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Making Homemade Skin Balm

We use this exclusively in our house for moisturising our skin. It’s made of 3 natural ingredients and very good for you!

The ingredients are:

3/4c beeswax, grated (approx 2x 30g/1oz bars of beeswax)
1c mild olive oil
1/4c coconut oil

1. Grate the beeswax on a cheese grater.
2. Put the oils and the beeswax in a double boiler/bain marie on the stove. This is really just a pot of some water with another pot inside it, so the oils don’t burn. Put the oils in the empty pot which is on top of the pot with water.
3. Heat on low until all melted.  (You could also just melt them in the microwave in a glass measuring jug.)
4. Let cool a minute or so, then pour into jars. The mixture will become more solid as it cools in the jars.

This recipe makes about 2x 200ml jars of skin balm.  Great for dry, winter skin!

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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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Advent Gardens

My children make these advent gardens every year at the Advent Fair we go to at the local Steiner school.

This year they had, among other thing, clay hedgehogs, bendy dolls, golden pine cones and toadstools!  My daughters made angels out of some white sheep’s wool once we got home, and stuck them in the trees!

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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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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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December Traditions: Pagan Yule part II

A new thing we have is a little collection of holiday books. They are to be saved until the first day of snow, when I take them out and read one of them. How the kids are thrilled when we take them out of the box!

Our main solstice tradition is to have a great meal together. A cipaille, potatoe candies, candy cane bark and other delightful things!

A cipaille is a slowy cook dish composed of various meats; originally woodland hunted animals such as moose, white-tailed dear, perdrix and hare, it is now more commonly made with beef, porc, calf and chicken. You would need a lot of potatoes too! As much as many different kinds of meats as you have.  And a good broth of chicken or beef. Cut everything in cubes and throw into a big deep dish and add the broth with some allspice and thyme, let your meat and potato marinate in it for a while. Get it out of the fridge and cover with your favorite crust recipe. Put it oven and let it cook slowly for around 6h. My mom used to start it  before going to bed and let it cook over night. We’d wake up to the wonderful smell and have some for breakfast!

(Image source)

The other thing we like to do on solstice night is take a walk in the brisk air. I remember walking with my mother once. It has been warm that day and actually rained, which never happens in Québec in December, and it froze in the night. The trees, all departed of their leaves, were covered in icecles and illuminated by the street lamps. It was gorgeous!

I also do a personal ritual; a very simple one. I reflect on what happened to me and my family since the Summer Solstice, how and what changed, what did not. Then I think about the half of year to come. What I’d like to achieve until Summer Solstice, little goals I set to myself. I can also write a wish on a paper and burn it to send my message to the universe.

This is a time where we will be moving a lot; we are renting and planning to buy a house to sell it some years later and move back to our original region. That much to say that I didn’t want to be bothered moving the huge plastic pine someone kindly gave to us along with us every move. I told myself I’d find something good enough for a Yule tree that is not time consuming and ecological. I came up with a construction paper evergreen that my daughter helped me with; She cut all the fringes while I was doing the gluing. Her brother was doing the “I mess around with any other craft supply on hand” part of the project. It’s way too small to put on any handmade ornaments we have… But it fit that salt dough moon that purposefully watches over the cedar bed.

I hope you like this little intrusion in our family’s custom! Please stay in tune to read what other families are doing in December!

December Traditions: Pagan Yule part I

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Natural Handmade Doll Beds

I was looking to buy a doll bed  for our daughter this Christmas. All of her friends have doll beds from the this large well-known doll company. I decided to support a small home based business like my own shop, instead of going with the imported bed, made in a foreign country.

I was not disappointed when I received this wonderful piece of doll furniture by Quietude Quilts on Etsy. It arrived in a simple box with easy instructions for assembling it. Took me about 5 minutes to put it together. All you need is some wood glue and allow about 24 hours of drying time…

Also included was a cute card about the makers of the doll bed. It really made me feel good about my order. Check out the story of Jonathan and Kelsey:

 Welcome to Quietude Quilts, LLC!  We are Jonathan and Kelsey, a young married couple, living in our first new old house outside Boston, together handcrafting heirloom toys and classic photography props.  We are proud to come from creative families – both of Kelsey’s grandmothers were quilters, and both of Jonathan’s grandfathers were woodworkers who built and owned their own businesses, and we love following in their steps with our own creative and miniature twist.
We also are a structural engineer and a very part-time English professor (Kelsey did “quit her day job” in 2011!), an Iron man triathlete and a photographer, and uncle and auntie to our favorite little people.

This bed will nicely fit a couple of smaller 12 inch dolls – or one bigger doll that is 15-18 inches. I highly recommend this business. I am sure my daughter will be very excited to find her new bed under the Christmas tree this year.

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December Traditions – An Advent Calendar Full of Them!

Last year I made an advent calendar with 25 little pockets on it.  I made it out of fabric and tried to make it so it will last forever and ever!

I have 25 little slips of paper with an activity written on each one.  My daughters are so excited each morning to take the paper out and see what the activity is for the day!

They’re mostly crafts, for example, making Christmas cards for friends and family, make paper snowflakes, make straw stars, make Christmas cookies, and fingerprint Christmas trees.  I bought 2 little red bells at an Advent fair, and tomorrow their slip of paper will say ‘Open a gift.’  I’ll hide the little bells wrapped up in Christmas paper somewhere in the house for them to find!

I especially love this little bird:

It’s so fun to have a whole month with activities already organised!


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Advent and Christmas German Style: 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.  This article in the series is about celebrating Advent and Christmas German Style.

Our family, an interesting patchwork, has three nationalities among it with five different countries of birth.  The children identify with their countries of birth, so the flag of the country is an important symbol in our home.   If had ever wanted to design it like this, it would have never worked.  So nature just threw us this patchwork.

When December comes around, the celebrations of the parents’ cultures seem to take over though.

Advent is a deeply celebrated tradition in German culture.  Without an advent calendar and an advent wreath, the Christmas season cannot be celebrated properly.  This year, I created a modern and simple wreath without any greens, since we will be in Germany to celebrate the second half of the advent, where my mother-in-law always has a beautiful green wreath with red candles.

The creation of this year’s wreath took some glass star decorations and some clear glass marbles that my daughter and I spread over a glass plate around 4 candles.  The 4 candles are lit one-by-one each Sunday of the advent period leading up to Christmas.  This year the first candle was lit on December 2 by our first-born.

Another tradition we have is the advent calendar for the kids.  Our advent calendar starts each year on December 1 (even though advent might start as early as 27 November, or as late as 3 December).  A few years back, when we just arrived in Kenya, I created a re-usable advent calendar for the children by sewing some small stocking shapes out of 3 different kangas, clipped to a ribbon with a numbered wooden peg.  Each little stocking has room for a small gift or chocolate and by opening a stocking each day we are counting down to Christmas Eve.  We do only have half a calendar here in Nairobi this year as the other half will await the children when they get to Germany, prepared by their grandparents.

Near the end of advent, on 22 or 23 December, the Christmas tree is decorated.  This is a true family event where we all work together, grandparents, parents and kids to decorate the tree.  My husband’s family insists on using real candles on the tree, which will be lit on Christmas eve, for a most beautiful effect.

On Christmas Eve the gift giving celebration takes place.  Family gifts are appear quietly under the tree as soon as it has been decorated, and to top it off, Father Christmas also leaves a few gifts for the children in the early evening.  Under the candle light of the tree, we open the gifts one-by-one with each family member taking part in the enjoyment of one of us opening a package.  After this, we share a lovely late dinner and later on light up the candles on the tree one more time.  The next two days of Christmas (25 and 26 December) a lot of time is spend with family.  We visit, walk and talk amongst ourselves to spend the goodness of the season with each other with only a few days left before we welcome yet another year into our lives.

Our children are growing up celebrating rich traditions of their root cultural backgrounds.  I believe that it is important for them to be aware of these traditions as they help them in establishing their own cultural identity in this interdependent world.  I also think and hope that they pick up some new traditions, or modifications, by the time that they are parents themselves, but I am looking forward to sitting with them under the Christmas tree in 30 years with them saying ‘this tradition always meant home to us’.