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My Desk in December

I’ll let you in on a secret: when asked for photos of our workspace, most of us try to distract you with pictures of nature, finished craft projects, and our cute kids. We try to keep our workspaces neat, but entropy happens. It’s the second law of thermodynamics, and it just happens. I cleaned up my desk three weeks ago, but look at what happened:

You should have seen my desk when it was tidy. Here is a guide to the current chaos:

1. Wool felt mini-nativity set in progress. You may see the completed set here.

2. Sheep atop a circus-themed needlefelted and wet-felted ball (created by Bossy’s Feltworks).

3. My rock’n’roll electric guitar water bottle, usually brought to musical storytelling gigs.

4. I have a jar to which I add 25 cents every time someone asks, “What about socialization?” when that person finds out that my husband and I have started to homeschool our daughter. So far, I’ve deposited $1.75 USD.

5. The brown tissue paper hides a Christmas present I purchased, but haven’t yet wrapped.

6. I have cute mini business cards made by Moo. It’s much easier to promote one’s wares when the business cards inspire exclamations of delight.

7. The “quiet corner of [my] desk” to which I refer in most listings is not a corner at all, but a nook. In it are a couple of dolls I made that I couldn’t bear to put in the shop, as well as a purple-haired doll by Silver Acorn, a felt blue-footed booby an Australian friend made for me, and an Edwardian-era themed Playmobil doll named Roberta. I may make dolls out of natural materials like wool and cotton, but the smile on that Playmobil face is an early inspiration.

8. I keep an envelope filled with the basic patterns I’ve created over the past three years. I’ve traced and scanned all those patterns for my files, rest assured. In the same slot: receipts, note papers, photos, letters I need to answer.

9. Oh heavens. There are the cords to my mp3 player and camera draped over blank cards I’ve collected.

10. If you’re going to sew on a small scale, you need a proper lamp. I’m not kidding. This natural light lamp helps ensure that, after the sun sets, the brown hair color I choose for a doll doesn’t turn out to be purple in the morning light. I like purple hair (see item 7), but not on a sunflower queen!

–Farida Dowler is the shop-owner and doll-maker for Alkelda Dolls. She lives in Seattle, Washington, USA, with her husband and daughter. As of this posting, her desk is much, much tidier than in the photo you see here.

 

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Christmas Peg Doll Tutorial

My daughter loves making peg dolls and asked if we could make some Christmas ones.  Here is a photo of one finished, which my 2  year old wanted to be an angel.  It has a ribbon for a ‘crown’ (I think she meant halo!)

What you will need:

1. Wooden pegs or clothes pins, the kind that don’t have a spring in them.

2.  Scraps of fabric

3.  Ribbons, ric rac, etc

3.  Sheep’s wool, wool roving, or yarn

4.  Craft glue

First we took a scrap of white fabric and wrapped it around, with some glue, to be the underwear.  Try and remember to position it so the ‘legs’ are facing the right way.

Next, we cut out a circle of fabric for the dress, with a diameter of 6″ (15cm) and fold it twice.  Cut a very tiny bit off the top.  This will be where you put the peg through the fabric so it will be on the peg like a dress.

Open it up, stick the peg through the hole, and wrap it around, with some glue on the peg.  Make folds in it so it sits how you like it.

Glue and tie a ribbon around the waist, and add some hair and a face if you like!

The angel, playing with the other toys:

 

 

 

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Book Review: My First Story of Christmas

I love the books by Candle Books.  The stories are always written just right, and the illustrations are beautiful.  This Christmas story is not an exception.

We needed to graduate from the toddler board books we had and find a nice paperback about Christmas, and this one is just perfect.  I love how it shows Mary as a regular girl, washing her dishes!

This is such a nice watercolor illustration of the three kings!

And the last page sums up the story of Christmas!

 

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Sun God Baby OR Baby Jesus Tutorial

I thought you might like trying to make a little baby to add to your nativity or to give to someone. They are very quick and simple to make. Let’s get going!

You’ll need a little squarre of yellow fabric ( I used felt), a wooden bead (that you can paint gold) and yellow embroidery treat and needle.

*You can use white felt and thread to make a Jesus baby!

Fold the top to create a border. The bead’s hole should be paralelle to the edge.

Wrap around your bead, pinching the excess thigthly.

Insert your needle from the inside out where the hole is.

Insert the needle and go throw both holes.

Insert the needle and go diagonally through the pinched excess around the bead.

Fold one side.

And the other over it. Cut the excess.

Pass your needle through the top of the folds.

Blanket stitch the side and bottom and you’re done! Now Enjoy!

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An Advent Calendar in Stories – December Traditions

Part of our preparation up to Christmas is to read a daily story from the lovely book ‘The Light in the Lantern’ from Georg Dreissig.  Dreissig’s short stories (up to two pages) form an Advent calendar in itself and they commemorate Joseph and Mary’s trip to Bethlehem.

The 28 stories have been divided into four weeks and in the stories the challenges and miracles of Mary and Joseph’s journey are addressed.  In addition, each week’s stories relate to a common theme.  The first week they relate to the mineral world, in week two to the plant world, in week three to the animal world and the final week to the human world.  The book does take into account the maximum number of days for the advent time, and thus allows for some years to read multiple stories on a day.

While the stories can be somewhat complicated for the small ones, I read it to all three of my kids at the same time.  I managed to get an accompanying calendar to the book, which made it even for the 3 year old a daily adventure to open another window and move closer to Christmas.  It is the third year in row now that we (re)use the lantern calendar as well.

The lantern calendar has four panels with each seven windows, and a fifth panel with one large window with the depiction of the nativity scene. The beautiful illustrations were made by Cécile Borgogno-Arcmanne.

Please note that the front cover depicted is the Dutch language version, the English version has a different illustration.  A sample can be found here.

What books do you read over the advent time?

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I have been wanting to write this simple post for a while. The problem is, I can’t seem to get photos of these muffins before they are gone.  I even put my camera next to the oven last time.  Seriously. I have made these muffins three times in the past week, using up the last of our nature table and kitchen table seasonal pumpkins.  You will have to try it to believe it!

 

This is what you need:

 

1 1/2 cups of fine whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

1 Small Cooking Pumpkin (the size of a honeydew melon) or 1 can of pumpkin

1/3 cup Vegtable Oil

1 Eggs

1 teaspoon pumpkin spice

1 cup of coconut nectar sugar (can be soft light brown sugar if you can’t find any of the coconut sugar)

1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

What you do:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C.

Cut your small pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and pulp

on a cookie tray with a raised edge, put a couple of cups of water.

Place the pumpkins cut side down on the tray

Cook for 35-40 minutes

 

While the pumpkin is cooking you mix all dry ingredients together.

I then make a pool in the middle of the dry goods and pour in my eggs and oil.  By this time I have had to do a thousand other things around the house and the pumpkin is out of the oven and has cooled for a few minutes.  I scoop out the inside of the pumpkin and mix it with the rest of the ingredients.  That’s it. Scoop into a lined muffin tin and bake until a knife comes out clean.

 

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Chalica – A Unitarian Universalist Holiday Celebration

This sweet post was sent in by Anne from harvestmoonbyhand on Etsy. I hope you all enjoy her lovely post and photos.

 

During December our family celebrates a variety of holidays or special days. Sometimes, we honor these days in their entirety (e.g., Advent, St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Winter Solstice, Christmas).

St. Nicholas Visit - Olivia with her Shoe
Olivia with her shoe filled with treats from St. Nicholas.

Other times we acknowledge the first day of the holiday (e.g., Hanukkah, Las Posadas) by having a special meal, reading books about the holiday, talking about its meaning, and doing an activity.

Las Posadas Meal
Sophia and Olivia eating a meal to celebrate Las Posadas.

This is something that I began doing once my daughters were adopted and they were old enough to actively participate and enjoy different holidays (about 2-5 years old). I did not introduce all these special days at one time. Rather, they were introduced gradually and incorporated into our holiday plans.

This year we are starting a new tradition: Chalica. As a Unitarian Universalist, I was happy to discover a relatively new holiday that was started a couple of years ago. It is seven days long and begins on the first Monday in December.

Each day represents a different Unitarian Universalist Principle. A chalice is lit each day; and actions, gifts, or volunteering that expresses the day’s Principle may be given and received. One can have seven different chalices or one common chalice.

Nature Table Candles Lit
One candle or seven candles can be lit for Chalica.

The days and Principles are:

Monday: We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Tuesday: We light our chalice for justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

Wednesday: We light our chalice for acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth.

Thursday: We light our chalice for a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

Friday: We light our chalice for the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process in society at large.

Saturday: We light our chalice for the goal of world peace, liberty, and justice for all.

Sunday: We light our chalice for respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

As with the other holidays that we celebrate, we have adapted Chalica to fit our schedule and what is realistically possible to do during December.

So, I decided to adapt Chalica so that we focus on the first Principle during December and do four activities related to it:

=> Send a letter and pictures that my daughters colored to environmental activist Tim DeChristopher who is serving a two-year sentence for nonviolent civil disobedience. He served one year in prison and now is living in a half-way house until his sentence is complete.

Tim disrupted a government auction of public lands in Utah in 2001. As a result, thousands of acres of land adjacent to a national park are still preserved. More information about Tim can be read on the Unitarian Universalist Association’s website or Peaceful Uprising’s website.

=> Visit a person from church who is recovering from being hospitalized and/or someone who is in a nursing home who would welcome a visit. My oldest daughter will bring her harp and play a few pieces on it during the visit.

Sophia Playing the Harp
Sophia playing the harp for her grandmother in April 2012.
Her grandmother was on a short home-visit from the nursing home
when she was recovering from a broken ankle.

=> Make and donate two sensory/activity lap quilts to a nursing home where my Dad was a resident from October 3, 2011-January 5, 2012. The quilts will be designed to be used by seniors who have Alzheimer’s Disease (like my father had) who need to keep their fingers occupied to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Sensory and Memory Quilt
This is the sensory and photo quilt that I made for my father
shortly after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
It provided comfort to him and gave his hands something to touch
(there are many different textures and types of fabric used).

The remaining six Principles we will work on from January-June. In this way, we are able to put some time and thought into Chalica; and put our faith into action. Beginning Chalica on December 3rd and doing a variety of activities will make our holiday much more meaningful and memorable this year.

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PINECONE FAIRY ORNAMENT TUTORIAL

As Fall turns to Winter and the Holidays are upon us, it is special and  busy time of year. There is the rustle of falling leaves on the ground, the color of pumpkins and dried corn and the wondrous smell of pumpkin and apple pie in the kitchen! Then come the wafts of balsam and douglas fir, apple cider and the sound of the crackling fireplace.  It is also a fun filled time of making things with harvest from the garden and  the woods.

A delightful project for family and friend!

One of our families favorite projects is making ornaments from pine cones and acorns and colored leaves. There is a great many variations on the basic theme and from year to year they take on new appearance and personality. Along with the ornaments we make pomanders, and garlands from pinecones, acorns, leaves, cranberries and anything else we find that we like.

 

Abundant in Autumn on many oak trees, we use these for wings and hats on ornaments

 

 

These are abundant this year and work very well for fairy and gnome bodies for ornaments

    Please follow this link  for a fun pinecone fairy tutorial to make with family or friends to enjoy this season.

Here are some variations with type of cone and hats for the ornaments

 

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Creating Community Series: Singing Mamas

 

One of the things I have had the chance to experience, being on the Natural Kids Team, is a sense of community.  I have often lived in isolated areas where natural toy crafters are few and far between and I have found an amazing support in being part of the NKT.  As I have talked about in recent posts, I recently moved to a village that has the longest running and first English speaking Steiner school in the world. Because of this people come from all over the world to live here.  It fuels community in a way I haven’t experienced before, at least not offline. It has a rich “alternative” community and people are supporting each other in powerful fulfilment all around me.  I wanted to share how some of the people I have met have become pillars in this community by sharing their hearts without the ego of where a project will go but rather what a project is for.  Being part of and helping to create a strong community is such a pure way to become more whole.  The benefits that resonate from that wholeness touch your family in such a special way.

***

My first interview is with Kate Room who has started a group called “Singing Mamas”.  They meet weekly, children in arms, crawling everywhere, giggling and sometimes shouting in amongst a group of open hearted women.  The songs are international and are experienced by the children but not directly for them.  To hear the women in my community talk about Singing Mamas is truly inspiring on its own. People laugh and cry, they breastfeed and hold their children.  I have never been part of something that sounded so beautiful.

 

What made you decide to start the Singing Mamas?

Well it was a good friend of mine that set me up.  I talked to her about a group I used to be in where you could bring your children and she liked the sound of it and she wanted one that she could go to with her daughter. So she found a few friends who would like to do it and invited me to come along to it.  I sat there looking around the room at these women with their babies on their laps and after a half an hour I realized they were all staring at me waiting for me to start. So I naturally was a bit cross and my friend knew I would say no way. No way could I pull that off.  But I racked my brains and came up with a few songs and it was okay.  We decided we would keep it going and it would be at my house so women were coming and more women were coming and it became a bit of a squeeze. I was very happy that I had been set up! As my confidence grew more woman came and we had enough people to hire a hall.  It has proven to be very popular. I am learning all the time.

 

What do you think it is that people are so attracted to with Singing Mamas?

The main thing is the soul nourishment.  It is appealing because you can bring your children but once they arrive they realize the singing is for them and their soul’s nourishment.  And its that point of the week (Wednesday)  where you really get to breathe for an hour and have that shared experience of breathing and making beautiful harmonies which is something we don’t get to experience in our everyday lives. One thing I really love about it and that people really love even if they don’t realize it, is that when they come along they leave their home.  Their lives are so busy fulfilling the needs of their child, and pouring out everything to their children and families, the children then get to come along and witness the mums getting their own nourishment and serving themselves. Its really rare for children to see.  (because we often leave our kids in someone else’s care to gather nourishment).  That message is very important to give to our children and to bring into our home.

 

There is a lot of power in song and music.  What personal experience do you have that is bring brought to this group?

I trained as a child. Classical flute and very academic.  I didn’t find much joy in it.  I always did performance.  Then I became really self conscious, stopped performing, and couldn’t even play in front of my family. So when I discovered the joy of singing without performing, it just opened up a door to another world.  I realized that when you sing, it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong, it matters that you are breathing and enjoying it.  It then became a passion.

If you were to give advice to someone who wanted to start a group like this but was intimidated, how would you suggest they start?

 Start small. Start at home where there is no pressure.  But also bear in mind that if you start too small you can hear everyone’s voices.  Eight is a good number.  Start it as a shared thing.  Everyone brings songs. The first few weeks everyone is going to be shy and timid but soon it will build and the confidence will build.  It wakens up slowly.  Keep the songs simple.  Small harmonies, simple rounds.  It will grow naturally.  Keep telling yourself if you get it wrong to keep going. Singing in community and in harmony is not about solo performance. The goal is to blend together.

For more information on this group and to hear more of what we sang that day please contact me directly HERE

 

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Success

This quote is a good one to remember on days like today (for me) so I thought I would share its beauty.

 

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson