Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent

This is the first year we have really taken to Advent. I have clumsily tried to honor all of the many traditions of our mixed family, and somehow they have all been coming together this year. I wanted to give my children a connection to Hanukkah, which my step family is so culturally tied to, but all I had to go with were childhood memories of a menorah next to our Christmas tree. This year we lit the Menorah each night of Hanukkah we were home, sang the songs, danced the Horah, and made latkes on the last night. Rather than telling the stories, we simply told the children that Hanukkah is about bringing light into darkness, and about miracles, big and small. The children really took to it, and since the elements I incorporated were tied to my own upbringing I didn't feel like a phony, as I was afraid I would.

Advent, however, is totally new to our family. I didn't even hear about it until my adult life, so I really didn't feel a connection to it until this year. As with Hanukkah, we are incorporating the aspects that feel true to our family, and so far it has been a lovely start to a new tradition in our home. Here's how it looks at our house:

Our little Advent garden...


At dinner each night, we sing the song:

Advent, advent a candle glows,
Advent, advent a candle glows,
First one, then two, then three, then four.
Then stands the child of light at the door.
Advent, advent a candle glows.

Then we light the appropriate number of candles and say the verses up to the week we are on.

The first week of Advent is the light of the stones,
The light that shines in seashells, crystals and bones.

The second week of Advent is the light of the plants,
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

The third week of Advent is the light of the beasts,
Our animal friends, every one, from greatest to the least.

The fourth week of Advent is the light of humankind,
The light that shines in all of us, in hand, heart and mind.

The last light of Advent is for the birth of light,
That came to warm the earth in the darkness of the night.

After dinner, the girls each open a door on our advent calendar. They do not get a piece of candy or a little gift, as I don't want to make this season more about sugar and consumerism than it already is. All they "get" from opening the little door is a peek at a beautiful picture, but they are just as enthusiastic and delighted as they would be to get a piece of chocolate or a little toy. I like that Advent holds this anticipation for the children.

This year we are mindfully trying to shift the focus from getting to giving. It is difficult when everywhere we turn well-meaning friends and strangers ask the children what they are asking for from Santa. Why don't we ask what they are giving loved ones? We have been working on lots of projects for gifts: painting wooden frames, finger knitting, rolling beeswax candles. I am excited to spend an afternoon lovingly wrapping each one with the children. They will each have a little sack to put their gifts in which they can take with them to grandparents' houses and generously pass out gifts to their family. I think after all of the St. Nicholas and Santa Lucia stories we've been telling them they will really enjoy this.

And just for fun, and since it is seasonally appropriate, my first chalkboard drawing...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Menorah Craft

Lyra and I had fun with this Hanukkah craft. It was really simple, but came out looking so pretty on our table and mantle, especially as we lit the candles. You will need: 8 small baby food jars, clean and dry; 1 larger baby food jar, clean and dry; tissue paper in assorted colors; mod podge; paint brushes; scissors (optional). Cut or tear the tissue paper into small pieces. Set aside in separate piles. Brush one jar with mod podge and stick tissue paper all over it. Coat the outside with another layer of mod podge. Set upside down to dry. Repeat with all other jars. Once dry, place a tea light inside each jar. Viola! (We used a small pillar candle in the center jar, so we could use it to light the others. We put a little clay in the bottom so it would stick.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Favorite Waldorf Supplies Websites

For the basics - Sarah's Silks play silks, wooden kitchens and accoutrement, wooden bowls and cutlery, and rocker boards (last two sites only):

www.novanatural.com
www.palumba.com
www.bellalunatoys.com
www.atoygarden.com

For a discount on Waldorf toys and homeschool supplies, art and craft supplies, Weleda, supplies to make your own silk canopies and play silks, glockenspiels, choroi flutes, etc... (and to support a fabulous homeschooling Waldorf mama and her four children)

www.cedarringcircle.com

For gnome homes, gnomes, and handmade dolls by the lovely Christine:

www.thepuppenstube.com

For the best "Heavy Baby" doll kits:

www.dreampixie.com

And more doll-making kits:

www.weirdolls.com

For Waldorf wooden frames, beautiful advent calendars, wooden mushrooms, and other hard-to-find toys:

www.waldorf-toys.com

For eurythmy supplies, art supplies, and beautiful musical instruments:

www.art-makes-sense.com

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Martinmas Celebration for 2-5 Year-Olds



Martinmas is a popular festival in our home. I and L both really connect with the story of St. Martin, and both adore reverently carrying their little lights with purpose on a dark night. I was sitting at the computer Monday night, thinking about this, and decided to throw a spontaneous Martinmas celebration and lantern walk. Evites were sent out immediately, and the whole night came together with relatively little preparation.

Monday night we sent the evite, which read:

"We would love your company Wednesday night for an evening in celebration of the little lights in our lives that keep our paths aglow, even in times of darkness.

*Please bring a washed, chopped vegetable to add to our soup pot for dinner, and warm clothing for you and your little ones.

Schedule:
5pm - arrive and add vegetable to soup pot
5pm-5:30pm - lantern making craft
5:30pm - Stone Soup story and St. Martin puppet show
5:40pm - Lantern Walk in the dark!
6 or 6:15ish - Soup and bread dinner, and apple cider

If you would like the words to our lantern song:

"I walk with my little lantern
My lantern goes with me.
Above the stars are shining,
Below, on Earth, shine we.

The Moon, she glows
The cat meows
Hey, hey, hey!
La Poomba La Pumba La Hey!"

Hope to see you there!"

Then the planning began. Tuesday I got everything I needed for the lanterns and food.

For the lanterns, you will need:

enough baby food jars for each child, plus a few extras
pipe cleaners to twist around the mouth of jars, and up into handles
mod podge or other glue
tissue paper in red, orange and yellow
electric tea lights or beeswax tea lights



Wednesday afternoon we set the dining table with a bowl of apples, cucumbers and other snacks



And made some gluten-free muffins with persimmons from our friend's ranch. (The secret here was to get a gluten free muffin mix and add hochiya persimmon pulp and pumpkin pie spices.)



An hour and a half or so before guests were to arrive, I roasted a butternut squash and an acorn nut squash. While they were roasting I filled the crock pot with cider and cinnamon sticks, and set a couple of jars beside it with cinnamon sticks in them for garnish. Then I got out our biggest pot and sautéed garlic and onions in some butter. Then, in went vegetable broth, lots of chopped veggies, and the squash. As guests arrived, each brought a washed, chopped vegetable and added it to our soup:



The children decorated their lanterns at a little table outside, ate muffins, apples and cucumbers, and ran around the yard and house. After everyone - all twelve of them - had made a lantern, I went around and let the children know that we would have a story and puppet show in five minutes. Everyone was enthusiastic and gathered in the living room, which was now dark as I had turned off all the lights. I sat at the story table and lit some candles, told my version of Stone Soup, and then sang a St. Martin puppet show.



Next, it was time for the lantern walk. Each child collected his or her lanterns, and I passed out the lights. They lined up at the back gate and we sang the lantern song while we walked (ok, and sometimes ran) out along the nature path out back in a big loop. The children did so well!



It was so beautiful to see these tiny ones with their little lights, all walking in a long procession in the darkness. Of course the pictures I took from my phone do not do it justice:



The children returned to our home for a bonfire, apple cider with cinnamon sticks, the Stone Soup they had made, and bread.



They loved playing with my husband:



And I think the last guests left at around 7. Short and sweet, and absolutely lovely. Here is Isla's rendition of the event:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Salt Caves in SB

The girls tried out the Salt Caves on State Street during the children's hour. We think it's a fun, albeit short, rainy day activity. Check their website for available times at www.saltcavesb.com.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Autumn in Santa Barbara

Enjoying the harvest at their uncle's house:



Picking the perfect pumpkin:



Finding lizard friends at the park:



Making and re-making the Autumn Nature Table:



Practicing dressing up for Halloween: (The amazing felted fox hat is from vaiva nat on etsy.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Incredibly Easy Baby Sweater Pattern

With so many of my dearest friends pregnant, I have been knitting a little again. This sweater just happened organically, but it turned out so cute I wanted to share the pattern. It is suitable as a first knitting project so even if you are very new to knitting, this is one that you can do in a couple of days:



I used a chunky weight alpaca yarn.

To make the front piece:
cast on 28 rows
knit 52 rows (26 wavy lines)
cast off

To make the back piece:
repeat what you did for the front piece

To make the sleeves
cast on 20
knit 32 (16 wavy lines)
(do this twice so that you have two sleeves)

Arrange the front and back pieces so that the front piece is right-side up and the back piece is above it, upside down.
Whipstitch the shoulders together, leaving a lot of room in the middle for Baby's head to come through.
Arrange the sleeves so that the lines are going the opposite way as the lines of the body. Whipstitch all the way across so that you now have a shape like a cross. Then you can fold the sweater at the neck and whipstitch from the edge of the sleeve down to the armpit, and all the way down to the bottom of the sweater.

Make a Heavy Baby

Both the girls love their heavy babies, which I made as birthday presents this year. The pattern is from www.dreampixie.com, and is so easy! There is something different about a handmade toy that we have never captured in the store-bought variety. I think my girls can feel the love that went into making their dolls every time they hold them. I wondered if watching me make them would diminish the magic of seeing the finished baby, but I don't think it did. If anything, it made them appreciate the effort it takes to make a toy.



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Michaelmas Finery

Last year we celebrated Michaelmas for almost a week, culminating in a big celebration on the actual day. Each day we had a puppet show and practiced a song:

The Autumn winds blow open the gate,
St. Micha-el for you we wait.
We follow you,
Show us the way,
With joy we greet this Autumn day.
Good morning! Good morning! Good morning!

The first day we dyed silk capes, the second day we opened dragon masks, a gift from my dear friend Hilary and her sweet son:



The third day we unwrapped handmade wooden swords of light, and the fourth and final day we made Dragon Bread. Since it had to be gluten-free, I had a little trouble with the consistency. We changed course midway through, putting carob chips in it and forming muffin-shaped rolls instead. These we called "Dragon Eggs" and they inspired a fitting activity:



The girls donned their capes and carried their swords through the "woods" (our living room, which we set up as an obstacle course), on a mission to find the eggs (which I hid throughout the house). It was really sweet, and went with the stories and puppet shows we had been working on that week.

I can't wait for more inspiring ideas for this year.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Clean Your Home Naturally - Easy Homemade Disinfecting Spray and Toilet Bowl Cleaner

I have been wanting a really simple recipe to make that will disinfect the bathroom and be a good all-purpose light cleaner. When you just want to disinfect and don't actually need to scrub off hard-to-remove residue, this spray is perfect. I use it in the bathroom and on the kitchen floor (which is linoleum :(...) and it leaves a light, really nice "clean" scent behind.



Bathroom Spray - Use this to disinfect the toilet, tub, and other surfaces in the bathroom. Spray on and let dry for best results.

You will need:
A spray bottle
8-10 oz. distilled water
20-25 drops eucalyptus radiata essential oil
20-25 drops tea tree oil
10-15 drops lavender oil

First label the bottle with permanent ink. Then add the water and the oils and swish around to mix.
This should be good for 6 months, but you'll probably use it up faster than that.

*For incredible, non-toxic toilet bowl cleaner: Combine 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar. Stir together, dump in toilet, let sit for 5 or more minutes, scrub with a toilet brush.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Finding Our Weekly Rhythm

Being of sanguine temperament I always struggle with sticking to our rhythm. I even find it hard to "finalize" our family rhythm, because I get so hypnotized by all of the lovely details, and want to do it all. One thing I strive for is no media in front of the kids. This is nearly impossible, as I have two jobs which require computer and iPhone time. However, my goal is zero media so that I expose them to as little as possible.

Probably also due to my temperament, I have to stay busy, doing at least two things at once, or else I go crazy. In the past this has meant 1. knitting a sweater while watching a movie while writing my thesis, 2. reading a book while checking my email while cooking dinner, 3. doing an oil painting while talking on the phone while journaling, etc. So much of what I did before kids is on the back-burner now, but I still crave doing multiple things at once.

The bad days look like this: watching my children while sneakily working on my iPhone while filling jewelry orders every time someone is not crying. Not ideal. It is so important to me to make time to play with my kids, and I definitely do that, but I think I needed to find some other things to do in front of them while they play independently or with each other that would be enriching for their lives as well.

When I do a meaningful task, like folding laundry or making dinner, the girls either join me or play *for the most part* happily somewhere near me. The second I try to do something on the computer, or pick up a book or my phone, suddenly they are both falling apart. I think it's so good for them to see me working at something purposefully with my hands, and I don't mean typing on a keyboard.

I am working on writing up a chart for a weekly rhythm, where each day lists an activity taking care of the home. Some contenders are: folding laundry, deep-cleaning the bathrooms, weeding the garden, push-mowing the grass (have to get a push-mower...), mending clothes, and re-beeswaxing the wooden bowls and utensils. I do all of these things every week, but there is no real order to them. I would like to have the sing-songy "Wednesday is polishing the bowls day" about these tasks, and when I have it all drawn up, I'll be sure to post it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Make A Little Fairy Mobile

Beneath the Rowan tree on easy sells, among other things kits to make sweet little fairy mobiles. I am always on the lookout for fun projects to do with Isla during our "special time" while Lyra naps. This was a good one, and you can buy one here. It would also be a sweet project for a pregnant mama expecting a little one.



Here is our finished mobile, hanging up in the play room:

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Best Kid Hike in SB

One of my favorite hikes to do with children is Tucker's Grove. To get there, take the 101 north to Turnpike exit and turn towards the mountains. Once in the park, drive all the way to the end and park near the trailhead. Here's Lyr, on our way back, with a little friend she found on the road:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Get Camping

There are so many beautiful places to camp near Santa Barbara, and it's not as hard to pull it off as you might think. I didn't camp for years after having Isla, thinking it would be too difficult without Ryan, who was busy working and building our business. Now that the girls are 4 and 2, I've taken them twice, without the hardworking hubby, and both trips were surprisingly easy.

Our most recent trip was to Big Sur, which was an easy 3 hour car trip away (ok, maybe 3.5 hours since we had to stop 4 times to go potty!) We stayed at Plaskett Creek, on the Southern side of Big Sur.


It was a great spot, with lots of room for the kids to run and climb:



...and a very short walk to the bluffs and beach:





Because we were only staying one night, and setting up/taking down a tent seemed like a lot of work to me, we camped in the Prius!



We didn't bring a stove, (which we will be sure to bring next time!) so I just brought a cooler and a big basket of easy food like fruit, yogurt, nut butter, rice cakes, corn cakes, gluten-free pizza, prepared gluten-free pasta, prepared oatmeal and agave, prepared rice and beans, cold chai for me, coconut water, salami and turkey for my carnivorous children, avocados, lots of veggies like carrots and zucchini, etc. I will admit, we met some of our dear mamatoto friends there, and Emma made us a gourmet dinner that night, but we arguably would have survived without it...

We left home at 6am, arrived by 9:30, played all day, ate Emma's homemade gluten-free s'mores around a campfire, slept in the car, packed up, and headed home around 11. Both girls were happily exhausted and slept the whole way home, so we made it back by 2. An entire vacation in 31 hours. Success!



Saturday, June 29, 2013

Everyday in the Waldorf Kindergarten

This is such a sweet book. Children who go to a Waldorf school will love it (like mine do!) and it would be equally wonderful to familiarize a child who will be new to Waldorf before he goes to school. Here are some of our favorite parts:







*I believe they are only available on the Bella Luna Toys website, which is where we purchased our copy.

Sweet Book for Summer Solstice and All Summer



"Sun Bread" by Elisa Kleven