Thursday, December 29, 2011

pippin and scarlett

Pippin and Scarlett
In case it wasn't obvious from that previous post, for Christmas we got Naiya a pair of kittens.  They're brother and sister and, impatient as kittens can sometimes be, they let themselves out of the box before our dear daughter was really ready to open presents on Christmas morning.  After she figured out what was going on and really grasped that they were hers and that they were staying, she was delighted.  Ryan and I have also been captivated by their adorable nature and are pleased to welcome these new little lives to share our home for, hopefully, a long, long time to come.
Current count: one mommy, one daddy, one adorable child, one angel in our basement, five chickens, two kittens, one garage full of many, many mice.

Monday, December 26, 2011

3 winter crafts

Now is that time when the excitement of Christmas has passed... but here are our children, out of school, away from friends and (depending on which part of the world in which we reside) perhaps stuck indoors with little to do.  What a perfect time for some indoor winter crafting!

Naiya and I like to use this part of the season to return our home to some version of normal (although we do have two new kittens rampaging about) and also to sit in cozy comfort working on some old craft favorites and a few new projects as well.

One of our standard winter undertakings is glamming up all the natural treasures Nature is offering for us when we take our afternoon walks.

With a little glue, paint and glitter, we make baubles to hang from our seasonal tree, decor for our Nature Table or even a festive centerpiece that, although made by a child, looks like it might have come right out of a Pottery Barn catalogue.

New to us this year is pouring beeswax to make these cute ornaments.  We simply melted the wax in the mini crock pot we keep just for this purpose and Naiya poured it from a ladle into the mold herself.
(Alternately, one can melt wax in a double boiler.  Safety note: Beeswax has a melting point of about 145° F.  It can ignite if heated past this point, so don't put it in the microwave as temperatures there can be unpredictable.  Remove it from the heat source once it has dissolved.)
 The mold we used was a non-stick molded cookie sheet we purchased on sale at our local craft store.  We poured in the wax, let it cool for about 20 minutes and the snow flakes just popped right out.  We bored a hole into a few of these using a small length of wire coat hanger that we heated on the stove.  (We wrapped the "handle" end of the wire in duct tape to keep the conducted heat from burning our hands - safety first!)  The heat and a little pressure were enough to melt a small hole for stringing up these cute decorations.

Another of our winter favorites is making pomander oranges.  Actually, since the skin of oranges are a bit tough, for little hands we use satsumas or mandarins.  Children just press cloves through the rind in any pattern they wish.  I've seen very skilled and creative adults form very intricate and complicated designs on these.  Either way, the smell is divine and they're so bright and beautiful.
These can also be tied with ribbon and hung as a decoration or placed into a bowl for a festive display. 

What kinds of crafts are happening in your home during this post holiday lull?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

merry christmas

Happy Christmas to all!
(The best Christmas present ever!)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'twas the night before christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
He whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and Saint Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Saint Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes, how they twinkled, his dimples how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry,
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

our winter nature table

Happy Winter Solstice to all!
Softly, softly, through the darkness
Snow is falling.
Meekly, meekly in the meadows
Lambs are calling.
Coldly, coldly all around me
Winds are blowing.
Brightly, brightly up above me
Stars are glowing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

the light of humankind

 A few days back I posted that I was needle felting the human figures arriving this last week of Advent for our Nativity Scene.  Each day a new effigy arrives in Naiya's Advent bags.  I'm about one day ahead of completing one figure a night. (whew)
Behold...the three wise kings.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

more classmate gift ideas

I got a couple of appreciative bits of mail regarding the idea for a classmate gift I posted a few days back so I thought I'd share some other sweet hand made presents that we gratefully received.  There are so many crafty and creative folks out there!

One classmate made these adorable walnut shell candles that were delicately bundled in a cloth with a Christmas wish attached.

(Just out of curiosity, I set these in a bowl of water and, as I suspected, they float!)

From another friend, Naiya received this enchanting gnome topper on a rainbow Lyra pencil.

She carried this one around for hours banging the poor gnome's head on every
surface she passed. 

(I found out this idea came from The Gnome Craft Book by Thomas and Petra Berger.)

From Naiya's kindergarten teacher, she was thrilled to receive a holiday offering of a gnome and a stone that were part of a story told in class that day.  The connection to the day's tale, of course, made this present extra special.

Monday, December 19, 2011

the fourth light of advent

Advent, Advent a candle burns
Advent, Advent a candle burns
First one then two then three then four
Then stands the Light Child at my door
 The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind
The light of love, the light of thought, to give and to understand
    As the fourth light is illuminated on our Advent wreath, the human figures begin to arrive at the manger. 
    Although I wasn't able to hand make the animals this year, I am frantically creating one human figure each night to place in Naiya's Advent bag before she wakes in the morning.  I started with a couple of shepherds (do they look like shepherds?) and next will be adding the three kings and Holy Family. 

(If you're interested, I'll be posting a tutorial on how to needle felt these little dolls within the next few days.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

zoo lights

Another of our annual holiday traditions is visiting the Oregon Zoo for their Zoo Lights extravaganza. 
(One day I will learn how to take photographs in the dark...)


papier-mâché stained glass advent window

In the kindergarten class next door to Naiya's, the teacher each year papier-mâchés a "stained glass" window above her Advent Nature Table.  It is just so beautiful that I wanted to share it.  I'm not sure (since it isn't actually from our class) but I believe the image is from a story she regularly tells at this time of year.  (That's a little gnome in the lower right hand corner!)

(For tips and a bit of how-to for tissue paper stained glass, I recently came across this post from Jessica at Moonbeams and Applesauce.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

no candy in this land

I'm not a huge fan of board games but a few years ago someone gave Naiya the classic favorite - Candyland.  I never had this game as a child so, unlike some friends of mine, the thing holds no sentimental value for me and, frankly, I find it rather boring.  I suppose board games can help children learn to follow instructions, instill patience and teach them that sometimes there are winners and losers in life.  I don't know...  I'm just not good at enforcing the rules when we play and often the game degenerates into something it was never meant to be.
 Yesterday when Naiya pulled out dreaded Candyland, she (thankfully) didn't even ask me to participate.  I couldn't actually tell you what went on with these game pieces but I don't think there was any candy in her magical land.

the third light of advent

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts
Who all await the coming in the greatest and the least

   As each week passes, we remove the previous offerings from our Advent wreath and set them around the perimeter.  In celebrating this week of animals, our seashells, stones, seedpods, herbs and flowers now clutter the table.  I had hoped to make the manger animals from felt but with the season being what it is, our week of animals is (somewhat sadly) store bought.  (I'm still hoping to felt the holy family and their visitors before next week arrives!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

little waldorf classmate christmas gifts

Around this time of year, Naiya and I try to come up with some small hand made gift to give to all her classmates for the holidays.  We often draw on successful craft projects from the past and this season we feel especially pleased with our results.  Since I've only got about three people (other than my mother) who are local readers, I'm going to risk surprising our school friends and go ahead and share our idea (which we're not handing out until Thursday) for those who might still be looking for inspiration for similar purposes.
We had everything for this craft leftover from the year, but even if supplies were purchased, this little holiday offering ends up costing less than a dollar per. 

For a recent local craft market, we helped our school fashion over a hundred of the paper lanterns seen in the tutorial here.  Since the paper started as a rectangle but required a square, we were left with many, many scrap strips and from them made these teeny tiny lanterns as our gift "containers".

Then, re-using an idea from Naiya's birthday treasure hunt, we made these holiday themed "dragon tears".  Like in the tutorial shown here, we painted the backs gold and also glued on a magnet.  They're pretty and useful!

We laid a tuft of wool roving in the star, nestled the magnet stone inside and wrapped the whole thing in some white tulle bound with a red ribbon.  With a little more of that scrap water colored paper we also attached a brief greeting.

Children can contribute to the making of these presents by painting the watercolor sheets for the stars and gluing the little paper pictures and magnets onto the stones. 

... Hand made, inexpensive, small and ready for sharing on our last day before winter break.  Merry Christmas friends!

(For additional hand made little gifting ideas, try also clicking here for a pocket pal tutorial, here for a sand candle how-to, here for some super easy to sculpt little oven fire clay houses, here for a beeswax polish tutorial or here for a play dough recipe.  Alternately, try just scrolling through the "crafty craft" label list seen to the right.  Happy holidays and happy crafting! )

Monday, December 12, 2011

making our own wrapping paper

     Every year around Christmas I try to come up with inventive ways not to purchase (and waste) wrapping paper for holiday gifting.  In the past I've sewn and put into circulation oodles of reusable fabric bags or wrapped presents in bits of fabric or play silks. 
     This year, since our afternoons are often filled with arts and crafts, I have had the additional waste-not-want-not dilemma of what to do with the plethora of beautiful drawings and paintings my daughter turns out week after week.
    You see it coming of course...  Why not put all of those lovely watercolor paintings, stamp works and crayon drawings to good use?  We've got wrapping paper galore just waiting to be wielded!  When I mentioned this to Naiya she suggested we make a few larger sheets in case some big gifts needed a little bundling up. 
     Another new holiday tradition is born.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

the grotto's festival of lights

Every year we visit The Grotto (The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother) in Northeast Portland to see The Festival of Lights.  It's a really splendid spectacle and the pictures don't do it justice.
 In addition to the amazing light display, the festival hosts the largest Christmas choral festival in the world with over 170 holiday concerts performed from November 25th to December 30th.  Also offered are warm beverages and snacks, a life size nativity scene, a petting zoo for the children, a holiday puppet show and outdoor caroling. 
Despite the fact that it's outdoors and COLD, we always enjoy stopping by.

Friday, December 9, 2011

lighting the path to christmas - the advent spiral

     Last week we participated in the annual Advent Spiral at Naiya's school.  The spiral is a longstanding Waldorf tradition whose origins seem to be a bit vague.  Like many symbolic traditions of the season, though, it is a beautiful ceremony lighting our way toward Christmas Day.  (Unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture that actual day in pictures.)
     Parents were invited to come watch as our children walked the spiral of boughs laid out on the floor in a darkened room with a beautiful lyre being played in the corner.  After the children arrived and were seated across from us, one by one, each child was handed a red apple holding an unlit candle.  Following the example of their teacher, each boy or girl reverently carried their candle along the path to the spiral's center where a larger lit candle burned atop a tree stump.  There, the apple candles were lit from the existing flame and, somewhere along the path back out of the spiral, the children placed their apple candles wherever they chose on one of the many golden stars along the path.  With each new candle the room brightened slightly and, in the end, the spiral glowed amidst a palpable sense of wonder.
     In our class, my daughter was the only child who refused to take part in this beautiful event.  She wouldn't get out of her seat. 
Not alone.
Not with her lovely teacher.
Not with me. 
She does, of late, have an inexplicable aversion to candles.  Perhaps that was it.  Perhaps it was something else.  No one pushed it.  She shared the experience even if she didn't take the steps herself I thought and I know now that something of it is working in her still...

     ...We've been playing a lot with ornaments as we unpack them to decorate the house and today I placed this string of stars in a spiral on the table.  I didn't think much of it but thought it looked pretty and didn't know where else to put them. 
     Naiya saw it and almost immediately, in movement and voice so indicative of that reverent day, proceeded to gather little people to walk the spiral path.
     She asked me to help her form the candles for children to carry (using scraps of beeswax) and each one made its way to the wax flame she placed in the center.  There they lit their tapers and, just like at school, left their little flames on the golden stars as they made their way back out.

     She didn't walk the spiral with her classmates that day but I know, somewhere inside, she's holding the light in her own heart and sharing its warmth and glow as she travels her own path.

The gift of light we shall thankfully take
But it shall not be alone for our sake
The more we give light, the one to the other
It grows and gives light, and shines even farther.
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