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Food For Thought

So did you guess where last week’s quote came from ? Of course, it was from a shop I love dearly: the http://www.singingbird.etsy.com/ shop profile!

Here is a new riddle for you: What team member felted the delicous food items you see here? Write to me and if you get the correct answer you will be entered in a drawing for one of my Wee Pocketdolls! =)

One comment I received after posting last Wednesday gave me Food For Thought for this week.

Mary Richmond wrote:

“the single biggest thing moms can do to be green is pack green lunches, stop buying individual water bottles and snacks and recycle at home. OK, that’s not a single thing but they’re all related. i invite you to look at all the wrappers and containers that your family uses and disposes of every day…..as someone who works with kids every day I’m appalled at the waste otherwise smart families send to school every day…..use reusable containers for everything, use a Brita filter, use cloth napkins and real utensils (buy at thrift shops or yard sales so you don’t lose your good ones but kids are surprisingly good at this….) and make your own snacks….

So I did take a serious look at what and how I pack my kids’ lunches. All in all I think I am not doing too badly. We do use a Brita filter and refillable water bottles. We definitely stay away from those frightening “Lunch ables”. A cracker, a small container of ketchup, and some cheese wrapped in plastic. Who in the world came up with that idea? Very little food and lots of trash for more money. But oh so convenient…

I make the children sandwiches or quesadillas, with a side of fresh fruit and vegetables. Takes about 15 minutes. You can put them in boring Tupperware containers or you could use one these cool lunch wraps by http://www.gopita.etsy.com/

Wow, isn’t that pretty? What a great idea! I have to get some for the children and husband. Just imagine opening your lunchbox and looking at that instead of some ugly cardboard box…Makes me hungry just to look at that wrapper!

And then of course, there is always the possibility to choose snacks that have a natural wrapper: how about bananas, oranges, and apples?

Have a great week, and enjoy many healthy snacks!

Ulla

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Simple Steps to Save the Planet

“The other day, as I was browsing a fellow team member’s profile, I stumbled upon the following phrase:

“Part of the example we are teaching our children is that we must live in a way that respects and honors all life, especially our home, Mother Earth. We’ve chosen to drive a hybrid car and have installed solar panels on our roof as a way to begin this. We frequently use recycled materials when packing and shipping items to further support our “green” efforts. We have a long way to go to living more sustainably, but every step each one of us takes is a positive change toward our collective future. Thank you for supporting our efforts with your purchases!”
You all may guess at who wrote it. I loved it, and it has stuck in my head all week.

So I make and promote toys out of natural materials. Toys that won’t pollute and if they should ever break will not sit in a landfill for gazillions of years. It is my mission to convince people that “Happy Meal ” toys, and plastic toys in general, are bad for our planet.
But what can I do besides that? I often worry about how to lead my life in the way the author above describes. What other steps can I take to help the planet? How do I teach the children the kind of respect described by my friend? Not everybody can afford to purchase a hybrid car or have solar panels installed. But there are so many small things in our every day life, small changes, that we can make to live a greener life style and waste less resources.
One example that comes to mind is plastic grocery bags. I remember reading that the City of San Francisco has actually outlawed them. Unfortunately it is not that way in the small US city where I live. The majority of people waste between 3-10 plastic grocery bags per store visit. Whenever I go grocery shopping, I bring grocery bags with me. I carry them in my car. Wow, they even give you money for each bag you bring! Who would have ever thought that? In Germany YOU PAY the grocery store for every bag YOU WASTE ! Didn’t you know that you were out to shop that day?
But there are many other ways to safe resources and energy. One phenomena I find rather intriguing, is the fact that nobody in US appears to dry their clothes other than by using an electric dryer. Or is it just here in Colorado? Please, correct me if I am wrong! But I have never seen an outdoor clothes line in this town, nor anywhere else used in this nation. Wow, it is so simple that it blows my mind! How come people would never think of it, living in a place where the sun shines almost every day?
And there are so many benefits to doing it besides the BIG one of SAVING ENERGY!
1. Your clothes get less wrinkled. Hang them up, right after you washed them, and you will not have to waste your time ironing them , wasting more energy…

2. Your clothes smell so good and fresh, and get bleached naturally – by THE SUN! You’d be amazed how tough a stain it can handle…

3. Plus, as an extra bonus, your clothes will last so much longer because they don’t get ripped to shreds being violently spun around by an electric dryer.

4. Hey, and it’s good exercise too. Who needs a trip to the gym when you can carry a couple of loads up from the basement and work those legs and biceps…=) The children enjoy helping with it. My daughter things it is so much fun!

I admit, in Winter time, I find it a bit more challenging. Who likes to wade through 3 feet of snow to hang up clothing. But I have an indoor clothes line for the basement I brought from Germany. Unfortunately it only holds half of a load. I have not been able to find one standard item used in every German household: A giant metal foldout clothes drying rack that can hold an entire load of clothing. Forget those scimpy little ones they sell here. They collapse with one pair of Blue Jeans. Please, if anyone here knows where in US to purchase a decent drying rack I’d be eternally grateful!
My family does drive a hybrid car. We carpool to school all the time. My husband walks to work. I work at home. We recycle glass, paper, cardboard, and plastics. We share a trashcan with the neighbors because we don’t have much trash. My son loves to earn money by collecting aluminum cans at parties…We have not been able to afford solar panels for our house…but I hope that the day until we have them is not too far away. I hope that by setting a good example to the children I am making progress and doing my part respecting our planet and saving it for future generations to enjoy!

Have a “green” Day! Remember to take those shopping bags with you.
And please, if you have any other great ideas on how to safe energy let me know! Maybe I can write about it next week!
Ulla
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Versatile Playsilks

Playsilks are simple. So simple in fact that many adults balk at the idea of a toy that does nothing. Toddlers, however, revel in such toys! When people ask what to *do* with a playsilk, I always answer ~ give one to a child and you’ll see.Playsilks come in an endless variety of sizes and colours. No one is better than any other~ they all work in the hands of a child. You may want to choose your size and style based upon your space, planned uses (ie quiet play in the car vs. nature table backdrop or playstand canopy), and child(ren)’s age. Solid or mandala? Rainbow? You decide! At our house we prefer solids for imaginative play and multi-colours for dressup.The Natural Kids Team has a number of seller’s making or making use of gorgeous silkies. Be sure to search “Naturalkids Team” on Etsy for great finds! (Suggested keywords: playsilk, silkies, playsilks, waldorf, natural…)This article is revised from my blog, written on a dreary winter’s day when my daughter (then 2.5) and I were looking for some physical activity to beat the winter blues.I thought I would pass these along for the adults out there who may be looking for something to help them get into silkie play, or for some fresh ideas to get in some extra activity before spring releases us all to the outdoors!We had four of different colours, we could have done all this with one or two, too!1) Practice colours. Lay out various coloured silkies around the room. Child stands at center and runs to the colour you call. Add some more activity by having them jump on it, spin around with it, whatever!2) Practice counting. Lay silkies on the floor and have child step on them like ladder rungs, counting as they go.3) Literacy?! Our local literacy worker has told us that one of the big concepts children lack when they reach kindergarten is a sense of position/ relations. On top, beneath, beside, along, between… Use a silkie and practice! Put it on your child’s head ~ they are under the silkie, the silkie is on top of them. Have them place it in various relations to their body, or yours (put it behind mommy). Up, down, away, left, right…4) Throw and Catch. Bundle one silkie into a ball and knot a second around it and you have a lightweight indoor-safe ball with a handy tail to help novice catchers and throwers feel successful.5) Jumping and other Gross Motor Skills. Jump over the silkie river, walk along its bank (balance), crawl under a silkie thrown into the air, spin around with one in each hand, step over and crawl under one held up like a limbo stick.6) Fine Motor Skills. Weave two silkies together. Stuff them into a cup. Lay them down in a straight line.7) Imagination. Rowan wore her extra silkies as hat and snowsuit while we played. We hid one another and popped out to scare each other (she is at the stage where this is big fun!). She pretended to be a kitty curling up on a kitty bed. She made her big girl bed all up and climbed in to ‘sleep’.8) Rhythm and Body Awareness. We finished with dancing with our silkies~ feeling the music, moving our arms and legs in various patterns (flapping wings, waving in the sky, tiptoeing).Exercise for body, mind and spirit.All in about 30 minutes.Using only a couple 35 x 35″ squares of silk.It doesn’t get much better than this!Put a silkie in the hands of your child and watch the magic happen!Lori Campbell(http://beneaththerowantree.etsy.com)Revised, September 8, 2008.

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Schultüte, a German tradition for the beginning of school

 

I was sitting there the other day with my husband discussing topics of interest for our blog. I thought of a few but then decided on the Schultüte because school just started and some of you may have heard of this German tradition and be curious about it. Even if you are a homeschooling parent you may find this little tidbit about German culture interesting.

What is a “Schultüte”? Maybe you have seen one in a Magic Cabin or other up-scale toy catalogue. You may have wondered what that strange looking cone shaped thing was. Here is my explanation:

The tradition of the Schultüte (translated school bag) goes back to the early 19th Century. It started in the big cities of Jena, Dresden, and Leipzig in the states of Saxony and Thüringen. There, children were told of these wonderful bags growing on trees in teachers’ houses. When the bags had grown to full size it meant that the children were ready to go to school to receive them.

This tradition eventually spread from the cities to the country side and all over Germany. Nowadays every German child receives a Schultüte when he or she starts school. By starting school, I mean on their very first day of school in First Grade. The German school system is very different from the U.S. system. When Germans talk about Kindergarten we think of preschool or rather a playschool type of situation. Between the ages of 3-6, most children attend Kindergarten. In my case that meant I went to a Catholic Kindergarten. It was pretty much free of charge, funded by the state and church! I went there at 8 am and stayed there for a couple of hours every day. I never thought of it as school or daycare, though. Kindergarten was a place to socialize with other kids besides your siblings, learn how to write your name, and do crafts. I loved it for the most part.

Kindergarten is then followed by Grundschule, our elementary school. And to mark this very important rite of passage from Kindergarten to school, children receive the Schultüte. It is a colorful, decorated, cone shaped vessel, usually made of thick cardboard with an opening at the top. The bag is filled with school supplies, toys, and of course candy. But there is not limit to the imagination. The children receive it in the morning and carry it proudly to their school. A picture is taken in front of school. They meet the teacher and their new classmates. When the first day is over and the children get home they are allowed to open the Schultüte and see what treasures it holds.
I love this tradition and tried to recreate it for my children as best as I could. Since I could not find a Schultüte to buy in the U.S., except for the expensive Magic Cabin version, I made one myself. I found there are quite a few German websites that teach you how to make one.

My daughter absolutely loved it. I think this is such a fun way to get children excited about school and learning. Learning is like that mystery bag – you don’t know what’s in it until you open it!

If you have a child starting school you may want to think about giving them such a wonderful bag and tell them about this German tradition…

Happy Back to School Days!
Ulla

Ulla Seckler  is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned.  Don’t forget to stop by her Etsyshop and take a peek at her wonderful doll creations.

 

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Waldorf Wednesday is Back! Or why Boys need dolls!

It’s been a while since we had our Wednesday blog entry. From what I understand the original idea was to talk about Waldorf education, natural toys, and living a natural lifestyle. I will try to keep that in mind as I ramble on about my views and perspective of life as a German immigrant in the US. I have lived here for about 12 years now. Scary. I cannot believe it has been this long. But please, forgive occasional spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and a little bit of an accent bleeding through at times. I am still very much German at heart…


The subject I want to talk about today is: Why do boys need dolls?

It is really important to me, and I want to tell a little anecdote to explain why that is. A few of years ago I had a rather strange encounter. I believe it was on a sunny fall day when I took the kids to the park to play at the playground. As usual when I go out, I had one of my projects with me. I am always crocheting, sewing, or have something with me to keep my fingers busy. As I sat there on a park bench a young woman approached me. People are always curious when they see an artist at work. So of course, I end up telling them that I make dolls. The young woman had her 4-year-old son with her. As we got to talking she sighed and told me about her dilemma. A couple of weeks ago a toy catalogue had arrived in the mail, and her son saw a dollhouse in it. Now whenever she asked him what he wanted for Christmas he’d say: I want that cool dollhouse from the catalogue. To which I responded: So, why don’t you get him a dollhouse? She said her husband would have an absolute fit. He thinks boys should play with trucks and “manly” toys and that “Dolls are for girls”!

I was totally stunned and maybe even annoyed. After taking a moment I told her that her husband was so wrong. That there was no reason why her son should not have a dollhouse to play with. Role play with dolls is very important for children. Why would we assign boys to play with inanimate objects such as cars, trucks, and building blocks only? Maybe we throw in an occasional plastic soldier or a plastic superhero. But why not give them a soft cuddly baby? Or a doll family? Some day this little boy will be a dad, have a family, and a real house. I told her to ignore her husband and get the boy the dollhouse anyway!

I get so frustrated when I hear such stories. Often I hear boys, big and small, talk derisively about the “Pink Aisle” in the stores and dolls being “for girls” only.

I think this world would be a much better place if we gave boys dolls and allowed them grow up in a more loving and nurturing environment. Both boys and girls need to learn how to nurture and cuddle a doll because some day they will be a parent. I feel sad for this dad in my story who did not want to give his son the gift he so much desired. It made me wonder how he grew up…

Foto by JustynRebecca, a dear etsy customer of mine

I really wish more people bought dolls for their sons. I always keep one or two boy dolls in my store. Sadly they sit around the “virtual store shelf” much longer than the girl dolls…Sprinkled throughout the text please find some examples of sweet dolls that have found a loving home – nurtured by a boy who will, no doubt, become a great dad!

The boy doll below was made my dear friend and fellow doll artisan Rebecca. Steve is still available if you are looking for a cool boy doll to give to a boy you love.

Steve, a boy doll with spunk, available at Toys From Nature

Take Care! And see you next Wednesday!

Ulla, the German Dollmaker

Ulla Seckler  is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned.  Don’t forget to stop by her Etsyshop and take a peek at her wonderful doll creations.