Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 2009 - Advent Table

This year I thought it would be fun to have an Advent Table and celebrate a countdown to Christmas Day.  Being a little Vaisnava family, you would wonder why we would have a Nativity Scene and how does the anthroposophical view of Christ line up with our beliefs.  We both believe in spiritual evolution, with the soul reaching the highest level in the material world as a perfected human being.

These traditions and festivals are supposed to fill our spiritual longings and bring forth light in our lives...especially in the dark of winter.  We are looking for meaning and it's not something you can buy at the mall.  Many cultures celebrate the winter Solstice, the return of the sun, and it's no coincidence that Christmas day is very close to that time. 

We enjoyed reading a light-hearted book for young children, "The Festival of Stones", about a faerie named Tiptoes Lightly. We received it as a belated birthday gift and it was delightful to read the stories each Advent week.

1st week of Advent - The Mineral Kingdom

Our varied selection of minerals and shells

24 day advent candle

2nd week of Advent - The Plant Kingdom

We added some juniper (mountain cedar), pine cones, the cutest rosemary topiary tree and the apple candle used at the kindergarten Advent spiral walk.

3rd Week of Advent - The Animal Kingdom

May we not be stubborn donkeys and be gentle like Mary's.

4th Week of Advent - The Human form of Life


Each day of Advent, we added a shining star to our blue silk sky, culminating with the largest star of all on Christmas Eve.  As followers of Vedic astrology, the chart of the planets and stars at birth is significant.

Hope you had a special Christmas filled with light and surrounded by loved ones.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Book Bargains

We love to read at bedtime and contrary to traditional Waldorf bedtime routines, we like new stories... almost every night.
I'm sure if I had started earlier with reading only the same couple books, my daughter's love for the new and exciting would not have been ignited.  She still likes books with pictures but is able to create an image in her mind's eye of what I have read from books without any.

I like to find vintage books with beautiful illustrations along with mode of goodness storylines.
Many modern children's books have garish drawings, silly stories, adult sarcasm or are recreated from the original book after it had been made into a movie.  We love to find treasures at Half Price Books.  I'm still waiting to find beautiful books by Elsa Beskow and Sibylle Von Olfers and I look every time.
We feel fortunate to have found some special ones below.

Here's a beautiful Waldorf-style Snow White book:

It's the traditional Grimm's tale with the wicked queen visiting 3 times.  I love Snow White in a long white linen dress. The dwarves are very adorable and also quite elemental looking.  From my 80's media-rich upbringing, they look like the California Raisins, but I did not mention that to my dear daughter.

Rudolf Steiner had recommended books with moving pictures or components that the child could move. Making Picture Books with Moving Pictures looks like a fun resource for those who would like to explore the craft. It teaches you how to make interactive books.
I found this delightful reproduction of a vintage Merry Magic Go Round book where you can turn a circular disc to see a changing scene.


Here's one the bowls on the left..there is no one eating.


Then see the bowls on the right and the Three Bears having their porridge.


The book below is a 1947 vintage craft, fingerplay, jump rope song, wonder book.
We even found a song that my daughter sings in Kindergarten.

Oats, peas, beans and barley grows,
Oats, peas, beans and barley grows,
You nor I nor nobody knows
How oats, peas, beans and barley grows.

Here the farmer sows his seed,
Then he stands and takes his ease,
Stamps his foot and claps his hand,
And turns around to view his land.

I have also found some early childhood education gems like "You Are Your Child's First Teacher" (an older edition from the 80's) and "Children At Play".   You can sometimes find older Goldenbooks as well that show children actually engaging in imaginative play.  Our favorites we have found are Little Mommy, Nurse Nancy and Doctor Dan, the Bandage Man

Wishing you wonderful books and the precious time spent reading together!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pumpkins and More

What fun it is to see orange pumpkins!
Here's a recap of the days before Halloween up to the kindergarten
lantern walk in celebration of Martinmas.

We found 3 nice pumpkins at the AWS pumpkin fundraiser.
Not organic but a good price for a good cause.
Here's the harvesting of the yummy insides!

No need to let this all go to waste even though it's not exactly a pie pumpkin.  It made great pumpkin soup, and pumpkin puree to add to our kitty's food.  Cats love pumpkin, in case you didn't know!
Don't forget the seeds make yummy snacks that build patience and are a great nutritional value.

Pumpkin and chocolate chip pancakes!

I was so proud of my husband for creating this spooky pumpkin lantern.
It went on the Pumpkin Path but we did not get to see it as we only went on the Parsnip Path for the wee ones.

After we did about 10 minutes of trick-'o-treatin' on Saturday night and getting about 2 handfuls of candy, we called it a night and told our dear daughter about the lovely Pumpkin Fairy who gives a timely gift in exchange for candy.  This was quite well-received and even though she didn't come early in the morning, more like afternoon nap time, her little gift was met with awe.

She brought a golden felted pumpkin and a glass beaded bracelet/anklet.

The cute small one was wet felted by little miss, next to the one a la the Pumpkin Fairy.  The foreground one I made for a handwork group that is giving handmade items to sell in the school store.  So if you go to the Juniper Tree store, and see an orange pumpkin, you'll know who made it.

A lovely set of lanterns made by our little miss. One sun-bleached one from last year and this year's one made from a small mustard jar. 

Hope you were able to celebrate the autumn season with light and with the humblest of all lanterns that gives so much.... a happy pumpkin.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Festivals of Light

As fall progresses and the days get shorter, people around the world will be celebrating festivals of light.
In the Waldorf tradition, Martinmaas and colorful lanterns ask us to remember the light within.  In India and places where people celebrate Vedic culture, this is a special month called Kartik.  During Kartik, there are many festivals including a very popular one called Diwali.
Diwali is a celebration of where hundreds of lamps and candles, called diyas, are lit in homes, businesses, and temples.  It is to commemorate a special day that happened hundreds of years ago when Prince Rama returned to be king of Ayodhya. Sri Rama rescues his kidnapped wife Sita from the wicked Ravana who was the king of what is known today as Sri Lanka.  Prince Rama had also been exiled from Ayodhya for 14 years as a boon given to his stepmother Kaikeiyi.  This is a magical story filled with monkeys, flying flower-airships, battles, and love and devotion.  It is called the Ramayana and it's a well loved story in India and abroad.

I was lucky enough to participate in a Waldorf-inspired puppet show to celebrate Diwali at my daughter's kindergarten class.  All the children watched with awe.  One particular part they liked was when Rama goes to chase the golden deer that Sita asks for. My daughter was so happy to see Hanuman (Rama's most beloved and dedicated monkey friend).  Each child was given a diya to take home.  Children in a Waldorf school typically learn about the Ramayana in the 5th grade when studying world cultures.

Our Ramayana Finger puppets with handmade diya

At home we celebrated the festival of Govardhana Puja, which is a Vaisnava holiday to remember when a special boy named Krsna protects the whole village of Vrndavana from a horrible rainstorm.
The villagers of Vrndavana had gone against the tradition of worshiping Indra, the demigod of rain and the heavens, and decided to offer their thanks to a special hill named Govardhana.  This hill would give them everything they needed, such as grass for the cows, fruit trees, water, caves with minerals, etc.  Indra was quite angry and sent down rain for a week.  Krsna picked up Govardhana Hill as easily as a mushroom and protected everyone.

One of the many traditions of celebrating is Govardhana Puja to make a large feast including a hill of sweets. Since we have been trying to reduce our consumption of sugar and being sick the last week, we decided to make a hill of uppma (a semolina based savory polenta type dish..recipe here) with fresh veggies from our garden.  This was decorated with flowers, tulasi (holy basil), and some of my daughter's cows.
We also made burfi (a condensed milk sweet).

Govardhana Hill with Cows (In Sanskrit, Go means cows, Vardhana means gives pleasure)

Another ritual we do during this month is offer light to baby Krsna and sing a precious song called Damodarastakam.  Similar to the worship of the Christ-child, we come to see the Divine in the form of a baby.  He is sweetness personified.

Hope you are celebrating meaningful festivals too!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's Autumn!

Just yesterday was Autumn Equinox, when the day and night are of equal measure. It's a time of harvest and preparation for winter. We have had much needed rain and unlike the northeast where they have true seasons, Texas looks very very green now! As the cool weather sets in slowly, I look forward to the change and the breathing inward that the Earth and all of us do.

Our nature table is slowly growing as we have been working on making it festive. We participated in the Seasons Round exchange and mailed off our package to Hannah of Home Baked Education in the UK. We hope that she and her son liked it.
Here's some materials used in the process and what we made.

Wool sweaters for felting

I made this Harvest Gnome with cordoroy pants and a felted orange sweater. He is fully poseable due to a wire frame, has warmth from wool, and a hemp belt for holding tools. He has found the cutest pumpkin with curly tendrils.

Gingko Leaves from our tree inside a little coconut top. The scene is set with a little mat I knit with 3 strands of yarn and then felted.

When our package arrives from over the Atlantic, I'll post more pics. I really enjoyed this exchange and hope I can participate in the upcoming Light one.

To keep some of the brightness of summer, I learned a great tip from and made both orange and lemon vinegar for cleaning. I saved the peels from organic oranges and lemons, put them in glass jars and covered them with plain white vinegar. In about 1 more week, I should be able to strain the peels and have a safer and more natural way to clean.

Here's a happy little plant I found, bursting with berries, and the last of our summer tomatoes.

Warm Wishes,

Friday, August 28, 2009

A New School Year

It's that time of year again. The sun still shines quite bright in our nook of the world, with temperatures still hovering around 100 degrees. We are thankful for trees and the breeze.
We feel so blessed with the opportunity to learn and grow and be part of an awesome community.
Happy Back to School Everyone!
Are you wondering about school lunches? Here's a post from my other blog from last year:
Happy & Healthy School Lunches

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Late Rainbows and Family Drawing Time

This past week a couple different Waldorf bloggers celebrated Rainbow Week (Waldorfmama, Frontier Dreams). Thanks for sharing all things rainbow! I'm a little late, but I figured it's never too late to see a rainbow.

Rainbow "Thank You" Cards from my daughter's watercolor painting time. We are sending some out to thank others for coming to her birthday party.

Rainbow Wool in my recycled magazine bowl

A special Fabulous Fruit picture my daughter drew that is above her kitchen.

We got another orange tabby kitty on Friday. His name is Sunny and joins Bindi, our 2 year old orange tabby. Even though she's still being like an evil stepmother to him, we hope that she can overcome her grumpiness, be more motherly, and realize they share the love of wool.

I had bought a 3 set of Moleskin notebooks for our family drawing time. The fantastically creative mom, Amanda Soule, suggests this in her book "The Creative Family". Even though my husband was not so enthusiastic and said "He can't draw," he gave it a try. Our inspiration was Sunny. Our daughter was so thrilled at us all drawing together. It's a great way to relax and bring out your inner child, who is always a wonderful artist!

Our first entry: Sunny
Dad's pic has the cat with caption "Brains"..oh well, zombie cat returns.

Have a great week!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Summer Girl's 5th Birthday

It was my little girl's 5th time around the sun and what sanguine child would not want a birthday party with special friends. Last year we did a "Save The Bee" Party but this time we did not have a particular theme. I bought The Birthday Book: Celebrations for everyone and was able to read it and get ideas several months ahead of time. I highly recommend this resource if you want to throw a homemade, non-commercial, non-plasticky Waldorf-inspired party for your child. We had animal friends visit, some games, homemade pizza and cake, and a table puppet show.

I made a wool felted crown and found a rainbow dress at the MamaCents consignment sale for $6 in the spring.

I also found a beautiful redhead doll on Ebay. I named her Scarlett Sundari (Sundari means beautiful in Sanskrit). I knit my first sweater using Waldorfmama's Doll Cardigan. It was wonderfully easy to knit for a newbie knitter like myself. Scarlett is wearing a cotton knitted dress that both me and my daughter wore when we were infants. Hooray for vintage!

Making the take-home gift bags was fun. I did not want to give anything plastic or anything too sweet, since we know that children open those bags on the way home. There's no need to have more sugar after birthday cake and lots of excitement that day. I also wanted to include some homemade items. The birthday girl and I made beeswax flowers from unrefined beeswax and she decorated the bags with a sun potato stamp and some other stamps and tempera paint a week before.
Here's what was in the bags: rainbow craft stick bundles, beeswax flower, organic raisins, soft wool yarn for string games or crafts, shiny origami paper, small animal stickers.

My mother wanted to pay for Traveling Zoo to come visit with a pony and some small farm animals. Even though I thought it might be too much activity for the children in one day with the activities i already had planned, they all loved it. They got to ride the pony several times and used their gentle hands while petting the goats, duck, chicks, and fluffy bunny. I also learned that the woman who owns the business considers the animals her business partners and friends and does not send them to slaughter. I'm not too sure about the chickens, but to a peace-loving vegetarian family like ours knowing the goats aren't going to become a stew means a lot.

After the animals left, everybody washed up and then went on a surprise trail. We flitted like butterflies, walked slowly like big bears, went across a canyon (balance beam), visited a fairy home and a gnome home, then finally came to a bell bush, where each child got a ribbon necklace with a jinglebell at the end.

Then everyone came inside because it was getting warm and we played the game Pass the Parcel.
It's basically a layered tissue game where each layer has a small item and it is wrapped individually around the previous layer. The children sit in a circle and pass the gift around while everyone sings a song. When the song is over, the child who has the parcel in their lap gets to open one layer. Some ideas for small items: shell, crystal, marble, small ball of yarn, origami paper, small dollhouse items, wool ball, stickers, jinglebell.

Then it was PIZZA time. I normally do lots of the cooking but dearest husband offered to make homemade pizza. Some for the kids (cheese, cheese and pineapple), some for the adults (arugula, pesto, and even goat cheese with figs). We are very lucky to have such a special guy in our family! Hardly any waste was made from the meal because we used Chinet compostable plates, cups made of corn PLA, and compostable knives and forks. Everything went out into our 2 wire mesh compost bins. Most food was organic and some was even from Greenling (that's where we got the compostable cups)!

After pizza, we had cake which I got from Whole Foods. I'm not a baking extraordinaire and last year I was up to 3am crying because the cake I was baking was sinking in. We aren't vegan, but we don't use eggs in our home, so baking a decent eggless cake especially for a lot of people is not my forte'.
While the eating was going on, the children who were done fast were able to make a craft that would be used in the puppet show. Little wooden figures were covered in wool felt, cotton fabric, ribbon, and wool hair. They all turned out so cute with their own personalities, just like the children themselves. It's amazing what beautiful things can be made with simple items.

The crazy part of the party and probably at parties everywhere is the gift opening. Last year I requested no gifts because I was afraid of the onslaught of Disney and media characters that my child would love and things that would make me cringe. Since most of her friends go to a Waldorf school or are Waldorf inspired, the gifts were lovely...yarn & needles, wool felted doll, beeswax, playsilks, child's apron, bead set, colored chalk. My brother got her more of those wonderful Fairy Books (Red, Green & Blue). She even got an Ostheimer mama lion and cub. My husband got her the knight's outfit from Nova Natural. My funny sister did not follow the "rules" and got her a Sleeping Beauty outfit! It is pretty in pink but I think we may just have to remove the Sleeping Beauty likeness for now and make it just a generic princess dress.

I wanted to end the party on a sweet and quiet note. Children under 7 are generally still within a dreamlike state where fantasy and reality are not separate realms. They can believe stories and the moral lessons they impart. They also believe in the good of the world and if they have nice examples to imitate, the goodness of the human being. The table puppet play comes from the Birthday Book. It incorporates some of the traditional elements of Waldorf birthstory including an angel friend, the rainbow bridge, and the parents waiting for the child.

In this story, the angel has given the child a treasure bag with heavenly items to bring with her to the world. She comes over the rainbow bridge, meets a gnome and forgets the bag on the side of a stream. She goes on playing, then sees a path that leads to her parent's home. Then they give her a name. One day, she has a birthday and invites friends. The wooden figures the guest children made had been gathered and are placed on the table one by one in the order they came to the party. The children all laughed when their figure was placed on the table. Finally the birthday child is sad when her friends have to leave and wishes she could give them something. A birthday fairy tells her that the Wise Gnome has kept her treasure bag and she will ask him to bring it. Each child is then given one of the heavenly treasures on a golden string.

A heavenly raindrop is a piece of blue glass, a sunbeam is a glass ball etc. To hear the oohs and ahhs and the wonder of the children was enchanting. Then the Wise Gnome gives the birthday child a golden star to remember the light and to share it with the world.

It was such an endearing story that I teared up at the end. I find the innocence of children so beautiful. Here's to Kelly, a little light to the world. Happy 5th Birthday!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Seal Maiden

Are you going on a road trip to the beach or somewhere far away?
Are you looking for something different from the regular genre of fast-paced music?
Here's a great CD I recently discovered with beautiful music for children and (adults).

Usually recorded music is not encouraged in the Waldorf tradition, but I would have to say that folk music or something that your grandmother would have sung in her traditional land is a wonderful thing. This is definitely better than what is on the radio for kids nowadays.
Most children's music insults the child's intelligence, is too silly and garish with unnatural instrumentation.
The Seal Maiden is more than just music, there is a narrative that blends the songs together seamlessly. If you are a fan of Celtic music and traditional pieces from Ireland, you will love this. If you like a good story and enjoy hearing peaceful and beautiful voices, you will find that Karan Casey's vocals and narrative will transfer you to the land of Silkies.

Happy Listening!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rainbow Wool

What to do on a record hot Texas summer day? Dye some wool!
My daughter's teacher had sent me this link sometime ago about a fun wool dyeing project for young ones.
A Child's Dream
At first I was a bit reluctant because the coloring agents were unsweetened Kool-Aid, but it was so easy and gave a wonderful result.
My little miss has never tried Kool-Aid and after our dyeing session she believes the rainbow packets of artificial color are only for dyeing wool. She said "If I drink this, my insides will get dyed weird Mom." Children are so smart!

Wool roving, about a 8 inch piece for each color
6 old glass mason jars (I used a Pyrex bowl too)
Small Kool-Aid packets (unsweetened)
- They were 5 for $1 at the local grocery store
Bamboo skewers for mixing if you don't want to have dyed hands
Hot water

First we soaked the wool roving pieces in a bowl with some warm water.
We filled each jar a quarter of the way full of water and then added the Kool-Aid powder to each one. Then I filled it halfway full with hot water from our tea kettle.
Then we took the pieces of wool roving and placed them in each colored water jar and stirred with the bamboo skewer. Soon it was time for the jars to make a beautiful rainbow in the sunshine.

It was about 95 degrees out by 10am. We left the jars out for about 4 hours, coming outside to stir a bit then running back in.
Then it was time to wash the wool. I got a large bowl and filled it with warm water.
Amazingly, for most of the colors, all of the dye was absorbed into the wool! The water was clear and we were able to rinse it out with our hands.

Then we hung the wool rainbow in the shade on our hemp twine light line and it dried in about 1 hour.
It looked so beautiful and we have yet to think of a project for it. We did give a bit of it as a present to one of my daughter's friends in a birthday gift.
It's fun to share wool love.

I'm going to start thinking of doing some plant-based dyeing now, but this was a great beginner project.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Solstice Sun Day & Father's Day

It was a lovely longest day of the year! It was the perfect day for everyone to do a little Surya Namaskaram..the salutation to the sun.
Surya is the sun god according to the Vedic paradigm and I found a bright watercolor painting of him on his chariot with his 7 horses. He is very similar to Apollo of Greek Mythology.

Our little miss gave dad a handpainted ceramic mug she painted at the local ceramics shop, Cafe Monet. She included much "ALOHA" as Sean always thinks back on his childhood days spent on the beaches of Kauai!

Then we had a nice breakfast, trip to the bookstore with daddy, and then some summer faerie making. We also found out about a local business nearby called Solstice Gardens that we hope to visit soon.

Here's a picture of our Summer Solstice nature table.

Sun star, faeries, sun princess and gnomie friend, sunflowers and zinnias from our garden, crystals and more.

We celebrated Father's Day with a homemade lasagna, salad with greens, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers from our garden and cannolis.

All glories to the shining sun!