Monday, February 27, 2012

collecting eggs for easter

I realize it's a while until Easter arrives but it's never too early to start collecting eggs I think.  In the past we've had a number of crafts with blown or hollowed eggs and again this year we'll be saving our clutches for decorating...
(these are silk dyed)
(stuffed with moss and little wooden bird)
and for filling on Easter day...

Those for filling are what we need a lot of and so have begun saving already.  For this particular use, we don't carefully blow them out but just cut off one end with a serrated knife.
We carve a fairly large hole because the Easter Hare will use these as delivery vehicles for little trinkets.  They're dyed just as one would dye any regular hard boiled egg.  A treasure is then placed inside and using paint brush, glue and a bit of tissue, the hole is sealed.  They can then be hidden on Easter morning to be found by throngs of delighted children.

I think they're best just tucked away in outdoor hidey holes and in the tall grasses so they can be stomped open right on the ground (great fun for kids, assuming that the contents are not breakable).  Because here in the Pacific Northwest our holiday is often Very WET however, they can also be opened indoors.  (As seen in the photo above, our daughter placed hers a towel then cracked them open with her hands.) 

Now, what is that Bunny going to fill them with this time around?...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

the lenten season

   “No, we’re not Catholic,” we tell our friends, “but, it’s true, we often observe Lent.”  Some people think this is kind of nuts.  Admittedly, it seems odd, but I was reading this article on the science of self denial by Jeffrey Kluger of Time today and I feel like it offered some insight into why the observance of holidays like Lent can be beneficial for those of both the religious and secular persuasions (and to some degree explains why we have taken to observing it ourselves.)   It was about how this season is not only one of spiritual penance, piety, and submission but also one which leads to the development of impulse control and, ultimately, can lead to greater self confidence and even increased happiness.  Kluger writes:
When it comes to good-time holidays, Lent does not rank very high. Nor do Ramadan or Yom Kippur, of course, and no wonder. They are all about saying no to something (or many things) you love. Where's the egg nog and holiday joy in all that? But we observe these less-than-festive celebrations all the same -- and we have good reason to do so. There are hidden benefits to so much ritualized self-denial...
   Lent has traditionally been a time of penance and abstention, a time to contemplate the sufferings and temptations of Christ as he fasted for forty days in the wilderness.  Historically, this was a time when certain Christians removed all animal flesh, dairy and eggs from their diets and gave renewed focus to prayer and charity. 

   Neither Ryan or I grew up observing this kind of asceticism, but there’s something about the Lenten season that has always appealed to us.  It’s the focus on temperance and self sacrifice and the turning inward toward contemplation and stillness that just seems appropriate for this time of year.  (Also, my willpower could really use a whole season dedicated to its strengthening any time.)

Every time an observer of Lent craves -- and resists the lure of -- a forbidden indulgence is a tiny reminder of a commitment made...  Neurologists and behavioral psychologists generally think of willpower as what's known as "domain general," which means that the more you practice it to control one behavior -- say, overeating -- the more it starts to apply itself to other parts of your life like exercising more or drinking less...

   Additionally, there’s something in knowing that there is a whole community of folks out there struggling to strengthen their will with me.  Through the experience of abstention, I think, we all come to foster gratitude for the plenty that we regularly enjoy.  With our modern culture’s tendency toward overindulgence, many of us live in varying states of excess, almost always giving in to our impulses.  We’re quite attached to food, drink, media, comfort, pretty things and modern conveniences of every kind.  It’s easy to forget that all over the world (and even in our own local communities) people struggle just to survive.  Giving a vice or a pleasure up by choice, it seems to me, helps to strengthen something within us and also connects us, in a small way, to the greater community in which we live.  

   For the children in our lives (who are forever living in a world of imitation), I think the Lenten mood helps cultivate a feeling of reverence and gratitude as well.  Who doesn't need more of that, right?  Despite religious affiliations (or lack thereof), maybe it's not so strange that folks embrace this season of sacrifice and all it has to offer. 

   "Happy Lent" surely isn't the proper salutation here but... I'd like to wish that the spirit of this season rests untroubled in your hearts.  Happy renunciation to all?    

   (Crafts for Easter coming soon...)

Friday, February 24, 2012

video tutorial: paper star lantern

I've had numerous folks request a video of the Paper Star Lantern tutorial since still shots and written instructions are not always clear.  This is my first video attempt.  It took me thirteen minutes to make the video and three hours to figure out how to get it into the blog.  (A sad commentary on my technological savvy.)  Let me know if you think it's helpful.  And enjoy your lanterns!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

recycled quilt pillow

Before we leave the Valentine season behind, I wanted to share one final heart craft idea.  This one is not my own but was a gift to Naiya that her Oma found whilst local artisan shopping last year. 
Though the front of the pillow is cut from a vintage quilt (that likely was not entirely intact), the back is of a new, soft, plush material.  I occasionally find beautiful but somewhat edge worn, hand made quilts in thrift shops and have the instinct to rescue them from their lack of appreciation.  What would I do with another old (albeit exquisitely crafted), frayed blanket I wonder?  Well, now I know.  This one has been well loved.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

the razor

I'm not especially coordinated.  I tend to have a somewhat exaggerated fear of being hurt or even uncomfortable while pushing the limits of my body.  I'd rather lounge on the patio than bungee jump any day.  I can't dance.  I have absolutely no interest in extreme sports and hardly an interest in regular sport of any kind.  Also, I'm not good at learning things I'm not immediately good at.  I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was ten and was always chosen last for team games in school.
Yeah, I was that kid.
I'm not proud of these facts.  I'm not especially ashamed of them either.  But I have given some thought to normalcy in childhood and the influence my lack of interest and my dis-abilities in this area might be having on my daughter (or might have in years to come).
She's not especially amenable to physical risk either.  She only climbs the lowest branches of the trees while her friends scale the heights and after struggling two or three times to ride her bike more than ten feet many months ago, she gave up and reacts unkindly to that contraption's infrequent reappearance.

That's why when a few weeks back she asked us for a scooter, Ryan and I started immediately searching them out and, after finding one on Cragslist for $10, gave it to her without it even being a special holiday or occasion. 

We like to encourage her adventurous and daring side at any opportunity.   (I know scooter riding is hardly daring to those of you with regular tree-climbing, monkey-bar-swinging kids, but we're working within differing confines here.)
We're on day three.
She's fallen a few times even though she barely lifts her foot off the ground.  Even so, she glows when she rides this thing - laughing and smiling as she putt, putt, putts down the sidewalk.  I think she thinks she's doing something absolutely amazing.
In my book, she totally is.
Maybe she'll be her father's daughter in this after all.

Go, my little Razor girl!  GO!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

happy valentines day

"Valentine's Day follows the heart-warming mid-winter festivals of light, and it is said that on this day the birds choose their mates.  I've always liked the contrast of the beautiful frozen filigree of snowflakes juxtaposed against the warm, round red image of a heart at this time of year..."

                                                                               (from a recent note written by our dear Waldorf kindergarten teacher)

Happy Valentine's Day to All!

Monday, February 13, 2012

hand made paper valentines

In the end, we ended up not adding anything to our hand made paper.  We thought of gluing on additional paper shapes, adding flowers, stickers or ribbons or even a poem but most of the children in Naiya's kindergarten don't read and we liked the simplicity of the heart inlaid in the paper without any bling.

Tonight before bed I told the story of the Valentine Sparrow to prepare for the joy of the class exchange in the morning.
Additionally, for the past few days I've been telling the story of The Valentine Baker of Pink and his magical heart shaped cakes.  This sweet tale is from Juniper Tree Puppetry and Suzanne Down's most recent monthly newsletter (which I enthusiastically encourage all those interested in seasonal story-telling to join).  We loved this story as read and also worked it out as a little puppet show.  Mostly I was using it as preparation to transition out of "gifting" our daughter for every little holiday.  (I do so love to make things but even our hand-mades are getting to be too numerous.)  Instead of making her yet another special holiday craft then, tomorrows "gift" will just be a nice spice cake in the shape of a heart that our whole family can enjoy as a Valentine treat together.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

self styled

This morning Naiya picked out her clothes and dressed herself.  She's been doing this now and again lately and, I have to say, she has a sense for style that I have never possessed myself. 
With those naturally wild curls, she looks especially good in hats I think... and also with things just wrapped randomly around her head.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

making paper for valentines cards

   Naiya and I have been trying a few ideas out for this year's Valentines. 

   We really liked this concept, but after cutting out all the little hearts for just the two we completed, we didn't think we were up to making twenty more of these.  We do know that we'll be working in the paper medium this year though, and although we still haven't formulated the entire design, we decided to make the paper ourselves!

   Paper making is an old art and, once you have the equipment for it, is pretty easy to do.
   I've had this pour mold/deckle for years and have no idea where it originally came from but after searching online found something very similar here.  One can also make the equipment from fiberglass screens and old picture frames or even from cardboard and duct tape as seen here.

   Once your equipment is set up, making an actual sheet of paper takes only a few minutes and the possible variations are endless.
   This is a great craft for kids.  What child wouldn't want to make from scratch their own paper, note cards, gift tags, ornaments and Valentines?  Naiya loved adding glitter and confetti, flowers, leaves and even wool to create a plethora of one-of-a-kind pages.
To begin you'll need:
some kind of mold/deckle set-up
a bit of window screen
a shallow tub
a tray or cookie sheet with high edges
a sponge
a blender or food processor
absorbent blotter paper, felt or other rags
a pulp source (recycled paper, paper towels or tissue you've already got or even lint from your dryer will work)
water and a place to work that can get wet

I've seen people make paper from equipment somewhat different than mine.  There is usually a wooden mold with a screen attached and a separate deckle (an empty wooden frame) that sits on top of the mold that serves as the boundary to keep the pulp in place and define the page size.  In place of the mold, my kit just has this plastic platform/drain rack and a very fine rigid but flexible plastic screen is strapped between it and the deckle before it is turned over and lowered into the tub to receive the pulp.

The tub is filled with warm water enough that the screen sits below it by at least 3/4 of an inch.

The easiest way to make pulp is in a blender or food processor using paper, paper towels, newsprint, tissue, shopping bags or even lint from the dryer.  One sheet of paper makes one sheet of paper of similar size and thickness so find the appropriate mass and tear the recylables into small bits.  Blend the material with 1 -2 cups of water for about 30 seconds to make the pulp.

Pour the pulp into the mold and spread it evenly around in the water using gentle fingertips.

Since we're working on Valentines, we set a cookie cutter on top of our screen and carefully poured a contrasting pulp within its boundaries.  (Naiya also added a huge handful of chunky glitter to this batch of pulp.)

Holding the mold/deckle very level, lift it out of the water and set it in a cookie sheet to drain.  (Technically, the cookie sheet isn't necessary.  It's used to keep countertops and floors dry but I suppose one could do this project out of doors and forgo this piece of equipment.)

Carefully lift the deckle from the screen.  This may require pushing edges back in place or using a flat edge to help separate the two pieces from each other.

Remove any additional interior molds (the cookie cutter in our case).

Gently place the piece of screen over the pulpy sheet.  With a sponge press firmly down on top of the screen, wringing out the water as necessary, until no more can be extracted.

Lift and slowly remove the screen.

Place blotter paper (thick absorbent paper, fabric or felt) on top of the pulpy paper and press it with a wood block or rolling pin to extract more water and flatten the page.  Flip so the blotter is on the bottom and remove the screen.  Place another dry couch sheet (that's the technical paper-making term and is pronounced kootch) on the pulp and blot it again.  Repeat this with as many couch sheets as are necessary until no water comes through the blotter.

Gently peel away the couch sheets and bask in the beauty of hand made paper.

The sheets will take anywhere from a day to three to dry.  For instant use try a blow dryer or place the sheet between two thin pieces of fabric and iron on a flat surface until dry.


And now on to card making...

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Today we saw our first snowdrops on the way home from school.

Mother Earth is already sending forth blossoming bulbs and today we marked this seasonal midpoint by gathering with friends to celebrate the infant light of Spring.  We reflected on the fading of darker days kept illuminated by hearth and candle and the much anticipated return of dear Father Sun with his natural, radiant light and warmth.

We gathered up candle scraps left over from Autumn and Winter and melted them down to create new votives and tapers for all the celebrations of the year yet to come. 

Candle, candle burning bright
Winter's half way done tonight
All a-glowing, we are knowing
Spring will come again...

A joyous Mid-Winter to you all.
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