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.

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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.

 

Preserving the Harvest September 17, 2009

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    The Harvest is here! I can not  believe the Earth  is already beginning the tilt into the Fall. Summer has flown by and I have been a bit lazy with my blogging habits. This is because summer is the time for discovering  beauty and awe in each other, in ourselves, and in the fascinating world around us….no time to blog!  As the sun wraps its warm arms about us, we celebrate with a delightful combination of revelry and reverence for all that is, for all that we are (thanks to Jubilee! for that). We have mad many amazing moments of wonder in the past few months and I send out gratitude from my heart for the memories. With Mabon approaching on the 22nd, I feel it necessary to post about storing up for the winter. When I stop and stare out the window, or when I am sitting in the woods…JUST watching…(sometimes for a bit too long!), I am starting to see that nature is getting ready too. Mother Earth is silently calling, signaling for us to get ready, winter is coming. Well, I love winter. It is my favorite season…so naturally, I hear her call and am working diligently to preserve the harvest to ensure plenty of hibernating time in the midst of winter. OK, I am starting to dream of winter a bit too much now…it will be here soon enough I suppose.  Must get through fall first.

Last week we went apple picking. We picked a bushel and a half…roughly 60 pounds of apples. I had planned to preserve all of them in different ways. We made and canned applesauce, apple pie filling , apple butter and dried as many slices as would fit in the dehydrator.  The aroma in the house is amazing right now. Here are some of the highlights:

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And the tree was happy.

 

Lavender Lemonade July 4, 2009

Yum. Lavender. Lavandula Angustifolia. It is one of my favorite plants. Not just because of it’s beauty or scent…but because it is one of those herbs that works for almost everything.  Did you know that in WWI,  the essential oil was used to disinfect the floors and walls of the hospitals!?  It is also anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. In our home, lavender is good for any boo-boo or bad mood, bug bite or bath soak…but it doesn’t stop there. At the height of summer, there is nothing more refreshing than an ice cold glass of Lavender Lemonade.  In years past (before my big kids got so big), we had an old window-you know…one with really beautiful glass and chipping (lead) paint…I painted the reverse side of the glass with the words “Lavender Lemonade” and that was their “sign”-for the lemonade stand. They would set up at the end of the driveway and would sell out within an hour or two. Yesterday, the kids and I made a batch and it reminded me that I should share this recipe…it is just too delicious to keep to myself!

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Lavender Lemonade

Ingredients:

Lots of lemons (20 or 25)

Lots of Sugar (get a big bag)

Lavender Flowers (2-3T)

Good clean water

First, you will make the “concentrate”. Do this by putting a half gallon of filtered water to boil. Remove it from the heat and add 2-3 tablespoons of Lavender flowers (I like dried). Put the lid on the pan and let it sit for 20 minutes. Next, juice the lemons until you have about a liter of lemon juice…(this takes a lot of lemons-probably 20!).  Then, strain the lavender flowers out of the water and compost them. Combine the lavender water and lemon juice (this is your concentrate). Now…from here it is all about your taste preference…how tart do you like it…how sweet do you like it?  I like to add the sugar (because I only use real sugar-that other stuff will kill you!) when it is still warm…so, go ahead and add…but…do it a little bit at a time…and remember, you still have to add water to the mix. What I do is get out my 2 quart pitcher, fill it about halfway with the concentrate…then add about a half a cup of sugar…fill it up with water…stir well and taste. If it is not sweet enough, I add more sugar…or if it is not strong enough, I add a bit more concentrate. You must decide for yourself! I store the rest of the concentrate in the fridge until I am ready to mix it. Whatever way you do it…be sure to have fun…!

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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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