Welcome to Wood Nymph Way! I have created this blog with two intentions: (A) keeping our family and friends, many of whom live in lands Far Far Away, up to date with what we've been doing, and (B) as a tool to document and learn from our journey as a Waldorf homeschooling family. Enjoy! And don't forget to check out my resource pages on the right!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

So Much Advent and Christmas!

The fourth light of Advent is the light of Humankind
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.
~ R. Steiner

So much to do!  So much to do!  Unfortunately,no matter how laid back I try to be about the holidays this week, that seems to be my mantra.  My tasks are not unpleasant, just a little too plentiful!

As we finish our last week of Advent, we are adding human figures to our nativity.  We started with the shepherd and now have two of the Three Kings.  Instead of adding the Three Kings to the scene immediately, they are at a far end of the table, for they have not yet begun their journey to bring their gifts to the Christmas Child.  They will be moving closer each day after Christmas until they arrive on January sixth.  See?  I might not be a religious person, but I've at least done my reading!  It's all in the spirit of keeping it in line with the story.
the shepherd joins his flock on the right

Speaking of stories, we did a little puppet play for one of our Christmas songs yesterday morning during circle time.  That old song, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" is such a nice little story and perfect for acting out with a few little dolls and simple props.  The kids thought it was great fun to sing the different parts and move the dolls accordingly.  We used one of the kings and the shepherd from the nativity, along with a cut out paper star with a "golden" tail.  The kings palace and throne were comprised of several plain wooden blocks.
Said the Night Wind to the Little Lamb, "Do you hear what I hear?"
Another nice little activity we've been doing ties in with the story of Mary's Journey.  Mary is up in the heavens gathering silver and golden threads to weave a shift for her baby.  She is wondering if she will finish it in time for the arrival of the baby.  But all ends well, because the children of the earth are doing good deeds.  The children's angels carry news of these deeds to the heavens where new threads are created in a quantity sufficient to complete the garment just in time.  (I was not able to find this story on line to link to, though I'm sure there must be one out there somewhere. The one I have is in our Live Ed curriculum.  Sorry!)

As much as I don't like to admit it, my kids have needed a few more reminders than usual to mind their actions towards one another this week.  So each time they do a good deed by sharing, using kind and loving words, or helping someone, I write their deed on a little paper star with a "golden" thread hanging from it.  The star then gets hung up around a door frame for all to see and to remind them of their good behavior.  I'm happy to say that the door frame is getting quite full of stars!

Tonight we're getting ready to walk our Solstice Spiral.  Many people kick off Advent with a walk in the Advent Spiral, but the appropriateness of walking the spiral on the actual Solstice made more sense, especially with our more nature-based approach to Advent and Christmas.  I believe there's a link to an explanation of the Advent spiral in my first Advent post.  We're taking a less solemn approach to our Spiral walk, and the children will be singing "This Little Light of Mine" as they walk in and out. (We'll be leaving out the Jesus and Satan parts, thank you!)

Lastly, in preparation for Winter, we stripped our nature table of Autumn items and set the scene for the new season.  Our nature table has three tiers, so we took a new approach this season.  Our lower tier represents the underground, where the gnomes are busy at work making and mining crystals, gems, and precious metals.  The middle tier is the surface of the earth, covered with snow (a white silk).  We will be adding King Winter to this part of the scene at a later date (as in when I finish making him!).  The top tier is for the heavens, where the Snow Queen sits on a soft cloud of white wool and makes the snow fall.  We had two little crystal prisms which we hung from this tier to represent sparkly snowflakes and ice.  The effect is quite charming, and the kids thought it was delightful to create.  They especially loved adding special stones and geodes for the gnomes.

our winter nature table

Since I most likely won't get a chance to write again until after Christmas, have a joyous holiday season with your families and love ones!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Week Three of Advent and Animals

~The third light of Advent is the light of Beasts
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.~
~R. Steiner

The third week of Advent is the one I was most excited to start.  So many fun activities to do!  And we're all about animals around here.  For this week's Advent calendar I made little felt animals for our creche.  I had to use what I had on hand, so I used some felt scraps and even a couple old scarves we had hanging around.  they ended up coming out pretty cute!

In consideration of our animal friends inside and outside, we have several projects to do.  We'll be making little birdfeeders from small pumpkins left over from the fall by cutting them in half, hollowing them out, and hanging them up with twine or yarn.  Then we'll fill them and hang them around the yard.  Peanut butter pinecone birdfeeders are always a hit too, if you live in an area where you can find decent size pinecones.

For our old beagle, we'll make some gingerbread dog biscuits. Our pet hedgehog isn't really into treats of any sort, so we'll just play with her and enjoy her company.

All life is sacred and every creature has something to contribute to our world.  This is a great week to recognize how important it is to care for our planet's wildlife and our companion animals.

So how about going meat-free for the week?  There are some great recipes in Feeding the Whole Family, which is my favorite cookbook.  Another old standby of mine is The Compassionate Cook.  Or pick up the newest issue of Vegetarian Times.  They always have great seasonal recipes.  Don't forget to check out the Vegan Dad blog for some great real-family-life ideas!

Do you have old towels or blankets that you could part with?  Bring them to your local animal shelter.  Most of them are brimming with animals in need of homes, especially in these difficult economic times.  They can always use donations of blankets and food.

If you can donate financially, consider one of these organizations.  They all do their part to help our animal friends. 

The World Wildlife Fund has some great gift ideas, including adopting a panda or other wild animal.  A great gift for a child or teenager who doesn't need more "stuff"!

If you have a vegetarian or vegan in your life, consider shopping at one of these sites for cruelty free fashions, body care items, or yummy treats.  The Body Shop offers cruelty free body care items and has lots of fair-trade items as well.  Sweet and Sara makes the BEST vegan marshmallows!  No gelatin!  My kids love them as a very special treat.  They even come in cool holiday shapes!  Karmavore has great leather-free shoes and bags as well as other animal friendly gifts.

Some good stories to read this week are Annie and the Wild Animals, The Hat, and The Mitten, all by Jan Brett.  The Wynstones Winter book has a lovely story about Robin Redbreast, and The Festival of Stones by Reg Down has a section on the Festival of the Animals.  Links for all of these are available at the bottom of this page in the Winter Reading section.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
~Mohandas Gandhi

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mid-Advent and a Recipe

Our creche at the end of week two.
The kids enjoyed finding plant "treasures" from
around our home to put around it this week.
The "Little Fir Tree" on the right was an Advent gift.
We'll plant it in a bigger pot after the holidays so
we can enjoy it year round.
As we conclude the second week of Advent today, I am pleased at how well our celebrations have been going.  The kids, being the little gnomes they are, have really enjoyed the focus on our natural world.  They are still so firmly connected to it at ages three and five, and I think it has added a whole new level of understanding and meaning for them (and me) around these holidays.

Each morning this week they have received simple plant related gifts: a small bowl of red cherries (that they said looked like little Christmas ornaments!), an amaryllis bulb, baked apples for breakfast, a little flower fairy I made, a few other small items, and a "Little Fir Tree" like the one in the story from the Winter Wynstones book.

In past years, the items in their Advent calendar varied, but were generally in the "treat" type category.  A jelly bean, a few stickers, a small toy of some type.  This year, most of the "gifts" they have received really haven't been for them at all, but were special items for them to place around the creche.  After two weeks, I have not heard one single complaint!  They have been so  joyful about putting their special tokens there for the Christmas Child.  They are caught up in the spirit of giving, and they continue to find little items to give on their own.

We also enjoyed some stories about St. Nicholas this week, as Monday was St. Nicholas Day.  Just like in the stories, he left the kids each some nuts and an apple in their shoes for them to find on Monday morning.  We also baked my new favorite cookie, Pfeffernusse!  Here's a great story to go along with that special cookie.  And here's the recipe I used, too (except I omitted the Anise extract.)  For gifts, (for neighbors, co-workers etc.) we'll be making some Peffernusse and printing out a small version of the story to go with each package.

We also made a batch of butter-mints.  We make these every year along with peppermint bark and a few other sweet items.  The buttermints are easy to make, and they kids really enjoy making their own.  The "dough" they're made with is so smooth and soft, and the kids love working with it.  It's really like playing with playdough for them, except it smells lovely!

Buttermints!  Yummy!

Today I'll leave you with the buttermint recipe I use.  Enjoy!

1/2 stick of unsalted butter, cut into slices, room temperature
1 lb organic confectioner's sugar
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp of very cold water
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp organic peppermint oil
natural food colors (I use India Tree brand)

In a large bowl, cut butter into sugar with two knives, or your fingers.  Add 1 Tbsp ice water, salt, peppermint oil.  Toss with a fork.  Press mixture into a ball.  If it seems crumbly add more water 1 tsp at a time, until dough presses together easily.  Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and knead until smooth and satiny, about 3-4 minutes.  Quarter dough, then tint each quarter a different color with food coloring (use sparingly.  1-2 drops usually does it!)  Roll dough into 1/2" balls and flatten them lightly with your palm (keep remaining dough covered with plastic wrap so it won't dry out.)  Let set for 2-3 hours, uncovered, at room temperature.  Then move them to a covered container in a cool place (where they should ripen for two days to improve flavor and make them easier to handle)before being eaten or packed to ship.  They will keep at room temperature for two weeks and in the fridge for a month.  Makes approx. 1 lb.

F and his mints

S and her mints

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Second Week of Advent and other holiday things

The second light of Advent is the light of Plants
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
~ R. Steiner

Yesterday marked the start of the second week of Advent.  When the children awoke and came down to open their Advent calender, they found a little note telling them to check near the Advent wreath for a flowery surprise.  There, in a little pot, was a great, big Amaryllis bulb!  What a great way to start our celebration of plants!

Later in the day, we went to a tree farm to choose and cut our Christmas tree.  We decorated the tree, wrapped some evergreen roping around the banister where our stockings are hung, and enjoyed a dinner by candle light.
F and S with their Christmas tree-to-be

I had a bit of a hard time coming up with little Advent calendar gifts for this week.  The bulb was easy, but as much as I would like to, I can't afford to fill the house with a new plant each day!  So what we're going to do is a different plant related actvity each day.  We'll hunt for berries and greens to add to our Creche.  We'll make twig stars to hang around the house, and maybe we'll make some more gifts with the rest of the birch log we hauled home a few weeks ago.

Next week, for the week of animals, I have started sewing little felt beasts for the Nativity.  Two sheep, a donkey, a camel, and an ox.  I think I'll include a few others too, like  the robin from the story of Robin Redbreast from the Winter Wynstones book.

For the final week, I'll make the human and angel figures.

Which brings me to making things in general.  Especially gifts.  As a child, I spent many, many hours at my grandparents' home making Christmas gifts for the members of my family.  I remember making little embroidered pictures, stenciling various useful wooden items, making candle holders from thick branches and many more handmade items.

Now that my children are old enough to participate in gift making, we are taking it on full force!  So far we have made some little birch tree candle holders, and a small birch tree reindeer for my Grampa, who used to make much larger ones evey winter to put on their back porch.  My daughter, who is five, has started to embroider a snowman picture that she drew herself and I traced onto cross-stitch fabric.  And of course, we'll be doing LOTS of baking and cooking in general.
Slices of birch log with a hole drilled for the candle.  Then
the kids glued on some moss, shells, acorns, and
dried apple stars.
Grampa's new reindeer

My greatest delight this year though was making the kids' big present myself.  I made a family of five little gnomes and a tree house for them to live in.  I make the kids little things all the time; dolls and animals, doll clothes, cardboard box castles, even clothes.  But this was a big deal.  I'm sure they'll love it, and I hope someday they'll even come to appreciate all the love and hard work it took to make it.
the kids' gnome home

Like many of you, we're trying to scale back on the holiday excess.  Making gifts requires much more thought, planning, and time than many of us have.  So if you can, please do make something special for a loved one, it will be cherished.