Wednesday, December 30, 2009

big boy bike

Originally uploaded by ellajohn
Santa Claus brought John a green bicycle.

Monday, December 28, 2009

snow and clouds

snow and clouds, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

This is the view from the living room of the house we stayed in for Christmas weekend. How magical to have snow on Christmas. I drove up on thursday not thinking that the Blue Ridge Parkway would be snowed in. I got off of 81 in picturesque Raphine, Virginia and started heading up the Tye River Parkway. Vesuvius, Virginia was quaint with it's vintage christmas decorations. Up we went to see a crowd of people at the parkway entrance with coolers and cross country skis. I turned around having absolutely no idea how to get to Wintergreen. I called for directions and then imagined myself spiraling around the state, 81 to 64 to Charlottesville to 29. I reached the top of Wintergreen before nighfall, the view so impressive that the children were a bit afraid. Once in the house they were happy to explore all the rooms and choose their bunkbeds. Ella was enthralled with the deep blue and purple room with snowflakes, snowflake flannel sheets, pink christmas lights, and a tinsel christmas tree.

The kids loved tubing in the snowpark and snowshoeing around the house, and of course, their grandmother's cookies.

christmas weekend

christmas weekend, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

ella miranda

ella miranda, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


sugaree, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


snow, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


snowruby, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


snowchildren, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

These three say that walking on top of the snow proves that they are truly elves.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

all wrapped up

all wrapped up, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

I just finished Ruby's silk and flannel blanket and her matroyshka doll. Most of the presents are wrapped, and I mailed my cards today. We are leaving in the morning to spend the weekend with John's family, and I'm packing holiday treats, a Rustichella d'Abruzzo panettone, prosecco, organic tangelos, and nuts in the shell. I'm taking salads and ingredients for some vegetarian main dishes. I went to the famer's market today, and I'm going to bake an apple pie in the morning.

John and I ran some errands today, and I experienced a christmas miracle. The last pair of snowpants in the New River Valley were chocolate brown and size 10/12. The girls and I arrived home in the dark and the boys had started a fire in the front yard and were looking at the moon through the telescope. The children planned our christmas eve eve feast for tonight. Grilled cheese sandwiches, mashed potatoes with rosemary and butter, and spinach salad with goat cheese, almonds, red onions, oranges, and raspberry hazelnut dressing. There were gingerbread men for dessert.

We'll be over the river and through the woods until sunday.

sally and daddy

sally and daddy, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

My father's funeral was twelve years ago today. It seems like just yesterday. Here we are when I was eighteen months old, the age Ruby is now.

berries and snow

berries and snow, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

After three full days without leaving the driveway we ventured out to play with friends. They had an two igloos and snow tunnels in their yard, and the children sledded in their woods. The children were so happy that they sobbed when we had to leave.


igloo, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


snow, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

mia and ella in the igloo

mia and ella in the igloo, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

shadowlake sledding

shadowlake sledding, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

shadowlake sledding

shadowlake sledding, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

solstice fire

solstice fire, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

solstice party crafting

solstice party crafting, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


solstice, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

We had friends large and small, a feast, and a fire to celebrate the solstice. There was hot apple cider, homemade mead, a wedding, fast sledding, and a snowman.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

from snow cream to felted hedgehogs

mamaruby, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

What a fun weekend when we can't get in the car and drive anywhere. John has been the king of snowpants all weekend. He has been fearless on the the sled.

We made snowcream twice, and John said that he had eaten a cloud.

Today we made split pea soup with yukon gold potatoes and a whole wheat irish soda bread, the perfect dinner for a cold snowy night and tired bodies. Ruby sat on a stool outside of the oven watched the bread bake.

I finished one of my down to the wire christmas projects, a felted scarf, and although it was beautiful before it was felted, it now looks like a big long stuffed animal. I was planning on needle felting celtic spirals on the ends, but now I'm thinking of making some felted hedgehogs out of it in the new year. It fuzzed more than it felted. I'll start a new scarf next week.

I still have a blanket to stitch and a matroyshka doll for Ruby. Two waldorf dolls are in the works for John and Ruby, but they might not be under the tree on Christmas morning. Perhaps they will be tucked in their beds for Epiphany.

john and mama sledding

john and mama sledding, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


sledding, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

snow day

snow day, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


john, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


snowruby, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Here we are in the midst of a monster snowstorm the likes of which haven't been seen here in many a year. The national weather service is talking about a band of thundersnow coming up from North Carolina, and as long as the power holds, I'm absolutely thrilled. If the power goes out and we start to freeze I suppose we could walk to Kate and Bob's. Our next house has to have a woodstove.

So, we are supposedly prepared. I made two trips to the grocery store and one to the natural food store. Because it is Christmas I thought being snowed in should at least be extra special, so I stopped for raisins, soy chorizo, and organic leeks. I've got potatoes, the requisite milk, eggs, and bread, cheddar, chutney, butter, a veritable vegetarian pleasure dome.

I don't have whole cloves. I got oranges to make pomanders, and I have half a bottle of dusty old cloves. How much time can two kids spend outside in more than a foot of snow? Our boots aren't that tall. I have a big bag of cinnamon sticks to thread onto yarn for a garland, and there is popcorn to string.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


john, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

tis the season

Ella woke up this morning lovingly holding a big grey ball of yarn and two knitting needles. She has been crafting like a demon this week. Over the weekend she turned our one full bath into a pottery studio with the wheel on the bathroom counter. Tonight she had to pause for homework to make a native american diorama, but she was begging to get up after the other children fell asleep to paint her pottery.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

the family tree

the family tree, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

This christmas tree is now in our living room. We woke to an ice storm but by afternoon everything was melted and we went out to claim our tree.

Ella served the coffee this morning wearing her candle wreath. We had blueberry cardamom challah by candlelight on a dark sparkly morning.

rage on John Donne

'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I made my own laundry detergent

We recently made our own laundry detergent with a kit from Rabbit Hill Farm, a fresh clean five gallon bucket, grated soap, borax, and washing soda. Here is a recipe if you want to try this at home. Our original kit contained shaved fels naptha, a laundry soap made by Dial, and I was wondering if I could use a completely plant based soap. Yes. Kirk's Castile Soap is available in a bar form, some people are using their own homemade soaps, and I'm going to try some Dr Bronner's for my next batch. That is, if I ever run out of my five gallon bucket. We use 1/3 cup per load. You can add essential oils to your homemade detergent. Our laundry is lavender. We can feel good about what is touching our skin, what is going down the drain, and we won't be continually buying detergent in a plastic container.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

winter walk

winter walk, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


ruby, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

ella's letter to santa

ella's letter to santa, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


Here is John's letter to Santa as written by Ella.

I've been trying to be
good. This is what
I wunt.

1. a spy kit
2. a robot
3. a head walky-talky
4. a flying skateboard

4 years old John

Saturday, December 05, 2009

santa's helper

santa's helper
Originally uploaded by ellajohn

snow for saint nicholas

crocheting, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

We awoke to the first snow this morning. We headed out on the slippery interstate to take John to the stage show of Sesame Street. He was one starstruck four year old.

This afternoon I drove over to the Christmas tree farm for my last day of wreath making, and I'm driving a carload of them across the state tomorrow. It was cold and wet, but there was a pot of hot spiced cider, and the children were enjoying sledding. The farmers were packing up a hundred organic trees for a long drive to Florida tonight. My children played in our yard, and then their daddy let them drink hot chocolate in the bathtub.

I just lined the children's brown boots up on the steps and tucked in some St Nicholas treats. Ruby gets a wooden egg shaker, John and Ella both get crinkle cut Montessori child safe knives for cutting fruits and vegetables, and Ella will find a special purple beaded peace necklace in the toe of her boot. She has been feeling a little put out by the younger children lately. Hopefully finding a chocolate santa in her shoe will bring good cheer in the morning.

my gnome

my gnome, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Friday, December 04, 2009

the big parade

Little John was so excited at the Smalltown christmas parade tonight that he actually squealed in anticipation during the middle of the parade. They had all of his favorites. Bands, firetrucks, dogs, horses, and Santa Claus. Daddy was happy to be at yet another Tuba Christmas, and I was particularly thrilled by our new timberframe farmer's market. Finally the market is more important than parking spaces.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


ruby, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Here is Miss Ruby in the garden where we got married.

One To Grow On

Do you need a new blog to read? My friend Chrislyn is taking her children around the world in more than eighty days while her husband is in Iraq. She says, "Well, I guess it was my idea. The trip part, anyway. Although I can’t take credit for the whole war in Iraq, thank heavens. Who am I? Well, the easy answers are a wife, a mom, a reader, someone who loves to go, a real fan of my cat, Phoebe. I’m a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a member of a great food coop and a cool homeschool group, and a cook of all things beany. I’m an Army wife, part of a strong network of women who really know and owner of an address book crammed packed with great friends and neighbors from 7 postings in 9 years of marriage. At the end of the day I’m the one who, when learning that her husband was leaving for 12 more months in Iraq, said, Huh. Well, kids, pack your bags."

They have camped their way down the west coast of the United States, flown to London, spent some time in Japan, and are now in Auckland, New Zealand. They are going to Southeast Asia, Nepal, Tibet, India, and Beijing, and then back to London for some backpacking around Europe.

This is putting a whole new spin on homeschooling. Roadschooling. It sounds amazing and wonderful.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

baby owl's house is in the holiday spirit

There is a lovely little giveaway going on over at Garden Mama. She has opened a shop so take a peek in there. I'm coveting her mildweed pods. If you are still looking for some holiday inspiration for children take a peek at the good things from Imagine Childhood.

We are putting up our advent stockings this afternoon, and I'm furiously crocheting a snowflakey scarflet for Miss Ella. John has a new green gnome hat, and by morning he'll have a white wool felt beard to go along with it. Apparently, he is wearing it to school tomorrow.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

mister cow

mister cow, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

john and his bird

john and his bird, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Here is my little brother sweating over his bird. He brined it, draped it in pork fat, and smoked it. He wore overalls and did it beside his red barn with seven hound dogs barking at him. The turkey was a local, organic Bourbon Red, and it was absolutely the best turkey I've ever eaten. We also had some glazed tomatoes, irish rolls, cornbread and pecan dressing, wild mushroom gravy, roasted root vegetable mash, broccoli, corn pudding, cranberry sauce, and a spiced apple cake with caramel frosting.

I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. My brother and his wife do a nice job of it, keeping it low key and infusing it with a lot of good humor.

I am thankful.

thanksgiving 2009

thanksgiving 2009, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

ella miranda

ella miranda, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

all smiles

all smiles, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

the king of thanksgiving

the king of thanksgiving, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

hide and seek

hide and seek, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

out in the trees

out in the trees, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

We spent the afternoon at the christmas tree farm making wreaths for a school fundraiser. It is so beautiful out there in the country. Up on the hill among the trees, the landscape looks like a giant bowl. The kids loved being outside with friends and dogs. The drive out there is beautiful as well, rocky outcroppings along winding country roads and fields of cows and sheep.

There is a very old huge farmhouse for rent right down the road.

miss ruby, aspiring country girl

miss ruby, aspiring country girl, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

wreath making

wreath making, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Monday, November 23, 2009

santa has been working

santa has been working, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

This sweet little stroller is from Nova Naturals Toys and Crafts, It is for Ruby, but John is going to have his eye on this one as well. There should be three handmade dolls in there by Christmas morning.

We went out shopping this afternoon. John got some "dress ups" for Thanksgiving dinner a few days ago, and then Ella was jealous. We found her a great back dress, and Ruby got a red corduroy jumper. They are all looking forward to playing outside at Uncle John's and then dressing up for dinner. I'm just hoping for the one elusive photograph for our Christmas card.

John saw Santa today at the mall. Ella hid in some plastic trees while John climbed up on the sofa to wave into the Santaland. Santa of course waved back and John was on cloud nine. He is certainly a true believer. Ella believes in Santa Claus exactly the way she believes in Harry Potter and all things magical, but I have a feeling that this will be her last year.

Miko Floral Dress at

little kimono

Have you seen the little kimono dresses in a catalog called Tea. I've never ordered from them, but I've gotten a few catalogs in the mail, and I love everything about their clothes for boys and girls, the soft simple girl's kimono dresses, the indigo japanese prints, the robot motifs, and the Mt. Fuji graphics. The cover of their holiday collection features a girl holding a simple fabric wrapped bundle, and the inside cover says, " We love the traditional Japanese practice of furoshiki--the artful wrapping of specia gifts in large, beautiful swaths of cloth. This holiday eason, we're honored to share our Shinto Traditions collection, inspired by our visits to Japan. and to wrap things up in style, we're also introducing our own distinctive furoshiki gift wrapping."

I want to wrap gifts this way. The gift wrap from Tea contains a card suggesting ways to reuse your furoshiki.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

speedy weekend

The whole thing flew by in a blur of plates of scrambled eggs, errands, the gym, balls of wool, late night internet shopping, food on the floor and fussing children.

For the record, I've finished my Christmas shopping, but I'm in the middle of seven crafty works in progress.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

teeny tiny twangy

teeny tiny twangy, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

glen alton

field, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

We headed out this morning with a picnic and a blanket for a walk in the woods and fields of Glen Alton in the Jefferson National Forest. The November sun had a definite slant at noon, but it was a warm gorgeous day.

Next we visited a local Christmas tree farm to learn to make wreaths for a school fundraiser. I didn't bring out my camera because I thought we'd be too busy, but we ended up hiking the fields and reserving our own tree. John had a hard time choosing a Christmas tree. He said he'd need one with a wide "underneath" to hold all of his presents. Then he didn't understand why we had to leave it in the field for a few more weeks.


cartwheel, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

blue day

blue day, originally uploaded by ellajohn.


stalk, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


handmade, originally uploaded by ellajohn.

It's the hair. I love making the hair. It satisfies my yarn addiction. The skirt is made from the ends of some Mini Boden cords that Ella got for her birthday. Such a groovy little skirt. I love her red wool felt boots too. I know she went to a loving home today.

I did some great Christmas shopping at the school fundraiser. I loved buying handmade and local. I bought Ruby a beautiful little maple bowl, a book, and a sheep puppet. For John, a pirate puppet. I got Ella a handmade necklace and talked to a friend and art teacher about some watercolour lessons for her.

I love our little school.