL, but Scott and I are holding our breaths through the holiday and hoping we won’t have to make an ER run later today. (Updated at dinnertime: so far, so good. Hurrah!) I am afraid there may be an infection brewing up there. No fever, so we’re holding steady for now.

But enough of that. We had a wonderful day yesterday—a Christmas Eve drive to the mountains for apple pie—and we’ve had a lovely Christmas morning. It’s time to go put on our holiday finery for Mass, but before I go, I wanted to write a quick note to wish all of you dear Bonny Glen readers and your families a day full of joy. God bless you, every one!


Detail from Nativity (Holy
, Correggio, 1528-30. Web Gallery of Art.

Our 2005 Christmas video.

All I Want for Christmas Is a Dull Moment

December 19, 2007 @ 5:20 pm | Filed under:

Well. It’s been quite an eventful couple of days here. (When is it not?)

Saturday: Wonderboy, O he of uncertain balance, took another tumble and lost three more teeth. Remember when he knocked out a front tooth at the playground? This time he outdid himself. Knocked out another top tooth and shoved two more up into his gum. (I’ll pause while you shudder.)

So now he’s got a four-tooth-wide gap up top, leaving just his pointy little fangs. I mean canines. I feel like Fudge’s mother.

This is just maybe going to make speech therapy kind of interesting for a while.

Sunday: Time for our family outing to the cut-your-own Christmas tree farm! But Scott, suffering some trauma from Wonderboy’s dental adventures, decided a field full of hidden stumps was not the best place for our accident-prone son. I stayed home with the two little ones and my mother, who was visiting from Colorado, and let Scott take the three older girls to hunt the mighty Christmas tree.

They came home with a fine tree…and a broken finger.

Jane, this time. What happened? She tripped over a tree stump in the field.

It’s just a minor buckle fracture, painful but not too serious. She made it to her piano recital this morning and played the right hand of the piece she’d been practicing almost incessantly for the past two months. Her good-natured piano teacher played the left hand, and it worked out fine.

She’s an angel in the Christmas pageant on Friday. I’m thinking we can ditch the splint and sling for the performance. Or else hide them under her heavenly robes.

(Panic! I have to make heavenly robes!)

I brought a tin of Christmas treats to the recital as a gift for the piano teacher. Some helpful soul unpacked my bag for me and thought, quite understandably, that it was a tin of treats for the party table. (For that, we had brought string cheese—Wonderboy’s favorite—and some of my mother’s famous cake.) Most of Miss Cyndi’s treats were gobbled up by small, hungry musicians, but she laughed over the mishap and said it was the thought that counts.

I hope she’s right, because the way this week is going, I don’t know how much more Christmas baking I’m going to get done. But I’ve thought about it. That counts! Right?

Giveaway Time!

December 17, 2007 @ 6:21 pm | Filed under:

All righty, it’s time to give away those planners. Remember, I have two more planners (the Bizzi2Go and the Tan Books 2008 Saints Planner) to give away later this week, as soon as I have a second to write up the reviews.

I used a random number generator to determine the winner of the two FamilyTimeMine planners. The first winner is…Andrea!

Winner #2 is (drumroll) MamaLion. Congratulations, ladies!

Andrea, since your number came up first, you get first choice of size. Let me know if you’d like the 8 1/2 x 11" version or the 5 1/2 x 8".

Email me
your addresses and I’ll try to get them in the mail during Wednesday’s piano lessons. And thank you to all who participated.

Oh, and happy birthday to commenter and friend Elizabeth M, who has very good taste in birthdays. 😉 Sorry you didn’t win, Elizabeth, but I hope you got lots of other good presents today!

All righty, I’m off to eat some of my mother’s famous cake.

‘Tis the Season for Questions about Hanna’s Christmas

December 15, 2007 @ 12:15 pm | Filed under:

I’m getting inquiries about my little Hanna’s Christmas picture book again, so here’s a link to last year’s post about it. I see that copies are now selling for upwards of $60. Unbelievable! Of course I gave away most of my comps long ago to friends, family, and assorted neighbor children named Hannah…I didn’t even keep enough for each of my children to get a copy. Whoops. I had fewer children back then!

Day Planners for Moms: FamilyTimeMine (and a Double Giveaway)

December 13, 2007 @ 9:26 pm | Filed under:

When I started yakking about my favorite day planners over at Lilting House a long while back, I had no idea what I was starting. Look at this:


That’s just this week’s searches, and only the top chunk of the list. I let
go of the Grab button too soon and didn’t feel like redoing it.

It seems I’m not the only one with a planner obsession.

I also learned that if you review them, they will come. I wound up with more planners than you could shake a Bic at. (Har.)

Here’s one with lots to like about it: the FamilyTime.Mine day planner. The company sent me two sizes to look at: a purse-sized 5 1/2" x 8" model, and an 8 1/2" x 11" model. (I’ll be giving them away at the end of this post.) Both are spiral bound, which I’ve decided is my preference for a planner. I really need to be able to fold back the cover for easy writing. The front and back covers are sturdy plastic, also a plus. I like the colorful confetti design on the little one. Actually, they’re both quite festive. The colors on the larger one (this is the "Collage" pattern) are brighter than they appear in this image.


Okay, these images are not to scale. The one on the left, Collage, is the 8 1/2 x 11" model. There are other cover designs available, too.

Enough about the outside! Open them up, and the first two pages are a heavy card stock, folded so there’s a large flap on the left-hand side. I have the August 2007-Dec. 2008 versions, so the flaps read "Fall 2007" and "Winter 2007." I assume the 2008 version has front flaps for Winter and Spring. Open the flap and you have a fold-out grid for writing out your weekly master schedule. In the back of the planner are two more of these folded card-stock pages, with two more seasons’ worth of master schedule grids. This is a pretty nifty feature, I must say. The flaps do add a little bulk to the planner, but these are skinny planners compared to other brands on the market, so even with the flaps they are not unwieldy at all.


(Click image to enlarge.) The weekly schedule on the left is the folded-over part of the flap.

Apart from these master schedule pages, the paper is thin. I haven’t pen-tested these but I’m guessing there’s bound to be some bleed-through. I’m a felt-tip pen kind of girl (or better yet, fountain pens), so thin paper makes me crazy. This is the only major strike against the FamilyTimeMine, but for me it’s a biggie.

After some instructional and promo pages (which you could tear out), there’s a page for personal info, emergency numbers, and holiday dates. On the other side of that begin the monthly and weekly calendar spreads. This planner has the monthly spreads inserted before each month’s set of weekly pages (as opposed to the MomAgenda which has all the monthly spreads together up front, a feature I am wildly fond of).

The monthly spreads are nice and clean, with big clear boxes. (REALLY big, in the 8 1/2 x 11" version.)


The weekly pages are a page per week (not a spread per week).


You’ll note it’s a Monday-through-Sunday week.

The gray columns on the side of each page are a perforated list area. You can tear these off or fold them over. That’s a neat feature, although I’m not crazy about the fact that every page is perforated (including the monthly calendar grids—not the card-stock flap pages, of course). Call me picky, but I don’t like the perforation running down the line between Sunday and Monday on the monthly calendar.

It’s a clean, functional format, though, with lots of writing space and little visual clutter. There are teeny tiny quotes at the bottom of each weekly grid.

Back-of-the-book extra pages include a babysitter info page, a kind of personal yellow pages space, some pages for recording phone numbers & email addresses, and two blank lined pages for notes.

Behind the two final flappy card-stock master schedule pages is a page of FlyLadyesque stickers for birthdays, bills, holidays, vacation, Important! events, ball games, and other events for which you might enjoy a colorful reminder. The back cover (that nice sturdy plastic again) has a very nice side pocket for tucking stuff into. I think I would prefer a bottom pocket, but this is still quite a nice feature.

Checking around, I see prices ranging from $10.15 (for the smaller size, at Amazon) to $16.99 (for the larger size, at (The larger size seems to be about $13 at Amazon.)

Giveaway time! Leave a comment on this post and I’ll enter you in a drawing for one of these two planners. I’m giving them both away, so if you have a size preference, include that in your comment. The first winner I draw will get to pick which size he or she gets. I’ll hold the drawing on Monday, December 17, for a sort of hobbity reason. That ought to give me time to mail these to the winners before New Year’s. (But remember, these are the August 2007-December 2008 models, so you’ll probably want to tear out a bunch of pages in the front.)

Next up: the Bizzimom planner.

Other planners reviewed at Lilting House (this is the index page; scroll down to find the review you want):

Catholic Woman’s Daily Planner
Mom’s Daily Planner
A Circle of Days (Small Meadow Press)