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December Traditions: Pagan Yule part I

I grew up with an atheist mother. There was very little celebration around our year, apart from our birthdays and Christmas… a christless Christmas. But a family gathering. The biggest happening of the year. I remember looking forward to that time. We would decorate the tree and place the little village underneath it, carefully placing the empty Christmas ornament boxes to make hills and ponds underneath the glittery white felt drape. And there would be the food. Oh the food! Little picky me would delight of all my favorite meals at the same time! The big bowl of olives for me to pick as much as I wanted, the little cubed cheese, and the bowls of chips to put in our plate while eating the main dish, a cipailles (I’ll give you the recipe!).

I definitely want to recreate this hype with my children! The exitement in the middle of frozen days, the waiting, and the willing to create gifts for those I love.

 

 

But I also wanted to give everything a meaning other then “gift giving and recieving and over-eating”. The first time I talked about this holiday with my partner, he confessed that he didn’t really care for Christmas, that it was totally meaningless to him! How painful to hear!

So I explained him what all that fuss what meaning to me. To me it means that the Sun is coming back. I told him that I actually prefer the Solstice day as the celebrating date, to which he totally agreed. I explained him that people would feast for the days would get longer, and that is was a reminder that warmer weather was indeed ahead. When you would have poor housing and little food supplies, the rationing of food was a big deal, and so was the one blessed day you could eat the best beef and bake sweets. It does not apply to today’s bountifullness, but as a son of farmer, he could relate to the changing of the seasons.

 

We are a new family; so “traditions” are new…We are in the process of building them. They are what we want them to be!

I couldn’t relate to the Christ nativity scene. We had a plastic one under our tree, but no one ever bothered explaining who all those people were, what they were doing there (camels in the snow!) and why they were there. My mom eventually stopped taking out the set when I got too old to play with it…But I remember loving to play with the characters, so I decided to pursue that traditions, only with my little twist. I want to do a full post on how to make your own pagan nativity, but I can roughly explain the characters above: The woodland animals and creatures are looking at the Sun God who just had reborn. Nearby is the Goddess in it’s trinity form; The Maiden, The Mother and The Crone, carefully watching over Him. The Moon hangs above them; another protecting sign.

What I instored that I didn’t have in my childhood are the stockings. Instead of having a billion of gift, I’ve made a rule that most gift should fit the stocking, and 2-3 non-fitting wrapped in silk. They are to be fill the eve of the solstice (children are too curious!) and should be open after the meal. Beads, stickers,  but mostly things I made myself and handmade by the wonderfull artists on etsy.

(to be continued…)

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A Meaningful Advent: December Traditions

There are many ways of making the Advent season meaningful.  In our society where the holiday season for children often means a big case of the “gimmies”, how can we celebrate in a way that brings meaning to the season? Or rather uncovers the meaning already present.

In the coming weeks we will be writing a series of posts called December traditions.  Here is the first in the series.

 

Above is the simplest of Advent traditions.  Mary & Joseph walk around the room on their way to the stable.  Perhaps you already have Mary & Joseph figures you can use.  If not look around the house and see if you have something you can use?  I decided to use plain wooden peg dolls.  Last year I had planned to dress them up but we found that we really like them simple.  We already had this donkey & so they became our wandering couple & donkey.  Each evening (without the children seeing) the figures are moved closer and closer to the stable.  The stable stands empty awaiting the holy family.  Stories can be told every evening of Mary & Joseph on their journey, scripture can be read, whatever works for your family.

 

The next idea is from a book called, All Year Round.  “Star Ladder” is a beautiful way for children to visualize the days passing from the beginning of Advent to Christmas eve.  This is how we crafted our version of “Star Ladder”.  First we found a blue ribbon and cut 23 yellow felt stars.  Then we glued the stars to it.

I crafted a very simple angel.  She is made with yellow & white roving.  I sewed 3 tiny pearl white beads around her neck and placed a pin with a large yellow head to attach her to the ribbon.  At the start of Advent we place her at the very top of the ladder at the very first star.  Every day she descends the ladder and when she gets to the last star a candle is lit in celebration of Christmas eve.  In this way the light of the heavens is brought to earth.

 

We made our candle out of rolled beeswax sheets. You can use any special candle you have. In the Waldorf tradition the nature table is decorated with a different element each week.  The first week is stone.  So here we have a crystal and a stone that we melted crayon on to make a simple Mary & child firgure.  Here’s our verse for the first week of Advent.

The first light of Advent is the light of stone.

Stones that live in crystals, seashells & bones.

How do you celebrate Advent in your home?  Keep checking with us in the coming weeks for more December traditions

 

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Handmade Holidays: Tutorial for Sweater Pants

Pants made out of sweater sleeve is a classic in our house. They are comfortable, cheap and easy to make. I always get compliments on them when my little guy is wearing some. When I explained how easy it is, they all say : What a great idea!

This is a very easy and quick project that the even the I-barely-ever-touched-a-sewing-machine beginner can do.

You’ll need:

  • Sweaters
  • Thin or wide elastic for the waist.
  • The recipiant children’s pair of pants for a guide.

Cut out the sleeves of your sweater. The older the child, the bigger sweater you’d like to use.

Fold guide pants in half and place over sleeve. Cut.

Turn once sleeve inside out. Put the right side out sleeve into the inside out one.

Sew along.

For the waist, Method 1:

Serge the waist or double fold it. Sew along leaving a place to insert the elastic.

The elastic should be the circumference of the waist. Insert, sew both ends of the elastic and close the whole.

Method 2 : this one is less pretty, but it’s useful when you know there won’t be enough room for the butt if you fold at the waist. Some might want to use a coordonating color one. You can easily dye elastics. Ultimately it doesn’t show when there’s a shirt over it.

Take a wider elastic and sew ends together. Place wrong side facing elastic over right side facing pants and sew or serge around.

Now you know what to make of that pile of sweater people always give you ( I know I’m not alone! Someone even gave me only the sleeves…) I always make a pair of those for the Winter Solstice morning and they are always a hit.

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We wish you …

In this holiday season, the Natural Kids team members would like to send their greatest wishes to each and everyone of you. We thank you from the bottoms of our hearts. You are so precious to us, as you give us the opportunity to fulfill our dreams and create what we love doing the most. We have worked just like Santa’s little elves in the past few months,  and we hope,  that our creations will bring to your cherished ones, many hours of  “natural”  fun and lots of Joy !!

 

“Wishing you the warmest holiday season!”

Sara aka Woolies

 ” May your heart be filled with softness and love, may your soul be filled with peace “

Julie Ouimet aka FeeVertelaine

 “I wish for a holiday where everyone has the chance to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.”

Kristi Ashley aka Tickety Bu

I wish that we recognize and appreciate each other as cousins in the family that is the human species.”

Farida Dowler aka Alkelda

“Wishing your winter days be filled with light, love and peace. Happy holidays!”

Julie Hunter aka This Cosy Life

” I wish everyone a happy new year full of creative inspiration! “

Dria Peterson aka Driaa

” I wish for a “Greener” 2012 and for all to revel in its beauty “

Wendy and Mojo aka BirchLeaf Designs

“Wishing that Angels may watch over you and your loved ones all year long! “

Ulla Seckler aka GermanDolls

” I wish for world peace “

…a picture of my Christmas wish, via Tiger Smith, 7 years old.

Kate Smith aka Poverty.Jane

” May your homes be filled with Seasonal Enchantment and Holiday Wonder! “
Beccijo aka  The Enchanted Cupboard

” Best wishes to all for a joyous holiday season! A healthy, happy new year in 2012 and beyond. Stay true to yourselves!”

Ariana Lyriotakis aka Niko & Nonnie

” I wish that everyone this year will accept each other and cherish the moments we have together.  I also wish that for the upcoming year we all try to be more conscious of each other, of those who suffer and have compassion to help those who cannot help themselves.  I wish that everyone gives their children an extra long tight hug and be absorbed in the moment of being with them. “

Brittaini Pulver aka Long Mountain Art

                                                                    ~ Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy new year !!!!! ~

 

 

     Julie Ouimet is from Québec, Canada. She

lives with her daugther,  in a little town in harmony with nature.

Creating is her passion, a way of life !!! She cultivates the earth during the warm season

and creates lovely waldorf inspired toys the whole year long…

You can visit her shop at FeeVertelaine.

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Less is More

For several reasons, this year’s Christmas is very different from many previous Christmases  in our home. Mostly, the changes are all very good ones. For instance, this year I broke that ugly plastic tree that my husband loves. Eewh!

 

 

Just before he came home from work, Arlo and I managed to replace it with a real tree before my husband could suggest fixing the plastic one. I often blog about Arlo and I getting into what I like to call Crafting Deviance. I love that kid. He is sooo my accomplice in masterminding a new route for our family to venture upon.

 

The littlest children have begun their first year with the Waldorf program. So much of our time was spent outdoors foraging for nature items for Christmas. We kept the decorating very simple and that was different from our over the top expeditions from Christmases past. It was wonderful to see their perspectives and talking about what Christmas means to them.

-the gathering…

-the selected nature items on our table….

-the simplicity and sheer beauty of it all…

-the love and togetherness shared…

-the silence and witness of the Christmas presence…

I’m very grateful for having the incentive too focus on the things that make Christmas most special. Family and togetherness can be best accomplished without spending any money. This year, everything changed because we had no money to spend. Many might see that as a negative, I see it as our opportunity to grow and change, and I thank the Universe for that spiritual lesson.

Its really the simple things that make Christmas so special indeed!

Merry Solstice and Happy Christmas to all of you, from the Smith Tribe.

 

 

 

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Needle felted Waldo…

$58.00

Winter Queen – carv…

$21.00

the Golden Sun (set…

$22.00

WOOD BABY TOY Wood …

$14.00

Bamboo Velour Baby …

$39.00

Needle Felted Waldo…

$53.00

Little Green Mitten…

$24.00

KNITTING PATTERN – …

$4.50

White Christmas Orn…

$18.00

needle felted snowm…

$22.00

16 Point Gold Windo…

$18.00

Organic Baby Hat – …

$30.00

Waldorf Toy Set – W…

$16.00

Needle felted Tapes…

$118.00

Baby Alpaca Yarn na…

$7.00

Handmade Wooden Toy…

$36.00

Etsy Treasury created by This Cosy Life

Only one week to go! How will you be spending this holiday week? In my house we’ll be;

♥Baking some honey sweetened cutout cookies

♥Making more candles for gifts

♥Making some of these for the tree

Indulging a little

♥Thinking of this for Christmas Eve

♥And finding light wherever we can

 

Julie Hunter is a wife and mama, raising 3 spirited girls, two babydoll sheep, angora rabbits and a gaggle of chickens and ducks in the North Carolina Foothills. She spends her days at home, crafting with her children, homeschooling, taking long gathering walks in the woods and knitting Waldorf-inspired toys. You can find her blogging and keeping shop at This Cosy Life.

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Nativity in the Snow: a stop motion animation

I’ve always been fascinated with stop motion (or stop action) animation. Stop-motion is the process of filming stationary objects frame by frame to create the illusion of movement. One of the most famous early films to use stop motion animation was the original King Kong, made in 1933. Some of my favorite stop motion pieces are the claymation short films of Nick Park, creator of Wallace and Grommit. Wikipedia has an extensive list of films that use stop motion techniques, which you may read here.

Last month, I filmed a little video with the full nativity set I made with Bossy’s Feltworks, and used the wintery trees from the shop of Natural Kids Team member The Enchanted Cupboard. Other members of the Natural Kids Team are planning to make stop-action animation videos, too, so keep your eyes open for their creations! We plan to share them on this blog.

Happy December!

 

 

Farida Dowler is a musical storyteller in Seattle, Washington. She makes wool felt dolls for children and grownups. Her  Etsy shop is called Alkelda. Farida maintains a storytelling and song blog at Saints and Spinners.

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St. Nicholas Day Memories (with festive punch recipe)

Julie Hunter of This Cosy Life recently published a post on her family’s St. Nicholas Day traditions, which you may read here: St. Nicholas Day- A Day of Giving.

I grew up celebrating St. Nicholas Day, first in rural West Virginia, and then in urban Maryland. On the night of December 5, I would place one of my shoes outside my bedroom door in the hopes of finding a treat in that shoe on the morning of December 6. I learned that the tradition was that “good” children got oranges in their shoes while “bad” children got lumps of coal. One year, I received both an orange and a lump of coal in my shoe. I reasoned that the orange came from St. Nicholas while the lump of coal was a joke played by my parents—after all, my father was a coal-miner and our house was heated by a coal stove. St. Nicholas (known to others as Santa Claus or Father Christmas, depending upon which story I read) came again on the night before Christmas to fill my stocking.

I was grateful to St. Nicholas because he believed that I was basically a good kid.  The logistics of the arrivasl and departures didn’t bother me (Did he come by horse, perhaps? Definitely not by sleigh.). Even after I began to suspect that my parents and grandparents were doing the work of St. Nicholas, I continued to welcome his yearly arrival.

During my first years as a children’s librarian, I worked for a library system that hosted a special storytelling event on St. Nicholas Eve. We set out sweet and savory treats, and made St. Nicholas Eve punch for library workers, local authors, and a featured storyteller. After the merriment of the party, we lit candles and listened with quiet attention as the storyteller performed by candlelight.

I saved the St. Nicholas Eve punch recipe, modified it (if the recipe is supposed to remain secret, it’s still secret—but mine tastes better!), and in future gatherings, placed a bottle of gin or vodka beside the punch bowl so that the adults could have options.

St. Nicholas Eve Punch:

Ingredients:

1 liter club soda

1 liter ginger ale

1 liter Collins mix (basically club soda, lemon juice, and sugar)

1 liter bitter lemon mix (use Fresca grapefruit soda or another really tart soda if you can’t find bitter lemon)

1 48 ounce can Hawaiian punch (or one can of frozen and three cans water)

1  12 oz can frozen orange juice

1  12 oz can frozen lemonade (preferably pink)

Frozen strawberries, red raspberries, or both (at least two packages, but not more than 3 per recipe)

Extra club soda/ginger ale to taste

Directions:

In a large bowl, thaw and mix frozen orange juice, lemonade, Hawaiian punch and berries (do not add water to the orange juice and lemonade). Fifteen minutes before your party, mix the carbonated liquids. Keep extra bottles of soda on hand to keep punch slightly fizzy.

You may find more traditional, less carbonated St. Nicholas Eve beverage recipes here at the St. Nicholas Center’s website.

Happy St. Nicholas Day! May you find oranges in your shoes.

Farida Dowler is a musical storyteller in Seattle, Washington. She makes dolls for the Etsy shop Alkelda and blogs at Saints and Spinners. While she would never put real coal in her family’s shoes,  this year everyone gets a wrapped chocolate marshmallow confection labeled “coal.”

 

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St. Nicholas Day- A Day of Giving

December 6th is Saint Nicholas Day. Here in the US this isn’t a day that is typically celebrated in the main stream, but in our home it’s become one of our favorite celebrations.

Needle felted St. Nicholas figure from Heart Felt Passion

 Saint Nicholas is celebrated for his giving spirit and to commemorate his day my children and I spend it preparing gifts for our neighbors and delivering them in secrecy.

Last year we packed festive tins full of our handmade goodies; bird seed cakes, paper ornaments, star lanterns (mama made), mini loaves of sweet bread and yummy cookies. Then, when it began to get dark, we took one to each of our nearest neighbors, ringing the bell and running away. My girls were so delighted by this secret giving!

Of course, we left our shoes out to be filled with small goodies in the morning, but this day was not focused on getting but on giving, needing no thanks or recognition in return.

Our gifts were simply small surprises to make our neighbors smile, but another good way to give on this day would be to encourage your children to go through their toys and choose some to pass along to other children. What other ways of giving could your children contribute to?

For more ideas on celebrating St. Nicholas day check out this page from the St. Nicholas Center. And if you already celebrate I’d love to hear some of your family’s traditions.

 

Julie Hunter is a wife and mama, raising 3 spirited girls, two babydoll sheep, angora rabbits and a gaggle of chickens and ducks in the North Carolina Foothills. She spends her days at home, crafting with her children, homeschooling, taking long gathering walks in the woods and knitting Waldorf-inspired toys. You can find her blogging and keeping shop at This Cosy Life.

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What I’m Loving This Week-Advent


Needle Felted St. N…

$53.00

White 6 Pointed Win…

$9.00

Holiday Wooden Toy …

$16.00

Adirondack Black Be…

$34.00

Father Christmas Be…

$11.00

White Nest Ornament…

$30.00

Holly Gnome – Chris…

$9.90

The Shepherd and th…

$95.00

waldorf inspired ho…

$12.50

Modern Nativity Set…

$75.00

KNITTING PATTERN – …

$6.50

Needle felted-Nativ…

$48.00

Dozen Cute Little W…

$12.00

Christmas Bunny Nat…

$65.00

Wool Felt Full Nati…

$275.00

Red Mitten Jingle B…

$20.00

Etsy treasury created by This Cosy Life

The Advent season is here and St. Nicholas Day is right around the corner. Here are some recent finds to get you inspired!

♥Knit some tiny hats for a sweet advent calender

♥Or mittens

♥Bake some gingerbread snowflakes

♥Make a beeswax star bunting

♥Get ready for St. Nicholas Day

♥Knit a little snowman

 

Julie Hunter is a wife and mama r,aising 3 spirited girls, two babydoll sheep, angora rabbits and a gaggle of chickens and ducks in the North Carolina Foothills. She spends her days at home, crafting with her children, homeschooling, taking long gathering walks in the woods and knitting Waldorf-inspired toys. You can find her blogging and keeping shop at This Cosy Life.