Wednesday, May 30, 2012

a visit from the fairie queen

During most of the year, the Fairie Queen only visits on the full moon, but (as some of you may already know) she returns in earnest on May Day and in late Spring/early Summer, she and her friends randomly stop by for a day or two and hold festive little soirees in our back yard.  She always leaves a gift for Naiya in the box they exchange back and forth, and sometimes we can see evidence of fay activity in their little corner of the yard.  Last night they added a swing to their tree house!
They also had some kind of feast and brought (or grew?) a fresh crop of toadstools.
They refreshed the Maypole with new flowers.  (Naiya had been thinking that bouquet up there didn't look so nice.)
And my dear daughter was ever so pleased with today's present from her beloved back yard monarch.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

my favorite things

I love fully punctuated text messages.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

jokes for 5 year olds

(I think this should be an ongoing series...)

What's the difference between a train and a teacher?
(Naiya's teacher must have recently told this gem she brought home.)

A train says, "Choo choooo".  
A teacher says, "Please spit out your gum in the garbage."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

wooden starbursts and sunsets (clothespin crafts)

With Spring in full swing and Summer fast approaching, we're hanging our laundry out on the line, and I'm feeling inspired by those ever versatile and useful clothespins.  It seems like there are endless crafts to be created with those handy clips.  I was thinking of a sun to hang over the Nature Table when I made these, but, now that I'm looking at them, I'm actually thinking they'd be better as snowflakes.  Since I just can't wait until Winter to post these pics though, I'm going to at least try out my original idea.

I think they're kind of pretty no matter what we imagine them to be.  They're also super easy to make and kids can help too!

All that's needed for their creation are some clothespins and glue.  (I use quick drying craft glue but a glue gun or other adhesive would probably work fine as well.)

I started by taking all the clothespins apart.

(Depending on the specific size and shape of the pins used, the number needed for a complete circle will vary from about 22 to 30.)

(Ed. Note Dec. 2013: I just found a great use for the leftover metal bits!  Check it out here.)

I then glued the two separated pieces back together back to back.

After they had dried, I glued the smaller ends together to form the starburst shape.

To make an even, smooth inside edge, it helped to use a form to push the pins against.  For this size, I found the perfect sized lid as a kind of mold.

They can be decorated or, of course, left in their natural state.


The round starbursts I'll probably hang in a window but Naiya and I also made and decorated a half circle to use in pretend play as a setting sun.  So sparkly!

As an afterthought...
When these new creations were sitting around the kitchen waiting for some inspired use, I realized they'd also make for natural, sort of retro coasters and trivets!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

crocheted flower garland

Portland, Oregon is the City of Roses.  At this time of year, especially where we live on the east side of the river, it seems much more like the City of Rhododendrons I have to say.  Come June though, I know those roses are going to make themselves known.  We'll welcome some fresh blossoms into our home here and there but, as always, I like to reflect the natural world outside with crafts displayed in our indoor play spaces.

When I saw this free crochet pattern at Joann Fabric and Craft Store the other day, I picked it up and spent a couple of hours making this vine for Naiya's Summer Nature Table.  (The pattern calls it a scarf but I just can't see myself wearing something like this.  Perhaps others have a bolder sense of fashion?)   The pattern said it was for those with "skill level 3" (whatever that means).  I think by about the fifth rose I was making them according to the directions.   I altered the pattern somewhat to make it more random and in the end ran out of yarn but, still, I think it's kind of sweet and Naiya has already draped it here and there as a garden paradise for her play gnomes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

spring flowers

My dad (the Master Gardener) sometimes gets invited to view private gardens in the local area.  A few weeks ago we joined him on one of his visits.  Often these folks have acreage but this incredible display was just someone's back yard on a city lot of average size.  

It's amazing what these folks have done in a relatively short time span to turn their personal space into a sculpted paradise.
I felt especially lucky to have visited in the Spring to catch all the color and  the many glorious shades of green.

'Tis like the birthday of the world,
When earth was born in bloom;
The light is made of many dyes,
The air is all perfume:
There's crimson buds, and white and blue,
The very rainbow showers
Have turned to blossoms where they fell,
And sown the earth with flowers.
                                 -  Thomas Hood

Monday, May 21, 2012

slug hunting

limax maximus, the leopard slug

For years now, we've worked at chemical-free slug eradication in our yard.  We plant our vegetables in raised beds.  (This is supposed to be a mild deterrent.)  Between those beds we've lined the paths with yards of hazelnut shells.  (Supposedly the slugs would rather not crawl over the jagged edges.  I've heard eggshells are similarly useful.)  We've got chickens.  (Who eat at least the slugs that wander into their appointed area.)  We put out little cans of beer amongst the most desirable fauna.  (The slugs can't help getting a taste of even the nastiest, cheapest swill - which is, of course, what we put out there - and they drown in the cans.)  But still, our yard is infested with these plant munching critters.  They can decimate five basil starts in about two days.  They love spinach and lettuce and my primroses look like swiss cheese. 

That's why I've begun late night slug hunting.  Yup, slug hunting.  When the Spring shoots emerge each year and I begin to see them nibbled to the stems, I get out my gloves, my trusty flashlight and an old cottage cheese tub and I head out into the nighttime garden.  Slugs are nocturnal you see.  They come out in droves a few hours after the sun sets and I find them leaving their slimy trails on the patio, up the sides of pots and ravaging the potentials of my summer salad bar.  In about 10 minutes I can rustle up about 40 of the beasties.  About 90% of those I find are Leopard Slugs, also known as "great slugs" or "great grey slugs" ("limax maximus" for those scientific types).  They're quite pretty as slugs go actually and they're speedy little guys (I've read they travel at the awesome speed of six inches per minute).  I've collected about 200 of them over the past month or two.

What's been especially interesting about the evening stalking has been finding not only a variety of small snails and numerous slugs but discovering all the other cool critters that also inhabit our midnight garden.  I wish I could take pictures of what's going on out there in the dark.  There are centipedes, millipedes, beetles of various sorts and, the first night I went out, I nearly jumped out of my skin when out of the corner of my eye I saw startled massive worms suck themselves under the soil when the beam from my flashlight caught them unawares.  Those things were huge!  Like eight inches long and as big around as a permanent marker!  I don't know what I thought it might be when it shocked me so intensely that first time but I was out there in the dark with unfamiliar shadowy figures skittering here and there and I was taken unawares.

Since that first night, I've come to especially love the quick, slimy worms and their dash for safety.  I've even come to appreciate the beauty of the slugs I so despise (although not so much that I'm leaving them to range the morning they make the brief acquaintance of a few chicken friends of mine).  I also feel like I'm coming to understand things about my garden that I never otherwise would have.  It's an incredible, dynamic, kind of magical, insect paradise in my back yard in the dark. 
Probably in yours too.

Got a flashlight?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

the (holy-smoke-why-haven't-we-had-one-all-along?) sand box

For a number of years Ryan and I thought about, discussed and ultimately rejected the idea of a sandbox.  Mostly we just couldn't figure out where to place it in our rather small back yard.  Ryan thought it would make a mess and both of us were concerned about the cats (seeing as how cats like sandboxes for activities other than playing).

I kept reading about the benefits of sand play though and, at school, Naiya spends a lot of time in the sand area coming up with really imaginative scenarios and games.  Finally I decided to let go of grandiose plans for a hand made sand area and, embracing our space limitations (and cat concerns), we just put out the little covered plastic sandbox (that we used as a baby pool and has been in our garage for years) onto a corner of our cement patio.

When on the first day Naiya played in the thing for FOUR HOURS, I had to wonder why on earth we waited so long.  I had put a barn, tractor and some horses in there and placed some buckets and tools to the side in case she had creative plans of her own.  Oh my, did she!  That little space transformed and entertained like I would never have imagined.
On our way to school the next day she asked if I would change the contents of the box.  I figured if that's what would inspire her to play outdoors, BY HERSELF for FOUR HOURS (are you sensing my incredulity?) on her own, I could absolutely change it up for a little inspiration.
I think dinosaur day has been my favorite so far.
By request, I've altered the theme of the box each day.  Not every afternoon of play has lasted for four hours, but for an entire week now she has run to that box after school and enjoyed some really innovative play time.
Cooking/baking day got rather elaborate and a little messy.
 Castle/dragon/princess day fell on the weekend and made for a merry morning but was interrupted by family time.
Roads and cars day was very active and was reconstructed into numerous configurations.
(I think that was Ryan's favorite.)
 On train day even the garden gnomes came to play.
We've had so much fun in the sand and have even found some uses for the lid!  (A few winters back Ryan tied a rope to it and pulled Naiya down our snowy street.)  This week it also served as a boat...
...and a teeter-totter.  (In addition to the life jacket perhaps I ought to have given her a helmet?)

I can't express enough what a great amendment to our ordinary play the sandbox has been.  We do have to keep a close eye on the cats and cover it if we walk away for even a minute, but no other single toy has inspired our little one for so long and in so many ways as this one simple box of gravel.

little clay houses

Now that Spring has fully sprung, the Fairie Queen has begun to occasionally leave small gifts for Naiya on the back doorstep.  Last year she crafted a couple of tiny houses and this season she has added two more to Naiya's growing collection.  Naiya thought the big round one looked like a yurt.  "Do fairies live in yurts?" she asked.  "I think the Fairie Queen makes little houses that look like the houses she lives in with her family," she explained to me.

Of course, only the Queen knows for sure, but my guess is these were made from Super Sculpey and painted with watercolors.  Very simple to create and also relatively quick.  I think they'd make a great last minute gift for a child's birthday or the perfect addition to a seasonally changing Nature Table.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

may day nature table

Last week as we were celebrating May Faire at school, our Nature Table likewise welcomed Spring and the dancers of the season...

Some friends of mine and I made these cute table-top May Poles at a gathering we recently had.  We had seen a version of this at Spring Creek Store and wanted to similarly liven up our children's play places.

I didn't take any in process photos but they were pretty simple to put together:

   -The base is a chunk of branch about 1 1/2" tall with a hole drilled into the center.  (Thank you Chrisi!)
   -Into the hole we stuck a foot long 1/4" dowel and secured it with glue from a glue gun.  (All subsequent gluing was done with the glue gun as well.)
   -We then cut strips of various colored ribbons and glued each one individually onto the top of the pole. 
   -We embellished that tip with silk flowers then wrapped the messy stems with a broader bit of ribbon.

VoilĂ !  Mini Maypole!

Monday, May 7, 2012

we're back

We enjoyed our little reprieve during scree-free week and spent lots of time out of doors, in our garden, around town and celebrating the advent of Spring.  I'll be back-posting our activities and whatnot (for days gone by) just to keep them in order for myself.  Hope y'all won't mind...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

may faire

As always, we enjoyed a festive and playful day at this year's May Faire at Naiya's school.  Although the weather was not uncomfortably cool, neither was it especially warm and the sun never really came out (so I didn't get all the beautiful, bright photos I had hoped for).

We still had a great time at this, my favorite Waldorf festival, and my five and a half year old not only participated in the many offerings but preferred to do them without me this time around!

The first sign of this new found independence manifested when, after the traditional weaving of the pole, the small children were invited to join the grade six dancers.  Where my sometimes shy kindergartener would normally stand back and quietly observe such amusements, this time she enthusiastically took the hand of a friendly stranger and cavorted with delight.

Perhaps enamored with the beauty of the older girls in their finery, she also joined the procession of the May Court as they made their way to the Queen's dais.

But I must gather knots of flowers,
And buds and garlands gay,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother,
I'm to be Queen o' the May. 
                                         - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Before she eluded me for much of the afternoon, Oma was able to get one (slightly out of focus) shot of her in her fresh flower wreath.

We had made these at home in the morning and Naiya chose all her own flowers.  (For a quick wreath making tutorial click here.)  Of course my daughter loved the biggest, bulkiest blossoms so when it came time to actually wear the garland, it was a bit burdensome and she opted out.  For the rest of the day, Oma (whose birthday coincided with this year's event), Opa and I wore ours though and reveled in our fragrant halos.
beautiful birthday girl
(thanks to my friend Chrisi for grabbing my camera and snapping this rare shot of me!)

 In addition to the mirthful dancing, the day's activities included boat racing, angling for felt fishies, making fairy rings, goat petting, cake walking, hair braiding, a kids circus performance and, of course, hours of beautiful singing and music of all sorts.

Another genuinely joyful observance celebrated with family and so many of our good friends.

Sing a song of May Day,
Hi dee ho dee hay!
Showers of flowers from breezy bowers,
Hi dee ho dee hay!
Dancers and prancers in high grass
Hi dee ho dee hay!
Joyfully skip each lad and lass,
Hi dee ho dee hay!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

ankle bell tutorial

Last year I made these ankle bells for Naiya and a bunch of her classmates and handed them out at our school's annual May Faire.  I think they're a playful and festive addition to the dancing and frolicking and are also somewhat traditional at this cross quarter seasonal celebration.

This year we're making a dozen or two again, and I thought this time around I'd take a few pics of the process for a quick tutorial.  These are pretty basic and seem to need little explanation but it's not always clear to me when a brief how-to might prove useful to someone.  Essentially, these are like big hair scrunchies with bells attached.  If you can find scrunchies to fit your child's ankle, you might just sew bells onto those and be done with it.  If you can't (or, like me, you just like to make stuff), here's how I put them together:

I started with a 44" wide scrap fabric I had laying around.

Folding the fabric over to make a strip about an inch wide, I sewed the right sides together.  (I could also have cut a two inch strip of fabric, folded it then sewn the seam but I found sewing prior to cutting made it faster and I planned to turn out 15 or 20 pairs of these things.)

I then trimmed along the seam.

(Because I was making a lot of these that were really just intended to be worn for this one festival, I wasn't overly concerned with quality.  I did not turn and sew the ends to make clean edges, but feel free to do that if you wish.  If you chose that option, you'll want to cut the tube in half and turn and sew the ends prior to turning it right side out.)

I attached a safety pin to one end of the tube and with the closed end of the safety pin pointing inside the tube, I used my fingers to move the pin through so that it was gradually drawn through the inside. Once the safety pin emerged from the other end, I pulled it gently until the tube was turned completely with the right side of the fabric facing out.

I cut the 44" tube into two 22" pieces for a pair of matching anklets.

By hand I sewed three bells at even intervals (about every 7 inches) onto the fabric tube.  (For extra jingliness, and if you're not making dozens of the things, feel free to attach any number bells you please.)

For my five year old daughter I then cut a 9" piece of elastic to run through the tube.  (I'd suggest custom measuring to loosely fit the person for whom your anklets are intended.)

I laid about an inch of one end of the elastic over the other end and sewed them together to form a ring.  I then pulled the fabric tube over the elastic and sort of tucked one fabric end into the other.

With it all scrunched up, I don't think the unfinished edges were very noticeable.

I ended up completing 18 pairs in about four hours.  (Hand sewing of the bells taking the bulk of the time.)

Running round the May Pole and through the fresh cut fields, the sound of tinkling children's feet was delightful.  (Pictures of the days events coming soon...)

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