Winter Reading

2015-02-20_0003Winter saps me of my creative drive.  Every single winter I start to worry that I’ve lost my mojo…I swear it.  And then spring comes around in all her glory and I can’t stop babbling on about the blossoms and the beauty as I reenter the world with my camera in hand.  I suppose winter would be different if I were out everyday experiencing its cool, serene beauty.  But in reality, I am pretty much locked in the house with the two boys wondering which one of us will make it out alive come spring.  It’s like a (much less entertaining) cross between Survivor and Gladiator around here.  I keep coming here hoping to find words but end up snapping my computer shut and retreating to bed to read.  On that note, I have loads of great reading recommendations to share (and not much else!).  I hope you too are in the mood to curl up with a good read, because there are some amazing titles here…

Everything I Never Told You : This is a hauntingly beautiful book, written in fast, sharp prose.  It’s an intimate peek into a family that is falling apart at the seams, and when the eldest daughter turns up dead, the pressure and secrets start to spill over.  This is not a fast paced murder mystery, rather a careful look at the ways in which a mother and father can allow their own histories to weigh down their children beyond saving.

Us: A Novel: Equally heartbreaking and hysterical this novel explores a marriage that is crumbling at its seams.  The husband narrates the story, and he is such a rich and wonderful character, full of hilarious insights and quirks.  Along with his wife and son, he is taking a family holiday in Europe with the hope of saving his marriage along the way.  Like I said; hilarious and heartbreaking.

Still Life With Bread Crumbs: When a famous photographer finds herself broke and divorced, she decides to rent out her expensive NYC apartment and flee for the (cheaper) countryside.  She rents a dilapidated cabin in a small town filled with nosy neighbors and spotty cell service.  On her own for the first time in decades, she is forced to rediscover what really makes her tic.  A fabulous, warming read.

The Secret Place: I have loved almost everything Tana French has written.  Her writing is fast-paced and casual, like you’d expect out of a bunch of hardened Dublin Murder Squad detectives.  When a boy is found murdered on the grounds of an exclusive all-girls boarding school, the squad comes out in force to find his killer.  They come up empty handed.  A year passes and a new clue brings a pair of detectives back to the scene of the crime where they begin piecing together what went down.  Tana French does a great job depicting the highly emotional world of teenage girls- the characters and dialogue are spot on.

2015-02-20_0001The Girl on the Train: This book is everywhere right now.  It has been popping up on every bestseller list around.  I liked it and I sped right through it, but it wasn’t a read that will stay with me.  The main character is so utterly depressing that I had a hard time warming up to the book, to be honest. But it was a nice whodunnit- a fast and entertaining read.

My Sunshine Away: I found this book via the Indie Next List, which almost never steers me wrong.  Again, I liked it and I sped right through it, but there were a few things that bothered me about the book.  The story focuses around the narrator, a teenage boy who is so lovestruck by his neighbor that he can think of little else.  Seriously.  His whole obsession seemed a bit too much, and it eventually led me to tire of the plot a bit.  There were elements of this book that I enjoyed, but it wasn’t at the top of this here list.

Fire Shot Up My Bones: I’ve had this on my radar for a while as I usually love memoirs.  And I loved the beginning of this one, the parts that focused on Charles’ childhood in rural Louisiana.  However once he started in on his college years, and the ridiculousness of his fraternity, he totally lost me.  I had a hard time finishing the book because I lost interest in his life story.  The whole fraternity, drink-til-you-puke, haze your brothers into submission, thing is so not entertaining, which is a shame, because he is a great writer.

Station Eleven: This is one of those apocalyptic books that I always walk right past at the bookstore.  I’ve watched a few episodes of The Walking Dead and read The Road and that’s enough of that.  But this book feels different- it follows the lives of its characters both before and after the “Georgian Flu” wipes out 99% of the Earth’s population.  It caught me completely by surprise but I ended up loving this book wholeheartedly.  I read it in a single (very late) night.

If you were headed to the beach and had a weekend of lounging and reading stretched out before you and I had to recommend my top four picks, I would go with Station Eleven, Us: A Novel, The Secret Place and Everything I Never Told You.  If you were stuck inside during the Snowpocalypse I would recommend the same!  ;)  I hope you’ll share what your reading!

Love

IMG_1534Wishing you so much love and laughter this weekend.  Whether you celebrate with candy and cards, or in a more quiet fashion, I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day.  I feel incredibly blessed to have these boys in my life, all three of them!  They shower me with love on the daily.  I’m a lucky girl.  xo

Kynance Cove

_MG_1692I taught our babysitter, Liz, how to knit this summer and she took off with it like a shot.  She’s already knitting cables.  Seriously she blows me away!  She completed four gorgeous, chunky, cable hats for her two brothers and two roommates for Christmas.  Now she’s itching to start a baby project- a tiny sweater so that she can learn about knitted garment construction.  As we were scrolling through Ravelry she mentioned how overwhelming it is to choose a pattern.  I couldn’t agree more.  In fact, it is something I still struggle with every time I choose a new project.  But I am getting better, and I tried to share with her the top three tips I’ve learned when choosing a pattern.  This really applies to knitting for yourself, but I suppose you could apply it to projects for your kids, or gifted projects:

1. Will it fit my style?  This is huge.  I made a really cute, open cardigan last year and I have never worn it.  I don’t wear cardigans, especially those that don’t button or zip.  No matter how cute the color or gorgeous the yarn, I’m not going to wear it.  So I can cross cardigans off my list.  I dress like a tomboy, as I’m sure I’ve said before.  Jeans, tees, anything that is comfortable and easy to wear.  In terms of sweaters that means simple pullovers.

2. What do I really need?  Maybe this is the minimalist in me talking, but I don’t need 20 pullovers to get me through the winter.  At the most I need 2-3.  So before casting on another pullover, I’ll take a good look at my wardrobe and see if I really have a need for another (though I am eying this at the moment).  Same goes for hats, shawls, cowls, and fingerless gloves. Wait, then what should I knit? See some of the helpful comments and suggestions in this post.  Luckily, I have some pregnant friends, so I’ve got enough baby knitting to keep me happy for the moment being.  After that, I’m starting to think about socks.  I’ve never knit a sock and Lord knows I could use a few new pairs.  And little ole’ Vijay has come around and started asking for a sweater.  After his refusal to wear the last masterpiece I knit for him, I don’t know if I can trust him, but we’ll see :)  In all fairness, I’m beginning to think that he has a slight sensory issue as he insists on only wearing “soft” clothes.  He’s never even worn jeans, so sweaters might just be too  itchy for him.  Either that or he’s just a really stubborn little bugger.  But I digress…

3. Will it look good on my body type?  Take a look at your closet.  You probably have a good idea of what looks nice on your body type.  Do you like loose, flow-y clothes?  Do you like fitted, structured clothes?  Make sure the knit project that you have your eye on will look good on you (and don’t be fooled by the pretty gal modeling the sweater in the press shots!).

This sweater, Kynance Cove, perfectly illustrates a well-chosen pattern.  I finished it up last week and wore it all weekend.  I started this sweater back in October, though I purchased the yarn in Northern Michigan this past summer.  It feels as though I’ve been knitting it forever, and it didn’t help that once I was finished it felt like there were 2 million ends to be sewed in.  I would seriously clean your entire house top to bottom if while I was cleaning you’d be willing to sew in my ends for me- it’s my least favorite part of knitting.  Anyway, this sweater…  I love it.  It’s comfortable, has clean-lines, fits just the way I like and is easy to wear.  It still can’t compare to my Antler.  *Sigh* My knitting career peaked too early with that beauty!  But I’m still chasing that high.

A few of my favorite knitting blogs often talk about this very subject and they offer a wealth of knowledge way beyond my scattered thoughts, so I suggest you take a read: The Craft Sessions and Fringe Association.  Also I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject, and perhaps you’d like to share a few of your favorite patterns.

Home again, home again

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetAs I’m writing I’m looking out my window at a 4-foot snow bank.  The plows came through again last night and added even more snow onto the mound.  I feel as though I might have to dig some kind of elaborate tunnel system just to get out the door.  Quite a change from a few days ago when we were swimming in the turquoise water pictured above (pictures here taken at The Baths on Virgin Gorda, a daytrip from Tortola).  But in all honesty it feels great to be home.  The first night in my own bed I was practically giddy.  The sheets felt extra soft, and my old-timer Tempur-Pedic pillow felt amazing!  Getting home, well that was a different story.  My husband had to stay in the islands for another week, so the boys and I were on our own.  Three flights, two delays, a computer left at airport security, two lost bags and 14 hours later, we dragged our sorry bones into our house and collapsed.  Never again will I take on a trip of that magnitude by myself.  Lesson learned.  And it wasn’t that the boys were difficult- they were actually incredible- it was just the sheer physicality of it.  At one point I had three bags slung over my shoulders, and a sleeping boy in each arm.  I totaled up the approximate weight and realized I was carrying about 100+ pounds through the airport- running no less- to catch a flight.  But we made it, we’re home.  I’ve been cooking and cleaning, knitting and sewing.  Basically, I’m nesting…that’s how happy I am to be home.  I talked about struggling to feel at home in Providence earlier this year so I can’t tell you how amazing it was to arrive home and feel overwhelming gratitude for our bright, cheerful house, our supportive preschool community, our incredible friends (who made sure I came home to a homemade dinner), and our wonderful, snow-covered town.  I’ll be back here next week with a few exciting posts- including my recently finished epic sweater project!  Until then, enjoy your weekend, whether it brings you sunshine or snow.

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Learning to Be

IMG_1434Normally when you go on vacation you stay for a week or two, at the most.  Rarely do you get three whole weeks to sink into island mode.  It’s amazing what can happen when you strip away all the distractions of normal life- no internet, no cell service, no meetings, errands, or appointments, minimal belongings to attend to (we packed so light and have been staying in a one room cottage).  Just  days spent at the beach, being active and exploring.  Before we left home I turned in a few big projects, which freed me up to not have to work while we traveled.  I knew I would have no time- I’m with the kids from the moment they wake up to the moment I put them to bed- and since we’re all sharing a room, I go to bed when they do.  That’s the funny thing about tropical island time with kids- it is far from relaxing.  But it is amazingly invigorating.

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IMG_1472Our daily routine is simple, but very active, and the boys are sun-drenched and exhausted at the end of each day- to see them so healthy and active is amazing.  In the midst of our time on Tortola, we also had the chance to visit Virgin Gorda with my mom, who came to see us for a week.  That was beyond fabulous.  Beyond.  And the size of the hermit crabs there….well it pretty much blew our minds!

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_MG_1147But here’s what I’ve realized after two weeks on the island- down time makes me a bit squirmy.  I’m wired to be “productive.”  Always working on some project, always juggling things at home and work, always multitasking.   All in all our time here has opened my eyes to what life might look like when the busyness is striped away.  I’m not sure I could stay at this pace forever (I mean, one can only ‘hang out’ for so long before losing one’s mind!) but it has been a wonderful and welcomed change.  I’m hoping to bring back a bit of the island attitude when we return home in a week or so.  I’m hoping I can remember to put down my making/ doing and simply be with my family, without allowing my mind to wander to my to-do list or the unfolded laundry.  I have never wanted a busy life, or a life that the outside world might define as high-powered or important.  I want to live a life of beauty, purpose, faith and love.  It’s nice to step away and be reminded of what’s really important, even if you knew it all along.

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An Island Escape

_MG_0759When I talked of having a stressful year in 2014 much of that had to do with my husband leaving his position at Brown University to strike out on his own.  There were ups and downs, as there are whenever you take a risk and start your own business, but he landed on his feet as we knew he would.  And not only did he land on his feet, but he has been given the opportunity to work on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands for the next three weeks.  Of course we followed him here.  You can’t pass up an opportunity like that!  And so we are camped out in a small cottage on an organic farm perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean.  It is rustic, and I am slowly making peace with the mosquitoes, spiders and roaches (eek!), but we are having such an adventure.

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_MG_0937We begin our mornings on the porch eating breakfast, feasting on fresh fruit from the farm.  The boys enjoy picking our daily pineapple and bunch of bananas.  Most mornings there is a light rain and we are greeted with a rainbow that soars over the green mountains and lands somewhere out in the ocean.  It is quite magical.

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_MG_0808We then pack our bags full of beach toys and snacks and head to one of the many pristine, hidden beaches around the island.  We spend the day crashing in the waves and building sand castles.  It is a simple and beautiful daily routine and it tires the boys right out.  We find ourselves turning in early, around 7pm after a dinner of jerk chicken or grilled fish and veggies.  I’m writing this from a small coffee shop- the only one on the island- as we have no internet or cell service anywhere else.  It is so refreshing, but I did want to take a few minutes and share a slice of sunshine with you.

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2015 Reading List

2014-11-19_0002I had time to read over the holiday…not a lot of time, but a nip here and there.  I’ve made my way through quite a few books since the last time I gave you an update, so I feel a few recommendations and reviews are in order (before I forget because, kids= short term memory loss!).  I’m not going to give you the plot overview for each, as I feel you can easily read a synopsis on Amazon, or whatnot…I’ll just stick to my opinions.  During the last few weeks of November, I read the above four.  All of them were chosen from your recommendations.  I’ll start with my favorites:

The Snow Child: This was one of my favorite reads of the year.  The book is so well written that it practically whisks you away to the Alaskan frontier when it was first being settled by homesteaders.  The couple at the focus of a book long for a child, and when the one that they build out of snow seemingly comes to life, it takes them on a magical and heartfelt journey.  I simply loved every single thing about this book and would highly, highly recommend it.

The Invention of Wings: This was another favorite for one simple reason: the characters.  Sue Monk Kidd brings her characters to life in such a way that you mourn them when the book is over.  This book left me speechless with its spanning, historical plot- a brilliant read.

We Are Water: Whoa…this is a heavy book.  Perhaps I am just in a place in my life right now where I want to read books that have a redeeming quality about them.  I don’t need a super happy ending where everyone hugs it out and flies away on a rainbow… just a conclusion that leaves you with a bit of hope.  This was much too dark and ultimately sad, for my taste, though Lamb tries to end the book on a hopeful note.  Too little too late for my taste!

Astrid & Veronika: So many of you loved this book that it made me really, really want to love it.  I tried, I really did!  The writing was just beautiful, but ultimately, the story did not hold my interest.  I kept waiting to get into it, and although I made it to the end, it never really caught a hold of me, and I never fell for the characters.

2015-01-04_0002Next up, during the month of December, I read these four.  I’ll come right out and say it…good reads, but not at the top of my list for the year.

Astonish Me: This was my favorite of the bunch.  I really enjoyed Shipstead’s first book, Seating Arrangements, so I was looking forward to her second book.  I find reviewers to be especially harsh when it comes to a popular author’s second book- and I’ll admit that the Amazon reviews initially turned me off from reading Astonish Me.  I’m glad I gave it a second chance.  The book follows the life of a ballerina, and I really felt that Shipstead nailed it; taking us inside the hidden world of professional ballet.  I enjoyed her characters as well, especially the relationship between the main character and her husband.  I found it fascinating to watch it unfold.

Small Blessings: A very sweet story- not overly intellectual or complicated.  I would save this for a beach read, and enjoy it with a cocktail.  Fun and well-written, the story moves along swiftly.

Me Before You: I liked this book, I really did.  But I felt the ending was a bit cheesy and the plot a bit predictable.  What I did love about it was the relationship between the main characters- it warmed your heart to watch it evolve.  Here’s the synopsis…but I’ll warn you, this pretty much gives you the whole plot line, so although I liked the book, I never like to be able to see the entire plot laid out before I even begin.  “Before Louisa met Will, her plans didn’t reach beyond their tiny English town. Will was used to closing multimillion-dollar deals, blew off steam scaling mountains, leaping from planes, and enjoying exquisite women–until an accident left him paralyzed and seriously depressed. When his mother hires Lou to keep his spirits up, he meets her awkward overtures with caustic contempt, but she’s tenacious and oddly endearing. Their fondness grows into something deeper, gaining urgency when she realizes his determination to end his life, and her efforts to convince him of its value throw her own bland ambitions into question.”

The Cold Song: This book is dark, and lives up to its title as very cold.  The story follows a Norwegian family, a quirky family where each member is filled with anger and secrets.  The story builds up to the summer where the family’s nanny disappears, and how the event unravels each member of the family.  It is a brisk read, with wonderful prose.  I liked it…but I’m not really sure it belongs on the list of 100 Notable Books of 2014 by the NYT, which is from where I took the recommendation.

2015-01-04_0001The six titles above are next on my list, culled from a variety of book lists and recommendations…but I really feel like starting my year with a gripping and suspenseful mystery (and yes, dark…I like my mysteries dark and gritty).  There’s something about curling up with a chilling mystery book on a dark, cold winters night.  I’d love any and all recommendations.  Who are your favorite mystery/ crime writers- gritty mysteries, great writing…give me some good stuff here!

I’d also love to hear what’s on your reading list for 2015.  I came across this reading list this morning, which looks very solid.  I’m going to spend some time diving into these recommendations next.

2014: A Look Back

_MG_6077Happy New Year!  I hope you welcomed 2015 in style.  I was in bed, wearing a ratty bathrobe and sound asleep by midnight but we did enjoy a big family dinner where we all got dressed up and ate some fabulous food.  All in all, it was perfect.  I hadn’t planned on looking back at the year that was…but I thought that such a year required a bit of reflection and as I scrolled back through my posts, month by month, it occurred to me that 2014 was quite a year.  Settle in…this is a length one!

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Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 1.59.02 PMJanuary: We kicked off the year by spending a month in India and Bhutan.  It was truly the trip of a lifetime and remains my most cherished memory of the year.  When I returned home, I launched my first pop-up shop, which was super fun.  That led to selling my wares at Squam and another pop-up shop later in the year.  I’d love to do more of these in 2015!

_MG_7396February: We renovated our cold, dark attic and turned it into a light-filled studio where I spend my working hours writing, photographing, sewing and knitting.  This place is my sanctuary.

_MG_8010March: I finished my first real sweater, Antler, with short rows and shaping and all those knitterly things that I have come to know and love through the course of this year.  This sweater remains my greatest knitting achievement and my most worn handmade piece.

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_MG_9210April: We spent the most heavenly ten days in Dominican Republic with my parents and younger brother.  It was the perfect break from the freezing spring that we were experiencing back in Rhode Island.  Luckily, we made it home in time to catch the blossoms.  The weeks where our beautiful town is in bloom are always some of my favorite of the year.

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PROMO-IMAGE-PITCH-PERFECT-THE-ART-WIDE-700-WEBMay: I made my yearly pilgrimage to Brimfield Antique Show.  I think I bought $2 worth of quilt scraps, but my favorite part is taking pictures of all the interesting things you find at the show.  It is always sensory overload, but I can’t help being pulled back year after year.  I also kept busy teaching Pitch Perfect, which was such an amazing experience.  I will be teaching the course again this year, online through Squam.  I can’t wait to tell you more about it soon!

_MG_0210June: Ahhh, June.  The weather is finally warm, and I take my yearly getaway to Squam.  I always look forward to my time here, and every year I am so grateful that I get to be a part of this amazing community of makers.

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_MG_2646July: My most favorite month of the year!  Every year we spend the entire month in Northern Michigan with my family (I even wrote a guide to the area here).  It is a true old-fashioned summer; swimming in the lake, playing on the beach, visiting the dunes, riding bikes into town for ice cream, spending time in nature, watching my boys running wild and free with the kids along our dirt lane, learning to water ski, eating our weight in cherries….the stuff of life.  Northern Michigan, specifically our family cottage on Torch Lake, is my happy place.  And how lucky is Vik that he gets to celebrate his birthday “Up North?”  It is my most favorite place in the whole world and we are so darn lucky to spend our summers there.

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_MG_3163August: It is all about the garden in August.  All the good stuff is ready to harvest, including cherry tomatoes, my favorite.  You can feel summer beginning to wane in August, and that is always bittersweet, but August holds such beauty that it is worth staying in the moment.

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_MG_5473September: What a busy month, full of new experiences.  Vijay started school, which was very tough emotionally for both of us but has turned out to be the best thing we could have ever hoped for.  I started contributing to Gardenista, which has been such a privilege and has given me the chance to explore some amazing gardens and shops.  My husband and I went on an overnight trip to Vermont, our first time as a couple ever away from the kids for a night.  And I made a quick trip to Squam, arriving just in time for the fair and a day of relaxing.  Yes, we were on the move in September! I also made reading a priority again, and you all chimed in with amazing suggestions.  I’ve been making my way through the list and have yet to be disappointed.  Expect plenty more book reviews in 2015.

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_MG_7267October: As we settled into our new school routine, which consists of preschool on Tuesday and Thursday morning, we also celebrated Vijay’s fourth birthday with all of his sweet classmates, and the local fire station.  It was a PARTY!

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_MG_8634November: What a gorgeous fall we were blessed with in Rhode Island.  It was sunny and sparkling almost every day, and the leaves were absolutely riotous.  I paid a visit to Tower Hill Botanic Garden for Gardenista and had the most amazing time wondering around their fall gardens.  I also finished my favorite sewn wardrobe addition…this quilted vest from The Purl Bee.

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_MG_0093December: Here I thought December was such a slow and peaceful month, but we traveled to Chicago for Thanksgiving (returning the 1st of December), then I took off for Martha’s Vineyard to finish up a few book details, and after decking out our own small tree, we packed up and headed to Michigan for Christmas and the New Year.

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sewnAll in all, it was an amazing year.  In addition to all of our travels and all the excitement, it was the year that I felt my work life finally dropped into place.  I was hard at work on my second book, which is so near and dear to my heart, I contributed regularly to Edible Rhody and Gardenista, I taught Pitch Perfect, and launched a few pop-up shops.  2015 is going to be filled with even greater accomplishments…I can feel it and it makes me so very excited.  2014 was also the year of making…between sewing and knitting I pretty much have made a complete wardrobe, and with each piece I gain a better understanding of my fit and personal style.  Above are just a few of my favorite makes of 2014.

I try to keep this a place of positivity and beauty, so it is interesting to scroll through these posts and see so many of the harder emotional things missing.  But it is also a beautiful reminder of how much we have to be thankful for and how unbelievably blessed we are as a family.  If 2015 is half as gorgeous, we’re in for a great year!  And after that look back, I’m excited to move forward.

Merry Christmas

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_MG_0271I wanted to take a moment and express my sincere gratitude: thank you for reading all year long and for being a part of the conversation.  This space means so much to me…more than I can put into words.  I wish you the merriest Christmas and happiest New Year.

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Preparing for Christmas

_MG_0093The holidays haven’t felt rushed at all this year, instead they feel slow and sweet.  We decorated our little Charlie Brown tree as a family (only one ornament casualty, which is truly a Christmas miracle). Out of all the trees in the lot, Vijay picked the smallest, cutest little tree.  It was the perfect size for the boys to decorate and once I had strung the lights and garland, they handled the rest.  We put candles in all our windows and at night, when the candles are glowing and the tree twinkling, it feels pretty magical in this little home of ours.

_MG_9709We’re keeping things really simple this year in terms of gifts- the boys are getting hockey skates and perhaps a few books and little stocking stuffers, and for the rest of our immediate family, we’re continuing the tradition of giving Pinhole Press calenders, which everyone requests year after year.  As much as I love crafting, it feels good to have lifted the self-imposed pressure to make something handmade for everyone on my list.  _MG_0110We used Tiny Prints this year for our Christmas cards, and I was immensely proud of myself for finally organizing all of our friends and family into an address book that I uploaded right to the website for printing labels.  Why oh why did it take me so long to do this?  Not having to write so many addresses by hand- priceless!  I’m looking forward to these next few weeks rolling out slowly, giving all of us time to savor the holiday spirit without feeling rushed or pressed.

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