Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Handmade Holidays

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is planning and making special gifts for my loved ones. It gives me so much joy to create something special that will be used and treasured. Of course I inevitably find myself overwhelmed and rushed but seeing the recipients face makes it completely worth it. Here are a few of my favorite handmade gifts for my family.

I've been longing to make a Maggie Rabbit for A for a while. I bought the kit months ago but finally committed to complete it for Christmas. It was certainly a test of my hand-sewing skills but the final product is so cute. A wool rabbit with a little Liberty peasant dress and wool knit caplet. Though the first thing A did when she got around to playing with her was strip her down. I might need to make another outfit for her to change into.

Speaking of another outfit, I decided it was time to add another item to A's waldorf doll's wardrobe. I had some lovely Anna Maria Horner fabric set aside to make A another Lazy Days skirt so I took the left over fabric and made a matching skirt for "Big Girl". I made them both a second matching outfit but it needs some tweaking before I post it here.

I knew I wanted to make F his own mama-made quilt but I was going back and forth on a design. Finally I found this beautiful organic fabric from Charley Harper for Birch Fabrics. Since A's horses quilt is still so popular, I chose a similar design. It's backed with a super soft vintage sheet so the whole quilt is just perfect for a cuddle. F might be too young to love it now so I will give it love until he's ready to claim it.

I wanted to make something special for my husband this year. I taught myself to cable knit this month and a found a soft Rowan yarn that seemed like something he would wear. I did my best to knit it up in secret and finally finished 2 days before Christmas. To my disappointment it was much to small. I didn't use a pattern for this hat so I guess I calculated the size wrong. I told him I will whip up another hat as soon as he tells me what yarn he'd like. In the meantime A or I could get some use from the mistake hat.

The final handmade gift wasn't actually made by me. I envisioned it and told J what I wanted and he created it. He chose some beautiful sapele wood and made it to fit A's ferby pencil crayons and her Stockmar block crayons. It's beautiful and I adore seeing her art table orderly. How glad I am to have a talented woodworking husband.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry and Bright

 Have yourself a merry little christmas
Let your heart be light

May your holiday be filled with joy and love. I'm signing off for a couple days to be completely present for my son's first Christmas and to thoroughly enjoy the company of my family. Wish you all light and love and may you find happiness in the holiday season.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lucia Morning

Saint Lucia day first caught my attention when I was a little girl and my aunt gave me a set of American Girl paper dolls. One of the girls came with a Saint Lucia dress and crown. Later I got the books (let me just say that American Girl was much different in the early 1990s and it was still owned by the Pleasant Company) and my interest in the Swedish tradition of Lucia morning continued. My mother and I saved those books for my children so it was with great excitement that I brought Kristen's Surprise in preparation for Saint Lucia day.

The book that turned out to be a hit however was Lucia Morning in Sweden. Just right for A's age and beautifully illustrated. We even used the recipe for Lucia buns from the back and attempted to learn the song. I was so excited to have real saffron for this recipe (thanks Mom!) however I really underestimated how much they would rise. They were huge! However a mandarin orange and a half of one of the buns made a lovely breakfast.

As we chose to celebrate Saint Lucia day as a cultural holiday, we decided to read books about how Swedish families honor the day and then replicate the experience in our home. Weeks before, I made a felt crown for A. I considered making F a little star boy hat but I knew he would pull it off and quickly outgrow it. I had a little white gown with red sash for A but when I woke her early on Lucia morning she was not interested in wearing it. She chose a different dress but still wanted her crown. In A's own words, Lucia "brings the light when you are in the dark" so we put a few candles on her tray and brought the light (and breakfast) to Daddy and F, who were still in the dark. We then lit a few more candles and shared the meal together (even F loved the saffron buns). What a lovely December celebration for our family.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Kind Old St. Nicholas

Kind old man Saint Nicholas dear,
Come to my house this year,
Here's some straw and here's some hay,
To help your horse along his way.
Kind old man Saint Nicholas dear,
Come to my house this year.

Kind old man Saint Nicholas dear,
Come to my house this year,
Pray put something in my shoe,
For I've been good the whole year through.
Kind old man Saint Nicholas dear,
Come to my house this year.

Traditional German

 Saint Nicholas Day is another holiday that we don't traditionally celebrate but as I read about it in the Waldorf community I thought it would be a fun day for my children. In the days leading up to Saint Nicholas day we started reading some books about Saint Nicholas. Our favorites were The Baker's Dozen, The Fiercest Little Animal in the Forest and The Gift from Saint Nicholas. We chose more secular tales about the bishop.

Finally it was Saint Nicholas day eve. We gave A a cloth to polish the shoe of her choice to lay out with a bundle of hay for his donkey (I apologize for the grainy pictures. I wanted to get some shots of her shoe but it was already very dark). We watched this little wordless story and went to bed. While my darling girl slept, Saint Nicholas filled her shoe with a little Saint Nicholas doll, an orange, chocolate coins (which we didn't eat but rather she was allowed to trade a coin for an extra bedtime story or extra bubbles in her bath or an extra cookie), a little Ostheimer cat for her farm (she named it Zooey) and some walnuts. I considered putting a shoe out for F but he doesn't need much from Saint Nicholas so we decided to spare him the work of bringing unnecessary gifts to our house.

It was a nice surprise for my girl. She spent the morning playing with her new doll and cat. Her dad helped her crack open her walnuts and she chose to juice her orange to go with her snack. I also set out a little Saint Nicholas snack for her that day. It turned out to be a great addition to our holiday celebrations.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's Beginning...

We are bringing the holidays to life all over our home. Books, decorations, crafts, greenery, music; it is all coming out and being carefully put in place. We are starting to tell new stories and celebrate new traditions. This year we are introducing the nativity story and celebrating advent. This Sunday we lit the first candle in our advent wreath and read this story (a favorite already!). We are looking forward to visiting the living nativity in our city this year.

I seem to have forgotten though how busy the holiday season can be for us. I decided to sign up for some craft swaps. While they are fun to do, I'm finding myself very over-stretched. I just finished my last swap though so a bit of a weight has been lifted. I made sweet little cross stitched ornaments. I do enjoy cross stitch and I like the Scandinavian look of the snowflakes. I think I will make a couple more for our own tree.

This will be F's first Christmas on the outside so he needed a stocking. His stocking has been on my mind for a few months now. I had intended to knit him one but typical me, I left it until the last minute and just wasn't sure I could finish it in time. So I found a hand knit wool sweater at the thrift store and decided to give upcycling a go. I must admit I'm not thrilled with it. It seems lumpy. I lined it with quilting cotton and stitched a wool F and a berries and leaves to it but it still doesn't look as I dreamed. It will do for this year at least and I will decide whether I will make him a new one for next year. It doesn't seem to match the quality of A's stocking.

Saint Nicholas day is approaching so we are working on a few crafts and reading some special books in preparation. We also plan to make some gingerbread cookies for our baking day this week (just like in this book). Anyone have a stellar gingerbread recipe? I will share our Saint Nicholas traditions next week.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Winter Fair

Today we ventured up the island to attend the Winter Fair at Sunrise Waldorf School. I had been looking forward to visiting the Waldorf school again and this fair was the perfect occasion. I can't tell you how much we enjoyed it. The weather was gorgeous and the school was so welcoming. The drive (as it often is with our children) was not fun but I knew as we drove down the road and saw the cars lined up, that this was going to be a hit for the whole family.

The school was beautifully decorated for the season. You are welcomed by King Winter and beautiful displays of greenery and candles. The sun shown through the window stars and the halls were filled with the smell of cedar, pine and beeswax. Each room was a different craft or activity. There was candle dipping, wreath making, clay sculptures, Christmas sing alongs, silk scarf painting, an enchanted cave, a little cafe, and more. A wanted to make the little kinder crafts so we started with a pinecone ornament and a bath salt sachet. Then we all made our way to the silk painting. We were worried that it might not dry in time but it did and it was so beautiful. I see more silk painting in our future.

There was a long line up for the candle dipping but once we got inside it was magical. The room was dark and everyone was whispering. The wax stations were set up around a beautiful table decorated with candles, lights, nesting dolls, a christmas village, nativity stall, and winter forest. It was lovely and we went home with a gorgeous and fragrant (who can resist beeswax candles) taper for our table.

Our last craft was wreath making. Again, the smell of the room filled with cedar and pine and spruce just made the process more magical. Christmas carols from the other room filled the air. While the wreath we came home with isn't quiet what I would normally make (what can I say, I like cohesion in my design) A was the designer and J and I executed her vision for that reason I love it the most. I can't wait to hang it on our door and hear the tinkling of those little bells this winter.

A magical day indeed. How I wish we could send our children to that school. The parents and teachers were so warm and welcoming. The school itself was bright and gentle. The playground was fantastic and the school is surrounded by beautiful woods. Who wouldn't want to learn in such a place. At least it isn't so far we can't attend these community celebrations. I can't wait for the next one.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Paper Lanterns

As we explore more aspects of the Waldorf philosophies we find ourselves embracing some new holidays and festivals. Martinmas, while based in Christianity, seemed to be a lovely way to celebrate the coming darkness of winter. We read the story of kind St. Martin, a knight in the army of Amiens. One night he came upon an old beggar, half-naked, shivering in the cold. St. Martin took the cloak from his back and, with his sword, cut it in two. He wrapped the old man in half his cloak, giving him not only warm but hope as well.

In preparation for the holiday, I did some reading about the traditional lantern walk. I talked about it with A and she seemed very excited about making the lanterns and walking through the night with friends. We used some paper we did leaf rubbings on to make these lanterns. We learned a song or two (Glimmer, Lantern Glimmer was new this year), and prepared a special warm treat to share with our friends on that cold night.

It was indeed very cold that night. We had to bundle up and unfortunately the wind prevented us from having an actual candle in our lanterns. The LED candles worked though and probably saved our lanterns in the end. The cold of that night helped to remind us of how cold the old beggar must have been and what a gift Martin gave in warming him with his cloak. We walked through our community gardens, sharing our light and singing our songs. When we stopped to share some hot apple cider (from the apples we juiced back in September) and ginger snap cookies, we talked about what special lights we have inside us to share with others.

The best description of the lantern walk's meaning that I found was from the Cincinnati Waldorf School's Facebook page. "So as we walk together with our lanterns, we may ask ourselves, “What ‘light’ - in other words, unique talents and gifts - lives within me that I can share with my family and my community?” There are countless ways, every day, in which parents and teachers act on behalf of their children. Loving guidance and patient understanding shine on the children like a lantern leading them on their journey through childhood. Let our Lantern Walk inspire and rekindle the light that lives within, and a reminder to take that light - those gifts that each of us harbors, and share them in the innumerable ways that are meaningful to ourselves and those around us"

We really enjoyed celebrating Martinmas this and I foresee this being an annual celebration for our family.  Thank you to our friends who joined us on our walk. Your company made the celebration all the more enjoyable.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy Halloween


What a happy Halloween it was. Though it was mostly a last minute event, we had fun celebrating it. We carved the pumpkins the night before. Little F was perfectly happy to sit beside us and shred the newspaper I put down and squish pumpkin guts between his fingers. It was almost dangerous to be working with a knife so close to such cuteness. My A requested that we make a kitty pumpkin (like her Zooey she said) and a ghoster (for those who don't speak 3 year old that is a ghost). I don't have the carving talent I wish I had but she was very pleased with the final pumpkins so we will count it as a win.

When I asked A what she wanted to be for Halloween she flip flopped between fairy, princess, fairy princess, fairy puppy princes, and fairy puppy princess pony. In the end I lay out a fairy costume with a little princess crown and magic wand. She seemed very happy with it. She proudly showed off her costume to the camera before heading out. However when asked about it by neighbours she corrected them that she was not a fairy but rather a princess. Halloween is about pretending to be who you would like to be so I let her say whatever she wanted without correction.

This year was the first year A actually went to the door. Last year we just walked around the neighbourhood looking at decorations. At first she was nervous and chose to only go to the houses that already had other children at the door but she warmed up to the process really quickly. She was so darling. Instead of saying "trick or treat" she through her arms in the air and shouted "happy Halloween!". It gave our neighbours a good chuckle. She chatted with several of them too. She made sure to point out her pink boots and magic wand.

Now, we avoid refined sugar. We try to only eat raw honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar. And even those we try to use sparingly. We let A have white sugar from time to time (like a lollipop at Enchanted Halloween) and it is always followed by a spectacular meltdown. Above and beyond anything she normal does and it often involves hurting us or herself. So you can imagine the idea of a big basket of candy was less than thrilling for us parents. We touched on the idea of the Halloween Fairy last year but since she didn't go trick or treating it wasn't an issue. This year we talked about it again but after listening to the Sparkle Story about the Switch Witch it was decided that we would leave our candy for the Switch Witch so she could make fairy dust for the Halloween Fairy and all the other fairies. She did ask a couple times to keep her candy but when I reminded her that the Switch Witch leaves gifts she was easily convinced. This year she got a dark chocolate pumpkin (low sugar and we split it into thirds), a Brambly Hedge mini book and a wooden dragon. She was very excited. I was very relieved it was such a successful holiday and I look forward to future Halloween's if they will be so fun and easy.