Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Routine

Holiday time has finally arrived in my home! While so many around us were calling itChristmas time right after Thanksgiving, my family needed a little more time to adjust. Feeling the arctic blast that hit the westcoast a week or so ago helped us get into the mood. It was a struggle to get my oldest engaged with our annual family tradition of finding and cutting a tree for the living room, but after a good emotional explosion followed by a cool down session and some healing dialogue, we were able to pull it together and have a fairly smooth and genuine family afternoon.
Now I am on to preparing some little gifts that need to mailed out. In the front of the top photo is a set of felt crowns for my new niece and three year old nephew. I may have already missed the deadline for posting to the Philippines, oh well.

My new typical daily routine is starting to take shape now that all three children are off to school. I wake a bit before 7 to enjoy a bit of coffee with my spouse and then get to work cooking breakfast (usually eggs, sometimes pancakes) and helping with lunches (I make the sandwiches). My darling daughter is now able to drive herself to school! So it is just the two boys I must then shuttle off to be on time when the bell rings. Next I walk the dog, feed the dog, feed the chickens, feed the cats, and generally do the "pet rounds". By now it is usually 9am. Clean-up time. I get the kitchen mess cleaned up, sweep or vacuum up the huge quantity of dog hair, garden dirt and crumbs that has accumulated since the previous day and start a load of laundry. At this point, around 10am, if the house is not in some sort of bigger disaster, I take some time to check email, do paperwork and make phone calls. If I am lucky, I get to do some crafty thing for an hour or so before some more mundane tasks beckon. I like to get the shopping and other errands taken care of before I go pick everyone up beginning at 2:30, but I like to time it just right so I get the maximum time by myself in the house! After all these years with constant company (young children at home, husband working from home and then homeschooling kids) I must say that solitude is such a treat! Once I do pick up the boys and daughter is some or else off with the tutor or at her volunteer job (she's got college applications on her horizon), I help with homework, walk the dog, feed the dog, feed the cats, feed the chickens and start to get ready to feed the humans dinner. Then it is cleaning up again, reading books to the youngest one (such a nice tradition, I will be sad when he no longer wants to be read to), and off to bed.

So when I review my own schedule I wonder how I managed before I had this "extra" time. Now that I have a routine, I also notice how often things are out of the ordinary. There seems to be always some child or some pet who is not feeling well and this requires lots of extra attention and fussing and sometimes trips to the doctor or vet. The other day it was actually me who needed the attention. I was walking the dog in the afternoon and the dog wander
ed off to check out the neighbors compost heap. I spotted a different neighbors new cat (a youngster and very cute and sweet) and took the opportunity to pet and pick up the little kitty. This was dumb because my dog then came bounding out of the woods, all excited to say hello to kitty as well. The cat freaked out and scratched me, hooking my lip deeply as it leaped away. I felt
the cut and the blood and immediately went into a mild panic (I must admit that first thing I though of was the scar - such vanity!). I cleaned up and headed to the urgent care. No stitches
but an ugly fat lip with a big red scratch!

When my husband first saw it he was so sweet, assuring me that it was not that bad and reminding my of my herbal knowledge. Ah yes, I do have a good relationship with many good skin herbs. I have been doing warm compresses with plantain and calendula and massaging arnica oil and vitamin E. No signs of infection. I think it will all be ok! I will say that I did not cook dinner on the night of the big scratch! We had take out.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Such a long time between my posts! I have been keeping busy, that is for sure, but not many photos. Lately I have been spending my days trying to reinvent myself, find a new rhythm as a stay at home mom with kids at school. Probably the most notable recent event to announce is Acacia passed her drivers test and is now officially licensed! My oldest child is a driver! Amazing. Besides all the driving practice practice practice that led up to the big test, I have been keeping my house pleasantly clean, making nice meals, baking good treats and sitting down for some luxurious handwork! I even got an order for a dozen of my little felt hummingbirds from a sweet local garden shop Now that is encouraging!

Another fun project that I have finally had time for has been making herbal massage oils and salves. It is such a luxurious craft, capturing the bounty of the garden and slathering all of this rich oil on my hands as I steep and stir and pour.

Halloween has come and gone. We decorated and baked up a storm, and then a real storm came and washed away our party plans! Oh well, maybe next year...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Giveaway Winner!

Happy Michaelmas everyone!

Congratulations to the Tan Family and to Jennifer Tan of Syrendell fame and Gosh Yarn It goodness! The Tan Family is the winner of my little Giveaway. Of course, my offerings pale in comparison to the Tan's, but it is fun to share around. You can check out all of the wonderful ideas, crafts and musings that she has to share by checking out her blog:

A big thanks to everyone who took the time to make a comment on my little creations!

I hope I can post more often and get some more giveaways going, this has been fun! For this Michalemas, however, I will be attempting to tame the spelling dragon that is causing so much distress in our homework sessions!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Rowan, my youngest, has decided to stay at school, changing my role as homeschooling mom completely! Now I am homework mom. I have my mornings "free" for once and it is a lovely respite. The house is cleaner than it used to be, but it is never spotless (they do all come home eventually) It is amazing what can happen in just a few hours with three hungry kids doing homework! So I am doing the basics and then letting some mess stay so I can do the fun stuff (gardening, baking, crafting, maybe a little yoga). Who knows how long this lull will last?

Now we are reading the Norse Myths at home in the evenings. This is the one part of the Waldorf Fourth Grade curriculum that Rowan really did not want to miss by going to public school. He remembers these stories in a dreamy way from when I taught them to my older son a few years ago. So, lucky me, I still get to delve into the stories of bold Thor, all-knowing Odin, beautiful Sif and that trickster Loki!

As the school year began, it became clear that Rowan needed a refresher on his times tables! His teacher sent home a worksheet with 36 Basic Facts and I created some watercolor flash cards to make the experience more lovely. We created a game with them, hiding a small treasure or coin underneath each one and setting a timer to give it an extra challenge! These 36 basic facts don't include the zeros, ones, tens, elevens or twelves, so we spent a little time talking about those easy facts.

So far the shift in roles has been mostly painless and it is giving me time to create more fun felt goodies and work on some new designs for my old sweater upcycling project. It is nice to feel like the time I put into making these crafts is not pulling time away from other duties.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Big Changes

Well, I was planning on regular posts here as the school year started, but then everything changed! Rowan has gone off to school! This journey has been such an adventure and I have tried to take each year as it comes, watching each of my three children learn and grow and find their way. The youngest has been home the longest, but it seems that the time has come to let him fly a bit further from the nest!

So now what to do with myself? And what to do with this blog? I feel like I am just warming up to it. I think I will keep it for a while and see if I can find a new relationship to it, but right now I imagine it will stay rather quiet around here while I relax into my new role...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Giveaway

I love to paint on Mondays, even in summer, even when we are not schooling. Something I never tire of is playing with color, so I end up with sheets of finished watercolors and wonder what to do with them.
thing I have done is create several sets of alphabet cards, both print and cursive. First I created them for my home classroom and later made some for others. It is a nice way to make something useful out of my artistic impulse and it keeps the stack of paintings in my closet from hitting the ceiling!

Yesterday I was painting and making some alphabet cards and looking at the little scraps of paper left after the cutting process. I have been thinking a lot lately about the concept of "zero waste" and how possible that really is. For a long time now I have been using re-usable grocery bags, storing things in old shoe boxes, recycling, composting, seeking out local foods or growing them myself, raising chickens and worms (both excellent composters). But I am seeing newspaper articles and little stickers in shop windows claiming "zero waste" status and wondering how I can, in my own way create less waste. Perhaps I am thinking about this because of the ongoing saga in my own household regarding our septic system. I have become way too familiar with the ins and outs of our literal waste system this summer! Looking for ways to reduce how we tax our home system has made me more aware of other areas where I can try to reduce waste in my life.

So, when I saw these little scraps of paper I thought about what I could do to make use of them. I came up with the idea for some little greeting cards. Once I had the scrap pile whittled down to only very thin strips I let the worms take care of those!

Now I have this sweet set of four paper collage note cards. One thing I realized was that it took a lot of extra time to sit and make something else out of my little scraps. But the activity was artistic and I was thankful that I had the time to spend. I may not always have the extra time, but now I know that there is always something more I can do. In honor of the project and to encourage others to think of ways to reduce waste in their hobbies, art and lives, I am offering the set of four cards as a giveaway. Just leave a comment here and I will enter you into a random drawing on 30 September 2010.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Getting Ready

It is fun to plan for the next school year! Today I cleaned my bedroom. It felt wonderfulto get all of the dust out of the corners and to begin to sort through curriculum materials for fourth grade.

When I thinkof fourth grade, I smile. The well balanced ten year old, the prime of childhood! There is a symmetry in fourth grade that completely resonates with the study of Norse mythology, fractions, long division and the movement toward science in the Human and Animal block. When I look at my older daughter's work, I see everything in rainbow colors and lovely, imaginative drawings with a new orderliness in the writing samples. My older son, who was actually home schooling in fourth grade benefited from form drawing and tongue twisters and poem's with rhythm. We learned to tie knots, paint animals and sew cross stitch.

The weather and the calendar of events in my area are inspiring me to begin our school year with a block on Local and Natural History, combining a focus on the human and animal with stories of and from local Native American tribes. An Ohlone Day celebration takes place near us in early September. I have been working on a story that involves a young Ohlone boy who sees himself in the still water of a pond. In this he notices some qualities of himself and realizes how different he is from an animal like the fish who swims by in the water or the bird that flies overhead. He will then have a long (something new every day for a month) talk with his grandfather about what it means to be human and admiring the gifts of many animals. I can then weave together some of the early history of California as well as a study of some of the many native animals of California. I don't have it all worked out perfectly yet, but then again, things often don't go exactly as I plan them...

My new clutch of hens has started to lay eggs! I have been waiting expectantly for weeks now and yesterday we had two small brown eggs. After a summer of bravely fending off the predators and watching the hens grow from little fluffy things into full sized clucking ladies, I am finally seeing the little gems they can produce.

Entering the county fair every year means that we often spend the first couple of weeks in September making and preparing entries for the fair. It also helps bring a personal connection to the fair itself and this makes the whole event more fun. This year Rowan plans to enter the baking contest, the Lego contest and the vegetable creature contest. I entered a little family of wool sheep inthe needle felting display.

Friday, August 6, 2010


A summer of ups and downs so far: one child with a broken heart, one with an (almost) broken head and one who is just bored.

But I think that boredom is good for children once in a while. Besides, with a week in Southern California, a week in New York City and now two weeks of Celtic Fiddle Camp underway, my youngest really doesn't have much to complain about. I think sometimes he believes that summer should be about having some fun exciting plan for each day. The trouble comes because I want summer to be about having as few plans as possible. So we try to meet in the middle.

As for the broken heart, that has been a healthy process as well, as far as I can tell. My oldest had a sweet relationship that lasted quite a while, but, these young hearts grow fickle and things must change. The nice thing for me is that I have had some very nice hours to spend with this most interesting teenager. One huge first for me is teaching her how to drive! I am amazed again and again to see what a capable individual she is becoming!

And then there is my daredevil! My middle child. When he becomes transfixed with a hobby/sport/passion, he throws himself full force into the pursuit. So it is with his bmx bike and the tricks and jumps and routines he can perform with aid bike. He is careful and thankfully he always wears a helmet and that is what saved him from anything more serious than a concussion and an awful case of road rash on his dear cheeks. No skull cracking so far! It is a risky sport and some ask me how I can allow him to do it, but those people don't really know this child and how silly it is to think of me, his mom, telling him to stop pursuing his passion. Anyway, he suffered through it and seems to have grown from the experience.

As for me, I just try to get into the garden whenever I have a spare moment!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finishing Up

Much has happened in these past weeks, of course. Our school year is winding down and we found a very peaceful way to do this by returning once again to the Old Testament Stories. We picked up with Moses and spent a full week delving into his life and journey. Next we touched on some of the well known stories of the Bible: Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath and Jonah and the Whale. These stories enlivened Rowan's imagination and brought out great drawings from him. It was a nice way for me to bring closure on this third grade year and its Old Testament theme.

For the past week we have been reviewing the year, looking at all of our paintings and main lesson books and trying to recall our best memories from the year. Most of Rowan's best memories had to do with our wonderful home school group that meets each Friday for crafts, festivals and an annual play production. This group has so enriched our home schooling experience, I am not sure how we would have managed without it.

Now summer approaches and I feel the pull into my own personal pursuits. I love being a home school mom but I also love the perk of summer vacation!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spinning Cocoons

We had a terrible tragedy in our neighborhood last week and I have found myself a bit untethered. I am distracted and cloudy feeling and find myself lost in thought all the time. It is certainly true that something like this helps bring things into perspective, count our blessings, avoid sweating about the small stuff. As I work to reconcile my own feelings and wrestle with my own faith during this dark time, I find myself also needing to guide, teach and protect my little guy, Rowan.

We are moving sweetly and steadily through a gardening block. This week was just right for my tender mood. We studied butterflies and other insects in the garden. I was lucky enough to receive a butterfly habitat and a little kit with live caterpillars a couple of weeks ago and this week they all miraculously spun themselves into chrysalis. Along with this we had poems, stories and books out from the library. I have a lovely copper ball and found an exercise in Audrey McAllen's The Extra Lesson that involves spiraling the ball around the body from the feet to the head with the imagery of spinning a cocoon and being safe inside. This felt like something concrete I could do with Rowan to help him feel safe even with the sadness and uncertainty that has gone on around us this past week.

Our painting last week was of spring butterflies and so this week I continued the spiral theme and we painted big blue and red spirals. After the copper ball exercise and painting the spirals, Rowan was able to write and read significantly faster and smoother than last week. I am not completely sure there is a connection, but it was a remarkable jump he had this week in his academic ability.
The very best part the gardening block is gardening! We garden all year every year here and Rowan has always been a great helper in the yard, but with this block, he took special pride in our little projects. We worked on mending some raised beds to keep the gophers out (hopefully!) and we pulled weeds, trimmed back the rosemary (again!) and transplanted 14 small cypress trees to a more suitable location on our property. Spring flowers are in full force right now and we soaked in the aromatic beauty and felt as busy and as happy as the bees all around us.

We found a crumbling dyer's mushroom in the garden when we were exploring for garden bugs and decided to have some fun with science and dye some wool felt with different plants and mordants. Rowan is becoming good at measurement and thermometer reading. This dying project was a chance for him to practice those skills in a very practical way.

Finally I pulled out the clay and worked with the methods presented by Hella Loewe in her book Basic Scupltural Modeling: Developing the Will by Working with Pure Forms in the First Three Grades. We began the series of exercises some time ago and it was quite challenging for Rowan to attain a smooth sphere without using the table to pound the clay. This time around, however, Rowan was much more able to work with the different forms with only the force of his palms. We worked through several forms: sphere, oval, egg, saddle. At the very end, Rowan quickly transformed his smooth saddle form into the head of a snake with large fangs! I agreed that he could let it dry like that and put my own sphere back into plastic for another day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Garden

Our farming and gardening block is so much fun! One thing we just had to do to kick start the block was drop by the local feed and seed and pick up six new darling chicks. Once again, the broom closet is a little barn as we raise up our chicks to be big enough to move into the outside coop.

I found a nice poem to begin our gardening block with by A. Fairman in Wynstones: Spring

A little brown bulb went to sleep in the ground.
In his little brown nightie he slept very sound.
Old Winter he roared and raged overhead.
But the little brown bulb did not move in his bed.
But when Spring came tiptoeing over the lea,
With fingers to lips as soft as can be.The little brown bulb just lifted his head,
Slipped off his nightie and jumped out of bed!

Here is Rowan's rendition of the poem:

We started our formal lessons by reviewing the seasons and the months of the year. We sang the "Months Song" many times and worked out some creative charts. Thanks to Our Little Nature Nest blog, I also found this lovely book online called "Bobby of Cloverfield Farm" by Hellen Fuller Orton This story is simply a perfect accompaniment to our farming and gardening block.

This week, our painting theme was
"The Four Seasons Color Wheel".

Rowan's is on the left, mine on the right.

After our verse, poem, story period, Rowan cannot wait to get outside and actually garden every day! We have been focusing on the soil, getting it ready, checking different garden beds for soil that is too heavy or too sandy, turning the compost so it will be ready sooner, feeding our friendly worm bin and cleaning our the hen's big coop so that we can make use of their fine manure (after it sits a while and cools down!) We cheated a bit and used store-bought potting mix to start some early seeds (squash and cucumbers and lettuce). As we were weeding one bed, I decided to transplant a couple of the "weeds" we had pulled (an evening primrose and some foxgloves). I talked to Rowan about root division and the difference between plants grown from seed and those made from cuttings or division (I am keeping this in mind for a little math work later: division review). After we finish about an hour's worth of gardening, Rowan has plenty to write about in his daily gardening journal.After he finished his youth orchestra performance, Rowan came right home and burned his music! I was a little surprised at this, but now he is super focused on learning some new fiddle songs and it is amazing to see how much better he is at both reading music and picking up the rhythms! The orchestra experience, despite his nervousness, was so positive, I hope he will do it again. He has already said he is looking forward to Celtic Camp this summer (a fun local strings music camp focused on Celtic and other fiddle tunes - combined with climbing trees, swimming and running around in the woods).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Chickens

First of Spring and a new block in our homeschooling journey - gardening! After many cozy days working indoors, it feels so great to get out into the sunshine and explore what the garden has to share. I have been reviewing what Steiner describes as the Twelve Senses lately and plan to bring a more conscious awareness of these senses into our daily activities. Rhythm, movement, balance, artistic work, time in nature - all of these are so vital to the healthy development of the senses! I can certainly feel the positive effects upon myself.
Our own chickens are clearly happy that the days are longer and sunnier! They are full of fresh feathers and laying just about an egg each day (except Olivia, our senior hen, now entering her 5th year! This is a record in our coop on the edge of the forest! The hen in the photo is one of our younger Buff Orpingtons, a fabulous layer of large brown eggs.

Last week our homeschool group met and made wet felted wool eggs. What fun! The warm, soapy water was very inviting, and the finished eggs are just the right size for a tiny needle felted chick to live inside. I enjoyed the activity so much that I decided to make more with Rowan this week. He was feeling a little sick on Monday so we focused on crafts and indoor activities. It seemed to me that the practice of molding and shaping the wet wool around an egg form was a calming activity for the two of us.

Here is how we made the wool eggs:

1. Take a layer of natural wool roving and wrap it around a closed plastic easter egg.
2. Add additional layers of colored wool on the outside to cover white wool.

3. Add a few drops of liquid dish soap to wool, dip quickly in and out of a bowl of warm water.
4. Gently massage the soapy wool egg, trying not to allow any of the plastic egg to show.
5. You can layer small "patches" of dry wool to cover any weak spots or white areas.
6. Continue to massage the egg for 2-5 minutes.

7. Rinse gently in cool water and squeeze out excess water.

8. Slide damp egg into a clean dry sock.
9. Put the egg-sock into the dryer for about 15 minutes.

10. Remove the egg-sock from the dryer and remove the egg from the sock.

11. Carefully snip open the wool egg, making sure to cut through all layers of wool, making the opening just big enough to pull the plastic egg out.

12. Toss the loose wool egg into the dryer for a few more minutes to help it gain a tighter shape.

13. Make a little needle felted chick to live inside your egg if you like!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Forward

So spring is really here and our Shelters block is finishing up just in time for a nice spring break! I feel the spring fever in the air and it is a good thing that I have planned a gardening block to begin next week!

Here are some of our recent paintings. Although the block focused on shelter and clothing, we took opportunities in our painting to explore different landscapes and animals who might live near certain types of shelters.Horses in Africa

Alpacas and llamas in Peru.