Saturday, December 20, 2014


My sister recently alerted me that the last post on my neglected little blog was...THANKSGIVING. Yes, I'm afraid that my hands have been full, mind distracted, heart heavy. We've been enjoying and savoring this advent season in so many ways, but we have also been receiving bad news about my Dad's health. His cancer has returned for the 3rd time and seems to be growing and spreading. Prayers are certainly appreciated. 

"I will just keep turning to Jesus today, 
the only real Light in the whole world
and His light can always turn on the inside of me. 
I am saved from the dark of lostness because God. is. love. 
and He can't stand to leave me by myself in the dark. 
It doesn't matter how dark the dark is -- 
Jesus comes to the darkest places
so I can see His light the brightest...."
-A. Voskamp

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


O my God,
Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admires, adores, loves Thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before Thee in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with Thee
     ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
     ten thousand sources of pleasure are unseal,
     ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
     crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
     for adorning it, sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;
     for the body thou hast given me,
     for preserving its strength and vigour,
     for providing sense to enjoy delights,
     for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
     for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
     for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
     for a full table and overflowing cup,
     for appetite, taste, sweetness,
     for social joys of relatives and friends,
     for ability to serve others,
     for a heart that feels sorrow and necessities,
     for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
     for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
     for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
     for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express,
     for what thou are to thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

(A prayer of praise and thanksgiving from "The Valley of Vision")

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Christmas card shoot

(photos taken by the lovely Katie Antonell, post processing/editing by me)

This weekend my sister graciously took some family photos of us in hopes of getting a shot or two for our Christmas card.  Even though it was a bit chilly, it was quickly getting dark and we were working with nap-less kids, I thought they came out surprisingly well.  I've already ordered a bunch to update some frames around the house, but still deciding which will make the Christmas card... :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

for everything Thy goodness sends

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.


Giving thanks for everything Thy goodness sends...

- a new art acquisition from my favorite and most elusive Salem artist 
- bundling up, mostly in hand made knits
- the stunning, perfectly scarlet tree outside my classroom
- Levi happily crunching through fallen leaves
- Saturday naps for baby in mama's arms
- Brian taking the kids and letting me sleep in after a tough night
- pumpkin soup and apple pie with the oldest and dearest of friends
- Magnolia practicing "Pa-pa" in the middle of the night
- starbucks 2 for 1 holiday lattes
- the way Levi and Magnolia just look at each other and giggle
- a new (to us) REAL fire in the fireplace
- maple syrup on vanilla ice cream
- a Mama and Maggie date at a holiday craft fair
- nursery duty with good friends
- a little family Christmas card photo shoot and some everyone-smiling photos(Thanks, Katie!)
- kitty cuddles after all the "scary" little people go to sleep
- many prayers for my Dad and his cancer recurrence
- cold November morning nature walks at Appleton Farms; poems read, treasure found, woods explored, thanks given.

(Appleton Farms, a few weeks ago)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

thy mercy

Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
the boast of my heart and the joy of my tongue.
Thy free grace alone from the first to the last,
Hath won my affections and bound my soul fast. 
-J. Stocker

- mercy, souls bound fast
- Levi kissing his sister's hand, many, many times a day
- the living room, strewn with couch cushions which are now "docks" and "bridges" over the "sea".
- fresh flowers in the kitchen
- Maggie's first grocery cart ride, her perma-smile
- "scribble" time with church artists friends
- seed pods that make great percussion instruments
- a little project, Psalm 23 as a mini-zine for my small-groupies
- first "mama!"s 
- Levi's funny memories
- rainy library days
- Elizabeth Mitchell pandora station all afternoon, Alison Krauss all night long
- skype dates with Fiji
- Christmasy magazines in the mail
- apple crisp, fresh from the oven and then cold for breakfast
- how Magnolia holds my cheek when nursing and falling asleep
- health for me, Maggie and Levi despite living with a very sick Papa for a week and a slowly but surely recovering papa. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Maggie's first breakfast

(the little lady has certainly enjoyed her first solids more than her brother ever did! PROOF)

Monday, November 3, 2014


Our costumes came together pretty well considering how last minute they were. When I asked Levi what he wanted to dress up as for Halloween, he gave me ideas like "a light" or "broccoli". I was all set to just put him in his favorite "farmer" overalls and call it a day when I found a gray dress with cute little wings in a bag of hand-me-downs for Magnolia. It just screamed "baby owl". Perfect. 
I was happy to find that between my leftover yarn, my mom's felt and my nana's buttons, I had enough scraps to pull our costumes together quickly. I started by crocheting a gray hat for Maggie. You may recognize the rest of our hats from other costumes/blog posts. I took off Levi's Curious George ears from last year and added owl features and at the very last minute (Halloween afternoon!) I crocheted some extra owl eyes/beaks to sew on a couple of existing hats for Brian and I. Levi and Magnolia's belly feathers are pieces of felt cut in the shape of feathers then layered and hot glued to a felt oval that was tied around their necks.

(Maggie's hat and everyone else's owl eyes/beaks are loosely based on THIS pattern)
We continued our tradition of going to the aunts/uncles and grandparents' houses to say hi and eat a couple pieces of candy. This year, Brian brought Levi to a couple of neighbor houses to trick-or-treat, which he thought was quite novel and fun. Despite his general dislike for costumes, Levi totally got into character and loved being part of our family of owls. He and Brian "hoo"ed all night long. Magnolia was hilarious; she must have just been excited to see all of her favorite people, because she spent most of the night bouncing up and down and flapping her arms as if she was trying to fly. It was the cutest thing ever. 

I fully realize that one of these years someone is going to rebel against my family themed costumes, but I'll enjoy them while I can! :)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Giving thanks again...

(I think it's been a few months since I've listed the things I'm thankful for in this space. Once I got out of the habit, it was hard to get back into it. My bible study was recently discussing/practicing the discipline of listing thanks and I was inspired to get back to my 7 year long list, and it IS the season for giving thanks, so here goes...)

Giving thanks, for - 

- a fresh new month
- the colorful autumn world
- Psalm 23 - the hunkering down, cloistering in 
- a warm and cozy home in which to hibernate
- finding in-between times to work on projects
- candles, soft lamps and twinkle lights
- when Levi and Magnolia just look at each other and start to giggle
- nap drives and coffee "breaks"
- Magnolia - her constant happiness, her soft cuddliness, her scrunchie nosed smile, her excited shrieks and bounces, her hugs and kisses. 
- Levi - his good questions, his hip hop dances, his special love for "pappy", his book narration, our candle lit breakfasts while sister sleeps, his love for his sister. 
- my small group
- Brian unknowingly answering his phone during his English class and me being able to listen to him teach an entire (amazing!) lesson on imagery.
- last minute late-ish night coffee dates
- a successful refinance
- Levi's sugary sweetness when he's sick
- Monday dinners with my family
- our museum
- 2 legitimate, kid-less dates in a week
- friends to learn and play with
- late night guitar by the hearth
- visiting with Lisa and Alex, and sweet gifts and treats from England
- an exceptionally yummy vegan dinner with friends (coconut ice cream!)
- back and forth blessing texts  
- an elementary art project that I thought was going to bomb but came out exceptionally beautifully
- a bit last minute, but pretty cute family costumes made only from leftover scraps of yarn, buttons and felt. 
- lots of fall adventures, exploring beautiful New England with family and friends, one trip at a time

Sunday, October 26, 2014

this and that

A little bit of this and a little bit of that...

- despite Magnolia's exceptionally sweet and easy going personality, keeping up to date in this space has proved to be much more complicated with two children rather than one.  I have gone back and forth about stopping altogether, but after some thoughtful consideration and encouragement from my husband, I think it's worth keeping on, and I just need to be ok with how it will look during this time...just less. I've always loved keeping this blog and it has encouraged me to chronicle beauty, count my blessings, share some creativity and record our days. So, for now I'll keep on...whenever I can find a spare moment. :) For those of you on instagram, I've found it a bit easier to post little bits more regularly over there. 

- maybe this year's seasonal list was more realistic or maybe our days have been more full and purposeful, but I'm happy to report that we've almost finished every item on our Autumn list. That's NEVER happened! 

- a chimney guy (a sweep?) is coming soon to see if we can get our fireplace up and running in the near future. We'd love to be able to use it for fires and we are thinking about possibly investing in a small wood stove. While we wait and save up for a stove, we picked up an electric stove space heater that looks like a wood stove. Despite Brian's disdain for "fake" fires, it was cheap, it's cozy and it warms up the room quite well. He laughs at me when I tell him how much I love our "hearth". Levi especially enjoys the new addition to the living room and he spends much of his time playing or reading in front of it. He has called it "the fire of heaven". haha

- speaking of the impending cold weather and hibernation, I just started my first knitting and crocheting projects of the season. A new cowl for me and some halloween costumes for the kiddos. Stay tuned..

- I've been killin' it with my thrift finds recently. A vintage oatmeal tin (now a candy tin, thanks for idea Cousin Alex!), a basket tray, some corduroy overalls for Maggie and a darling crochet hat, flannel shirts for the rest of us, handmade pottery mugs; not a piece for more than a few bucks.

- home pre-schooling has been going very well. Our favorite day is on Friday when we get together with two other families to go on nature walks, read together, do art projects etc. It's a huge blessing to have these moms and kids to play and learn with. 

- October in Salem is drawing to a close. We've done our part to embrace the fun parts; parades, carnival rides, craft booths, performances, people in costume everywhere and of course the fried dough. Sure we have to dodge the occasional zombie or other scary/gory character, but I love that we can easily walk down to the excitement and then go right back to our cozy and quiet little house when it all gets a little too overwhelming. 

- Hope your autumn is going just swimmingly, too! xo

Friday, October 10, 2014

sea kettle studios - a new series - nature studies

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world; I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and  seas, His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world, The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world; He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.
Cosmo, Zinnia and Chrysanthemum in October - Ink, Watercolor, Pencil
McKenna Garden, October - Ink, Watercolor, Pencil

October Color - Ink, Watercolor, Pencil
{Ever since Levi and I started more formal nature study this summer, I've been inspired by the natural elements we see, study and collect during our walks and adventures. To model, I began little sketches of these beautiful, delicate elements in my nature journal, but soon found it more fun and inspiring to arrange them in pleasing compositions to draw/paint as finished pieces. I've really enjoyed these exercises in beauty hunting, arranging and careful observation. In fact, at the moment, I might be rather obsessed and I'm eager to see where this series leads me. And now, I have a whole bunch of freshly picked flowers to attend to.} :) 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sea Kettle School: Pre-School, Levi (Age 3)

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.
-Charlotte Mason

This year we are doing some light preschool activities at home, mostly Charlotte Mason inspired (nature study! living books! narration!).  Levi is just 3 and his main "job" is play, but we are trying to be somewhat intentional about our days; the books we read and the toys and games we play, the habits we are forming. Our aim is to provide him early on with "a feast" of the great ideas, literature, art and music and to foster an insatiable curiosity and love of learning. We don't do every subject every day, and our schedule varies, but here are some of the intentional educational activities we are engaged in these days. 

Most mornings, we wake up and sit at the breakfast table together. Levi enjoys listening to his audio Bible stories, one is The Beginner's Bible and one is a The Bible in Living Sound. He will often pause the tape or cd and ask me or Brian questions about the stories or ask big questions (which I often stumble through answering!). Some mornings I will play hymns (I have a bunch of Spotify playlists) or his Bible memory cds (Steve Green's "Hide Em In Your Heart"). We pray together, I usually start and he will finish with some things he is thankful for. We are excited to start reading through "Little Visits with God" as soon as it comes in the mail. :)
We are working through a list of books for pre-schoolers inspired by Charlotte Mason's philosophy from Ambleside Online (year 0). We own many of these already, but take a weekly trip to the library to borrow others. Some of our current favorites include Mother Goose, A Child's Garden of Verses, The World Treasury of Children's Literature and any book by Beatrix Potter, Barbara Cooney or Robert McCloskey. I will often ask Levi to tell us what happened in the story or draw something that happened in the story- our little beginnings of narrationLevi and Brian read together before bed at night and are reading their first chapter books together. 
For Math we talk about numbers throughout the day as we do our daily tasks. We count, add and subtract as we cook, walk, work, read and play. 
For Science, we work on nature study at least once a week, depending on the week/season. Every Friday we are scheduled to meet with another homeschooling family to go on a nature walk and draw/make observations in our nature journals.  Levi usually does some leaf/bark rubbings and a drawing or two. I write down what he notices about the objects he finds. We also collect things to put on our seasonal nature table. Our current collection includes shells, rocks, pinecones, colored leaves, seed pods and wildflowers.  My parents got Levi a subscription to National Geographic for Kids, so we also read through our monthly issue of that. 
We listen to it, sing it, play it, dance to it.  I play music all day in the background; classical, folk, jazz, rock..whatever! Papa also starts random jam sessions throughout the week and there are a plethora of instruments around the house to play. Levi loves the songs collected by our friend on her amazing treasure-of-a-website, The Little Songster .  These folk songs are so much fun to sing, and Levi's favorites are the "tickle" ones. We also go to a weekly music/story time at our local museum.

Levi has a box of art supplies that he uses for his art projects. Drawing, Painting, Play-doh, lacing cards etc. We spend a lot of time at the Peabody Essex Museum, especially enjoying their excellent special exhibits, maker lounge and expansive children's area. Levi also has free reign over Mrs. James' art bookshelf. :)

We are taking Levi's education a year at a time, but for the time being, home education seems to be a nice and natural fit.