Tuesday, May 31, 2011

plant dyed silk in the playroom

Back when Spring had just just begun I posted some pics of the twenty yards of silk I had plant dyed with friends at Naiya's school.  Since then the ideas for hanging this lovely, sunny silk have undergone a number of modifications, not the least of which was swapping the playroom and office spaces over the last two weeks.

Finally today I enlisted Oma and Opa's help in getting the silk up onto the ceiling.  With our three minds put together we came up with the concept of looping the fabric around an embroidery hoop that hung from hook-eyes bolted into the ceiling around the perimeter of the light.  From there the material swags over to the picture rails where it is held in place under a dowel kept up with tacks and nails. 

I think we're still not totally pleased with the look.

Now that I see it all in place, I'm thinking the three foot width ought to have been completely expanded at the outer edges instead of gathered into two foot wide clusters. 

Perhaps I'll make some adjustments in the days to come.

For now we love the way the light shimmers around this new bright room and relish in the radiance of the sunburst that hovers over our heads.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


We were talking about our chicks with Oma and Opa this evening and I was saying that I like to get different breeds so that we can more easily distinguish each chicken and her unique personality.  Oma mentioned that when they had their chickens, they were all the same (brothers and sisters).  Despite their similarities, she assured us, they were easily differentiated.  Their personalities were just so distinct.

"But they're not people," Naiya interrupted, "they all have different chicken-alities."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

new chicks

We've done it again.  We had been toying with the idea of adding a few more chicks to our flock and today we went out to just take a look and perhaps decide on the breeds for a new pair.  Somehow we went from "window shopping" to purchasing and came home with a trio instead.  
Since there are three, we all have the opportunity to name one.  I've already decided the Americauna will be Persophone.  Naiya's chicken will once more be the biggest, feathery-footed girl.  She's a Cochin of some kind and so far the name choices are Sunflower, Jelly Bean and Sprudel.  We'll see where we are with naming in a week or so.  Ryan is also taking his time creating a moniker for the Black Australorp.  She's the big chick in the pictures and we're guessing she's at least two days older than the others.  Hopefully it's not just that she's a he.  We're loving them already and are planning to make a greater effort to handle them in order to generate an even friendlier covey this time around.

Monday, May 23, 2011

simple felt crowns

We've been playing dolls quite a bit lately and Naiya's stories keep leading us down the princess path.  After many a tiara twisted from play silks or cut from paper and temporarily held in place with a bit of scotch tape, we finally devoted a crafting afternoon to making several sizes of crowns for all the royalty who constantly show up in our games and play.  These aren't the most elegant diadems we've ever concocted but they were simple and Naiya was able to help make them and did the decorating entirely on her own.

We began by measuring a length of elastic around her head and hand-sewing the ends together.

We then folded a piece of paper in half and cut a crown pattern.  (When the paper was unfolded, the finished pattern was perfectly symmetrical.)

We placed this pattern on a piece of craft felt that was folded in half at the bottom edge.  We traced it with a pencil (one could also use fabric chalk) and cut out the crown shape.

After unfolding the fabric, we slathered on some Tacky Glue.  (Tacky Glue works well on fabric and holds pretty firmly over time.)

Finally, we laid the elastic band on the felt (with the stitched seam inside) and re-folded the bottom edge.  We carefully lined up the points and sealed the band inside.

While Naiya's masterpiece was drying in the sun (which took a couple of hours), we measured a few dolls heads and prepared for ranks of royalty to arrive.

For decorating, I set out little bowls full of buttons, beads and costume jewels and handed Naiya another paintbrush along with a pot of glue.  She decorated all the crowns in similar fashion with bling at each pointy tip.  All the ladies are ever so pleased with their new regal head-wear.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

papier-mâché stool

It's not a secret that I'm no fan of plastic, but because we're on a budget, always accept and appreciate hand-me-downs and gifts from friends and relatives and have limited skills for larger scale building projects, we do have a few plastic items in our home.  One of these is the perfectly sized little four-legged stool from Ikea.  Naiya sits on it when she draws or paints at her easel or uses it for various games, structures or vehicles.  For months I was trying to find tree rounds to make one from wood but, more from lack of tools than from lack of materials, eventually I let go of the idea.  The one she uses is really sturdy and also serves as a table, a boat, a car and a doll house (among other things).  Aside from it's plastic-ness and shocking green color, it's great.
So last week I decided to just hide it's true nature under a layer of re-used natural-ness.  (I actually did this same thing to the hideous pink and gray bathroom tile that surrounded my fireplace when I first moved into my house.)  I covered it with torn up paper shopping bags.
 Weird, eh?  But I dig it so much more than the day-glo green and there's (seemingly) no more plastic furniture in Naiya's play room!

The torn bag bits were dipped into a mixture of about 4 parts white glue to 1 part water and the stool dried in about 3 hours next to the heater vent.  One could also paint the surface I suppose, but I like the organic look of the brown bag.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

needle felted family

These are the newest additions to our needle felted clan.  Lady Spring is there on the right (the current matriarch of our Nature Table) and because we often have need of a family for our puppet shows and story times, I created a little girl and a daddy as well.  I think I need the assistance of a stylist to create man-hair.  This poor chap has a dreadful bowl cut that surely no respectable farmer father would sport.  Perhaps I'll just top him off with a hat.

These were based on the same design as the Mother Earth doll I created a few months ago.  (For that tutorial click here.)

People are always surprised at how simple needle felting can be.  Just last week my sister-in-law was over and said she didn't really understand what needle felting was.  When I pulled out my felting needle and whipped up a little bird-like critter in a few minutes she seemed somewhat shocked.  "That's all you do?!"  she exclaimed.  Yes, there isn't really much to it.  For those wary or who feel lacking in artistic talent, know that needle felting is one of the simplest, most fool-proof forms of creation around.  Go ahead, get yourself a needle and some wool and give it a go!

(To see some other easy needle felted projects I've previously posted, click here, here, here, here or here.)

bleeding heart

Every year I am amazed by this plant.  One day I notice a few shoots sticking up from the brown, post-winter ground and two weeks later there's a beautiful, two foot tall shrub there covered with stalks of bleeding hearts.

This year Naiya really discovered it for the first time.  She says it's her favorite plant because there are a whole string of relatives upon it.  "Mommy," she explained to me one day, tapping each flower with her delicate finger, "there's a baby and a little brother and a big sister and a teenager and a grandma and a grandpa and a mommy and a daddy. They're a whole family of flowers all together!"

Now I think it might be my favorite plant too.

There's even a Legend of the Bleeding Heart...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

laundry day

Another exciting day here on the homestead.  Yes, today was the first day of the year we were able to use our favorite clothes dryer - our good friend and yours - Father Sun.  There's just something about hanging the laundry out on the line.  I only began doing this a few years ago and was astonished to find that on warm days it is actually faster to dry garments out of doors than in my natural gas dryer.  And then I just love doing it.  Clipping on those clothes pins and then the fluttering of dresses in the wind...
I feel summer coming...

The sunshine brought a cheery day for us all.  Naiya even let me take this picture of her with the promise that I'd let her take one of me.  (We've had a lot of covered faces and turned backs for the camera lately.)  With the camera on auto focus all I have to do is make sure I'm in the middle of the frame.

Which isn't always easy with a 40" tall photographer who tends to let the camera droop quite a bit whilst shooting.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

may faire

May Faire is probably my favorite festival of the year.  Partially this is due to the lightness of heart and spirit that accompany the warmer and longer days coming to the Pacific Northwest in tandem with this joyous observance.  Mostly though I love the strong sense of community that this celebration brings as we commemorate the Spring (or Summer depending on one's seasonal calendar).  It seems we've spent many a cold, wet day tucked away in our individual homes and this is the moment we come out and not only join together in song and dance but fall back into the warm and greening arms of Mother Nature as kindred cousins sharing the stories and crafty goodness that the colder, solitary months created.

The Waldorf school is such a huge part of our lives and, outside of our families, it is the backbone of our social world.  May Faire (as well as other festivals there) helps to anchor us in our annual rhythm in which community plays such a large part.  It's one thing to take note of the breathing of the earth and the changing of the seasons on our own.  It's quite another to have a whole village recognize the incredible value of reconnecting to the harmony and beauty implicit in the seasonal round of festivals.  As Father Sun plays hide and seek behind the clouds this day, we enjoy the company of friends and family as we watch the Maypole and Morris dancers and share our picnic lunch on the lawn.

Beneath the dancing, hair braiding, eating of sweets and the chaos of the children's play, there is a sense of reverence in many activities and, unlike many carnivals or amusement parks, I don't feel like the faire sets us up to seek or experience manufactured happiness.  There just exists in its participants and events a deep and comfortable, quiet joy.  A joy we experience together.

At home this morning, we prepared by putting together fresh Spring garlands (for a quick tutorial click here).  We also brought a basket of ankle bells mommy had made the night before to share with friends.  (Perfectly delightful for the little one's as they skipped around the Maypole!)
This year Naiya was able to really participate in all that the festival had to offer.  While I enjoyed and was inspired by the artistry and innovation in the craft market, our dear daughter partook of the more kid-compelling elements of the day.  There was an old fashioned cake walk, a puppet show, a wandering pocket lady, face painting and hair braiding.

The very clever parents of the children in the grades also provided us with an array of wholesome pastimes.  We got to search for buried treasure in the sand, fish with our feet for jewels in the pond...

make our own bubble wands...

 to create giant bubbles...

tie fairie rings, race paper boats in the creek...

and ride in a donkey cart. 

The freedom and merriment of Spring are upon us with all its color and light.

here is a branch of snowy May
a branch the fairies gave us
who would like to dance today
with the branch the fairies gave us?
dance away, dance away
holding high the branch of May

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

fluttering by

Come bright butterfly, close to me
Your beautiful wings I should like to see
You fly like a bird, you sip like a bee
But you're really a flower the wind set free

Over the past year I've had this fascination with decor hanging from the ceiling.   There is often a wreath with holiday or season themed objects hanging over Naiya's play table.  Additionally, last Autumn the birthday fairies left a flutter of butterflies in her room.  Since these would have been much more appropriate for Spring I thought I'd wait until this season to mention them.  There is just something magical about these things suspended in mid-air and slowly flitting about as small breezes and rising heat from the vents gently twirl and sway them overhead.

(The magic is made possible with "invisible" thread and a little glob of white adhesive putty stuck to the ceiling.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

fresh flower garlands

As part of our special celebration yesterday we crowned our dear daughter Queen of the May.  I adore the carefree frolicking of any child running and laughing with flowers in their hair.  Who doesn't?

We didn't actually plan ahead for that May Day garland and were lucky to have some gladiolas handy to put one together.  For next week's May Faire at Naiya's school we'll be gathering blossoms in advance and although she'll not be queen of that festival, our little Naiya Sophia will certainly celebrate as a fairy princess.

Since our friend Lisa asked how we created the wreaths for last year's Faire, I thought I'd use yesterday's fabrication to post a quick how-to...

For a basic garland, all that is needed are fresh flowers, a wire coat hanger (or heavy gauge wire), floral tape and (optionally) some strands of multi-colored ribbon or yarn.

Begin by unwinding a wire hanger (or simply use a heavy gauge wire) and bend it into a circle slightly larger than the head for which it is intended.  (It is slightly larger so that when the flowers are added to bulk up the circumference, it will still fit.)

Loop the excess wire around itself to hold the circlet in place, then wrap the wire with floral tape.  (Floral tape is slightly waxy, somewhat stretchy and sticks to itself but not to you.  It is the key to easy garland making.)

Cut the flowers so that each bloom or branch has about 2 inches of excess stem to wrap.

Lay one flower stem against the ring and wrap a short length of floral tape around the wire and stem, binding them together.

Lay another flower in the same direction as close as possible to the first and repeat the above wrapping process.

Because I was using gladiolas which have several flowers on one stem, I left some of the branches intact (with several blooms together) and just wrapped at various points along the shoot.

This wrapping was done for every flower until the circular base was completely covered.  (Additional tape was added where flowers or stems felt loose or stuck out at odd angles.)

From underneath, the wreath looked like this.  (It's also possible to cover both the top and bottom side using this same method.  It just takes more flowers and fingers gentle and adept enough to tuck around and under fragile blossoms.)

For a little extra flourish I added ribbon streamers.

When the garland was complete our May Queen was ever so pleased.

Our garlands last year were created basically the same way but with hawthorn branches wrapped onto the wire circle prior to adding more flowers.  By themselves I thought the hawthorn made a more masculine coronal and my dad (always the good-natured festival participant) donned his cheerful head-wear with aplomb almost the entire day.

in the blink of an eye - V

Sunday, May 1, 2011

may day

Today when we went outside to fetch the blueberries from the freezer, Naiya found this beautiful basket on our back doorstep.

After our fun filled day at the beach yesterday we had nearly forgotten that today is May Day!  I don’t know how that could be because it’s a holiday we just love.  The Celts considered this cross quarter day of Beltane or May Day the first day of Summer with the Solstice in June marked as Mid-Summer instead.  With our very wet, dark and cold half of Spring just coming to a close though, it makes sense that Summer should be proclaimed when the sun really comes to stay.  Had it occurred to us, perhaps we would have stayed at the coast last night and danced around a bonfire for Walpurgis Night then crowned our May Queen as the light of dawn crept over the horizon this May morning.

Instead, we found that the fairies in our yard had done something of just that sort and we crowned Naiya as our queen just after our delicious blueberry waffle breakfast.
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