Just Plain Living…

Stories from our gentle Home…

Michaelmas in our Waldorf Home October 10, 2009

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For our family Michaelmas is a season. We celebrate many festivals throughout the year in our home but when we celebrate Michaelmas, it signals the beginning of the time when we look within ourselves more deeply, the time when the darkness of winter sets in. St. Michael is the patron saint of the sea and maritime lands, of ships and boatmen. St. Michael’s story can be complicated and is not easily understood by younger children. We are not a Christian family so reading about St. Michael from that perspective is not the way we choose to celebrate this time. Instead, we briefly talk about that story and regard Michael as “Michael the Victorious” and still use his name to learn and celebrate as many Waldorf  (Rudolf Steiner) followers do.

This year we took the entire week to focus on the story of St. George and the Dragon. This story goes nicely with this week  because it also has the good versus evil theme.  St. George who is good, fights the dragon who is evil.  In her book, “A Journey Through Waldorf Homeschooling (Kindergarten)”, Melisa Nielsen says that this festival has great significance especially for young children still battling their inner will. The battle of good versus evil is one they know well! She also says that older children also often see the battle (from the book), mirroring battles that could be going on around them and their “need” as children to try to understand it all.

We read, drew, baked dragon bread, reinacted the story and had a fun time. Here are the photos, please refer to my bread making entry for a great bread recipe that can be used to bake the dragon bread. Just shape it like a dragon and bake it until it appears done!

 

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A Waldorf Transition to Fall September 23, 2009

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           Today marks the beginning of Autumn. I went for a long long walk this morning and made several observations  in nature that reflect this beginning. One thing I noticed more than anything else…the Milkweed is releasing her “seed babies”-as I call them. They were flying through the air having a grand time today as I walked up and down the mountains. “Weeeee!” they say as they float along, searching for a place to settle down for the season of rest. Of course with the  turning of the season I had to pull out one of my favorite books to read to Taige…

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The Story of the Root Children by Sibylle Von Olfers,(a beautiful German author, artist and Nun who lived her life long ago). The story is pure and the illustrations are lovely. I have collected all of her books and truly love them.  They are available here.

Along with reading this beautiful story, I made some changes to our nature table. Last year, I made (needle felted) the fall version of Mother Nature. She always reigns over our nature table (and in the winter when she is resting, King Winter and Mrs. Thaw take her place). I have a different version of her for each season. For fall, she is in warm colors and has a harvest basket in hand (and she has dreads…don’t know what that is about, must have been my mood!).

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The entire nature table was cleaned and resituated to reflect this time of year. I have made several needle felted pumpkins as have added some beautiful gourds that were found in a friend’s garden a few weeks ago. I spotted some Chinese Lantern flowers on a walk last week and they are in a corner of the table drying.  Pine cones and acorns, seed pods and fall leaves all now adorn our table.

Here are the pictures…Fall Begins 121Fall Begins 123

 

 

 

 

 

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I lit some candles and we had a few moments of singing verses and bidding summer goodbye…My home felt pretty (it told me so) and I decided to capture a few photos…

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I have memorized this verse (for our morning reverence) for this week it is a beauty…

Yellow the bracken

Golden the sheaves

Rosy the apples

Crimson the leaves

Mist on the hillside

Clouds grey and white

Autumn Good Morning

Summer Good Night!

And, here is a lovely little finger play from the book A Child’s Seasonal Treasury:

Autumn Leaves

The trees are saying, “Goodbye” to their leaves (stretch out arms and wave goodbye)

As they flutter and float and fly in the breeze (flutter fingers)

All golden, orange, and red, they sink softly off to bed. (Slowly bring fluttering fingers down to floor)

On Mother Earth’s breast rests each leafy head.  (Make sleeping gesture with palms together; give a big, restful sigh).

 

Farewell Summer…until next year.

 

The Sacred Duty of Homemade Bread May 28, 2009

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Yum. I can still smell the aroma from the Sunflower Oatmeal bread we baked last night. We make a batch of bread at least once a week. It is part of our school “work”-and it is my belief that the process of baking bread is as nourishing to the soul as eating it is for your body. I am going to share the recipe below. Although this particular bread did not come from a book, if you are new to bread making, I recommend this great book called “Whole Foods for Whole People”. It teaches the process in a gentle way.  I do not use the book so much for the recipes anymore (they are in my brain) but, I completely love to read and re-read the the text portions, focused on nutrition and menu planning. And I LOVE love love the simple art work on the cover and inside. This is one (of many) that I consider to be a  ‘must have’  on your shelf. Here is a quick excerpt… (now, before you read…PLEASE know that this is a tiny bit old-fashioned…considering that it only mentions bread making as a sacred duty for females…I strongly disagree with this…in a non-feminist way-if that is possible. Simply put…my belief is that it is a sacred duty for all PEOPLE. So, here it is…of course I am typing it like it is in the book…just substitute for yourself to keep happy)…

“It is a sacred duty for every girl and woman to learn to make good, light bread from unrefined flour. Mothers should take their daughters into the kitchen with them, when very young, and teach them the art of cooking. She should instruct them patiently, lovingly, and make the work as agreeable as she can, by her cheerful countenance and encouraging words. If a love for cooking and other necessary domestic duties is once implanted, it will never be lost! It will also prove a real safeguard from idle moments during the restless teens and will help prepare a young woman for a happy home of her own. Today much worthless information is passed on to youth in the name of “education”, while the earnest duties of life are passed over, with hardly a mention. Good cooking is one of the most essential branches of education, especially for young women”

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I think the second to last sentence there might just be why we homeschool!! Ok…I am a bit pressed for time this morning so instead of my usual rambling, I am going to post the recipe and get outside…we have sunny skies this morning and our bodies are in much need of moving in the light! Feel free to post a question, I will answer as quickly as I can.

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 Ingredients: (you will also need a good cooking thermometer and a flour sifter- I think these are the only two things that might not by lying around)

1 1/2 T dry yeast

1 Cup warm water (my yeast packets suggest “warm” to be 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit-if you are dissolving the yeast in the water like in this recipe-work fast to get the yeast in the water and keep it in a warm place so it holds the temperature for a bit.)

1 T honey (please use your local honey-more on that topic another day!)

1 stick of room temperature butter (do not melt it…just leave it out for a bit before you begin making it-or give it to your toddler to “play with” for a bit…it’ll warm right up)

3-4 T honey (Plus a little more to brush on top at the end)

1 T salt (Celtic sea salt is my favorite…)

3 cups warm milk (or water) (either one you choose, stick to the same temperature “rules” that you did for dissolving the yeast-I have ruined one too many loaves of bread by killing the yeast (too hot) or not growing the yeast (too cool).

4-5 Cups Spelt Flour (you will need 5 cups -maybe more- but, leave one of the cups aside)

4-5 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (you will need 5 cups -maybe more-but, leave one of the cups aside)

Sunflower seeds (about 1 cup plus a little more for the top)

Oatmeal (Quaker is fine-I like whole oats in bread-makes it more crunchy)( 1/2 to 1 cup…plus a little more for the top)

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir the 1T of honey in the cup of warm water. Then, pour the yeast in. Don’t stir it (tempting, I know). Set it aside for 10 minutes in a warm place and let it get foamy. Meanwhile, put the butter, the rest of the honey and salt in a large (save yourself time now…go for the big one) bowl. Warm the milk (or water) and pour it over the ingredients in the bowl. Add the yeast mixture. Add the 4 cups of Spelt flour and the 4 cups of Whole Wheat flour and the oatmeal and sunflower seeds. Stir it with a wooden spoon or you can mix it with your hands. Just combine the ingredients for now…don’t over work it.  Cover the bowl with a cloth and place it in a warm place to rise for 10-15 minutes.  Once this time has passed, uncover it and add the remainder of the flours (1 cup of each) and flour the counter top and your hands well. Your dough needs to be “knead-able”-if it is too sticky, add more flour-just keep the balance of the two flours). This is where the recipe literally needs your intuition…you must just “know” when the dough is the right consistency and texture…you cannot take out flour once you add it…so, a just add a little at a time. Once it is workable, knead it for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic-not too sticky.  Divide the dough in half- (I think next time I will divide it into thirds so my cooking time is shorter). Grease whatever you are cooking it in well. Once it is ready to bake, brush the top with honey and sprinkle it with oats and sunflower seeds. Cook one pan at a time-the rest can just sit on the counter and rise some more.

A couple of options…you can make rolls or loaves or whatever! I can not give you an exact cooking time…I use stoneware to bake in-so, my cooking time is always longer (50 minutes or so for a loaf-half of the dough). Rolls cook nicely in about 18-20 minutes. Really- bread is a lot intuition. Don’t assume your bread is cooked through in the beginning…cut into it and see if it is “doughy”-it is a real learning process and it will take a few times to get it down. Once you “get it”, you will not forget it! Write it down each time and make note of what you did differently and what worked or didn’t. I am constantly making changes in my recipe!  I have no idea where this particular recipe came from…but I have it written down and would give credit if I could! I will say that I have altered it a bit and tweaked it so that it works for me…it was one of the first recipes I tried it was way too vague for me and I messed it up a bunch of times before I got it right!

Off to soak up the sun…Peace!

 

It’s Difficult to Leave Hibernation When… April 8, 2009

Snow resting in the early Dogwood blooms

Snow resting in the early Dogwood blooms

It is hard to believe that it could possibly be snowing. Just Monday, it was in the 70’s-sunny and warm. It felt like spring was finally here. Prior to that, it kept teasing us…cold one day, warm the next. However, yesterday the cold came back…and it started snowing and snowing. We were surprised to see it still snowing this morning when we awoke. At times it was really coming down and we knew it was going to be one of those hibernating type days. Just when I was trying to kick that habit…! My body totally follows the rhythm of the seasons and it was finally convinced that spring has sprung…time to stop sleeping in…staying up late…you know. Well…how quickly I have fallen back into the deep sleep…last night my blog entry posted at 3:30am. Yeah…I was not feeling too good this morning…and well…hmmm…it us currently 1:20 and the end is not in sight. Sometimes I wish I could really honor my mind and body and just completely listen to what it wants…sleep…wake up…eat…run…play…whatever it felt like…whenever it wanted regardless of time… I think it would not be possible..as Plain & Simple as I am, I am way tainted by the world I live in-at least in that sense. Trust me…I’d rather it not be that way…but I think I’d need some of that ZIP (as mentioned in the NY Times newspaper on Monday) that makes the brain forget specific things…by blocking a learned memory. Then again, there is that thing about how it has only been tested on lab rats….hmmm. Or, I might just decide to focus a bit less on time…yeah, that sounds more appealing.

Moving on…time is ticking, you know.

So, we decided to do give in to the hibernating and bake bread, make soup and generally veg.

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Yummy. Kale, potatoes, carrots, corn, lotsa garlic, onion and some slow-cookin brown rice.

And…bread from scratch…we opted for the recipe in Taige’s nature based learning guide for the week…it had an Easter theme and sounded fun to make. Haley took charge of it and did a great job. It called for dyed eggs but, since our chickie-poos only lay brown eggs, that is all we had. Brown eggs don’t dye well!

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Well, I did have to help “weave it”…

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That bread recipe is nice…but, like most artisan breads, it is a long (many hours) process…mix, knead, rise, punch down, rise, etc…Look at how cute and spotty the eggs turned when we cooked them…thanks chickens…

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And our sprouting Easter grass is growing so fast, if you watch it you can almost see it get taller…

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‘Twill make good wheatgrass shots once Easter is over!

Going back to hibernation now…we’ll see what tomorrow brings…

 

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Embrace the LIGHT! April 5, 2009

With rain, rain and more rain this week…I am feeling super grateful that the sun is shining brightly through the windows of our Just Plain home this morning. When I let the dog out the door, I had to just stand there in the light for a moment and embrace it. Ahhh. It is so refreshing. We have plans to get out into it as soon as we are all fully awake and thinking more clearly. Yes…we just woke up a bit ago. For some reason each year at this same time, we get on this habit of staying up way too late and sleeping in just the same. It is so dark at 7 in the morning and just barely light at 8 so, it just feels more natural to sleep…and enjoy the daylight hours that are now into the evening. Our winter time hibernation is clearly coming to an end though…as new  blossoms are emerging each day and letting us know spring is here! I think the sleeping in is one last attempt to drag the hibernation out a bit. Next week, we will go back to more “normal” (yeah, I used the ‘N’ word…whatever it means) hours.

Despite the presence of the rain this week, we still managed to stay busy (remember busy for us is different than hustle and bustle busy). The theme for the week for Taige’s nature based learning guide was “Plants and Growing”. It was great fun to jump into this! We started the week with a watercolor painting session…

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We are still loving our new Stockmar watercolor paints. We used all three colors this week again and were able to create this lovely scene of a flower. We had talked about what a seed needs in order to grow just prior to painting so we made sure to include those things in the photo. Sunlight, nutrients from the soil and water. Well…you just have to imagine the water….and the soil…well, it’s under the grass. Taige’s painting is on the left and mine on the right. I led the painting this week since we used all three colors again and had an image we wanted to create. Yellow went on first…for the sun. Then, it went all over the bottom with little blades sticking up as well as a stem and any leaves. Next came blue…for the sky first…all over the top half…careful not to touch the sun…as she likes to stay yellow…not green. Next, blue decided to play with the yellow on the bottom half to make our grass…green. Then, we went to red…but the tiniest amount ever…we could hardly see it…had to squint! And we then barely touched blue in the sky where we wanted our flower(s) to go…and Viola! Purple! And the damp paper (we did wet-on-wet watercolor) took the purple and let it run. It is so beautiful to watch. We often become captivated. After purple was finished playing, we dried our paintbrushes and made an outline for the flower-at Taige’s request. Not something I would normally do…the idea is to let the colors  blend and run and play. But, outline he wanted and outline he got. I did help a bit with the outline…and I used a wet paintbrush for mine…(on the right) and the water wanted to play with the blue. It was fun and I enjoyed the peaceful painting time with Taige…

Once they dried…the next day, we added the “seeds” with glue…and the “roots” (hemp) and we each picked the verse that we liked the best from the week. Both of these are actually fingerplays and are really cute when acted out. Here are the finished pieces…

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In keeping with the theme for the week…and with Easter coming up…although celebrated quite alternatively in our home…we decided to sprout easter grass in our baskets! We went to the Co-Op  and purchased some winter wheat berries and then made a stop at Home Depot for a bag of potting soil. We made a stop out back of our house…at our shed…and dug for the box labeled “Easter”.  We gathered all of our supplies and set up in the front yard-during the only point of the day that it was not raining…and began! We lined the baskets with a plastic grocery bag…then, added some soil…then, the seeds. Since we are sprouting them, there is no need to cover the seeds with soil…but, they do  need to be kept in a warm environment. So, we set up our grow lights…which needed to be set up anyway for the garden seedlings and covered each basket with plastic wrap (creating the greenhouse effect). They are still there as I type and have already sprouted! It took less than 24 hours! I did soak the seeds in water for 24 hours prior to planting them to “help” them on their way.  Here is the process in photos…

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And, last but not least…

Remember the beeswax sheets we bought last week? Well, even though this did not totally tie into our theme for the week…it was great fun and served as our modeling day. We typically have one day of modeling a week…either playdough…or pure beeswax. So late in the week, here is the modeling that we did…april-2009-060

Heat with the hairdryer…insert wick…roll, roll… roll, roll…heat, connect another piece…roll, roll…heat to seal! Then, with the modeling beeswax, I created this embellishment for one of the candles…

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This is the modeling beeswax I use. It is heavenly and can be shaped into anything. You just have to work it a bit to get it to soften.  april-2009-068

 These are the finished candles. I generally wrap the exterior with the paper that the sheets come on just to protect the candles. They pick up dust and can easily be dented if left unwrapped. They smell so great and are so easy to make. Taige mentioned that he wants to sell them when we set up our Etsy shop. I have been meaning to do that for a while now but just have not had the time. Soon maybe! april-2009-066

 We had a great week…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R-O-Y-G-B-I-V March 28, 2009

What does this acronym stand for? Well, I suppose it could be many things but for the purposes of our Just Plain household (this week), each letter stands for a color in the rainbow, in order.  I must have learned to memorize the order of the rainbow by using these letters. I wonder why? Why was I unable to just picture a rainbow and name the colors? Well, I think it is because somehow I never got the color wheel lesson in school. The basic understanding of the primary colors and how every color that IS, is made from these three. I have learned more in the past two years of homeschooling my children than I did in my entire middle and high school career. Honestly, I could go on and on about all of the cool things I had the privilege of teaching this week but, I will keep it to what I thought to be the best and most useful, starting with what I did with my youngest who is 5 and using a nature based pre-school learning program.

We started the week at the library collecting great books on rainbows. We then made a supply list and shopped for what we needed. We had many items already at home since our daily rhythm is the same for each day of each week. This week we incorporated the rainbow theme into each day. We have already learned about the primary colors but generally use them on their own-focusing on one at a time. Here are some of the amazing things we learned…

Sunlight is really made of the rainbow’s colors-when those colors are all mixed together, it is called white light. Isaac Newton discovered this when he bent sunlight with a wedge of glass (a prism) and made a rainbow out of it (in a darkened room). He then sent that rainbow through another prism and combined the colors back into white light-thus proving the rainbow was in the sunlight!

BLACK is not really a color-it is seen when there is no light and when there is no light, there is no color. Browns, greys and other hues are mixtures that sunlight can not put into the rainbow. (Um, ah, so, does this also  mean that when a tree falls in the woods and there is no one to hear it that it does not make a sound? Hmmm…I’m going to ponder that one a while. Ouch.)

In order to see a rainbow, the sun must be behind (ish) you and falling rain must be ahead of you (even if you don’t know it) in the distance. The falling raindrops are like a movie screen. Sunlight hits the raindrop “screen” and the rainbow appears in full color! How? Well, raindrops are water and water can bend the light. In the air, all of the colors in the sunlight travel together in the same direction. When they enter the raindrop, the colors separate as they bend in different directions.

Violet light bends the most, red light bends the least. Each color bends differently-the reason why each color is headed in a slightly different direction when it leaves the raindrop.

The back of the raindrop works like a mirror. Inside the raindrop, most of the sunlight is bent and bounced back to the front of the drop where the light entered. By then, the light is aimed back toward the ground in the sun’s direction. If you are in the right place at the right time…you will see some of that light as a RAINBOW.

When you see a single RAINBOW, red is on the top, violet on the bottom. Sometimes, some of the sunlight in a raindrop bounces twice before it leaves the drop and that light can add a second RAINBOW above the first one. The double RAINBOW is not as bright AND, that second bounce flips the colors…so, violet is at the top and red at the bottom. Now, I have seen double RAINBOWs before and NEVER even paid attention to this!

 Now, for the fun stuff…

Spin a color wheel with the colors of the RAINBOW and you see white! (Hmmm…makes since now!)

Each color on the wheel has a complimentary color, it is the color directly opposite of it. Try staring at an all-blue piece of paper or a blue circle on a white piece of paper, then look at an all white piece of paper. What do you see? Orange! The complimentary color of blue! This works for all of the colors and their compliments on the wheel.

And for a challenge…do a search using the key words “Goethe vs. Newton”. See who you agree with…is it black or is it white?

 Skyward 
  Should your glance on mornings lovely
  Lift to drink the heaven’s blue
  Or when sun, vieled by sirocco,
  Royal red sinks out of view –
  Give to Nature praise and honour.
  Blithe of heart and sound of eye,
  Knowing for the world of colour
  Where its broad foundations lie.
  (Goethe)

Ahhh…and now for the pictures from our week…

march-2009-007The playdough we made from scratch…in a rainbow of colors…

march-2009-012Now they are snails… (purple went black…not sure why)

march-2009-016And now cobras…

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march-2009-002This was the first rainbow of the week…created with found objects from around the room.

march-2009-006Our own rainbow, created with a CD reflecting (I mean “bending”) the sunlight on the wall

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march-2009-026The next day we made natural dye from beets…

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march-2009-060Once the beets cooked (for an hour…) we shredded them and cooked them some more…

march-2009-061all in an attempt to create a couple of the colors of the rainbow…

march-2009-0721We did it! The beets gave a lovely shade of pink…

march-2009-0711and the turmeric a pretty shade of yellow on the 100% cotton muslin that we purchased on our day of shopping for supplies here:

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my absolute favorite shop for crafting items (and the only place that sells loose wool and felting needles!). Taige will build many forts with those play cloths. WHAT FUN!

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And, the biggest score of the supply shopping trip was at the French Broad Food Co-Op. Here, I discovered that they actually sell Waldorf art supplies and that they carry the best watercolor paints on the planet…I have been wanting these for at least 6 months…and for some reason, I still had not ordered them online. They are quite costly but do last for a long time…if you dilute them correctly. I will never again paint with watercolor from a tube! I purchased the primary colors since all colors can be created from those and it is said to lay a better foundation for the understanding of color (in a nutshell…) if a young child is taught watercolor using just these colors. Most of the time, they are used on their own, one at a time. But, on Thursday…

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we set up as usual to paint…

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(isn’t Roy G. Biv cute??)

and…

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VIOLAFirst, we said a painting verse as well as a rainbow verse…and then we took a deep breath…and began painting. I led the painting today-using all 3 colors is a big deal! First a red bow (like your bow and arrow Taige), then leave a space for orange because we have to make it…and make a smaller yellow bow inside the red one…then a dip in water and scoop the yellow up to meet the red…WOW…it makes orange! Fill in that space with the orange! Next,  leaving room for green…paint an even smaller bow of blue inside the  yellow. Dip, dip…now bring that blue up to kiss the yellow! Green has arrived! And last but not least..a tiny dip in red over the bottom edge of blue…aha! Indigo! Dont rinse that brush…just kiss the water with it…and another bow inside indigo…makes violet… What fun we had…and what a difference these paints make…so smooth and transparent…

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‘Rainbows’-created using the wet-on-wet watercolor technique (soaking the watercolor paper in water before painting).

That was it for rainbows this week…but, here are a few snaps of other things from our life this week…

march-2009-067Riley had a sewing project for history this week…so, he chose this awesome fabric and used a blend of herbs that I already had mixed…and sewed a dream pillow-with a separate pouch inside for the herbs-just LOOK at his lovely stitches…all done by hand…even some back stitching! I am falling into R.E.M. just thinking of the smell (mugwort-one of the ingredients- is a dream inducer…well….sort of…but, that description will do for today’s purposes!)

march-2009-053The “dream” herbs…

march-2009-070The proud boy!
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That beautiful wool is an Earth Guild find…it is just begging me to needle felt Miss Spring

But, Mrs. Thaw is still trying to send King Winter on his merry way…and he seems to not want to leave…march-2009-024

She has been sweeping and sweeping winter away but he keeps coming back…poor thing, I know how she feels…I battle with my kitchen floor just the same…

But then again, the nature table where she is currently working is not looking very spring-like yet…hmmm…better get on that…march-2009-021

 And last but not least…a preview of next week…(with more yummy ‘finds’ from Earth Guild)

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Beeswax sheets for hand rolling candles…can you smell it? MMMhhh!

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And a leather “scrap” (it’s a by-product…it’s ok!) for Riley’s next sewing project…a quiver for his wooden arrows that go with his beautiful wooden bow.

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Can’t wait to see  how they turn out!

Wow…what an amazing week…

 We are BLESSED!!

Now…LISTEN to this…