On any given day you are most likely to find us communing with the gnomes and the fairies Under The Old Oak Tree

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'll be back to blogging next week!

Hi everyone!  Just wanted to say I'll be back to blogging next week.  This week is Vacation Bible School at my church and I am up to my ears in Egyptian crafts for preschoolers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Meal Planning Rhythm

I think our family has finally found an approach to meal planning that works for us! My previous attempts at meal planning always seemed to fall short for one reason or another and I frequently felt at a loss as to what to prepare on which days.  I hated planning the meals for out week in part because it was just such a tedious task for me.  Earlier this summer I was listening to Sharifa Oppenheimer on the Waldorf Connection and she mentioned a system of having a rhythm for meals with each day's breakfast and dinner assigned a general category.

This has made such a huge difference for me with meal planning.  I created a chart with the days of the week and assigned each day a breakfast food that our family enjoys.  I then put in fairly broad categories for dinner.  In another row under each category, I listed different foods that fall under that category.  Here is what my chart looks like.  As I come up with new meal ideas, I file them under the correct day.  Then before we go shopping, I highlight the items we will be eating that week and make my list from there.

French Toast
French Toast
Sticky buns

Mac and Cheese
Park Slope Penne
Penne with sausage and broccoli

Taco salad
African Peanut Stew

London Broil
Pot Pie
Shepherd’s pie

Fig Chicken
White Chili

Pork Roast
Baked Chicken
Pot Roast
Pork chops

I love that this gives a rhythm and a predictability to our meals without becoming too restrictive!  It meets the need of my very phlegmatic husband to know a general idea of what his meals are going to be each day, and  and gives my sanguine side the ability to try new things and change it up.  Also, because we all have pretty different tastes, it allows me to make sure that everyone is getting at least a few meals a week that they really like.

I have also found that when I have an idea that for instance "Tuesday is Mexican night", I manage to get dinner started earlier in the day and have it ready for dinner time at 6:00 PM which otherwise seems to be a goal that only sometimes happens as we get busy with other things throughout the day.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

1 Stocking Stuffer Done! Homemade Wooden Tops!

We are trying to make Christmas at our house all hand made if possible this year, so we are starting off our holiday crafting with Christmas in July!  I'll write more about this later, but wanted to share my first completed project-four little wooden tops for W's stocking!  This is about as simple of a woodworking project as you can get.  I started with 1 12 inch, 1/4 inch diameter dowel rod, and some large 1 3/4 inch wooden wheels purchased from the craft store.

I sawed the dowel into 4 pieces and used a pencil sharpener to make points on one end of each piece.

I then sanded the dowel rods, smoothing out the points a bit and rounding the other end out some. I also then put the wheels onto the dowel rods just above the pointed ends.  You could glue these, but mine fit so tightly when I tried them, that I could not get the wheels back off to put the glue on.

Here are the tops put together and waiting to be painted.

I then painted them with water colors.  

I found that the yellow paint did not show up enough on it's own, so I layered yellow and blue paint to make one of the tops green.

I let the tops dry overnight and then polished them with several coats of my homemade beeswax polish.

I think they turned out lovely and look forward to putting them in W's stocking this Christmas.  At this point he can't spin the tops on his own but he loves to watch us spin them for him.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

How I Recover from A Couple of Rough Days...

The past two days have been really rough ones for our family.  We live in a townhouse apartment and one of the major drawbacks is smelling everything from the unit next door.  It's currently vacant and being renovated.  Unfortunately, part of that process involved the heavy use of chemicals with fumes that made us sick.  Of course this had to happen on a 100 + degree day when my husband's car was at the shop being fixed. This meant that my husband was driving my car...and of course both of our car seats were in our respective cars.  So W and I were effectively stranded!

Somewhere in the afternoon I noticed W looked like he was about to fall over and then suddenly felt very dizzy and started smelling bad fumes.  We were getting ready to have friends over to go swimming so I grabbed all our pool stuff, dumped it on the front porch and high tailed up to the management office to report the issue.  Luckily they were really responsive and put out fans next door.  We swam with our friends who were wonderful to bring us cold water to drink as well.  After swimming, I was still feeling sick in our apartment, so we waited outside for  my husband to get home from work, talking to neighbors from the other apartment that was most affected by all of this.  The management company ended up having to send all of us to hotels for the night.  Today the smell is gone and we were able to come home, but talk about messing up our entire rhythm and shattering more than a few of my nerves!

Today started pretty well.  Daddy went to work and W and I took our time getting ready and  getting breakfast at the hotel before coming home, dropping off our kitty, closing the windows and turning the ac back on.  It was well over 90 degrees in our apartment this morning, so we headed back out to run some errands.  Not sure what possessed me to come back home before heading to an event at my husband's work, but we did....and the rest of the day went down hill from there.  I think W and I were really just letting out all of the stress and frustration from the day before, but things got bad quickly and included a very cranky toddler, lots of literally spilt milk, lots of laundry in need of washing (in part due to spilt milk and our laundry rhythm being out of wack) and a possibly broken little toe for me.  Needless to say, we never made it out the door and there were many tears from both W and I throughout the day.

I was so grateful when my husband walked in the door this evening with dinner and everything started to calm down a bit.  W was excited for his time with Daddy, I was able to vent a little and I have some time to myself now  to breathe, finish up a needle felting project and blog.

And so, I relaxed and recovered by adding the finishing details to this little duck that I started at my women's group at church last week.

Ducks have been very popular in our house lately.  Each spring, we have a pair of ducks that come to visit our apartment complex.  The kids in our neighborhood are very find of the ducks and W and the little girl I babysit have been quite into ducks ever since.  Their favorite pages of the books we read are the ones with the ducks and there are days where I feel like all I hear out of either of them all morning is "duck" and "quack".

So, in honor, of the toddlers in my life, I am adding this lovely little wool duck to our nature table.  I am sure every time I look at it, I will remember how nice it was to sit and work with the wool and the needles and just relax after a couple of difficult days.  Needle felting often does that for me.  I really love the creative process of sculpting wool and shaping it into something special with the repetitive poking of my felting needles.  People often tell me that the "stabbing" of the wool, must feel like a release when I'm angry, but I think it is deeper than that.  It hits further down in my soul with the creative process.

All of this has me wondering what other things people do to help re-center themselves and regain their sanity. Tomorrow, we will go to church, worship, and give thanks.  That often helps me to recenter, but I'm thinking this week I may need a bit more.  I'm wanting to develop my own little personal mini retreat for Monday morning/afternoon and thinking on the things that would help me to replenish and rejuvenate myself before my husband goes back to work on Tuesday.  I'm thinking that some time, reading, meditating, praying and drawing/writing in my illustrated journal would help.  I'm also thinking it would be really good to go for a walk and to reconnect with nature if I can manage a time that's not too hot and my toe's not throbbing too much.  I'd also like to take some uninterrupted time to work on some more creative projects.  I need to check the weather and check around a bit to see if there's someplace that I can go outside of the house for all of this.

If you were able to take maybe 4-6 hours for your own personal retreat to help rejuvenate and take care of yourself so you can better care for your family, where would you go and how would you spend your time?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

W's New Favorite Shirt and A Great Big Thank You!

I would like to start by sending out a great big  THANK YOU to CHILDHOOD MAGIC for linking to my blog in her last post.  Her mention has increased my blog traffic by ten fold in the past two days and I am very very grateful and just amazed!  Our family was having a bit of a difficult evening  yesterday and this helped to lift our spirits so much!  Somehow, it was a reminder of just how much we have to be grateful for and  of what is really important for us to focus on as a family.  I also just loved seeing the beautiful floating candles she made and her children enjoying them!

CHILDHOOD MAGIC is one of my favorite blogs and I find so many project ideas there!  This includes the inspiration to make W's new favorite shirt.

I traced wooden cut outs of a turtle, frog and snake onto a t-shirt and added in the details in pencil, then outlined it in elmer's blue gel glue.

I then let this dry till the following evening when I first painted the animals and then the rest of the shirt with acrylic paint mixed with water.  Next time, if I want to paint in details however, I will use a smaller paint brush since some of the paints bled past their outlines.   I also might make the outlines a bit heavier to help with this problem.  Once the front of the shirt was dry, I turned it over and painted the back in the same shade of blue.

The next day I soaked the shirt in warm water and scraped off the glue.  The shirt was a bit crunchy still from the paint so I ran it through the wash a couple of times and it became much softer.  W was just entranced by it.  Despite the places where the paint bled, it turned out beautifully.   It's the perfect shirt for a little boy who lives for nature walks!

I see so much potential with this technique and look so forward to making more shirts as well as scarves and possibly some seasonal wall hangings!  I'm also thinking that it could be really fun to do the glue outlines on handkerchiefs and have a play date where the kids can paint them using either squirt bottles or paint brushes.  The handkerchiefs could then dry while the kids play and they could take them home with directions for parents to soak and launder.  I think the kids would really love it!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The 4th of July - An Anniversary of Sorts

I hope everyone reading had a wonderful 4th of July. I've been wanting to post for a few days, but then I was sick, and W had a bit of a scary accident that led to an ER visit (he's totally fine...just a bump on the head) so it's take me a while to get to this.

Our family celebrated by visiting Colonial Williamsburg, one of our favorite places in Virginia.  My parents got Daddy and I annual passes there for Father's Day this year so we have been visiting fairly frequently.  I love that we are only an hour away!  The Independence Day celebration there was wonderful.

We got to play games and learn about meals in the Powell house and help in the garden and see the animals there (such a wonderful hands on site).  W kept walking around the yard saying "Sheep, Sheep, Baa, Baa".  He loves sheep!  I guess it's fitting since my two favorite things to do are knitting and felting.

We also were able to hear two lovely concerts.  The first one was a more formal demonstration of colonial music in an auditorium (W made it through 3/4 of this before becoming disruptive) and the second was the outdoor fife and drum performance (which W just loved).

And then of course there were the fireworks.  W didn't seem scared at all, though he was over tired and slightly cranky.  He sat on our laps and watched  the beautiful bursts of color in the sky and seemed to really enjoy them.  At one point, I was talking to him and looked down and he had fallen asleep with his head up like he was still watching the fireworks.  Poor little guy was so tired he didn't wake up till the next morning.

During the day, I was thinking about the last 4th of July.  Daddy was working, so we took a picnic lunch to share with his co-workers.  That evening we had a small family bbq and then watched Capital 4th on TV.  What I remember most from that day though, was that it was the day I first really discovered Waldorf education.

I remember while we were watching Capital 4th, I was also reading as many articles about Waldorf education as I could.  I remember feeling like I just could not learn enough about it.  The next day I started weaning us off of TV and started knitting a cotton hat for W to wear during the summer.  Over the next year, I studied; I read; I knit; I learned to felt; I started sewing again; I met other Waldorf families; I started going to events at the local Waldorf school; I kept learning as much as I could; I questioned if this was the right path for our family; I prayed about it; I found reassurance that it was; I started my own healing process.

As a family, we switched to a much more nature based life; we put out a nature table...which grew to take up two surfaces in our dining room; we got rid of 95% of the plastic toys; then we pared the remaining toys way down; we tried to create a sense of rhythm in our home; we celebrated Michaelmas,  Candlemas,  Mayday and Midsummer;  our celebrations of Advent, Christmas and Lent and Easter all began to look a little different than in the past...more hand made, more in tune with the seasons and nature around us, with a greater focus on what these celebrations had to teach (at least the adult members of the family).

My son is not yet two and I feel like we still have lots to figure out.  We plan on starting the 1 day a week toddler class at the local Waldorf school this fall.  I am really looking forward to it.  Our experiences with the school so far have been really wonderful.  I go back and forth almost daily about whether I want to send W to school or do a Waldorf inspired home school.  I think there are major advantages and disadvantages to both.  In the end it may come down to finances and/or our proximity to a Waldorf school at the point when he is ready to start..  The one thing that is certain is that I plan on sticking to a Steiner-based educational experience for him and any other children we may have one way or the other.

In any case, I am so grateful for the past year in all its beauty, and look forward to many more years filled with nature, festivals, handwork and learning.  One year in, I have the following goals for the next year: to read Steiner, to practice prayer and meditation more faithfully especially concerning W but also about the children I babysit, to work on my will, to set a good example for my child, and to learn to do more wood-working.


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