I'm Amanda Blake-Soule. Mama to five little ones - Calvin, Ezra, Adelaide, Harper and Annabel - and partner to Steve (who shares his own words here from time to time). Two years ago now, we moved into an old farmhouse in Western Maine. There's lots of play, many visits to the lake, and in the best of moments - peace and creativity in our family of seven. The other moments are filled with plenty of chaos and craziness, but we love those too.
I started this blog in early 2005, as a way to keep in touch with far away friends and family, and to document my days as a stay at home mom to two young little ones. In the nearly eight years that have passed, this space has changed along with our family. Through this blog, I've found community, friendship, and work that I truly love. My first book, The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections, released in April of 2008. My second book Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures followed a year later, and the most recent, written together with Steve, was released in August 2011, The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through The Seasons (all published with the lovely folks at Roost Books). In 2012, I partnered with the folks behind Nova Natural to create a new quarterly, ad-free print magazine called Taproot: Living Fully, Digging Deeper.
I love hearing from you! I read every comment and email that comes in, and do my best to reply to questions within the comments at the end of that day (so check back there if you've asked a question). The words you share bring me such joy, encouragement and fun. And very often, they lift my spirits and make my day - and encourage me to keep writing and sharing in this space. I thank you for that! I'm unfortunately unable to respond to most emails these days...though I do hope some of these Frequently Asked Questions below will be of help...
wishing you peace in your days,
PS. If you'd prefer the old-fashioned way of getting in touch (we like that, too!) we're (still) at:
PO Box 8190
Portland, ME 04104
You can find interviews with me and reviews of my book by visiting my press page.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I link to your blog? Can I use your photos? What about Pinterest?
Sure, you're more than welcome to link to something you find here! However, please do not take images or content to use on your own site or project, without my permission. Thank you.
Where can I buy your books?
You can find it at your local bookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other bookstores, as well as from the publisher Shambhala directly. Signed copies are available in my Shop periodically throughout the year.
What kind of sewing machine do you use?
I use a Bernina Aurora 430 with the BSR for free-motion quilting. I can't say enough good things about my machine - I adore it. Having a good machine has really changed the way I sew, and was worth the investment for me. My suggestion would be to find your local sewing machine shop and try some out as well as asking other sewers what they use. I also use a Janome serger, which I find very helpful to have when sewing garments.
What kind of camera do you use?
I now use a Nikon D300s, a digital SLR, with a variety of lenses. In the spring of 2013, I switched to a Canon 5d Mark iii.
I want to learn how to sew/knit? Can you help me get started?
There are so many great resources out there now for getting started in any crafty realm! The best, and most meaningful is always in person, though. Do you have a grandmother, mother or aunt who might like to teach you something they love so dearly too? Someone in your community? Online, there are so very many resources. And in books, too. I've gathered some of my favorite craft books in the Handcrafts page of my Amazon Book Shop for reference. Additionally, check out this post, and especially all the comments full of suggestions on getting started knitting - on knitting.
Can you tell me more about homeschooling? What is unschooling?
Our style of homeschooling fits under the ‘unschooling’ umbrella, meaning, for us, that we treat the world as our classroom and follow the interests and passions of everyone in the family. The wikipedia page on Unschooling describes it pretty well - found here. And for anyone interested, I'd recommend reading anything by John Holt. As a way of gathering a list of favorite resources, you can find some unschooling books in my Amazon Book Shop.
I receive a lot of requests about our homeschooling days. I write about our homeschooling experience in the sense that I write about our everyday lives, and our learning is woven into everything we do. But I generally do not write in specific and direct ways about our homeschooling.So much of my little ones lives are public, and particularly as they've gotten older, I'm mindful of what stories are MINE to share and what are truly THEIRS. I think the specifics of their education are one that I want to leave to them - to tell in their own time and their own way should they ever choose to do so, or to just hold close to home. Thanks for understanding!
I'm coming to Maine for a visit - can you tell me where to go?
A few years ago, I wrote a piece "50 Things to Do in Portland, Maine with Your Kids Before They Grow Up" for AlphaMom. And I'm working on a series of 'around town' posts to share some of our favorite spots in and around Portland. Check here for the growing collection of posts. I hope you find it helpful!
And, most importantly.....
How do you do it all?
I don't. There are many things that I don't do, in order to do the things that I love. I work a lot at night when my children are asleep, and now, with Steve home with all of us during the day, I have dedicated work time. My studio space is fairly organized, so that when I do have time to craft/write, I can get right to it, rather than hunt around for things I need. And because my actual crafting time is so small, I've generally thought about what I'm going to do throughout my day, and when the time comes, I can bust it out. Kind of the less time = more productivity theory. But beyond that - I think it's really about the seemingly small, but time-consuming choices we make. Having a super clean house isn't important to me. Making things is. I'd rather spend an hour in front of my sewing machine than the television. And so forth.
Most importantly, please do remember that what you see on a blog is not 'all' of a person's life. For me, my blog is a place of daily peace, a reminder of family joys, and a celebration of creativity. Know that there are as many messes in my house as yours, 'raised voices' from time to time, and frustration and sadness and struggle, too. But for me - this blog space has always been about trying to find and focus on the joys - the everyday beauty and moments of bliss that we have together as a family. It's my hope that it can serve as a reminder and an encouragement to me - and perhaps to you, too - to savor such moments.
Lastly, for a little more insight into how and why I blog, please be sure to read this post - snapshots.