Sunday, August 30, 2009

Weekend Handwork

I have discovered a new love! Oh my goodness, truly in love. Chloe and I made our first needle felting pictures this weekend. I am also working on a little standing doll, probably for our autumn nature table. This is our first real beginning with wool crafts. You see, we are a vegan family, have been for about 15 years, and in all that time have never worn wool, leather, don't eat honey, didn't use beeswax. Well, beeswax is actually how this all started. The girls never even had crayons, we just used the nice Lyra colored pencils. We were always looking for some kind of vegan crayon option, which would of course be synthetic. Petroleum based. Then a few years ago we stared wondering why we thought a petroleum based crayon was better than a beeswax crayon. After all, we never gave the girls any other kind of synthetic product, no plastic toys, only cotton clothing. We decided we felt good about choosing to use beeswax crayons and candles. (Totally personal decision for us. Other vegans may of course choose to do whatever they want.) Having the beeswax in our home brought us great joy really. Something about the connection to nature, to those sweet little bees so giving and full of love. The wool decision took much longer. Several years really. But recently we (and by we I mean my husband Jason and I) decided to start using wool. A lot of it again has to do with the synthetic versus natural. We never bought polyester fleece clothing or anything like that, (though we do wear synthetic shoes), not even the supposedly better eco type recycled fleece clothing, it's still just plastic to me. We just wore layers and layers of cotton. And we live where winters are very cold and snowy. I can't tell you how excited we are about the idea of having truly warm clothing this coming winter. I have already knitted wool hats for the girls and Jason, mine is still on the needles. The first wool that I used was from Sara from her own sheep. I really feel okay about using wool from my friends sheep, or purchasing it from a Waldorf homeschooling mother, and even supporting my local yarn shop and other small family businesses. Well, I'm certainly not trying to defend myself, it just really was a big personal decision for us, one that we took our time making (seriously, several years), and one that we feel very good about.

And now back to the original point of my post.. oh how we love needle felting! We didn't have any felt sheets to use as a base, so I just started with wool batting and kept felting layers of that until I had a nice thick base. I had started mine the evening before, finished it the next morning, and then Chloe wanted to make her own. At first she was going to make a girl and a tree, but then she ended up making Snow White and Rose Red. I love hers! I think it is wonderful. Little Chessa I just can't imagine letting use the felting needles yet. Too prone to bleeding and injury she is. But I have some wet felting projects planned for her and I soon. Chloe started another picture as a gift for Chessa, but then got sidetracked making doll clothes. The girls spent their entire Sunday making doll clothes!

Friday was a frustrating doll making day for me. I decided one of the heads was not good enough. I think I am too much of a perfectionist sometimes. In sewing this is fine for me, because after 17 years of dressmaking I can make them nearly perfect. But I'm thinking that in dollmaking there may be no such thing. I made a new head yesterday. So I am ready to attach the heads to their bodies. I will post some pictures as soon as I get hair sewn on their funny looking bald heads...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Few Summer Thoughts

I figure I may as well post some more garden pictures while I still can. It certainly has been an interesting season. It seems all over the country everyone is having the opposite of their usual summer weather. It has definitely been the hottest mountain summer I can ever remember! In our town it is not unusual for their to be hot summer days with temperatures in the 90's. But we live about 25 miles out of town, and at least 1000 feet higher up, so while it may be 95 in town, hot for us is mid 80's. Not this summer though! Week after week of temperatures in the 90's. It's not so much that I'm complaining, I just don't understand! It is finally cooling down though. Perfects 70's, and of course nights are always cool. Already down in to the low 40's. Enough of a weather update though... how about garden update instead...

We have already harvested (and of course eaten) 3 tomatoes! Impressive for gardening at 7,500 feet, at least we think so. Still waiting on the zucchini though! Very strange I tell you.

Lots of greens of course. For some reason I decided not to plant the rainbow Chard this year. Wanted simple white instead. Kind of regret it though. The rainbow Chard seems much more productive.

Fortunately we had a few volunteers come up where we grew it last year. Next season I will definitely switch back.

You see this giant mullein here? With the big patch of dying daisies behind it? And perhaps you can see that this is an unfinished, unplanted bed. All because I couldn't bear to dig up the "weeds" that were growing there. Next year I suppose I will have to be a little bit more uncaring (just a little bit) and be willing to clear out more of the "wild flowers". I could hardly dig up any Lamb's Quarters either. Too yummy. One of our favorite wild greens.

Other favorite weeds growing in the garden are the yarrow

and the wild sunflowers. We have 100's of these! Not in the garden much, but everywhere else. Even in our gravel driveway. Taller than us and so beautiful!

And of course our little flower beds. Full of cosmos...

a new favorite variety of calendula, so much creaminess and beautiful darker orange around the edges and underneath...

and our lovely hollyhocks. I had to take more pictures of them because I think we are nearing the end of the blossoms for the season.

And those dear sweet deer were back to visit the other morning. They sure are getting big. Look at those antlers!

We have to keep reminding ourselves that it is still summer, despite how fast it feels like it is coming to an end. We were almost planning to have Chloe start lessons at the beginning of September, but then I realized that the girls need to have all the summer days she can! I hope you all enjoy the rest of your summer too!

Friday, August 21, 2009

day at the lake

We had been planning on going hiking today, but it has been so hot lately that I was a little concerned about the girls being out all day in such heat. I'm sure Chloe would have been fine, but I could just see Chessa's red hot face already. So we decided we should spend the day by the lake instead.

We started on one side of the lake where the path is so we could walk for a while.

Then we came to the spot where the girls and I went a couple weeks ago. They wanted to show daddy.

We thought it might be a good swimming spot but there was a lot of wind and waves, with the water getting deep pretty quickly. So we eventually moved on to the other side of the lake.

This is a very big lake! We found a nice area were we could lay out our blanket in the shade of the pine trees with a sandy beach and the waters edge just below.

The girls got to spend hours playing in the water, which was just what we wanted for them!

By the way, this happens to be a very, very extra special lake. You see, we used to live by this lake. Not 15 minutes away like we do now, but way towards the back of the lake, on the side of the mountain, in a small A-frame cabin. And that is the house where our dear Chloe Anne was born more than 9 years ago! But the house is not there anymore. There was a huge fire here in 2002, it burned for several weeks, it burned more than 70,000 acres! And it burned down that cabin. Fortunately we had just moved out the month before! Some other neighbors lost their homes too, but our friend next door was fortunate to have been spared. So we still go up and visit, and look out at the place where Chloe was born. There are still the aspens, and the yarrow, and the little blue flax flowers that we always said good morning to. "Good morning beautiful little blue flax flowers", every day when we walked outside...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Weekend Handwork.. and music, and flowers, and bonnets

This weekend Chloe told me that all she wanted to do was sew. Oh how happy this makes me! I often think how wonderful it is that the girls and I have a lifetime of sewing, handwork, and crafting together. One of Chloe's favorite handwork activities is embroidery. I know that usually comes a bit later in the Waldorf curriculum, but seeing as how it is one of my favorite activities too, it's something she's done a lot of in the past year. She doesn't use a pattern, doesn't draw a sketch onto the fabric, she doesn't even question whether or not she can actually embroider the idea she has in her head. She just picks up the fabric, chooses her colors, and starts. And she seems to prefer to make her embroideries into pillows. (All hand sewing for now. Chessa joins in sometimes too, but on a much smaller scale, with her little 5 year old fingers.)

The smaller pillow is an embroidery she did last year, she just needed to stuff it and sew it up. The larger one is an embroidery she finished this weekend and then sewed and stuffed that one too.

Here they are tucked into bed with her and dolls this evening. Along with the first pillow she made last year. (The doll on the left is the first doll I made her 7 years ago. Quite worn, very well loved! Her name is Emerald. And then on the right is Emma, the doll I made her for her 9th birthday this summer.)

My activities for the weekend included some more work on the dolls, a little bit of knitting, and giving myself music lessons! We started with the pentatonic flute in first grade, and now two years later have unfortunately not gotten very far. But this year I got the Shepherd's Songbook by Elisabeth Lebret and we will see how it goes. Please wish me luck, I think I need it.

Do any of you have one of these pentatonic glockenspiels? It is wonderful. We got it a few years ago as a Christmas gift. Many nights before we gave it to the girls I would sit and play it. It is like fairy music!

And here is where our instruments and some of our special books live...

A pretty and yummy salad for dinner tonight...

and a little bunch of flowers the girls picked for me. I am supposed to let them dry and keep them on the windowsill by my bed in case I want to smell something nice!

And hooray, Jason just got home and the bonnet pattern came in the mail! Yes, I will certainly have to make another yellow bonnet someday, but I think we may have to start with something a little more autumn like. Maybe even lined with flannel?? Oh dear, this may have to wait a while... dolls, knitting, lesson planning... I think I need to go now..

Friday, August 14, 2009

rainy morning, rainbow evening

It rained all night. This morning felt so wet and fresh. We decided to go wander around on "the mountain" across the road. The girls call it "the mountain", really it's more of the hillside on the mountain we live on...

(Chloe rarely takes of that bonnet these days. Jason has taken to calling her Yellow Bonnet.)

Chloe has a special rock friend up there. It has a name, Lily I think. (I feel kinda bad for not remembering the name of my daughters special rock friend.) So after some exploring, visiting the deer beds, looking for Oregon Grape berries, we sat on the rock and read a chapter in On the Banks of Plum Creek.

Our garden certainly enjoyed the rain. This afternoon I picked some fresh flowers for the nature table. We have so many calendula blooming right now! I'm thinking of gathering petals and making some salve.

And then this evening we noticed that there was a strange brightness outside, and look what we found...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Today I'm a Dollmaker

I have been asked quite a few times over the years if I would sell the dolls that I make. And my answer has always been no, I'm a seamstress, not a doll maker. But I have finally given in. I am working on two red-headed dolls for two sweet red-headed sisters. I could not resist! The most interesting thing about working on these dolls is that since they are not gifts for my girls I can work on them during normal daylight hours. Quite a change from secretly stitching away only while the girls are in bed, which although that is special and fun too, it can get a little stressful, especially when a birthday is just one week away and I have barely gotten started. So this morning I had a lovely time drinking tea, cutting, sewing, stuffing, while the girls played happily nearby. (The picture above is from one of my favorite books, The Children's Year. Really has nothing to do with the dolls I'm making, I just love the picture!)

And it seems yesterday the girls took the camera and had a little photo session.

When Chessa was really little she always squeezed her eyes shut when smiling for the camera. I guess she still does sometimes.

Chloe got to borrow this sunbonnet from a friend the other day. The idea was to use it to make a pattern so we could make our own. But after much debate in my own head I went ahead and ordered Amy Karol's bonnet pattern last night. Cause we all know that one is super cute, right?

Now, would you like to see where Jason was last week?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Second Grade Saints

I guess I better finish up with this bit of second grade reviewing, because apparently I intend to have us start school in just a few weeks. Goodness, I was feeling all 3rd grade obsessed back in March, started collecting materials, planning things out, and then had to tell myself to slow down, since we still had a few months of second grade to go. Now summer is suddenly almost over. And 3rd grade is seeming much more intense than 2nd grade, I seem to be feeling a bit anxious about it. But oh so excited too! I just need to get focused and finish up my plans for the first few lesson blocks. But for now here are some of Chloe's lesson book pages from our blocks (we did two) on Stories of the Saints. We did a few hero stories too. (Do you know if you click on the pictures they get bigger? Then you can see better. You probably knew that. I did not always know that...)

We did a few stories of Saint Francis. Chloe enjoyed most of it, but she did not like the wolf of Gubbio because the wolf died, it was too sad for her.

Much more sad for her though was Joan of Arc. (But no! we did not include the burning at the stake part of the story!) There is a part in the story when Joan finally heeds Michael's calling and she rises early in the morning to go to the crown prince. As she passes by her parent's bedroom door she pauses and whispers farewell. Chloe could hardly stand it! Trembling lips and everything! I can almost cry for her just remembering it now, poor thing.

I am glad we included Hiawatha (an idea from my friends 2nd grade Christopherus book.) Nothing too sad for Chloe there. Obviously she is pretty sensitive. Another story that is much too sad for her, a fairy tale that I have often seen recommended for ones much younger than her, is Little Tiny, or Thumbeline. We read it twice. The first time she seemed very concerned for Little Tiny and of course for the swallow too. The second time we read it, as soon as I finished, she threw herself into my lap and burst into tears. Needless to say we have not read it since then.

Well, time to return to lesson planning. Hope everyone is having a wonderful August weekend!