Saturday, December 24, 2011

7 Things, Santarrific Edition

My friend at unschool plus has an amazing blog - I love it.  Love it.  She shared 7 things about herself in a blog game, then tagged me.  With just 64 days until Christmas (heehee), I put together this seasonal set of 7 things about me.

1.  I just discovered that dipping things in chocolate is great.  How did I not know this?!

Marshmallow pops, peppermint sticks
& next: shortbread cookies!

Directions: Make a double-boiler by heating an inch of water (medium-low heat) in a small saucepan with a metal bowl resting on top.  Put the chocolate chips of your choice in the bowl.  Stir.  Dip something.  Dip everything.  How great is that?!

2. When I can, it's fun to give "experiences" as gifts.  This year we made orange pomander kits to give our math-y math club friends.

We included: a clementine, 1 yard of thin ribbon, 2 generous Tbsp of whole cloves, a toothpick, and instructions (which I included below).

3.  I hope people will keep sending Christmas cards - I know it's extra work, but it's such a joy to receive them. Last year we started a new tradition and kept them up all year.  Today I opened six (!) cards & was over-the-moon happy.  I browsed them again each time I walked by.

4.  This is the felt advent calendar I made in college when I had little money and lots of time.  It's as simple as it looks - no instructions required.  I'm not religious, but I do have sweet memories of the nice church lady grandmas who made banners to hang outside the sanctuary.  The smell of homemade playdough and cupcake liner daffodils always remind me of them, too.  But I digress...  What kind of scene would you put together?

5.  I hear people say all the time that they "hope you don't have to stay up too late on Christmas Eve."  I would be so disappointed to go to bed at a reasonable time on Christmas Eve!  As much fun as our family time is on Christmas Eve, I also love it after everyone is in bed - but me.  Tree lights and candles aglow, It's a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street on the tv, treats for Santa and his reindeer next to the fireplace, surrounded by wrapping paper and all the trimmings.  Aaaaaaaaah.  Sleep vs. all this Warm & Fuzzy?  No contest.  (Bonus thing: one of our family mottos is "Sleep is for suckers.")

6.  I have a collection of snowmen, Santas, and Christmas trees for the mantle.  Each year, I try to add a little something.  Last year I made this tree...

This is the start of a tree I cut from felted sweaters...

This year I started this Santa.  Maybe by next year he'll look like Santa!

7.  I love Christmas music, and this year we started playing it in mid-November.  My favorites this year: Dean Martin's My Kind of Christmas and Harry Connick Jr.'s What a Night! A Christmas Album.  When the mood is mellow (well, even more mellow!), it's Yo-Yo Ma and Friends' Songs of Joy & Peace, James Taylor at Christmas and Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas.  They're santarrific, if I do say so!

Now I'll pass it on to:
Amber at The Tasty Alternative
Spiralgal at Buddha in a Bowl

Pomander Ball
1. Cut your ribbon into two equal lengths.
2. Starting at the top of the orange, wrap one of your ribbons all the way around. Tie it in a double knot at the top of the orange.
3. Wrap the second ribbon around the orange in the other direction. The ribbons should be perpendicular at the top & bottom of the orange. Tie it in a double knot at the top of the orange, and then tie it in a bow.
4. Form a loop with the long ribbon tails from the first ribbon by tying them together in a double knot. This is how you will hang your pomander.
5. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the orange. Press a clove into each hole.
6. Have a wonderful holiday season!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Sweetness of Christmas

The kids made a fort, tucked in beside the tree.  After bedtime, when the house was quiet & lit only by candles and tree lights, this is what I found.

Sweet dreams.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Phew!  64 days until Christmas.  Looks like I'll have time to get everything done after all!  Thanks for your help with the advent bear, Linus : )

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Last, But Not Least, Gingerbread


...aaaah, the Sweet Life.
Happy weekend to you!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gingerbread Exhibit 2011

Camellia Waldorf School (#6)

A wind-powered house with a garden (#5)
- and solar panels, too

Books in a library (#4)

Two stories!
With Santa going down the chimney!
Railroad tracks (#3)

Linus's Favorite
A snowman in a house (#1)
- having tea if I remember correctly!

What's your gingerbread vision?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Three Little Pigs, Gingerbread Version

It's Christmas morning in the barnyard.  The cows, Sugar and Shortbread, are just waking.

Three little pigs trot out to see if Santa has left anything.

"He was here!  He was here!  Leave your breakfast for later, Almond!"

Little Patsy looks for her present under the tree. "One, two, three, four - hey, wait!
Where's Marzi?"

The gate's open.  But she's not over here...

What is this?!

Merry Christmas, Marzi!

Monday, December 12, 2011

If You Can't Stop, At Least SING!

"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud,
for all to hear." 
-- Buddy, Elf

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Take a break together today.  Enjoy a simple craft.  Reap the benefits.

Linus made these dipped candles...

and some candle holders...
sang a song about candles...

and then we enjoyed a warm dinner on a cold, happy night.
     "But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa's fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods.  She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle.  She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.
     She thought to herself, 'This is now.'
     Ma and the firelight and the music, were now.  They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now.  It can never be a long time ago."  
-Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Harris Tree Farm at Apple Hill

"It is important to find a tree with a wonderful aroma.  (That's a fancy word for smell.)  I think bigger is always better.  But my dad says we must compromise.  That means we end up with the tree my mom wants."

as told by Sela, from Fancy Nancy's Splendiferous Christmas

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A New Kind of Advent This Year

Well, as things tend to go around here sometimes, we'll be starting our advent calendar on December 3rd.  And not only did I want to start using it with the kids on December 1st, I really wanted to share it before then.  Sigh.  Ah well, c'est la vie. 

Way back in November, I started looking in my usual places for inspiration for this year's calendar.  I love this adorable mini-stocking advent calendar - since I don't yet know how to knit (gasp!) I would need to adapt it by wet-felting the stockings.  Or, should I say, finish the ones I started last year?!  Great - I have a head start on the project!

The Crafty Crow has so many great calendar ideas.  Even some that you could make and start using today.  There is one little problem with her site - I can get overwhelmed with all the great ideas!

I really enjoyed what maya*made had to say about advent calendars - she uses hers as a "map of December," a way to plan the much-loved yearly traditions.  That's how I've used mine in past years, too. 

Usually, having this map helps me.  This year, though, I felt like it would be an exercise in frustration rather than joy.  The calendar might say, "Make holiday wrapping paper," but the day might say, "Are you kidding?  You're going to spread paper across the room and give people trays of paint?!"  So this year, I'm giving myself the gift of ease.  (Oh!  It's just what I wanted!  How did you know?!)  And Sela got her way and got the chocolate advent calendar at Trader Joe's.  (Not that she doesn't like the handmade version; she wanted both.)

But still, I felt a little sad about not having our family advent calendar to look forward to every day.  The other night, late into the night, while helping little Linus get to sleep, I had an idea that would solve my advent calendar dilema while at the same time help us to think about Gratitude.

I try to come up with an activity from time to time to help my family think about gratitude.  We usually do something mindfully in November, although I try to keep it on our agenda all year long.  This November, I took some time for myself to think about gratitude, but as a family, it just didn't "go" - and I never want "gratitude" to be forced. Well, gratitude can not be forced.  Gratitude is only gratitude when it's experienced authenticly.
So, with a head full of beautiful, fun, and inspiring images, a dark, quiet room, and a sweet wee one on my lap, this little idea sprang up, using Mama Scout's advent with envelopes as a starting point.

 What if instead of opening our advent envelope each day to find something to be done, we open it to remember the things we have, love, and are grateful for?  It's easy to get swept up in the busy-ness of the season (not to mention the (gimmies).  Wouldn't it be nice to talk together each day about all that we have?

So, here's what we (finally) finished up:

Approximately 24 tags for the three biggest family members, with something we are each grateful for written on each (secret, of course).  Maybe you can think of more, maybe less - again, authenticity matters. 
These are two that Linus came up with.

Putting one from each person in each of the (now less than) 24 numbered envelopes 
& hanging our garland around a door frame

After reading them each day, we'll hang our tags on our Valentine's/Easter/Halloween/Christmas tree. 
Can't you just see this tree exploding with color, covered in the things that bring us joy?

I'm pretty excited to see how this experiment will go!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fleece pants

Who is this happy girl?  A girl with new fleece pants!

I really like to sew.  I'm not a sophisticated seamstress, by any means.  Seriously, I can use a very simple machine to sew simple straight lines. And that's what I love about sewing.  You can do So Much with such limited skill.

And I love to give handmade gifts.  Pants are a perfect gift.  They're pretty fast and easy -- really.  I made these from a simple & inexpensive pattern I bought at the fabric store (See & Sew #4322).  I told myself that if these were as quick and easy as I remembered them being, I'd aim to make us all matching pants for Christmas.  Yep, that's just my style.  I like to call it team spirit : )

So, the fabric for the Christmas jams is in the washer now.  For the other three pair, I'm going to use the pj's in our drawers to draft the patterns.  I'll put it up here so that you can do it, too.  I know you can do it!  Try it!!  (Hint: using fleece makes the project even easier because you don't need to finish any of the edges.  Zip, zip, zip.)

For some other fun ideas for homemade Christmas gifts for kids, check out The Crafty Crow -- wow, where to start?!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hot Cocoa to Warm Chilly Hands

New Mexican Hot Chocolate
5 Tbsp powdered, unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup hot water
4 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla

1. Combine the cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and honey in a saucepan and mix well.  Stir in the hot water.
2. Stir over medium-high heat until it begins to boil.  Turn down heat immediately and simmer and stir for 30 seconds.
3. Add milk and stir constantly over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes.  Don't let it boil.
4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Use a wire whisk or rotary beater to make it frothy.

From Josefina Just For Fun

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Falling Leaves

My creative energy has felt blocked, or somehow stuck, lately. Not the ideas or inspirations -- I would describe these as "overflowing." This isn't a good combination. Does this ever happen to you?

Needing a project for our handmade calendar, I found an activity that looked fun on the Art Projects for Kids blog, and I quickly gathered the supplies for the three of us before I could get distracted.

Good news: the movement in these pictures has restored my creative energy flow -- can you feel it, too? And just in time for Christmas crafting!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cranberry Wreaths

When you make your cranberry sauce this year,
save a few berries for these pretty little wreaths.
We found them on maya*made.   

These are all the supplies you need (floral wire found at Michael's, ribbon, fresh cranberries & scissors) 
Wire cutters make the project even easier.

Linus did a little stringing, too -- but mostly he sampled the berries.

We may take this to our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow -- it's easy enough for all ages, you can spend as long or as little time at it as you like, people can come and go, and if you end up with a lot of them they can be festively hung on trees outside for your outdoor friends!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Knee Bone's Connected to the...

Halloween skeletons got us started on a really fun study of the body.  We started with bones.
Here's a little trivia to get you started -
1. How many bones do you have?
2. How many bones make up the skull?
3. Where is the smallest bone in your body?

We printed the template for the paper plate skeleton and used some really great books to discover the names of things.  We had a good time experimenting with the different kinds of joints we have -- sometimes it was downright humerous (hee hee)!
From here, we've got big plans for experimenting, game playing, and art project making about all-things-body.  Well, maybe not all things.  But, you get my point.  Here are the books on deck for that:

How well did you do?
1. There are about 206 bones in an adult body.
2. There are 22 bones in the skull.
3. The smallest bone in the body is in the cranium.  The "stirrup" is smaller than a grain of rice and is found deep inside the ear.

Source: The Search for the Missing Bones (The Magic School Bus)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's Comin' on Christmas...

With Nutcracker rehearsals in full swing, and the impromptu sketching of gingerbread house ideas for the Waldorf Gingerbread House exhibit, it was only natural that the Christmas cd's should come out.  We started with our favorite, Santa Baby.

     What marks the beginning of your season?

What are your favorite Christmas songs?