Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Morning!

     Christmas has come and gone, and we survived; woo hoo!  Samuel was up at 5:30!  It was hours before daylight.  The kids love their stable and dollhouse, which is my reward for all the time I put into it.  Here it is all set up on Christmas Eve, waiting for Christmas morning. 
     Every single thing in this picture is made by me.  The toys that is.  Obviously not everything.  The house looks a little sparse, but I didn't have time, or desire at this point, to make any more furniture.  I will make more stuff eventually.  Anna managed to decorated it nicely with what we had.

   I also made Abriel a stroller.  This was not entirely made by me, but was a joint effort with my brother-in-law.  We made two strollers; one for his little girl and one for mine.  He made the parts that I didn't have the tools for, and I made the parts that he didn't have the tools for.  It worked out pretty well. 

       I also made crayon holders like the ones here, for my little nieces and nephew.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Our Advent Wreath

     I never did get around to making an actual Advent wreath this year, but I did fashion a makeshift one, so that we could still celebrate Advent.  I used our Waldorf birthday ring as a base, with a simple greenery wreath around it.  It's very pretty, but I do like the symbolism of the different colored candles.  The beautiful red berries I got from a shopping center parking lot.  They had this long row of  Nandina, all dripping with red berries.  So I went ahead and picked some.  Not sure how ethical  this is, but they look really pretty in our wreath.  Is it wrong to pick flowers, berries, etc. from parking lots?

Housework and Children

     Parenting is hard.  There is nothing more constant or physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting.  Just when you think you might have this whole parenting thing figured out, you realize you really don't know anything.  And you can never, ever slack up. 
     Unfortunately, I slacked up a little bit, and I am now seeing the results of that.  I've been busy making toys for my shop for the past few months, and then I've been spending even more time down in my shop making Christmas presents.  I've been seeing signs of not enough Mommy time in my kids for some time now, but I've tried to ignore it, because there was just so much stuff I had to do.  Thankfully, I think I've returned to my senses, and realized my priorities were not where they needed to be.  Making things in order to earn some extra money is great, but it's not the top priority in my life.  In fact, it's kinda near the bottom.  Or it should be.  So I probably will be rethinking how my shop fits into my life in the new year. 
     Right now, I've been working on getting the kids to be more obedient about everything, and to contribute more to the household in terms of chores.  As usual, Samuel is the one I've been butting heads with.  He's not into this obedience thing.
     Anna has been resisting helping me with the housework.  She is now at an age where she can be a real help, but she has not been a willing helper.  I used a chore chart with her when she was younger, but it was reward based, and I felt that it was giving her the mentality that unless she got payed for it, she wasn't going to do it.  I stopped using it, and started stressing that everyone in the family needs to contribute to the household work, because we all live here.  She gets this, but it's not very motivating.  She liked the chore chart.  I think I had a breakthrough with her the other day, though.  I had been sick for a couple of days, and the first day I started to feel better, I look around the house and it's horrible.  It looked like something exploded, or maybe lots of things had exploded.  It was bad.   I was already feeling stressed about lack of time, and here was this giant mess that was going to take all day to clean up.  I really wanted to yell, but I didn't.  Instead, I reminded Anna about how she is always wishing that I had more time to do fun stuff with her.  I explained that one of the reasons I don't have time to do fun stuff, is that I spend all my extra time cleaning house.  Then I told her that if we both worked really hard, and got the house clean before 4:00, I would have time to set up a craft for her to do, before I had to make supper.  Well, she helped me clean, fast, and we managed to get the house clean by 4:00.  The twins helped too.  As a result, I made up some salt dough, and the kids made salt dough ornaments.  The next day, after the house was clean, they got to paint them.  This was hugely motivating for Anna, but unlike monetary rewards, it was a natural result of helping with the housework. 
     I decided to reinstate the chore chart, but only as a means to check off what you need to accomplish that day.  The twins especially need a visual reminder of what they need to do.  I saw this really nifty chore chart on Pinterest, and thought it fit what we needed perfectly.  You can get the tutorial here. 

     The kids each got to pick out what kind of paper they wanted.  They loved that!  For the twins, I tried to give them very clear cut jobs.  Nothing like, "Pick up your toys." Since I knew there would be questions like, "Do I have to pick up the ones that I didn't get out?" So they have to pick up one type of thing like all the stuffed animals, whether or not they got them out, or if it belongs to them.  Abriel loves following her chart and doing her chores.  Samuel not so much, but we're getting there.  So the chores are getting done with a lot less complaining, and that's good.  One step at a time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stockmar Paint Review

     Recently we completely ran out of water color paint, so I decided to splurge a little and get some Stockmar liquid water colors, that are designed for wet-on-wet paintings. 
     Since these paints have so much hype around them, and they are the paints used by most Waldorf school,  I guess I expected them to be really fabulous.  They're nice, but not fabulous.  In quality they really don't seem any different than Windsor & Newton or other similar water color brands.  Tube water colors are cheaper than liquid, but Stockmar paints really aren't liquid.  They're a little more runny than tube paints, but not enough to easily get out of the jar.  When you have three little ones eagerly waiting on you to get them set up to paint, this can be annoying. 
      There are some things I really like about them.  They retain their color well when dry, and the dried painting has a slight sheen to it.  They are very good for wet-on-wet.  The colors run together so well and it keeps wet longer than other paints; so much so, that I think they might have a drying retardant in it. 
      I played around with them some after the kids were finished painting.  I had fun, but boy!  It's hard to paint anything other than blobby shapes, the way the paints want to run together.  However, I think that if I had used paint that hadn't already been diluted by the twins over zealous water usage, it might have been a little easier. 
     All in all, Stockmar paints are fun and pretty, but really not worth the price.  I think transparent tube water colors are a better value.  A cheap and fun liquid water color substitute is food coloring.  Being a dye, the painting will fade over time, but for kids art they're great.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chalkboard drawing/ English Colonies

     Here is my new chalkboard drawing for English colonization in America.  I was slightly uninspired about this one.  It needs something else, but I can't think what.  Any ideas?


     I've been spending some time lately making Christmas presents for other people's children.  Unlike the gifts I've been working on for my kids, I've been working on these things in front of the kids.  This has caused no small amount of misunderstanding with Samuel.  He has somehow got it into his head that I am only making toys for other children, and he wont have any toys on Christmas.  His little heart is broken, and I can't seem to make him understand that Mommy has been working on toys for him too.  He has gotten Abriel worked up about it too, and she has started coming up with very specific things that she wants for Christmas.  What she has asked for is a stroller and a Violet root child.  Luckily, I'm already making them.  It's nice when what you want for your child and what they want happen to coincide.  I will be glad when Christmas is here, and they will realize that I haven't forgotten them. 
      And in case your wondering, this is what started the big fuss.
A little camping set for my niece.  It has a tent, sleeping bag with pillow, and a campfire.  I'm thinking about making some of these to sell in my Esty shop. 

     And a little doll for my granddaughter.  The body is made from a felted angora sweater, so it's super soft and snugly. This is the first time I have stitched the hair directly on to the head.  I had some yellow fingering weight wool yarn, that wasn't enough to make anything much with, so it was perfect for this.  I didn't fill in the whole head, as it is mostly covered with a crochet cap, but the little bit peaking out looks cute.
      I really like making these types of doll.  I use the pattern for the "floppy doll" out of "Making Toys With Children."
     Along with making toys, I finally started dyeing some of my wool roving.   I say finally, because even though I love dyeing silk and wool yarn, I was very intimidated by dyeing wool roving.  I had this vision of it turning into this big felted blob the instant I submerged it in hot water. 
     I needed some colored wool for projects, and was even planing on buying some, but since I hate buying what I can make myself, I thought I would give it a try, and just see.  It turned out to be easy, easy, easy.  The colors are beautiful, it did not felt at all, and it's so much cheaper this way!  All I did was very gently push the wool down into the dye bath, let it sit for a few minutes, then scoop it up with a long spoon.  The water drains out of it quickly, so there is no need to squeeze it.  I then put it in a colander and ran cool water over it, and let it dry.  I then got to use some of it to make the "fire" in the doll campfire!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Winter Nature Table Without Snow

            Our winter nature table is up before January this year, which is a first for us. Woo hoo!  This year has been so warm, I decided not to put a white cloth down for snow.  I did add a little bit of wool for snow, but it looks slightly yellow, and we all know what yellow snow is. ;)  I still have the icicles and snow children, who are looking down and wondering when it is going to snow.  I am wondering the same thing.  I would love some snow this year, as we didn't have any to speak of last year.  Today is cold and overcast, so I might get my wish. 
      I put a purple silk behind everything, as that is the color of our mountains in the winter.  I love the way the mountains change color through the seasons.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Turkey Anatomy Lesson

     Today, while getting a turkey ready to pop in the oven, I had an Ah ha! moment, and realized that I had a fantastic teaching opportunity in front of me.  Inside that bag of giblets, that I never know what to do with, and so therefore ends up in the trash, were organs!  What a great way to learn some anatomy! 
      I have a confession.  I have never actually opened the giblet bag, and I thought it contained an organ called a giblet.  I wasn't sure what this was, only it was obviously something turkeys had, and we don't.  It turns out that giblets are not an organ, (OK, don't laugh or wonder how I could have not known that.) but are actually the heart, liver, and gizzard.  I've eaten all of these before, and they are quite tasty and not at all gross, but we weren't going to eat them today.  We were going to dissect them! 
These are the neck, heart, gizzard, and liver.
     Anna thought it was cool getting to touch, feel and cut open the organs.  She was impressed at how smooth and slippery the liver was.  "Like wet silk."  
     We also talked about what the different organs were used for, and what was similar to ours, and what was different.  Such as what a gizzard is used for and why we don't have one. 
     We then looked up some info online an examined the bird diagram below. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Doll house, finished and ready for Christmas!

    I finally finished the doll house I was making for the kids Christmas.  It is to go along with the play mat, seen here. I also made a stable, but put it away without taking pictures first.  I hate when I do that.   I loved making the doll house, especially the roof.
       A few months ago I saw this Norbert Vereuer doll house.  I fell in love, and just knew I would have to try and make it.  I changed up the design a little bit to better suit our needs, but it has the same feel.  Mine doesn't have a balcony, as I wanted the house to be able to be pushed up against a wall, to save space.  I also like round windows, so I added some.  They look kind of gnome or hobbitish, don't you think?  My stairs are different (I couldn't figure them out) and I have a doorway between the rooms.  All in all, I like mine better, and I love the fact that I made it myself. 
      Here's how the top of the roof looks.   I really had no idea how I was going to work until I started putting the slats in place, and just fiddled with it until I liked the way it looked. 
      These pictures really show how small and messy my shop is.  I really need to get better at cleaning up as I go.  I tend to let everything pile up until my project is finished.  Everything is precariously placed here and there, so when Dave comes in to help me out with something, he's a bit of a bull in a china shop.  I have Susannah sized pathways around every thing, so he can't take a step without knocking into something.
     The doll house, mat, and stable are for all the kids to share, but I think Anna will appreciate the doll house most.  She sets up little doll's houses all the time, and is very creative in using blocks, books, and everything else to make little rooms and furniture.  I did wonder briefly if giving her a doll house would kill the creativity that she shows with these set ups, but then I thought, "No, she would love a doll house.  Stop over thinking." 
One of Anna's dollhouse scenes

Monday, December 3, 2012

Decorating the Tree

     This year was different tree decorating experience for me.  Instead of doing it completely by myself or with only Anna helping me, as I have for years. This year I didn't lift a finger!  Thanks to a bad case of tennis elbow, I stepped back and let the kids decorate it by themselves.  Well, nearly by themselves.  Dave put up the lights, and I couldn't resist doing a little repositioning the next day. 

They did really well, although it's a good thing I have a lot of unbreakable ornaments!  The twins kept dropping them while trying to get them on the tree.  The more fragile ones, Anna put on after the twins went to bed.
    Abriel, being the youngest, got to put the star on.  Since Samuel is older only by thirty minutes, he can do it next year.  That's the good and bad thing about being a twin.  You have to share your birth order position. 
    Anna's overseeing of the decorating reminded me of how my oldest sister, Elisha, used to dictate to her younger siblings just how the tree should be decorated.  Even to this day, I can't decorate the tree any other way.  A siblings lasting influence.


   Yesterday was the first week of Advent, and even though we did not do anything for it, (due to my procrastination, broken advent wreath, etc.)  I thought I would post my Advent chart that I made last year.  My printer seems to be running out of ink, but it's suppose to be colored purple, pink, and red.  You can still get the general idea. 
   The reason I made the chart was to make preparing for Advent as easy as possible, and not have to do any last minute scrabbling to prepare.  I guess since I'm already behind, I need all the help I can get!  I also really want the kids and myself to memorize some Advent hymns this year, so I thought we could work on memorizing one hymn a week.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hello November

     October was here and gone, and I feel like I've just blinked.  Why does time go so fast when you need more of it? 
     We've already had our first snow; (in October!) luckily not as much as we were predicted to get, and our power stayed on. Yipee!  Normally you just need to look at a power line funny, and our power goes out.  The kids played out in the slush a little bit, until Samuel threw a slush ball at Abriel, and that was the end of that.  I also realized that the kids have all out grown or lost their mittens, and I needed to make some more.  I found a great free mitten pattern online at five green acres.  I had some wool sweaters left over from some other stuff, and some unbelievably soft cashmere sweaters that I had been saving for the perfect project.  I used the wool for the outer layer, and the cashmere for the lining. They are sooo soft inside, it's like heaven.  I love thrift store sweaters!
     I just finished them tonight, after the weather warmed up some, but they'll be ready for the next time it snows. 
      Halloween night was still pretty frigid.  Not exactly a great night to be out trick-or-treating.  We shivered through a few minutes of trunk-or-treating at our church, and then decided to call it a night.
    That's the way to trick-or-treat.  You don't have to drag your kids around a neighborhood, but you still get loads of candy.  Candy, which I am contemplating eating right now.  Not that I need any, but less candy for the kids would be better for them right?  So I'm really just thinking of the health of my children right now.  Right.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A True Princess

Princess Butterfly

    There seems to be a feeling these days that there is something wrong or unhealthy about the pink princess hype that surrounds your average little girl.  Girls love pink, and girls love princesses, and probably have from time immortal.  The difference now is that girls are bombarded with images and all the dinky little accessories from a very stereotyped and unrealistic version of princesses.  These of course are the Disney princesses.  They all have impossibly large eyes and small waists, and whether it be spunky Jasmine or demure Cinderella, they all have one thing in common.  Once they have found the man of their dreams, their life is complete.  They can now live "Happily Ever After".   
          O.K., I can see something wrong with that.  I certainly have tried to keep my girls from becoming immersed in the Disney fluff, but does that mean there is something wrong with all fairy tales and princesses? 
          There is a TV show on PBS called Super Why, which has to be my all time least favorite kids show.  The reason is because they revise traditional fairy tales until they are diluted little politically correct things that bear no resemblance to the original fairy tale.  The writers of Super Why evidently think there is something wrong with fairy tale princesses.  So Rapunzel is portrayed as a chubby little girl with brown hair and glasses.  ( I have a chubby little girl with brown hair and glasses, but she's cute)   St. George, (called Knight George) is a coward who is afraid of the dragon.  The princess doesn't need to be rescued; the dragon is just in her way.  The repetitive message through all of them is, Princesses are ordinary looking, and do not need to be rescued by any prince.  But what's the fun in that?  Why not, instead of changing traditional fairy tales, into boring insipid things that no one wants to hear about, or letting your little girl become infatuated with a Disney ding bat, instead find fairy tales that encourage girls to be truly princess like? 
      We have been reading The Princess and The Goblins by George MacDonald.  You couldn't find a better role model for a girl.  Princess Irene is faithful, truthful, kind, and very brave.  She is also beautiful.  All of MacDonald's princesses display true princess behavior, and if they don't, they get taught a lesson, as in The Lost Princess
        The way I see it, let your girls be pretty little  princesses, but remember what it is that makes you a princess.   And it's not the inability to sleep on a pea!                                                                                           

Queen Elizabeth I Chalkboard Drawing

     This is my first drawing of the year, as our history readings haven't shown a central theme yet, but as we are getting into Queen Elizabeth's reign in Our Island Story, I decided to draw her on the chalk board.  Not only are we reading her in OIS, but we will soon be reading an autobiography about her by Diane Stanly.  I love Diane Stanley's autobiographies.  Anna and I both were captivated by Joan of Arc last year.  Elizabeth is another strong and fearsome woman, who was so iconic that an entire age is named after her.  I am looking forward to studying about her with Anna. 
     As far as the drawing goes, she looks a little ghastly, as it is hard to get good flesh tones with only primary colors and white and black.  I can not wait to get new chalk, especially since I used up every last bit of white on this drawing.  I am going to get some of this chalk, that is meant for chalkboard drawings.  I can't wait to try it out. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


     Here is a brief picture summary of our Michaelmas celebrations.  
Making the dragon bread

All ready for the oven

After being baked, with fire (bell pepper) coming out of his mouth

Dragon fire salad

Slaying the dragon!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Tutorial- Bendy Doll Makeover


    Abriel and Samuel got these little bendy dolls last Christmas from Magic Cabin.  Abriel loves them (there is a boy as well) and as a result they have grown to look quite ratty.  I decided to try giving them a makeover, also changing some things I wasn't overly fond of, like the face.  It was just too cartoonish for me, and I don't like the exaggerated smile.  So, here's the step by step process on how I made over the girl doll. 
     The clothes were dirty and pilly, so I wanted to replace them.  In order to do this, I carefully cut along the seams, so that I could use the old clothes as a pattern for the new ones.  The pants were glued on at the top, but it was pretty easy to rip it free.  In order to get the shirt off, I had to take the head off.  It was securely glued, and wasn't budging, so I just gave it a good twist, hoping to break the glue, but I broke the dowel instead.
That meant taking the doll down to the shop and drilling out the old dowel.  This can be a little tricky, but if you're careful and keep your drill at a very low speed, it can work out pretty well. 
After I had drilled it out, I cut a section of a 3/16 dowel, making sure it fit well inside the body and head.  I also sanded of the facial features with 200 grit sand paper. 
I painted on a new face with acrylic paint, making her have a neutral expression and brown eyes, like Abriel.  I also painted her shoes brown, but I think in the future, I will paint them the original color, since now when the paint chips, it will show the black underneath.  Her head is just stuck on at this point.  It can't be glued until the shirt is on.
I chose wool felt for the new clothes, so I wouldn't have to do any hemming.  I used the old clothes for a pattern, minus the seam allowance, since I was using felt.  I sewed one half of the shirt, as shown, and the front and back of the pants before putting them on the doll.  The rest needs to be sewn while on the doll, because it cannot be dressed otherwise.
After I had finished sewing the inseam on the pants, I hot melt glued them in place.  I then glued the dowel into the body, and slipped the shirt on, getting the dowel to poke through the neck hole.  I finished sewing the shirt while on the doll, and then glued the head on, making sure the face was pointed in the right direction.  Now to fix that crazy hair.
I figured braids down the back would be the best way to keep it from going all over the place.  I made two tiny braids, then tied them off with embroidery floss.  I then put a dot of white craft glue at the knot, to keep them tied.  I also glued any stray hairs in place. 
   Now, doesn't she look better?  I can't wait to redo the little boy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Roughing It

     I have a tendency to get fixated on accomplishing something I set out to do, and by golly, I'm going to do it even if everything seems to be going to pieces.  Eventually I'll stop long enough to think, "What in the world am I doing?"  Which was what was going through my mind as I was driving down the highway this Friday; car loaded with camping gear and kids, and no husband.
      The plan started out simply enough.  I wanted to go camping with my brother and his family, but the weekend we were planning on going was suppose to be rainy, so we had to push it back a couple of weeks.  Then my brother suggests we camp in the woods on my parents property.  Dave didn't like the idea of hauling camping gear up a mountain, but David (my brother) assured him that he could get his truck pretty near the sight.  I had my doubts if this could be done, but I thought that between Dave and I, it wouldn't be too much work to get our stuff up there.  It might be a little hitch in my planning, but still worth the trip.
     Then I see that it's going to get pretty cold that night.  I don't love camping when it's freezing out, but since the weather is only going to get colder, I just planned on packing warm PJs.  Then Dave has to work, and can't come with us.  At this point it would make since to cancel the camping, and just stay at my parents, but the kids were looking forward to camping, and so camping we were going.  I pared all our camping paraphernalia down to the essentials, and loaded up.  Dave had already left for work, and I was rushing to get everything together and packed up, so I was well into my two hour trip, when I realized I had forgotten our coats and the twins she-shes (special blankets).  Abriel is convinced that she can not live without her she-she.  I don't think she has ever spent a night without it, and here we were, getting ready to sleep out in the woods with no she-she.  This is when I thought, "What am I doing?" 
      Despite the bumps along the way, I did get there safely, (Considering my driving is less than exemplary, that is something in it's self.)  hauling everything up to the camp site wasn't a big deal, and it didn't get near as cold as it was suppose to, so we didn't even need our coats.  And Abriel, though not happy about it, managed to go to sleep with out her she-she.

        Here she is getting ready to go to sleep in our cozy little tent.
Samuel was all about helping David get a fire going in the morning.  David showed him how to break sticks over your knee, and so he broke every little twig that went into the fire, over his knee.

     David has strung up swings on a big beech that's on the edge of the woods.  The kids loved swinging on them.  They can be quite thrilling.  Unfortunately, I whacked my heel on a root while swinging.  It hurt so bad, I thought I might have done some permanent damage, but thankfully it feels much better now. 
So I guess my persistence, or perhaps stubbornness, payed off, as we all had a really fun time.  Camping out in the woods is quite a bit different than camping at a campground.  Every time during the night when Rumpole (the big dog in the pictures) would start barking and growling, I'd start thinking about bobcats and bears, and all the other big scary animals he might be barking at.  At some point I realized that even if there was something out there, there wasn't a thing I could do about it, so the best thing to do was just go to sleep.