Christmas 2020 Gift Guide

By now everyone knows I heavily rely on Amazon for a lot of my purchases. During the lockdowns of 2020 I’ve depended on it even more, so in advance I apologize for basically every single link coming from one single marketplace. At this time I do NOT qualify for “affiliate links”, collect no commission for my recommendations, etc. Even if I did, I would only share things I have personally used and genuinely enjoy, or sincerely think would benefit some of my readers. For now, my recommendations are backed by the fact that I purchased them with our own money, which may reassure you of the unfeigned nature of my reviews.

First of all, I did NOT actually purchase this through Amazon, but since the Molton Brown (https://www.moltonbrown.com/store/index) website doesn’t embed nicely here on my blog, I’m using Amazon’s link to the product. I like getting the gift sets on sale during holidays, and I made my husband’s purchase on Black Friday during a big sale… I don’t pay full price for these items. The “Recharge Black Pepper” is probably his favorite so I got him a 10oz bottle.. not the set with the bar soap as pictured here. I also got him one of the “festive bauble” bodywash sets but the scents I got weren’t listed on Amazon for me to conveniently embed here for you however, keep scrolling:
This is a set that I got him for Father’s Day. Again, I’d purchased it earlier during some sort of sale. I encourage you to sign up to the Molton Brown email list or check frequently for sales. Like many high-end bath items, I’ve found that these are very potent soaps and a 10oz bottle actually lasts a shockingly long time. To the point that, on sale, the price becomes comparable to a lower-quality (and more garishly scented) drugstore wash that empties out like water.
Second-Born has been begging for these books of detailed search-and-find photos, and this is the year she gets one! My favorite planner company, Hobonichi (https://www.1101.com/store/techo/en/) did a cover with work from this artist last year… tragically it seems to have sold out before I could get my hands on it.
We have the entire collection of these My First
Little House books…. except this one that has inexplicably eluded us for YEARS. Finally Third-Born will be the one to receive it!
Schleich is the epitome of toy-horse design, in my opinion, while still being affordable and durable enough for play. I encourage you to explore their whole range of figurine toys (https://www.amazon.com/stores/Schleich+USA/page/A1CB0246-C09B-44F8-BECD-91D60A99E21D?ref_=ast_bln) that includes dinosaurs, medieval and mystical creatures, all the way to regular animals! If you don’t want to purchase these through Amazon, I know our local Tractor Supply carries them (and at a better price!!), so see if you have one in your area. Second-Born will find this item in her stocking, but I have no doubt it will be a hot commodity with all three of them. I am planning on going to Tractor Supply to pick up more from the series and stocking stuffers because this toy on it’s own will start a war.
Papo is another brand we enjoy and is comparable in selection and price to Schleich! This one is for Third-Born.
This is for First-Born. Please don’t judge me. This child’s favorite section in the newspaper (after the comics of course!) is the obituaries, so why would you expect her gift requests to make sense? When we had cable, our favorite channel was TCM, and she was OBSESSED with this movie that I thankfully recorded. When we cut cable, all of our recordings were, of course, gone. So this will be a long-awaited reunion!
Another gift for First-Born! She doesn’t necessarily want to be a vet, but she loves animals (like most children) and loves learning about how things work, so this seems like a good blend of the two. The fact that it’s inevitably educational is a plus for her homeschooling mother. *wink wink*
Following the educational theme, one of my resolutions for the coming year is to buckle down on our language studies. Second-Born loved using the English-only version of this series when she was learning to read, so I suspect she will also enjoy a bilingual version.
More Spanish delights. This one is for Third-Born.
Second-Born acts (and with the shape of her eyes, even looks!) like a character out of a Studio Ghibli movie. She loves my photos of my early years in Japan, Japanese YouTubers and bento-box tutorials. So now she will have a bento box of her own. Even though we homeschool, this may motivate me to take the kids out on more picnics (I probably need to buy one for each of the others, too!), and I’ve also toyed with the idea of making our weekday lunches ahead of time in the hope that it disrupts our homeschool time less than our typical lunch breaks.
This is the big-ticket item for First-Born! I always wanted one of these myself when I was younger, so I really can’t wait to hear how she does with this!!

Here ends my list of actual Christmas gifts. As I mentioned earlier, I am planning on going to Tractor Supply for more Schleich figurines to even things out, and I need to get some fun seasonal candies for their stockings. We are relatively low-key with gifts, but it really adds up with three kids (and the fourth on the way!!)

What follows is a list of things that, while not purchased as gifts, are items that I recently got and have found helpful and think some of you may be interested in as well!

For our bilingual classroom (actually.. polyglot classroom… more on that later) these posters are an impressive addition. They are heavy-duty and very professional looking.
Pretty self-explanatory! Well made, and simple enough to read with the youngest one, while complex enough to help me with my own vocabulary!
I described our classroom as “polyglot” (knowing/using several languages) and now you know why…. but it gets even better so strap yourself in before you keep scrolling. English and Spanish use alphabets that are nearly identical. Russian has the additional challenge of learning a new alphabet from scratch. Just as the girls all did coloring pages when learning their native English alphabet, I am DELIGHTED to have found the equivalent in bilingual Russian-English. I’m sure they will pick up the Cyrillic alphabet easily this way, just as they did the English.
A more advanced picture-dictionary (I already have the Spanish version from this publisher). I will likely be the primary user for now. It really helps my retention having pictures with the vocabulary!
I’ve had the hardest time finding Cyrillic posters, but this one turned out great and is actually a sort of…. fabric? Not paper. I haven’t hung it up yet as I’d like to mount it in a poster frame first.
I told you I wasn’t done!! In all honesty, the girls are going to have little more than a fun, casual exposure to Japanese for now. Even though I was born and raised a few years there (and did pick up a few phrases when I was young), I’ve never truly spoken the language myself and I can’t take teaching it seriously. This is more for me to slowly explore, and share the occasional fun trivia with the girls. It’s easy to dismiss this type of “lesson” as completely frivolous, but speaking from MY OWN experience with language it is SHOCKING how much a person can pick up even with occasional tidbits of exposure. At the very least they will get basic exposure, and exercise their brains. I don’t expect to guide them to Japanese fluency, but maybe we can at least walk through the door together and have some fun!
I’ve been hunting around for clogs for a while but they were all more expensive than I was willing to pay. At $60 these were a surprising discovery and I’m glad to have them. They run a little big and I think are most designed to be worn with socks.
This tiny piece of minimalist jewelry was given to First-Born on her birthday. Its small design fits perfectly on a smaller body, and it has held up nicely.
This was another item from First-Born’s November birthday. It is a very delicate and minimalist design that looks wonderful on small fingers, not overpowering.
Second-Born got these for her birthday over the summer and they are a big hit especially when friends come over. I don’t know what it is about kids and enjoying the most complicated way to move from Point A to Point B…
Another present Second-Born recieved over the summer… nothing says “fun” like the real possibility of accidentally launching your face into the pavement. Be sure to get a pogo stick if teeth are optional in your lifestyle.
Another present useful for maiming, also received by Second-Born.
The best leggings you will ever own, at any price point. These happen to be about $10 a pair. Never have I encountered such a buttery soft, stretchy, AND opaque legging in my life. The selection boggles the mind, and they do have a limited selection in kids sizes. I’ve been happily growing my collection for a few years now. You can check out the Leggings Depot storefront to see all their options (https://www.amazon.com/stores/Leggings+Depot/page/68B33F7C-13F9-42C6-A40F-7F42F29E123A?ref_=ast_bln)
My go-to tea strainers for individual portions. Comes in a pack of 2.
An excellent leash for small pets. We currently have it in two different sizes. Very easy to operate (for the human), and impossible to wriggle out of (for the cat… yes, we walk our cat)
I’m by no means an expert gardener, but I’ve found this book immensely helpful in giving me an idea of what should happen when.
Another useful book for the practical backyard gardener.
Fannypacks actually look cool when Herschel makes them. I have one in a rusty orange color. Hopefully I will get my hands on more!
I never thought there could possibly be anything to say about something as mundane as a “cell phone stand”… but this one is seriously heavy-duty and awesome! It’s hard to keep my husband from stealing mine away to the office!

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Making cinnamon rolls and icing from scratch is undoubtedly more work than using the canned variety, or buying them ready made from a store. However, if you take the time to make these just once, you will struggle to accept any alternative ever again… sorry! Even if these aren’t practical for rushed mornings, they are perfect for any occasion that deserves extra “oomph”… whether it’s an unscheduled weekend, or a gathering with friends or loved ones, you will not regret the work you put into this and whoever tastes them will beg you for more. Even though cinnamon rolls are often associated with breakfast, the made-from-scratch version can be tricky to get on the table in time without waking up very early. In order to eat them at breakfast, I usually start the dough at night. I let it rise the first time at room-temperature. For the second rise, I put it in the refrigerator (before I go to bed). First thing in the morning, I remove the dough from the refrigerator (where it has slowly risen overnight) and shape into rolls. Then the final rise is once again at room temperature while I complete my usual morning routine.


Dough

1½ cups lukewarm (not hot!) water

3 envelopes dry yeast (if you buy bulk, it’s 2 tablespoons plus ¾ teaspoons)

½ cup sugar

½ cup vegetable oil (I use canola)

½ cup mashed potatoes, totally plain (no milk, salt, or anything else)

1 egg

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder

5-6 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting work surfaces)
Cinnamon-Butter Filling

½ cup room-temp/softened butter

¾ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon powder
Cream-Cheese Frosting

1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove all lumps

2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup milk (plus more if necessary)
Other

3 standard 9-inch cake pans


Take a teaspoon of sugar out of your measured sugar and mix the teaspoon of sugar with the warm water and yeast and wait for it to activate and become bubbly (roughly 5-10 minutes depending on ambient temperature).

In a large bowl (preferably using a stand-mixer), add the remaining sugar, oil, potatoes, egg, and salt, and mix until incorporated. When the yeast is foamy, and the yeast mixture and briefly mix again.

Add the powered milk and 4 cups of flour and and mix for a few minutes. Slowly add remaining flour, a half-cup at a time, until the dough is pliable and but not too sticky. Be careful not to add too much flour. It is easy to knead more flour in if necessary, and it is better for the dough to be a little soft and sticky rather than stiff. Knead with a dough hook attachment on your mixer, or by hand, until this texture is achieved (roughly 5 minutes). Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until it has doubled. This can take between 1½ to 2 hours depending on ambient temperature.

Punch down dough, reshape into a ball, and return to bowl. Re-cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled again (the second rise usually takes less time than the first, closer to an hour).

Punch dough down again and place on a floured work surface. Divide the dough into three equal parts. The best way to do this is to use a kitchen scale to ensure all three pieces are the same weight. Reshape into balls. One at a time, press the dough flat into a rectangle shape (as best you can), then fold into thirds like a letter. This shape is easier to roll into a proper rectangle shape with the rolling pin.

Butter the cake pans and lightly dust with flour. Mix the cinnamon and brown sugar together. Roll a dough “letter” into a 12×8 inch rectangle. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the softened butter all over the top (feel free to briefly microwave if your house is cold and the butter doesn’t spread easily), and sprinkle with a third of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Roll the dough up tightly from the short side and pinch the seam shut. Slice into 9 even pieces, and evenly space them in one of the prepared cake pans. Repeat the process with the other two dough “letters”. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to for about 1 hour.

During the final rise, preheat the oven to 325F.

Once the third rise is finished, remove plastic wrap and bake the rolls for 10 minutes. Raise the temperature to 350F and bake for 5 more minutes.

Remove, and allow to cool slightly before pouring on frosting.

While cooling, place all frosting ingredients in a bowl (preferably a stand mixer) and whisk thoroughly. And more milk, if needed, to make the frosting thick, but still easily pourable.

You may remove cinnamon rolls to a serving platter before drizzling desired amount of frosting over them, but I typically serve them from the cake pans.

Tvorog: Instant Pot or Yogurt Maker

Tvorog (pronounced closer to TVOR-ok), is a type of farmer’s cheese that is easily made at home, and does not require rennet. There are many types of farmer’s or cottage cheese that are made around the world… Indian paneer is very similar. Tvorog is not the same texture as the cottage cheese you will find in typical American grocery stores, though. Tvorog is very finely grained, and drier. It is not typically eaten plain, as American cottage cheese is, but is incorporated into other dishes. The following recipe is an easy version based on a recipe I found on That’s What She Had , and compares very favorably with the tvorog I enjoyed when living in Russia. For more information and methods (especially if you do not have an Instant Pot or yogurt maker), I highly recommend visiting That’s What She Had: How to Make Authentic Russian Tvorog . She also provides troubleshooting if your tvorog doesn’t turn out quite right.

1 gal milk

1/2 gal buttermilk

Straining tool (I recommend using a nylon nut-milk bag that can by hung by its own cord as the cheese drains, is easy to clean and reuse, and is very durable)

(I have a very large Instant Pot, but you are welcome to halve this recipe if your equipment has a smaller capacity)

Allow both ingredients to come to room temperature by leaving them on the counter for a few hours. Pour milk and buttermilk into your Instant Pot or yogurt maker. Set it to the yogurt incubation function for 48 hours (do NOT scald them first as you would typically do for yogurt).

Leave it alone.

Really, just pour, turn on your device, and leave it alone.

Once the 48 hours is up, the mixture should have naturally separated into tiny curds and whey. Carefully strain using your cheesecloth, or preferably nylon straining bag. Hang the bag over a pot to catch the whey as the tvorog drains for a few hours.

Carefully pour or scrape it out of the strainer into your storage container, and store in the refrigerator as you would for regular cottage cheese. The amount of milk and buttermilk listed for this recipe yields at least 4 cups of tvorog.

Octopus in Tomato Sauce

Despite my birth and early years in Japan, octopus is not something that was frequently served on our family table when I was growing up. However, it really started to grow on me when I realized what a wonderful and unique source of nutrition it can be once I started abiding by Orthodox Christian fasting traditions, and found myself in extended almost-vegan periods throughout the year (seafood that isn’t fish is exempt from the no meat/fish rule, so octopus can be eaten throughout the year). Not to mention, seeing octopus in the table is certainly a conversation starter where I live!

1 package of Panna Pesca frozen whole (cleaned) octopus

1 28oz can tomatoes

Oil/fat to saute onions

1 onion

5-6 cloves garlic (or more!)

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 bay leaves (not pictured)

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (not pictured)

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Flat leaf parsley

Pasta for serving (ditalini is pictured)


 

Slice the onions thinly and saute in a large pan with fat of choice (or water, to keep it oil-free).

Slice the octopus tentacles and body in roughly 2-inch sections.

Peel the garlic and put garlic and canned tomatoes in a blender and briefly puree.

Once the onions are translucent, add the puree mixture, salt, paprika, cayenne, bay leaves, and vinegar. Bring to a simmer, then add sliced octopus.

Return to a simmer, then cover and simmer on low heat until octopus is tender, roughly 30 minutes. Stir from time to time and add water as necessary if the sauce seems too dry. It should be like a slightly watery pasta sauce, as it will thicken a bit once it cools. Once finished, remove from heat and stir in fresh parsley, to taste (I use about a cup of chopped parsley).

Once the stewed octopus is finished, cook pasta, rice, etc as you choose. Spoon sauce and octopus over individual plates of pasta.🦑🍝

Lazarakia

Coming from the Greek tradition, Lazarakia are a festive bread that are made to resemble Lazarus in his burial cloths, and baked by many Orthodox Christians on Lazarus Saturday. As a convert, I did not grow up with this tradition, or recipe… so while I can’t claim this to be “authentic”, I can claim it to be much beloved by my whole family!

1 3/4 cups warm water

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one standard envelope

2 tablespoons sugar

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

2/3 cup olive oil, plus more for pans

Whole cloves

Combine warm water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl, stir, and leave until bubbly.

Once the yeast is ready, in the bowl of a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment, pour the flour and salt. With machine running, add water mixture, and oil. Run the mixer for a few minutes until dough is just combined, stopping to scrape down side and bottom with a rubber spatula as needed. Briefly knead by hand for a minute or two if necessary.

Cover the bowl with plastic and allow dough to rise until doubled (about 1 hour, depending on ambient emperature).

After first rise, punch down dough amd knead one or twice. Re-cover, and allow to rise until at least double once again (roughly another hour).

Punch dough down again after second rise is complete. Separate into 16 even balls. An easy way to do this is to split the dough in half, then split each section in half, and keep repeating until you have 16 portions. Roll each portiom into a roughly hotdog size and shape, then flatten slightly. With kitchen shears, cut three long strips through the bottom 3/4 of each roll, and cut the sides at the top of the first cuts, as shown in the photo below (the side cuts provide more definition for the head).

Braid the three strips at the bottom, and place on a cookie sheet that has been liberally greased with olive oil. Once all the buns are arranged on the cookie sheets, firmly insert whole cloves to resemble eyes. Allow to rise for about an hour.

During the third rise, preheat your oven to 350F.

Before baking, brush more olive oil over the tops of the buns, and push the cloves back in if some have worked themselves loose during rising. Bake untol golden brown, rotating baking pans halfway through baking time (about 20 minutes, or until desired golden color has been achieved).

2019-2020 Homeschool: What’s Working For Us This Year

It’s hard for me to start a post about our homeschooling… I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to start… it almost sounds like how I feel about homeschooling in general! HA, I jest (sort of)! I don’t pretend to be an expert on any of this, and I don’t presume to advise anyone on this process. This post is only to share what I feel is working for us this year, as some readers may find a tidbit or two inspiring. Hopefully I will cover the most important things here, but I question if it’s really possible to cover everything… I will try my best. Feel free to comment or message me if you have any questions or have suggestions for more topics to cover in a future blog post!20200125_151218

I suppose the first step in any venture is planning. I do not currently use a teacher planner. I have tried a few versions in the past, and the whole process felt bulky and redundant to me. We are currently using individual student planners. I plan their lessons about two weeks out (at most) in their personal planners, and they work from there. Sophia reads her planner on her own and completes many of her tasks on her own, ahead of schedule. Adriana is in the process of learning to read, so I am more hands-on in reading her planner, and going through the lessons with her. I do use a regular planner for my personal use… to organize my life, family events and commitments, and any to-dos I may have for homeschool or otherwise. My personal planner catches any tasks that may need to be done that don’t necessarily fit into the student planners. This year I am using a Hobonichi Techo Cousin, and I love it. It has some quirks that may deserve their own blog post some day. I have used the Erin Condren (Hourly/Neutral Format) in the past, and also really enjoyed it. Yea… sounds like I may need to do a specific planner post! I don’t like officially planning much more than a week in advance, because I have found that when LIFE happens, all the plans get thrown in the air, it it is annoying to white-out and re-write months of plans… however, I do review all the materials we plan on covering at the beginning of each school year, and get a feel for when we should be aiming to hit certain curriculum milestones.

Speaking of materials to cover, let’s talk about curriculum. In short, I don’t use one! No, I’m not un-schooling… I just don’t use any of the big, formally planned curriculums you’d typically see for sale. The backbone of my lessons has always been the Brain Quest workbooks (Sophia’s, Adriana’s). These are not designed to be used alone. I suspect they are meant to supplement or review, especially over summer break. However, I feel that they cover a well-rounded list of concepts for each grade level, so we work through them and whenever one of the kids gets a little stuck on a topic, I dig up supplemental information to help reinforce that area. Being that my children are only in first and second grade (Sophia is registered for second grade, but is using third grade material), I am currently able to supplement their weak areas on my own by explaining slowly, using manipulatives, and making up more examples. I also use Teachers Pay Teachers as a wonderful source of supplemental worksheets, activities, and lessons. I know very well that I won’t be able to “wing it” as much as they advance further and further academically, but it is working fine for us for the time being. Over the past summer, I slowly accumulated a whole collection of old school math textbooks AND the corresponding teacher manuals to go with them! I have these sets for first through fifth grade math!!

20200125_151303
The teacher book has the corresponding student pages in the center, and lots of extra information and activities and suggestions in the margins!

Unfortunately, I can’t provide links as these were all eBay listings… once I nabbed them, the offer was gone. But I am providing that information here to show you that with a little creative thinking, and some hunting around, you can find all sorts of valuable education materials, and for a fabulous price. This is especially true when your students are young. Sophia does her math work in a separate notebook, but I think Adriana’s first grade math text was designed to be written in… needless to say, I want to preserve it for future use, so I photocopy all work pages and keep them in her school binder. I think next year we will purchase a proper English/Language Arts curriculum for Sophia, as I am feeling that my explanations of grammar and language are not as helpful as they should be, and I just don’t feel confident with that subject anymore. She is doing fine for now, but it may be time to start using a professional curriculum for that subject. I feel I am a strong math teacher, and with the excellent resources I’ve already acquired, I doubt I will need to purchase anything more for math until middle school. Adriana is using a unique supplemental text to help her learn to read. It is a reprint of a McGuffy reader from 1863! Yes, 1863! Practicing a bit of this every day works well for her, and she is making beautiful progress. Luckily for all of us, this seller keeps listing reprints, and they can be purchased for (as of this writing) $5.99 and free shipping! It is legal to reprint these texts because they are so old that they are now part of the public domain. If you purchase one, please let the seller know I sent you!

But how do I juggle all this responsibility with a burgeoning “threenager” in the house??? Badly, let me tell you. It is hard to get anything done with someone that age running around. Every toddler parent already knows that! In fact, we struggled a great deal during the first half of this school year, as it was almost impossible at times to accomplish anything other than deal with issues related to her. She’s slowly growing and developing, and starting to fit into our routine better (instead of the other way around). Still, I often save lessons that need more focus for nap time, or I sit with one student, while the other plays with the toddler and keeps her as distracted as possible. I have tried using the TV as a babysitter – there, I freely admit it – but she is two, and not interesting for long, which I think it perfectly healthy. I also set up coloring and “homework” for her to do, but that doesn’t keep her occupied for very long either. Mostly, we are all just doing our best to stay patient and roll with the punches as we wait for her to grow out of this phase!

Other than that, I try to make sure that sitting down to do book work does not take up a large amount of our day. I feel strongly that children, and adults for that matter, learn best by living. I do my best to include the children in every aspect of my day, answer their questions to the best of my ability, and take time to research answers when I feel unsure. We are not part of a co-op, but frequently visit the library and participate in many extra-curricular activities in our community.

Goan Black-Eyed Peas

This recipe is designed to be cooked in a mini crockpot (mine is about 2 quarts), but it can be doubled or tripled and put in a larger crockpot. This dish can also be cooked in a pot on the stove over low to medium heat, and stirred frequently. Based on a dish that hails from Goa, India, I rely on this recipe whenever I’m eating vegan and want something warm, and very satisfying! It is also a meal I rely on when I know I will have a busy day, and want to come home to a hot, yummy meal, with minimal effort. I like the hearty thickness of this dish and enjoy eating it on its own as a stew, but it also goes great with rice, naan, etc. I don’t use any chilies in my version, but feel free to add to your taste!

1½ cups dried black eyed peas

2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 small yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 Tablespoon sea salt

2 teaspoons brown sugar (jaggery is even better if you can find it!)

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon powdered turmeric

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ can (roughly 6oz) unsweetened coconut milk

cilantro to taste


Wash the beans and soak them for at least 8 hours. I typically soak mine before going to bed at night, then start the crock pot in the morning to have the meal ready by evening.

Once soaked, drain the beans and add to crock pot.

Put the tomatoes, onion, ginger, garlic, salt and brown sugar in a blender, and blend smooth. Add to crock pot. Add enough water to just cover the beans. Stir, and put on the lid. Set the crock pot to high for 7 hours, and stir occasionally as the beans become thick at the bottom. Add more water if necessary, but the goal is for a thick consistency.

Once the beans have cooked until they are very soft and mushy (about 7 hours), add the coriander, turmeric, cumin, and coconut milk. Continue to cook for about 15 more minutes.

Serve warm with a drizzle of coconut milk, cilantro, rice, and/or bread.

I hope you enjoy!

Christmas 2019 Children’s Gift Guide

Up front, I feel the need to apologize for this post. Firstly, because my writing feels awkward after neglecting my blog for so long. Secondly, because I came up with this idea abruptly yesterday, and need to hastily post so that my readers can actually have a chance to read, shop, and have their items delivered before Christmas! So without further ado, let’s get to it! I will split this into two parts. The first part is a list of items (and links) that I have already purchased for my kids. Most of the items have already arrived, but some are not here yet. The second part is a list of things that I am confident they would enjoy… items that are still on their wish-lists but haven’t been purchased yet because even the most doting parents can’t buy absolutely everything (and it wouldn’t be good for the children if we did!). Most of these links are to Amazon listings, thought I am not affiliated with Amazon…. I just do a ton of shopping there! I will also add pictures of items as I am able, but I mostly want to get the list and links up without delay.

Items Purchased

Toddler Rapunzel Dress : I bough this for Gabriella, my youngest, months ago. However, I feel the need to share it here because of how well it has held up, and for such a fabulous price! Much of the dress is actually made of cotton, which I feel it rare these days.

Magnetic Bookmarks : You can find all sorts of styles if you do a little searching, but I have been using and loving this set for a while now. This is a great stocking stuffer for all avid readers, especially those who read on-the-go and struggle with other bookmarks slipping out.

Chatterbox Magazine Reprint (Entire Year 1901) : This gift may especially enthrall the reader with a diverse vocabulary and appreciation of history. Chatterbox magazine is a delightful publication for children that was published from 1866 to the 1950s. Those of you that know me already know that I boast an impressive collection of antique books and magazines. It is important to preserve, enjoy, and learn from these works, however it isn’t feasible for everyone to own original copies. Many copies are available to read for free online in the public domain, and some are actually available as reprints…… of varying quality. I have spent my money on many poorly-printed copies, but this particular brand/edition is one that we already own and enjoy. This volume contains all the issues that were printed that year. It contains beautiful illustrations, short stories, puzzles, poems, and nostalgia. (Suitable for Grown Up children as well)20191211_16572120191211_16573920191211_165758

Original Tamagotchi : Yes, my dear Millenial comrades, THAT Tamagotchi. The one from our youth! The one that took the entire planet by storm and was banished from most schools. I forgot how the girls heard about this “old” toy, but I looked up videos of it to show them how it worked, and they were enchanted. So I will have one for each of the older girls waiting for them in their stockings. This is the very design I purchased for them (iridescent mermaid vibes), but it comes in many colors.screenshot_20191211-173230_amazon-shopping.jpg

CD Player/Boombox : (::EDIT:: I ended up returning the CD player I originally linked because it was simply TERRIBLE. CDs kept skipping, the buttons were oddly placed, and the radio had no reception. We replaced with with a better (albeit more expensive) one and are thoroughly pleased. We also like that the new one has a cassette player as well!)

I’m not sure how many households own CD player/radio/boomboxes anymore. Our children don’t have tablets, digital music players, or cell phones. We have on TV in the living room and one desktop computer in the office, and my husband and I each have a smart phone. Both my older girls really enjoy listening to audiobooks together, and now they will be able to do so in the quiet of their bedroom instead of straining to hear amid the hubbub of living room or office activities. Which brings me to the next:

Portable CD Player : This item was, I believe, a Christmas gift from last year to Sophia (the oldest). I chose this one because it was the cheapest, and I wasn’t sure it would be wise to invest a lot of money for an electronic item for a child…. and with a grabby toddler in the house. I’m including it in this list because it has held up marvelously! I’m especially amused at the double-takes we get when she uses this “retro” device in public. She loves listening to audiobooks with this on car rides, or even in the house.

The Flintstones; Complete First Season : The girls caught a glimpse of the Flintstones while we were on vacation over Thanksgiving. They were both absolutely tickled by the “modern” caveman culture, so I immediately browsed for the DVDs on Amazon. I also nabbed one of the recommended items, which was:

The Jetsons; Complete First Season : The girls have never seen this show, and I’ve only seen a few episodes in my life, but if they thought the Flintstones were entertaining then I’m willing to bet they will enjoy this set as well!

Nova Natural Dollhouse Family : While I am providing the link for the family as a set, I actually purchased all the members separately so I could have more options on their individual features. It was only a few dollars more. This was my most expensive single purchase and I flinched as I paid, but Adriana (Second-Born) has owned and ADORED the dollhouse girl from this series (pictured below)… so much that the poor doll is absolutely disintegrating from all the love she’s enjoyed. I find that my girls prefer this size doll because they can be easily stuck in a pocket or bag, and are easy for tiny hands to manipulate. This gift is mostly for Adriana, as she is the most doll-obsessed member of the house, but I know the others will be delighted to see these as well.

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Her name is Vasilisa, and we all think she’s charming. Adriana named her after the story of “Vasilisa the Brave”

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I wasn’t kidding about her being “heavily loved”

Now that I’ve mentioned her name, here’s a link to the book that inspired it. The illustrations are divine, and anything from this artist would be welcomed by most children!

Training Chopsticks : My older girls like to insist they know how to use chopsticks and don’t require Western utensils when we go out for sushi. Then they drop food all over the place. This year, they will finally learn how to actually use chopsticks, and practice at home. Hopefully this set will help them practice the basics on their own, without me needing to split my time and attention even further at meals.

There are a few more items the girls will be finding under the tree, but I either couldn’t find links, or the items are simply too goofy/personal to list here.

Wishlist

Here’s a few items that the girls are hoping they will get. Perhaps another relative will get them, or perhaps they will have to wait. In any case, I hope this list gives you some ideas!

Tamagotchi ON : This is the newer, souped up version of the Tamagotchi, featuring a larger (and COLOR!!) screen, more activities, and an ability for your pet to interact and even visit other linked Tamagotchis…. and they can even get married!!! Aawwww!!screenshot_20191211-171413_amazon-shopping.jpg

Portable CD Player Belt : This gift isn’t for the socially faint-of-heart, but First-Born wants it so she can keep her hands free while listening to her audiobooks on her CD player. It is a perfectly sensible (if deliciously nerdy) request.

“My Other Shirt Is Made Of Mithril” : No doubt you can guess which child this is for. I really don’t need to explain any further… but I do want to say that this shirt is on my own wishlist as well!screenshot_20191211-171432_amazon-shopping.jpg

Melissa & Doug Dollhouse Castle: There are two in particular that caught Second Born’s eye: both the “girly” castle and the “boy” castle. I put both in her wishlist and we will see if any relatives are enticed by either. Otherwise, I may get one for her birthday in the summer. The hope is that her Nova Natural dollhouse dolls will fit. I think they are technically a little bit too big, but I don’t think it would be enough for her to notice or mind.

More Nova Natural Dollhouse-Sized Dolls: Second Born in particular just loves these dolls and is especially exited about the medieval series and the Nativity series. The links I’ve provided are for the sets, but the dolls may also be purchased individually, and there are many more dolls in general, as well as more members to add to each set, so please browse around if they caught your eye!

Toddler Harness : I admit it, Gabriella is a runner. So yes, I am “that mom” that is shopping for a child-leash. Judge me if you want, but these two harnesses caught my eye (and hers as she shopped with me!): butterfly harness, unicorn harness. If a relative doesn’t get them, I certainly will because this kid is a firecracker and my goal is to for her to at least survive to adulthood.

Like most kids, their wishlists are basically endless, but I do hope that this post gave you some ideas, and maybe a few chuckles. Seasons greetings to you all!

$60 at Goodwill Thrift Store

This post is meant to be a companion to the video I put up a on YouTube a couple days ago… a more detailed display of all the goodies and knickknacks I scored this past weekend at one of my local thrift stores! I will also link the video below, for those interested.

 

Without further ado, THE GOODS:

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These were the girls’ picks.

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Gorgeous details (and yummy baby toes if you peek the background).

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The Children’s Place jeans for First-Born, and a J. Crew skirt and brass pot for me!

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PEEKABOO!! 😀

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The trivets and items from the brass lot.

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Two Sides to the Picture

By Alice B. Haven, published in Godey’s Lady’s Magazine; February 1859.

 

The farm-house at Highwood was a pleasant picture to any one who could appreciate rural quiet and picturesque shading of sky and foliage, with the neutral tints of the low building itself, and the great moss-covered rocks, to the right, that excited the wonder of all who saw them for the first time. Mrs. James, the farmer’s wife, could not understand the raptures of the town ladies and gentlemen, who had been out the last season to look at the place. Highwood was for sale; and when the visitors had been over the house, Mrs. James naturally asked them in, as she came back with the keys, and gave them the best the cottage afforded;  so that she had many a compliment for her butter and bread, as well as the brown house, which she thought extremely plain and old-fashioned. That was its peculiar charm. The low, sloping roof, now shaded by a huge apple-tree, one mass of snowy blossoms – the Virginia creeper and straggling May rose, that were nailed against the dark wood-work of the porch – the tidy door-yard, with its clumps of snowball, and lilac, and sweet syringa, all of the taller than Mrs. James – and then the bald, gray rocks, huge boulders of granite, riven and rugged in their old age, though draped, in summer, by clinging blackberry-vines – made the little work like a vingette of Birket Foster’s, especially this warm spring day, the first in which Mrs. James had ventured to bring her sewing and sit in the open door, to watch her two boys – twins they were – scrambling over the rocks, while she, with her willow basted of mending, served as a nursery gateway for the eighteen-months baby, playing with empty spools, in the little square landing at the foot of the stairs – three boys, four boys in all, for the oldest had followed his father out to the field, on some household errand. The neighbors all pitied Mrs. James when the twins came; she “seemed to have her hands full,” with her husband, and boarding one of the men, and three little children underfoot. She was poorly all the spring after their birth, and had some very miserable thought herself, before the nurse left her; but her children were all healthy, and every one admired the new-comers so much, for people came from far and near to see them, that by the time they were out of arms a little, Mrs. James began to be very proud, and pity people who did not have twins! She had the kindest husband in the world, too – industrious, frugal, though always willing to spend for the comfort of the house and his family; never out of temper, that is to say, with ordinary provocations, and as fond and proud of this wife as in the days of their courtship.

Ordinary observers might have considered the little woman’s lot a very happy one; but she had her own troubles, as she used frequently to say, “No one could judge for another,” and Mrs. James inclined to be “low-spirited.” There was the house people admired so much; she only wished they were obliged to live in it. The kitchen was the coldest place, in winter! and the roof leaked, do all that her husband would to discover and repair the mischief. The village carpenter said “it was no use patching such an old shell – the whole thing ought to come off;” but the place was in the hands of trustees, and Farmer James could not afford to undertake so formidable an expense, on his own account. The down-stairs bedroom was so small – that was another thing. When the trundle-bed was out, there was scarcely room to turn around, and “dear knows what I am to do!” And here Mrs. James sighed and shook her head, glancing into a very probable future.

There were trowsers, and aprons, and stockings to be mended, in that basket, before she could touch her spring sewing, and her husband’s Sunday shirts, she had noticed, when putting away the clothes, were “beginning to break.” Plenty of work, for one pair of hands, you will allow, considering that she set every stitch herself, besides doing the most of the housework. Mr. James was very reasonable – all men are not – about extra help. The woman who came every week to wash was frequently called in for Saturday’s cleaning, and always helped in the fall, when there were hams, and sausage-meat, and lard to be attended to; in fact, Mrs. James always felt at liberty to call on her, knowing that she was in no danger of cross words and black looks when she asked for “Betsey’s money.” Her husband knew very well what an industrious, tidy little woman she was, and that she never wasted a penny on her own clothes or the children’s.

“If there wasn’t so many of them, and boys, too,” thought Mrs. James, presently, as she adjusted a patch on the little gray trowsers of one of the twins. “It’s very hard that I should have so many children; there will be five under seven years old! only think of it! I don’t think there is another person in the world that is to be so much pitied.”

Mrs. James was suffering from a very severe attack of her besetting malady, “low spirits.” They had become more frequent of late, though she had always been a little inclined that way; so frequent and so long-continued that her husband began to get very uncomfortable about her, and came home tired, at night, from the heavy spring work, dreading to enter the house, lest he should be met by sighs and forebodings, with a covert personal thrust now and then, which disturbed him more than his wife ever dreamed of. In fact, she had no idea how this infirmity of temper had increased upon her, or she would have been shocked. How often she had heard her husband say, in the bright days of their early married life, that “he hated a fretful woman as he did a wet spell of weather in haying time.”

Highwood had been sold at last. Mrs. James took down the great bunch of keys, for the five-and-fortieth time, one raw March morning, and put a thick shawl about her, to accompany some visitors over the house. A tall, handsome gentleman sat on the lower step of the piazza, when she came up the sweep, and a little lady not much taller than herself, but so light and graceful that she seemed to float through the dusky hall like a sunbeam, when the door was open, sat above him, while he warmed her frozen little feet in a travelling-shawl.

“A very imprudent creature for a married woman,” Mrs. James remarked to her husband, when describing the pair, “for she had on thin-soled gaiters, and the frost not fairly out of the ground, though to be sure they rode from the depot. But everyone knows what a house that has been shut up for three years is, though I have done my best to keep it aired. A little thin velvet mantle, too; she was glad enough to get that shawl around her before she got out of the house. I don’t believe he’s so very fond of her, either, for all he had her feet wrapped up in his lap; for she seemed to hesitate so, when she began to say what she would like to have done, and had to give up to him in every thing. He’s selfish, you may depend.”

“You women jump at things so,” said the farmer, nursing little Joe, the baby, on his knee, while his wife was busy about supper. “I guess you’ll have a chance to find out, though, for he seemed to have pretty much made up his mind to take the place. He talked as if he had plenty of money, too: and that’s comfortable; the old place needs a fortune put upon it.”

And plenty had been spent, judging from the extent of the repairs and the beauty of the decorations that went on from the moment Highwood passed into Mr. Livingston’s hands. Everything was guided by the most finished taste. Out of doors, the lawn, the shrubbery, and the garden began to brighten, a green-house  and grapery glistened in the sun, a monster stable, with all manner of odd little turrets and weathercocks, was built: while all over the farm, barns, and fences, and walls were placed in the most thorough condition, to the delight of the farmer’s heart. But the change in the old house was the most magical of all. Bay windows and casements lighted up the interior, the drawing-room glowed with frescoed panels and gilded mirrors let into the wall; a conservatory, and even an aviary were added to the dining-room; delicately tinted French paper replaced the green stains of the chambers. Curtains, and carpets, and pictures, and elegant suites of carved furniture did the rest.

Mrs. James watched all the proceedings, from day to day, with the most vivid and womanly interest. Once or twice Mrs. Livingston had been up to give some orders to the upholsterers, and had asked her to see that they were executed; so she was not intruding when she went from room to room, and from floor to floor, wondering, admiring, and – we grieve to write it – at last, envying the mistress of all this elegance. The family were to take possession soon. Mrs. James had been over the house for the last time, that morning, and delivered up the keys to the housekeeper, who drove up from the city in the beautiful carriage she had just seen aired and brushed in front of the stables. The housekeeper seemed inclined to be very friendly and communicative. There were to e six of them, in all, she said, besides the coachman and gardeners, a French cook and waiter, both men, a laundress, and seamstress, and chambermaid; five in the kitchen, for of course so fine a person and Mrs. Root did not class herself with the rest of the household.

“And how many in the family?” Mrs. James had ventured to ask.

“La! as to that, we never can tell from one day to another, my dear,” returned Mrs. Root, patronizingly. “Sometimes only them two, sometimes nobody but her, and then again a house full for weeks together, that keeps us all flying, with no end of dinner company when we are in town.”

“No children, then?”

“No, indeed, which is a great comfort; for, between you and me, nurses have been the very bane of my life; they get spoiled so; the mothers think they could not live without that particular individual, because, not knowing anything themselves about children, they believe all that’s told ’em; and they indulge the youngsters so, that, the minute I complain of any of their topping ways, and they are going to be sent off, all of ’em set to, and cry, and scream and stamp, and say that their dear Margaret or Ann sha’n’t go; and the mother gives in for peace’s sake. I’ve seen enough of it; and one of Mrs. Livingston’s recommends, when she came to engage me, was that there wasn’t any children.”

“Not a care in the world,” thought Mrs. James, recalling this conversation, as she held up the next article in her basket to search for thin places – “not so much as a baby to look after – all that heart can ask. Look at that house! the very cook’s room with a carpet, better than my only one down on that front room these eight years! all those books, and pictures, and flowers, and birds to amuse herself with – plenty of company, if she gets tired of being alone – that elegant carriage, and a horse for a side-saddle besides, and not a hand’s turn to do about the house. It doesn’t look to me fair that I should be slaving so from morning till night. It’s nothing but work! work! work! from the minute I’m out of bed, till I get in again.”

The time had been when Mrs. James, so far from grieving over the necessity for her industry, was very proud of it. When her husband came from the store Saturday nights, as he did sometimes, and repeated the compliments he had received, as well as the liberal payment for her butter and eggs  which she could always have for herself and the children – how proud and happy it had made her! When the minister’s wife said, “I declare, Mrs. James, you are the smartest little woman I ever knew, to keep such a neat house and nice-looking children – Mrs. Phelps and I always speak of it when we come here” – she was so elated that she carried her head half an inch higher the next Sunday morning, walking into her pew with Peter and the twins, as neat as hands could make them, and reflecting on the baby and the roast beef left at home in charge of the hired man. She used to say, in those days, “what if she did work hard, she was well paid for it, dear knows! and somehow sewing rested her from housework; and there was the man to help her churn; and Peter, little Peter’s father, wasn’t like some men, but took as much care of the children when he was in the house as she did.”

Mrs. James did not have a very happy summer. The work dragged, somehow; she never suspected how much willing hands do to make it go lightly; the mending-basket never was emptied from week to week; the children’s dress and her own was growing more careless; and, worst of all, her husband often came home, not cross- that was not his way –  but moody, and gloomy, and silent, instead of whistling and singing about the house, as he always used to do. If he would have answered back, when she poured out her complainings, it would have been a relief – but he only got up, and put down his newspaper with a slow sort of sigh, and walked out of the house – especially when she began to worry about not getting ahead any, and so many mouths to feed,  and so many children always under foot. That was the burden of her lamentation, commence where she would.

It did not help the matter any to spend so much time in watching the doings at Highwood, and listening to the gossip of Mrs. Root and the head gardener, who came in quite neighborly. She could see the house very distinctly from the side windows, and even distinguish the light figure of Mrs. Livingston from the guests, as they walked the piazza in the cool shade of the morning, or strolled down to the greenhouse, and came back loaded with spoils. Later in the day, the open landau, or the low coupée, sometimes both of them, would be driven with a dash and glitter up to the entrance; and the ladies, in the lightest of lace mantles, and flouting flounces, and gay little French bonnets, were driven off, leaning back with that listless, careless manner, as if it were and every-day matter – as, of course, it was – their hands crossed before them in pretty helplessness, laughing and chatting among themselves, and unconscious of the existence of any other human being out of “their set.” Sometimes Mrs. Livingston cantered past on her saddle-horse, looking very lovely in her round hat, and plume, and full-green riding-habit.

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Mrs. James admired and envied her most on these occasions. How many “changes of raiment” she must have! snow-white peignoirs in the morning, with fluttering ribbons and elegant embroidered petticoats, a different dress for driving out, and still another for the evening; so with all her guests. There were no young people in the family who lived at Highwood when she came there; only an infirm couple, very advanced in life, who went out but little, and saw no company. This was the first time Mrs. James had ever come in contact with merely fashionable people, who lived apparently for the enjoyment of the hour. Now and then, she would have a nearer view. For novelty’s sake, Mrs. Livingston would walk over with her visitors to see the pretty little nook in which the farm-house was nestled. Words seemed to be insufficient for the praises they rang upon it, and its mistress, and the sturdy little ones tumbling about on the grass and rocks, and looking all the more picturesque for their torn straw hats and check aprons. Little Joe especially became the favorite with these grand people for his bright eyes, and red cheeks, and tangled curls; and oftentimes, when Mrs. Livingston chanced to be alone – for it was noticeable that her husband seldom remained at Highwood when there was no company – she would send for the child to pass the morning with her, so that he lost all shyness, and was ever ready to go to the “pretty yady,” as he called her. Mrs. James heard, from these birds of passage, that she was to be envied her snug little house and beautiful children; but it did not convince her in the least.

Mrs. Livingston walked over, one afternoon, and sat down, in her quiet, familiar way, on the porch, where the sewing-basket was regularly placed. The summer was almost gone; indeed, September had come in, but with a  moist, oppressive heat, that seemed more like August. Dinner was cleared away from Mrs. Jame’s tidy kitchen, the table set back against the wall, the yellow-painted floor swept free of dust or crumbs, the dishes all in their places on the dresser. There were white half curtains at the windows, just moved by a most welcome breeze that was springing up; and Joe’s per kitten slept in the sunshine by the outer sill. Mrs. Livingston could see into the room from her seat on the porch; and its orderly quiet rested her, for she had left a house full of people at Highwood, who had done nothing all day but lounge about and complain of the heat; and she had yet to go back and dress for a long fatiguing dinner; and in the evening there would be the sharp click of the billiard balls, the jar of dancers, or the monotony of the card-table, whether she felt like exerting herself or not. She was in her morning-dress still – an India muslin robe, trimmed with lace, and lined with violet silk. Bows of violet ribbon fastened it at the throat and waist, and looped up the flowing sleeves. What round white arms! how soft and slender the hands shining with rings – diamonds, and a single emerald even more costly – clasped idly about her knee! Yet the face had a worn, listless look, except when it brightened at the voices of the children. Mrs. James stitched away in silence. Mrs. Livingston always said: “Now, don’t let me disturb you; I shall not come again if you do.” And, whether by design or not, she never did intrude on washing or baking-days, or before the house was settled down, and the afternoon’s clean apron and collar could be put on.

The first time she came, the mistress of Highwood had been shown into the little, stiff best room, where the chairs stood at precise right angles with each other, and no article of furniture seemed capable of changing its situation any more than if screwed to its place. Mrs. James was in a a flutter, too, and excused herself to put on a barège dress and worked collar, in which she looked as little at ease as her best room. But Mrs. Livingston asked to be shown the house, and admired the kitchen, and sympathized with the leaky roof, and promised it should be attended to, and suggested a way of enlarging the bedroom, by taking in a deep pantry, or store-room, and adding an outer kitchen for the heavy work, with the milk-room at one end. Finally, she established herself in the doorway, just where she was sitting now, and when she came alone, after that, refused to be entertained anywhere else. By degrees, the stiffness and flutter of these visits wore off, and Mrs. James sewed and talked, and insensible fell into enumerating the hardships of her lot, which always seemed aggravated by the sight of Mr.s Livingston’s dainty toilet and abundant leisure.20181029_130719

“Come here, little Joe,” the visitor said, holding out her hand to the flushed, half-pouting child, who had rolled out of an afternoon nap and the low trundle-bed, and stood, barefoot, on the floor, eyeing her through his curls.

The sulking little face visibly brightened at the sound of her voice, and the assurance that his mother’s visitor was no other than the pretty lady he loved next to her; and, edging shyly along, he was soon seated in her lap, and playing with the bright rings that were an endless wonder and amusement.

“That’s just the way it goes, Mrs. Livingston,” signed Mrs. James, preparing to get up and bring the child’s shoes and stockings; “it’s nothing but waiting on one or the other all the time. Here I’d just got Peter off to school- he’s begun to go this quarter – and washed Johnny and Tommy, and put on their clean aprons, and just as I get about ten stitches done, up wakes Joe, and all to go over again; and by that, their father sends for me to hunt up something out of his tool-room, and then it’s time to put on the teakettle; and so it is.”

“They keep you pretty busy, I’m sure,” said Mrs. Livingston, cheerfully, “but you wouldn’t part with one of them, for all.”

She said this a little nervously, and watched for the answer.

“I don’t know about that; wait til you come to have four all of a size.”

“I wish I had six, for that matter, rather than none; I shall never have any children.”

“You’re young yet; you can’t tell.” And Mrs. James thought “people never do know when they are well off.”

“I am older than you, and have been married quite as long, Mrs. James.” It seemed scarcely possible, so matronly was the one, so slight and girlish the figure of the other still. “Oh you don’t know, you can’t tell how I envy you! I never come here without it,” said Mrs. Livingston, a moment after. “There can be no more love, no happiness like it. Childless! you don’t know what a terrible word that is. I could bear all the rest,” she was going to add, “and perhaps it would not be so if he was a father;” but her chief bitterness was unspoken, only her face wore a convulsed, miserable look, that Mrs. James marvelled at, but could not understand. “I don’t read my Bible very often – not as much as I should, I know – but when I do, it always opens of itself to the story of Hannah, or Rachel. Perhaps you wonder at them as you do at me. I have prayed, but God has forgotten me!” And she hid her face in the child’s fair hair, as she bent down over him, and strained him closely to her.

Mrs. James did wonder. Could it be possible that children were really a blessing, and not a trial, after all?

But Mrs. Livingston was not unpractised in quick self-control. Her daily life had taught her that, perhaps, of all the people she called friends, who had eaten at her table, and slept under her roof, that summer, no one had ever seen so far into her heart. When she lifted her head, a moment after, there was only the winning, coaxing smile of one who comes to ask a favor and is seldom refused. How much anxiety it masked no one could tell. “Well then, since children are only a trouble, so much the better for me,” she said, lightly, “so much the more hope that I shall get what I have set my heart on, and Mr. Livingston consents to. We want to rid you of part of your burden, and carry off little Joe. Say ‘Please,’ pretty, my boy, and come and have me for your mamma, and a little pony with a long tail, and a hat and feather like mine. Oh what fine times we shall have!”

It was said gayly enough, and the child clapped his hands at the prospect of the pony and the plume. A quick pang of jealous fear shot through his mother’s heart, and she put out her hands involuntarily to take him away.

“I am quite in earnest,” said Mrs. Livingston, more quietly, still retaining the child. “I have always had a fancy for him, and when I saw Mr. Livingston’s notice was attracted, the plan flashed into my mind, though I never should have thought of it, if you had not told me so often what care and trouble you have with so many. We do not wish to rob you, either. Mr. Livingston tells me to offer you five hundred or a thousand dollars; and if that is not enough, to give the rest a start in the world; and poor little Joe will not be missed among so many. Tell her to say I may have you, my boy; she does not care half and much for you as I do.”

But the face into which she looked for consent was only blank with wonder and dismay. Part with little Joe! Give up all right and title to the baby who had never slept from her arm since the day he was born? Let him be called by another name, and taught to forget that she had borne him? Was Mrs. Livingston trying her? Perhaps she was only jesting, after all.

“I do not think it would answer,” said the petitioner, taking hope from the silence, “if we were to continue to live here; but perhaps you know that Mr. Livingston has decided to go abroad – to go to Europe – in November, and, as we may stay some years, to sell the place. It is his way” – for Mrs. James forgot the boy, for a moment, in wonder at this unlooked-for intelligence. “He is never contented long in any place. I never allow myself to get attached to anything, only this child; I could not help that; I tried to, but you do not know the craving for innocent baby kisses, and fond words, and the patter of little feet about a great, lonely house. If he were to grow up here, it might make you and him unhappy when he came to understand it; but as we are going away, and he will have our name, he will never know anything of it, and I am quite sure you will trust me to take care of him, and educate and be proud of him!” Mrs. Livingston spoke fast and eagerly, not exactly understanding the manner of Mrs. James, who only rose and called the child into the house to be dressed, in a harsh, husky voice. grasping his arm so tightly that he screamed and struggled to get back to his friend; but she was going. “I will not take any answer to-day,” she said. “Talk it over with your husband. Mr. Livingston says he is a man of so much good sense and judgement; he will not fail to see how much better it will be for the child, and how it will relieve you, especially when there is another to look after. My boy will be crowded out, any way. He loves you and his children so much that I know he would not let his own feelings stand in the way.”

How much he loved his children, no one but their mother knew; how strictly he corrected their faults, and upheld her weaker rule over them; how patiently he waited on them in their babyhood; and how thoughtfully self-denying he was, to provide for their future, and the education to which he had always aspired. Mr. James would never listen to it – that was one thing; and, assured of this, his wife began her wonderful story, when he came in at night, by this time allowing herself to dwell, with not a little pride, on the destiny that was offered to this child, glorying harmlessly, as she supposed, in the position and heirship that were laid tribute at his feet, only to be rejected.

“He’s going to sell Highwood, and go abroad. Yes; he told me so this morning. I always thought he was a restless disposition, though a more liberal man I never knew; he sows money wherever he goes. Well, it may be the best we could do.” And the farmer folded his arms, moodily.

Mrs. James could not believe that she understood him. “About Joe, not the farm, I mean,” she said.

“Ay, for the little man and ourselves, too. A thousand dollars isn’t to be found lying at the door every day, and there’s one chance in ten, that the next landlord may take a fancy to keep us here. ‘Twon’t be to easy to be set adrift in the world, and there’d be one less mouth to feed.”

Mrs. James felt her heart swell with an anger and resentment that, for the moment, was almost madness – a wile terror, too, for she knew her husband’s firmness of purpose too well to think of opposing her will to his. But she would in this case. No man would rob her of her child. What was a father? What claim had he on the life she had won and nourished through weariness, and fear, and suffering? She would brave him to his face if he dared to think of it. She would leave him, and follow her child to the ends of the earth. “One mouth less to feed!” Heartless, selfish calculation! She would work her fingers to the bone before that should part them.

Great drops of perspiration stood on her forehead, as she tried to keep an outward self-control, and heard, for the first time in all her life, taunting words, only her own fretful repining, cast back at her from one who had heretofore borne with her infirmity so patiently.  Even after her husband was asleep – for the first time in all their lives without any good-night kiss, for she was too angry and miserable to claim it, and he too sullen to offer the token of affectionate good-will – she lay awake and wretched, clasping her child as closely as if some great peril threatened him, and wetting his hair and soft baby face with her salt tears. All the blessings of her life seemed to stand before her upbraidingly; and she felt as if they were vanishing from her sight.

Leave Highwood! the quiet home that had seemed as much theirs as if they owned every foot of the soil – the vines and wild-flowers she had planted and trained! the shadow of the trees! even the daily sight of those great granite rocks that she could fancy in the moonlight, rising in their sharp but familiar outlines! her home where all her children had been born! Though what was that to the threatened loss of he husband’s love and the child, if a separation worse that death was to come between them? She pictured it to herself. If he died now in his babyhood, her eyes would have the last look of love, the waxen fingers clasp her own before they were reached out to the shadowy messenger. Her hands would robe him for the grave, and lay him in his little coffin; but to live, and never see him, never know of his welfare! or, if they met, to be looked upon with the cold indifference of one who sees a stranger, and perhaps with contempt for her humble lot in life! So she tortured herself, until the moon went down, and left only a hopeless darkness to her straining eyes.

It was very hard to rouse from the unrefreshing sleep that came at length, and go about her morning duties with that weary heartache and no word of comfort from the lips that had never denied it to her before; but her husband kept the same gloomy silence, only saying, when he went out; “Send for me when she comes again.”

Mrs. James had heard of people who prayed, as for life, in great extremities; and she tried to pray now; as she went about her work, never losing sight of her child, and now and then leaving all to take him in her arms, and make him repeat again and again the promise that she put into words for him, that he would never leave her, words that had no meaning to him, but comforted her, nevertheless.

Oh, how slowly the morning wore on! She began looking across the lawn long before the dressing-bell for breakfast sounded at Highwood, and trembled with every step, while Mrs. Livingston still slept under her fluted muslin canopy.  She too had, “prevented the night-watches,” but with an older and heavier grief than her neighbor had ever dreamed of – a new revelation of her husband’s selfish heartlessness, from which the child she coveted promised her relief. It was wonderful that he had allowed her in it; but, like the outward devotion which he paid her at times, it was a fancy of his exacting, capricious nature.

Not that Mrs. James intended to send for her husband as he had desired her to do; far from it! Mrs. Livingston should at least hear a mother’s denial of any temptation of wealth or position could offer; and, though she prepared his mid-day meal with the exactness and punctuality of habit, she would not sit down before it, and dissemble the pain and sorrow he had caused her, but, taking the child, went into her room, shut the door, and lay down upon the bed, burying her face in the pillow in dreary wretchedness. She did not hear the door open softly, or the the loving, pitiful expression of the eyes that filled with tears – they had known but few in a long lifetime – at seeing her lying prone and exhausted with the conflict she had passed through – passed through, for she no longer felt anger or resentment, or opposed her will to “the giver of life and death,” who had appointed her lot; so that, when she became aware that her husband was kneeling beside her, she did not resist the arms that drew her closely to a great, manly heart, but lay there, sobbing heavily; while the disordered hair that fell around her face was pushed back, and smoothed by hard but kindly hands.

“And so you thought I would take him away from you, that bribes or want could make me part with one of them! It was a hard lesson, Mary; and perhaps I was too cruel; but I only meant right; I wanted you to see that it was easier to say than to do, to spare any of them. Here’s last night’s kiss, and here’s to-day’s, and there’s one to ease you up a little. Don’t take on so now! don’t! don’t, when you see I did not mean to say yes, any more than you did!” And so Mrs. James came slowly to understand how her husband’s firmness and sense had taken advantage of the offer to teach herself knowledge, and bring back, if possible, some of the old cheerfulness that had once made his home so happy.

When the apple-blossoms whitened the dooryard next spring-tide, Mrs. James sat under the shade, and sang at her work as in years before. It was harder still that when Mrs. Livingston first came and sat there beside her, bringing, unwittingly, envy and discontent to lodge under the sloping roof. There was “another to do for,” a baby girl, whose cradle was brought to the door-step that she might be under her mother’s watchful, loving eyes. Little Joe scrambled over the rocks with the twins now; and many a sad rent was the consequence; but his mother repaired them willingly, with pitying thoughts of the poor lady who had seemed so cruelly disappointed when his father refused to let him go, remaining proof against tears and entreaties when the bribes had failed.

Mrs. Livingston was an exile in a land whose beauty could but bring partial forgetfulness of her lonely lot, the slave of another’s capricious will. Mrs. James dwelt securely in the house she had learned to prize through fear of loss, upheld in the fretting, multiplied by the cares of life by an affection she never doubted, and fully repaid for them all by the clinging caresses of her little ones, and the bright day-dreams of their future that came and went in the floating shadows around her.