Friday, October 16, 2015

Find Out Fridays

Life is so interesting -- so many things to explore, learn, and wonder about.  We ask so many great questions, but so rarely go find enough answers.  So we're doing something about it.  We've instituted Find Out Fridays.  All week we're trying to jot down some of these questions, and then on Friday, tracking down some answers.  Right now, I'll be honest, it's a lot of internet searching.  My goal is to integrate more ways to "find out" about our questions -- our book shelves, the library, experiments, videos, field trips, talking with people, who knows what else!  But, I don't need to make the process more cumbersome.  The point is to answer some of our questions, in whatever way that naturally happens.

As you can see, our questions can really cover some ground. 

We found out some very cool stuff about chickens and egg-laying.  Here's my favorite.
(One of my favorite facts: the distinctive shape of the egg mirrors the shape of the bird's uterus.)

Sadly, yes -- Dr. Mary Edwards Walker really is the only woman ever awarded the Medal of Honor.  She was such an interesting person -- I strongly recommend getting to know her story!  Jim Weiss includes her in his Women in Blue or Gray: True Stories from Both Sides of the American Civil War.

And, Fleetwood Mac.  Well, that turned out to be very complicated.  I'll let you decide whether to Google that one for yourself.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Harry Potter Project Continues

 When one of the kids wanted to "make t-shirts" I said, "What do you mean?  Make how?"  Oh!  You want to make things ON a t-shirt!  "Did you find some instructions?"

"No.  I just want to do it."

Got it.  I know just the person to go to -- Amy of Amy Hood Arts!  Her tutorial is terrific!  Quick trips to the supermarket for freezer paper, the craft store for fabric paint and X-acto knives, and we were on our way!

At twelve, the oldest kids could do every step by themselves.
At ten, just a little support with the cutting out.

At six, Linus designed it, I sketched (got the go-ahead) and cut, he ironed and painted.

This project is too good -- we took it on the road!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Harry Potter Summer: Group PBH*

Early in summer we planned to have a couple friends over.  THEY love Harry Potter.  WE love Harry Potter.  "Should we maybe do a couple Harry Potter crafts?" I asked their mom.  So, I pinned a few ideas and said, "Have your girls take a look and see if they like any of these."  Fine, good, they "like" a few, my kids and I go out on a Sunday evening and gather all the supplies (plus yarn in all the house colors -- just in case...)

Sunday night: kids go to sleep, I try to go to sleep but suddenly panic, "What if they don't really want to do the projects, and they were just being polite, and we are all TOTALLY PSYCHED here?!  Oh dear.  What have I set up?"  Fret, fret, fret.

Monday morning.  Our friends arrive.  I play it COOL.  One friend immediately asks Sela, "Do you have the Harry Potter station programmed into Pandora?"  The other friend is wearing her Harry Potter earrings.  We're GOOD.

What started out as "Harry Potter Week" became "Harry Potter Summer."  The kids (and I) took advantage of the time available and our shared interest and completely submerged into JK Rowling's magical world.  One project lead to another and another.  Many of the projects were so thoroughly explored that they lasted for days and sometimes weeks.  They worked together to decide what they wanted to do next.  They inspired each other and learned from each other.  They shared ideas and resources.  It was a true joy to watch and to be a part of.

They learned new skills and cultivated them through repeated practice.  I'm pretty sure they didn't see it this way -- they were just having fun.  The works they created stunned me.

tip of the iceberg

Two of the projects the group wanted to do involved lettering.  And when I realized I would need to be pretty involved in supporting Linus's choices, I noticed I was feeling pretty squirmy about it.  But, (of course), I set to work with him.  Between the canvas quotes and and village signs, I had to roll up my sleeves and get messy (figuratively speaking).  It was so interesting to notice just how anxious I felt at the thought of "lettering." (I mean -- people were going to SEE that I am not an expert.  My shabby work will be just *out there* for everyone to *see*.)  And then to work through it.  And then to discover it wasn't as difficult as I had made it out to be (for yeeeeeaaaarrrrrrs, apparently).  By digging in to the process, I learned so much about learning -- mine and the kids'.

I functioned as the word processor only - never underestimate kids' abilities

I didn't do the projects they did -- I was the support team for four industrious kids.  But, as I have a hard time getting to my bigger projects, I'm content to putter-craft while kids finish meals, when I need a creativity fix, and, you know, while we play Harry Potter word association at mealtimes.  While I already know how to cross-stitch and had stitched up a handful of HP projects ahead of time, I did learn to make (house-color) pom-poms, a house scarf bookmark on plastic canvas, and how to weave a pouch any Gryffindor would be proud to carry her Knuts, Sickles, and Galleons around in.

We shared our favorite parody videos - Dark Lord Funk and Before We Say Goodbye.  They shared this one with us.  They introduced us to Harry Potter Clue.

We're planning to reconvene for our Harry Potter Ornament Making meetings.  I can't wait.

*For more on Group Project-Based Homeschooling, go straight to the source!  Lori has a book, tip sheets, master classes, a blog, and a Facebook group.  She's a wealth of information, ideas, and support -- an invaluable resource, not just for homeschooling families, but for any family.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hosting a Co-Op Class

The old "20% of the people do 80% of the work" paradigm can be a drag.  But, I find that as one of the "workers," I guess it doesn't get me down so much.  It just puzzles me.

When our homeschool group was doing a little rethinking and restructuring, we tried to tackle this issue.  I volunteered to put together a tip sheet to address questions and concerns that members might have about organizing a group activity.  (Of course, I did.)  I came up with a kicky little document with a Pollyanna smile splashed all over it.  I'm sure it didn't help.  But it illuminated my point of view on it (to me and to everyone else, I'm sure).

There are so many things I want to do with my kids.  So many things I want to share with them.  Many things that I think are important to learn.  But how exactly am I going to get to all this?  Or even the better part of it?

I wanted to do more geography this year.  And I was thrilled when a friend said that she and her kids would be in for it, too!  THE BUDDY SYSTEM.  The granddaddy of motivational tools.  With my friend's "we're in," I've locked myself into getting this done.  It won't fall down the priority list, or off the weekly agenda.  I'll do my homework on this because there are dates and times on the calendar.  

We've only met twice so far, and I am loving it.  We've sewn land and water form cubes (hello, I've had the materials prepped for this for a year and a half).  We've started a world map lap quilt.  We've made continent cookies, learned a continent song, watched videos, learned about plate techtonics, superoceans and supercontinents, and I can finally remember that the Earth is 35 billion years old.

From where I'm standing, doing "the work" is the easy way out of the problem!

(Did I mention that I've also finally ordered a globe as a result?  Not a globe pencil sharpener.  Not a globe ball.  But a globe-sized globe.  Watch me go...)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Camping Hacks: The Results are In

I hate packing.  I'll do pretty much anything to avoid it.
No matter how much I'm looking forward to the trip.

Procrastination: check
House cleaning: check
Highly organized master checklists creation: check



Fire starters - Highly recommend
Easy for kids to make, low prep (save the tubes & lint), easy to pack, effective

Stuff dryer lint into empty cardboard tubes, insert birthday candle.

Spice straws - Highly recommend
Easy to prep (not so much for kids), great size for packing

Use striker/match to melt one end of a straw, pour in spice, melt the other end.

Teeccino bags - Highly recommend
Easy to make, low prep, easy to pack, fast & tidy use, effective -- use two filters next time.
Even mint dental floss wasn't a problem!

Scoop teeccino, coffee substitute, coffee, loose leaf tea, what have you, into doubled coffee filters, tie with dental floss.

Toothpaste dots (not pictured) - interesting to try, but not worth the effort.  To be fair, they were recommended for backpacking, with, I think, the intention being to chew & swallow them.  Easier to pack a tiny tube of toothpaste.

In case you'd like to try them for yourself: squeeze dots of toothpaste onto tray, sprinkle with baking soda, and let dry.

How will I procrastinate next time?!  Please share your camping hacks.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Amigo Summer

Some summers what we really, really need is a break.  I'm sure I've written about this before.  It's a high ranking need.  Quiet repose in our comfy cocoon.  Time to putter and dip into things we don't get to during the rest of the year.  More time to sit.  More time to be still.  More time to notice more.

This was our June.  And it was lovely.

I knew that July would be an uptick in the rhythm.  And then August we would downshift again.

We finished July -- my heart racing a bit at the pace.  Not that I'm unaccustomed to this, though I am changing, changing my ways all the time.  But what I realized in taking stock of summer (as I always do), is that we'd lose the fast pacing, but keep all the extra time we've had with friends this go-round.

It's been the right summer to soak up friends.  Friends we see all year, friends we don't see often, friends we've never met in person!  Fun with friends.  Friends in the back yard with chickens.  Friends in the front yard with the sprinkler and ice cream cones.  Road trip friends.  Picnicking friends.  Friends in living rooms in elaborate games of make-believe.  Friends at dining room tables and craft stores.  Friends downtown.  Friends around campfires and with banana slugs.  Friends on hikes.  Friends on boats, in lakes, and in pools.  Friends in sleeping bags.  Friends with popcorn and movies.

A pretty fine set of arrangements I've finagled, I'd say.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Shel & Poetry Teatime: Perfect!


How many slams in an old screen door?
     Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread?
     Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day?
     Depends how good you live 'em.
How much love inside a friend?
     Depends how much you give 'em.


I've made me a moon-catchin' net,
And I'm goin' huntin' tonight,
I'll run along swingin' it over my head,
And grab for that big ball of light.

So tomorrow just look at the sky,
And if there's no moon you can bet
I've found what I sought and I finally caught
The moon in my moon-catchin' net.

But if the moon's still shinin' there,
Look close underneath and you'll get
A clear look at me in the sky swingin' free
With a star in my moon-catchin' net.

And for the learnin' bit...

If we meet and I say, "Hi,"
That's a salutation.
If you ask me how I feel,
That's consideration.
If we stop and talk awhile,
That's a conversation.
If we understand each other,
That's communication.
If we argue, scream, and fight,
That's an altercation.
If later we apologize,
That's reconciliation.
If we help each other home,
That's cooperation.
And all these ations added up 
Make civilization.

(And if I say this is a wonderful poem,
Is that exaggeration?)

This one's going up on the kitchen chalkboard...


Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-grumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
'Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.

Aaaaand, this:


Here comes summer,
Here comes summer,
Chirping robin, budding rose.
Here comes summer,
Here comes summer,
Gentle showers, summer clothes,
Here comes summer,
Here comes summer --
Whoosh--shiver--there is goes.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Well it ain't much...

but we call it home.  Or, "tent," or "tipi," or... something. 

 It's that time of year, when schedules relax and days open out ahead of us.  

So, we grabbed the bamboo poles we picked up at the garden center two summers ago (still "tied" together from our last go), spread a blanket under and wrapped a temporary cloth around our frame (a safety pin works fine!).  Perfect reading, snacking, drawing, chatting spot!  We like to set up nearest the plum tree (yum) and the gardenias (mmmm).

And did I say "temporary"?  Three summers may or may not be "temporary."  No matter.  We're not going for perfect, we're going for doing it. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

So Many Ways to Tell a Story

Ruffles aren't really my signature style, but I have to admit, it is pretty satisfying to sew a ruffle once in a while.  This project really called for it, and I'm so glad to be extracting it from the UFO basket.  Inspired by a project in Sewing Bits & Pieces (which describes my whole fabric stash, I think!), I designed it as a Story Quilt.  My idea was to use it as a cuddly way to tell stories together, using the graphics in the appliques as prompts.  Well, and to use only fabrics I already had -- which, in hindsight, is not at all remarkable, considering...  The one note about that, I guess, is that I discovered I had nothing neutral for the background and so repurposed a curtain from our first house.  And this makes me smile quite a bit, thinking of waking with the sun streaming though, snuggled up with my first little one.  (It's this kind of sentimentality that has me drowning in all of our Stuff lately, but that's another matter entirely.)

Originally shown as a doll bed quilt, I can see how perfect that would be!  But, I enlarged it, added a batting layer because the white curtain was so thin, and chose applique fabrics that were good for storytelling but probably not as visually appealing for a doll quilt.  Or, maybe they would be?

In any case, it's been a fun project, encouraging me to practice some rusty skills and learn new ones.  This morning while everyone slept, I treated myself to a YouTube tutorial of the ladder stitch -- a brush-up I needed.

It isn't quite finished.  I still need to quilt around the story circles.  I learned to do this a few weekends back while "watching" a movie with the kids I've easily seen eight times.  But this project has now been transferred to the hand-sewing basket, which makes it much easier to plunk away at.  And it feels so good to work with on my lap -- such nice weight and coziness.  And, there's no reason the storytelling can't begin whilst I quilt it!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} traditions

we went from this --
to beautifully be-tissued papered --
to exploding in the front yard
with goodies

     "Why don't you just go buy a pinata?"
     "Because as we worked on it today, both kids talked about this being their favorite part of our birthday parties."

     We've been making our pinatas for a long time now.  The first time we did it, there were just two of us working on it.  And we had pre-made pinata forms for all of our guests to decorate at the party and take home.  Wow -- I had forgotten that.  That was fun!  We might need to do that again this summer, if Linus is interested!

Another party in the books for our little family.  Another year marked.  Going to bed tired, contented, and fairly amazed at how big these children have grown.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

I Heart Games

Honestly, I heart a lot of things.  All my friends know that I'm no minimalist.  And our game corner certainly reflects this fact!  Christmas brought some fun new additions, and as game-presents under the tree multiplied, Misa shared a cool challenge from BoardGameGeek that I'm excited to be trying.  I think she referred to it as the 10 in 10 Challenge -- the idea is that you play ten games ten times each in 2015.

Battlesheep by Blue Orange
I had planned to share this in January...  BUT, if you love games, or your kids love games but you don't, or you want to be sure game-playing doesn't get pushed out of the week, or you want to encourage game-playing, or or or -- it's not too late to jump on board (heh -- no pun intended there)!

As an added bonus, the challenge has encouraged me to pull out all of our games and look at the ones that we never (ever) play.  I piled them up, and we're playing through them and giving each a thumbs up or down.  And even if it's a thumbs down, we got a play in!  We gave it a fair shake, shared an experience, and reviewed it together.


I'd say more, but when Linus saw what I was writing about he asked to play a game!  Gotta go!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} Double-take

golden egg

Linus and I have seen lots of eggs.  We've seen a lot of the inside of the chicken coop.  But we had never seen the two together.  And we hadn't expected to yesterday!

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{celebrating dailiness} Baking Day

I'm much more a baker than a cook.
Five batches of dough in the fridge
on a Friday is a Good Day.

As Sela has gotten older, our homeschooling has changed in a way that I guess I hadn't quite thought about.  We spend more time than we used to working with a couple formal curricula.  Having a second child who is much younger (and naturally quite different) adds a wrinkle to what and how I want to accomplish goals for learning.  I'm currently working a few things to tweak our system -- I haven't been pleased with the balance of all things lately.

But, on Fridays, we change things up from the rest of the week.  We try our best to stay home all day, and we approach the academic work we're doing from a different angle.  Today was funny math videos and the beginnings of a multi-volume illustrated and artistically-lettered poetry anthology.  (Sela is finding all the poetry in allllllll the notebooks she's written it in, categorizing it, and putting it in one place.)

And for me, there was cookie making.  A LOT of cookie making.  (I volunteered to donate a dessert for a team fundraiser.)  Something for everyone, I hope!  Some with nuts, some with chocolate.  There were candy bits, there was jam, there was filling.  Three were family favorites, two were new. (Only one of the recipes is online -- mooncakes -- a definite recommend!)

Joining Amanda (@hello_alm) for #celebratingdailiness
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Thursday, January 29, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} Milestones

it's surprisingly hard
to get a picture of a chicken

file that under: Who Knew?

Jack is learning to cluck!  She generally sounds like a goose or Topper, but recently she's startled us & sent us running to the backdoor when we heard distinct clucking!  She looks so pleased with herself -- once she starts, she really gets on a roll.  And I'm pretty sure, when she finished today, she strutted right by big Brown with a devil-may-care why-would-i-flinch attitude.

I guess it makes sense.  They aren't born clucking.  It's a bit like watching a child's voice change.  Yet another interesting thing I did not know (or think) about chickens.

Speaking of chickens (why, yes, I was speaking of chickens again), here are some of my favorite books about raising chickens:

Chick Days by Woginrich
My Pet Chicken Handbook by Lucas & Torres
Chicken Coops - Pangman

For kicks:
Extraordinary Chickens by Green-Armytage
Fowl Play by Merrill

(And my favorite chicken book title: A Chicken in Every Backyard by Litt & Litt)

Joining Amanda (@hello_alm) for #celebratingdailiness
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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} a day


there was math and flute practice and writing, and no history because the history book has gone missing.  a crockpot dinner, apple pie-making with a little boy, and Grandma Ruth's extra pie crust treat with the extras.  and no rushing, and no urgency.  pooh bear and legos and harry potter, and knitting and a day outside with our lonely and nervous chicken friend.  it was home.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Meg & Jack

I'm not "an animal person."  Translate: I never wanted a pet when I was a kid.  I didn't understand why my parents and brother seemed to be perpetually fussing around various dogs, birds, and hamster-y things.  I don't approach dogs and ask their people questions about them.  

I don't really know how to do a lot of The Things people do with pets.  So having animals for the first time meant asking a lot of questions.  (Reading a few books.)

It means, too, I guess, that I don't really think it's that weird that our chickens live in the house with us part time.  And it means I spent the weekend skinless and in tears because we had to take our rooster, Meg, to go live on a farm today (no, really, I delivered him myself) because we aren't allowed to have roosters in the city.

Or, does this make me "an animal person"?

Friday, January 9, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} my little plot

quality time

The chicken coop needed moving,  the patio needed -- eh-herm -- washing, and because the weather was so mild and the air so fresh, I decided to stay outside and do more.  A nice start on garden prep.  Some good quality time with our chicken friends.  A little work on the neglected compost bin -- we've got some black gold happening in there!  Lunch outside, plant explorations, and reading for the kids.

Three pairs of boots, three pairs of gloves, THREE CONTENTED HEARTS.  Well, I think maybe 5 actually.

Joining Amanda (@hello_alm) for #celebratingdailiness
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Thursday, January 8, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} Afternoon

library time

This afternoon's agenda:  
   * enjoy our "alone time" while big sis was busy
   * get to know our new (& a little intimidating) game as a duo, rather than a trio
   * check out some dinosaur books
   * chat with our favorite librarian
   * & last but definitely not least, see if we could find any Pooh audio books, 
        as requested

Joining Amanda (@hello_alm) for #celebratingdailiness
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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} Home

Just where I left you, old friends <3

Joining Amanda (@hello_alm) for #celebratingdailiness
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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} Back to Work

 table for 3

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Monday, January 5, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} Meetup

 across the table

A favorite restaurant,
a meal for four.
Smiles & catching up after
we all ventured back out into the world today.

Joining Amanda (@hello_alm) for #celebratingdailiness
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Sunday, January 4, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} Still Life

It's the comforts of home, the stillness of a moment,
the random arrangement of objects that have special meaning, 
that briefly catch my eye before heading into the fray.
They give me pause & I celebrate dailiness with a contented smile.

Joining Amanda (@hello_alm) in #celebratingdailiness
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Saturday, January 3, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} Project Space

transferring thread from
my grandmother's sewing box --
lovely & full of memories,
but a jumble & out of reach --
to my new organizer,
a present from my daughter.
in fall fabrics were sorted & supplies were tidied.
grandma's box will be just right for something else
& my project space
is an invitation.

Joining Amanda (@hello_alm) for #celebratingdailiness
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Friday, January 2, 2015

{celebrating dailiness} Warmth

When my mom was here for Christmas,
I admired her new boots.
After she had gone I found that she
had left them neatly beside her bed for me.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Celebrating Dailiness

The end of a year and the beginning of a new one naturally calls us to reflect.  The calm meandering of my day today allowed me to come in and out of thoughts about, well, my daily life.

I drifted to and away from my desk all morning -- peeking at blogs, perusing my long-neglected Pinterest boards, reading articles I had saved.  Combined with thoughts about last year and half-formed "plans" for this year, I started to feel... overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed by ideas, overwhelmed by the simple beauty around me.  By the chores.  By the dreams.  By the realities, by the possibilities.

Where to start?  Where to go?  By what means?

I took a step back.  Let it all sit awhile.  And what rose to the surface was Amanda's most recent post on her blog, The Habit of Being.  She'll be #celebratingdailiness on Instagram.  And while I know that I shouldn't add in another place to be, I'm drawn to the practice of lingering on the beauty of my dailiness.

It used to be easier to notice, to stop, to linger.  I spent more time appreciating and celebrating the ordinary.  But the pace has picked up too much.  Time to switch gears, decelerate.

So, I'll be celebrating my dailiness here everyday in January (to start to rebuild my habit) and probably off and on after that.  Amanda will be on Instagram.  If you're up for celebrating, too, I'd enjoy that very much!

making a bed

File It Under: Where to Find This Next Winter

It's a good, good life.  It's a wonderful life.  It's also become a life where I'm generally two steps behind!  Ah well.  I can work with that, I suppose.  (I'm loaded with tricks.)

Our local art museum features a monthly Crafternoon for families.  It's exceedingly well done -- three craft projects that are interesting to do AND to have around the house afterwards, as well as being manageable for little ones and also engaging for adults.  It's very inexpensive, and, honestly, gathering the supplies for and executing three projects at home would cost more on my own (and I really love crafting with my kids!).  December's projects were beaded snowflakes, felt wreaths, and paper ornaments.  I had just a minute to learn to make the ornament, but I was so captivated by it that I made myself a tutorial for next year!

 Fold an origami square in half diagonally.

 Fold it in half again, forming a triangle.

 Hold the triangle so that the bottom edge could open.

 With the triangle closed flat,
make at least three cuts.
DO NOT cut all the way across.
Try to leave the same margin at edge for each cut.

 When you open your paper, 
it should look like this.

 Using double-stick tape,
roll in the innermost two flaps.
Because it's tiny, I use a pencil or the scissor tips
to help me make them stick together.

Repeat with the second set of flaps.


 Turn it over again. 
Repeat until all flaps are matched with corresponding flaps.

 Punch a hole & string it.
Beautiful for hanging in arrangements in windows.
Sela experimented with making more cuts.

 I experimented with making a star.
I cut two pieces of origami paper into 4 squares each.
(You need only 6 of the squares.)
I made 6 ornaments, 
and using double-stick tape at the bottom tips
put together two sets of 3.

With more double-stick tape,
I combined the two sets.

This one is small enough to hang 
with the Christmas cards or from the mantle.
Sela made one with regular origami paper
that is large and looks beautiful hanging in the window.
They have an wondrous way of feeling as though
they bring in light.
So lovely in these winter months!

(Happy Winter, You, and Merry Christmas 2015, Me!)