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MamaWestWind, Stories…

Once there was and once there was not, a magical meadow on the edge of an enchanted forest. The forest was home to many magical beings. MamaWestWind knew them all…

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I fell in love with story when I was little.  As a child I loved nothing better than to lay outside under my favorite horse chestnut tree, feel the cool breeze on my skin, smell that green earthy smell of the grass, wildflowers & trees and be carried away by a book.  In my books I could travel to distant times and places all over the world.

When I became a Mom I really wanted to impart my love of story to my children.  One of the books that has captured our hearts is “Old Mother West Wind” by Thornton Burgess.  My boys and I really love the creative way in which the forces of nature are personified.  There is Old Mother West Wind who is the wind, her children the Merry Little Breezes, Old Dame Nature, Old Mother Moon and many others.


So when I began making peg dolls for my three year old son and couldn’t stop, I knew an etsy shop had been born.  I didn’t have to look very far for the name of my shop, MamaWestWind.   I loved the idea that “Old Mother West Wind” being the wind, the very air around us, would know every creature in the forest. She would know the animals, the gnomes, fairies & all. My littles call me “Mama” & so MamaWestWind became my alter ego, my friend, my creative outlet & so began her story.



Since that time my little shop has grown and I am so ecstatic to be doing what I love.  I get the privilege of creating little playthings, friends. that children then take into their worlds and imagine the most wonderful stories.  And so the circle is complete.


(picture by a happy customer & photographer Jacqueline Leigh)

Please visit me at my blog, Chocolate Eyes where I blog about crafting, homeschooling, gardening , just life with three boys in the sunny Southwest.  I recently wrote a post about my brand new studio, so come for a tour!  Also check out my shop MamaWestWind on etsy.   For shop updates and giveaways “like” my MamaWestWind Facebook page.


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Grandma’s favorite…

One of the lovely things about the holidays, for me, is remembering traditions from childhood and passing them on.  A favorite Christmas treat around my house are my Grandma’s favorite, Chow Mein Chocolates.  Growing up, my Grandma lived just up the road from us on a dairy farm.  I remember her and I making these before the holidays most years. Then, whenever I would go visit her she would say, “go get the Chocolates!”.  I always knew right where they were, in the cold stairway leading upstairs.  I would open the door and feel the blast of freezing air come into the room.  I would fumble for the right freezing cold, tin can (there were many) and close the door fast!  Then Gramma  and I would sit playing Chinese checkers, chatting, eating and laughing.

My children, like all children I think, love to hear stories about my childhood.  Today, I told my son Michael the above story while we made Grandma’s chocolates.  Another story I love to tell  is how she would always ask me, “What is the first rule of baking?”  I would come up with all sorts of silly answers for her and she would say, “No, the first rule is to wash your hands”.  And so I would.  Now, I ask my children the same question and if they come to me with unwashed hands I say in a lilting tone, “Grandma would be mad…”  My son Michael knows just what I mean and runs to wash.



My beautiful Grandmother on the left, long before I knew her.


Chow Mein Candy

12 oz Chocolate Chips

12 oz butterscotch chips

4 T peanut butter

Large Can Chow Mein Noodles (or half or so of a bag)

Spanish Peanuts

Melt in a double boiler.  Add large can of Chow Mein Noodles and 2 cups of Spanish Peanuts.  Stir.  Drop on wax paper & cool in the fridge or freezer.



They make a beautiful & tasty gift as well.  This year I’ll be sending my Gramma a tin can full.  I hope they will bring back the same fond memories for her.



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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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Playsilks & Gnome Clothes Pin Tutorial

The best gift I feel I can give my children is the freedom and opportunity to imagine!  This is why I love playsilks!  They are so versatile and fun, they are only limited by our imagination. They can be capes, cloaks, skirts, head wraps, belts, backdrops, plays capes, forts, tents, flaming rocket balls & so much more.  My children play often with their blocks, gnomes, trucks & legos but not a day goes by that they don’t play with their playsilks.


Last year I made this playsilk and gnome clothes pin set for our cousins.  The gnomes pin up the silks on a line to make them easily accessible for play.

To read about how I dyed the silks and where to buy them read here.  For a tutorial on how to make your own gnome clothes pins read here. The gnomes could also be a fun project for your kids to make for their friends & family or for you to make one or two to clip to their Christmas stocking.  Such possibilities!

If you don’t care to make them yourself many of our lovely Natural Kids Team members sell playsilks. Team shops like Birch Leaf Designs, Gypsy Forest, Mosey & The Enchanted Cupboard.  & I sell the gnome clothes pins at my shop, MamaWestWind.

Do you have playsilks at home?  What do your children create with them?

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The Halloween Sugar Fairy

So, you’ve gone trick or treating with your kids and you have gobs of candy!  As parents of little ones we have some choices.

  • Do what my parents did and let the kids have free reign.  This usually involves eating mounds of candy and getting a whopping stomach ache.
  • Or, let them choose a few pieces, put the rest away and then be the candy police until Thanksgiving!

Either one of these choices are fine but they do have their drawbacks. My favorite thing to do is to have the Sugar Fairy come!

The Sugar Fairy is a little fairy who eats nothing but sugar.  Her family, her whole community relies upon the candy that falls on the ground on Halloween to see her through the long winter months.  Now, the luckiest children know of the sugar fairies’ plight and choose to give her their Halloween candy.  In return the sugar fairy will bring them little (handmade) gifts and leave them on their doorstep.  (The handmade is my addition.) Check out this more detailed story of the Sugar Fairy, to tell your little ones.   Last year the Sugar Fairy brought my kids, age 6 and 2, little needle felted monsters and a fun Halloween story dvd. The cute thing is that my six year old saw his monster’s wool roving in my stash and said, “ha, the sugar fairy stole your wool to make our monsters!”.  I giggle every time I think of it.


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Book Review: The Land of Long Ago

In our home we are big fans of author/ illustrator Elsa Beskow.  We’ve been wishing for The Land of Long Ago for a few years now and in celebration of Michaelmas I decided to splurge and get it.  Not one Elsa Beskow book has ever disappointed us.  This one has dragons, a princess, king & queen, a gallant knight, trolls, a mischievous gnome.  Who could want for more?

The story begins with a beloved moss covered log that the children imagine is a dragon.  When a mischievous gnome makes the dragon come alive the kids go on an adventure of a life time and travel to the Land of Long Ago. Both of my boys adore this book.  My three year old even stays for the full reading and it’s quite a long story.

Today as we were walking our neighborhood my son found a driftwood dragon. “Just like the book!” he exclaimed.

He was very excited and off we went to read the book again!


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As days grow short

hearts grow bright.

Saint Michael with his sword

shines out against the night…

Heinz Ritter


The above is an excerpt from a poem in Celebrating Festivals with Children by Freya Jaffke.

For those asking, what is Michaelmas?  It’s a day, at the end of September that marks the time of year when the light & intensity of summer has dwindled.  In the Northern hemisphere the days grow shorter and colder. It’s a time when we look inward and learn from the story of the archangel Michael & the dragon.  The Bible speaks of Michael hurling the dragon (Satan) out of heaven.  The idea of an angel symbolizing all that is light and good, vanquishing evil is something all of us must do in our own inner lives.  Simply put, it is casting out inner dragons.  What are the dragons we cast out?  What thoughts are not filled with light?  Do they serve us?  It’s an inner work that is especially important for those that live in cold and snowy climates.  When days are spent inside keeping warm, inner joy, light and the courage and strength that the archangel Michael symbolizes is so important to see us through.

Children learn about Michaelmas through story & activity.  One of the activities we enjoy in our home is making the Michaelmas candle.  The Michaelmas candle is written about in All Year Round, A Calendar of Celebrations.


You can buy or make your own candle to use for Michaelmas.  We chose to roll candles this year.


My son Michael drew a dragon on paper and then while I cut the beeswax dragon scales & spikes he put it all together.  The thin sheets of beeswax warms with your touch and easily sticks to the candle.


Michael cut out the stars at the top with a wax cutter. On Michaelmas, September 29th, the candle is lit.  Last year I was so impressed to hear my six year old son exclaim, “Mom! The flame is St. Michael’s sword and he’s defeating the dragon!”  The Michaelmas candle is a reminder to hold the light of good inside.

Do you celebrate Michaelmas in your home?   What does Michaelmas mean to you? What are your cherished Michaelmas traditions?

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Felted Wool Cell Phone Case Tutorial

My cell phone is forever getting lost at the bottom of my purse.  I wanted to make a pretty cell phone case that would make it easier to keep track of.


First I knit a rectangle with easily felt-able wool yarn.  Knit it larger than you need because it will shrink when felted.  I simply guess-estimated making it about twice the size as I needed on size 8 needles.  I knit 30 stitches across which ended up being too wide. Make sure it’s a wool yarn that can be felted.  Stay away from yarn that says “machine washable” or “superwash” as it will not felt.  You can knit it or you can upcycle an old wool sweater by felting it in a hot wash cycle.


To do this, take your knitted wool rectangle or wool sweater and add it to the washer tied in a pillow case.  (this is to save your washer from wool fuzz.) Wash on hot with other sweaters or a few thick towels or pairs of jeans.  These will help agitate the wool.  Add a small amount of detergent.  Wash once or twice in hot water.  Check your sweater or knit piece to see if it’s tightly felted.  If it it’s felted well then dry it on high. Check often to make sure it doesn’t wrinkle while drying.  Once it wrinkles it’s wrinkled for good.  Now, when you cut your wool the stitches won’t pull apart or fray. If it does fray then repeat the felting process.

My felted rectangle ended up a little large so I cut it to size.  Use one long rectangular piece.  The bottom of the case will be the folded edge.


Now the decorating begins.  I used some scraps of wool yarn I had on hand.  I needle felted a single strand of green wool to make a leaf design.


Needle felt it well so that it does not pull off when rubbing against things in your purse.


Next I chose a brighter peach/pink wool for my flower.  I simply started in the center and wrapped it around and around to make a spiral or circle.


Then I needle felted the stem.


Blanket stitch the sides together.  Begin by hiding the knot inside at the bottom of the case.



Blanket stitch all the way up on both sides.  You can add a string so you can wear it by finger knitting the string and sewing it on.  Or you can finger knit a latch and button. Mine works well without a button and surprisingly doesn’t slip out in my purse.  I wanted to be able to easily pull it out in a hurry with out having to fumble with a button.  Though if you want to add a strap to wear it a button might be wise.

I think I’m going to have to make another with a strap for when we go on our walks.  How decadent of me!  Enjoy your lovely, new cell phone case!  And if you make this please link back to us here at Natural Kids so we can see.

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Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood

So often in life we make separations between ourselves and others, whether it be culturally, racially, religiously or most evident in the United States right now, politically.  Humanity so often seems to divide itself up.  It finds a truth and holds tightly to it.  Then suddenly life becomes “us” verses “them”.  How do we reach across human division?


This year as a part of our Waldorf home school curriculum the Douglas Wood books, Old Turtle, & Old Turtle and the Broken Truth were recommended. I had planned on looking for them at the library but at the last minute just decided to go ahead and order them.  I’m so glad I did because I could never have given them up after reading them both.  They are beautifully illustrated books with watercolors by Jon Muth and they are so beautifully & poetically written.  I often cannot get through a reading without choking up.

“…into this far and lovely land there fell… a truth.  It streaked down from the stars, trailing a tail as long as the sky. But as it fell, it broke.”


In this book a “Truth” is found.  On it is written a very special message, but the animals soon see that it’s a broken truth and so reject it.  Then a man finds the broken truth and at first it gives him a great sense of peace.  He takes it to his people.

“The Truth made the people feel good and proud and strong.  But soon they also began to feel fear and even anger toward those who were not like themselves and did not share their truth.  The other beings and other people of the lovely land seemed less and less important… “


See what happens when a little girl journeys in search of wisdom and an “Old Turtle”.  In the end the broken “Truth” is reunited with it’s lost half.  A new message emerges, but how do the people respond to this new, whole Truth?

I dare you to read this book without a tear or two.  Most appropriate for the age 7 and up child and all children at heart. This book has a remarkable and meaningful message for all people across every so called divide.  I’m sure it will become a favorite in your home too.

There are so many wonderful children’s books out there with meaningful life messages.  I would love to know, what are your favorites?


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Desert Gardening

“If you are going to take a stand in the desert, do not be unsure of your purpose.  More than anywhere else that I can think of, this land does not reward partial commitments.” 

This quote from the book, How To, edited by Susan McAllister, Jessie Rogers & Wade Patterson, describes gardening in the desert so well.  There are no “partial commitments”.  You are either all in or all out, as a gardener.  With blaring sun and little to no sky water gardening in the desert seems to be quite a feat.  And yet with a little tending life prevails.

This is the first year we are using the square foot gardening method.  This picture was taken soon after planting earlier this Spring, mid- April.


And here it is now.  We have very limited space for our tiny, backyard garden.  Just this little fenced in area for one garden bed, a palette herb garden with some containers on top & a small in ground bed to the left.

Vine tomatoes & two zucchini plants are growing well here.  There’s also some basil & marigolds in the center of the bed.


We’re harvesting zucchini’s semi regularly now.


The tomatoes are starting to turn from green to rosy.  The other day I counted 81!


The basil has given us many a pesto!


We’ve harvested a handful of cucumbers.

There’s something so beautiful about how the cucumber vines find their clingy way.


We have three cantaloupes growing strong.


And some Sunflowers growing along the perimeter of the yard.  They thankfully have kept the grasshoppers busy & away (mostly) from the garden.



The pallet herb garden is starting to work after a slow start in the dry heat.  We have parsley, sage, a newly planted oregano & basil.  And here also is my constant garden kitty companion.  I think she loves the garden as much as I do.

The wonderful thing about desert gardening is that we have an extra long growing season.  I hope to add more square foot garden beds here and keep them busy year round.  Wish me luck!