Monthly Archives: December 2012

Felting My Days Away

Needle Felted Angel

This most likely will be my last post of the year. It is hard to believe that 2012 is almost over!  As I have been able to do less of the physical activities that I am used to doing for stress relief lately, I have been finding myself more and more attracted to needle felting. Not only is the act of stabbing wool a great stress reliever, but I can do it and play with Dora at the same time. Honestly, I don’t find stress relief from stabbing the wool, like I would if I were out running, instead I find that the rhythm of needle felting seems to calm my nerves, while molding the wool focuses my mind on things other than the physical discomfort I am currently in. This week, I have been working on two projects. I am trying to finish the angel above for Dora’s music teacher. I was inspired to make an angel for her after hearing her sing in class once. The kids convinced to her sing as a high a note as she could and suddenly I was overcome with the beauty of her voice. I normally don’t like the sound of sopranos, but she really does have the voice of an angel. At the same time, she is so good with the kids, she also has the patience of the saint! I am going to weave some tiny glass beads into the angels gown, to give her some luminosity. I am unsure, however, what to do about the angel’s face. As a Waldorf-inspired creation, I would normally leave her face blank (Waldorf educational philosophy encourages blank faces or faces with neutral expressions, so that the child’s imagination can be unhindered). At the same time, I am unsure how Dora’s music teacher will feel about a faceless angel, if she has no idea what Waldorf is all about.

Needle Felting a Gingerbread Man 3

The other project that I worked on this week was this gingerbread man. I told Dora the story of the gingerbread man and then Dora wanted to recreate it with puppets and dolls. We had plenty of animals and a dollhouse grandma and grandpa, but nothing that really worked as a gingerbread man. So I made this guy in about 15 minutes. Making a gingerbread man in a wonderful beginning needle felting project.

Needle Felting a Gingerbread Man 1

To needle felt a gingerbread man, you just need a cookie cutter, a felting surface/foam, a felting needle, and some brown wool (I so happened to be using alpaca wool that is naturally the same color as gingerbread cookies). Completely fill the cookie cutter with wool all the way to the top, as the wool will get much flatter as you work. Put the cutter on top of your foam and start stabbing away. Be sure to flip the cutter every few minutes or you will felt your gingerbread man onto your foam. After a while, the wool will get denser and you can remove the gingerbread man.

Needle Felting a Gingerbread Man 2

Felt any loose fibers by poking them into the side of the gingerbread man. Roll a tiny ball of wool for the eyes and buttons. Stick the balls of wool where you want them and gently poke them on to the gingerbread man until they have felted on to him. For the mouth, roll a small amount of wool into a tiny worm shape and felt that, just as you did with the eyes. I angled mine to make it a bit smiley. And there you have a cute felted gingerbread man. You could easily poke some thread or very thing ribbon through his head with a sewing needle to make a lovely tree ornament or gift tag. Or you could do what we did and just play with him. Just be sure you don’t leave him where any cats can get him. Our cats are absolutely obsessed with destroying my needle felted creations!

Needle Felting a Gingerbread Man 3

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, filled with lots of comfort and joy!

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Labels: Needle Felting
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Seasonal Field Trips

Gingerbread Lane 4

This year, Dora has been at a wonderfully fun age for enjoying Christmas with. As such, we’ve been going on a ton of fieldtrips. We made our annual trek to Seattle to see some of the seasonal highlights there, starting with the 20th Annual Gingerbread Village, an event which raises money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Northwest Chapter. As always, the gingerbread “houses” were amazing! The theme this year is “Once Upon a Time”. The gingerbread castle above is a replica of the castle which the Beast, from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, lives in.

Gingerbread Lane 5

This is the Brother’s Grimm Castle of Fairytales.

Christmas Tree Display 3

While in Seattle, we also went to the Seattle Festival of Trees, which is hosted at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. The Festival “raises funds for uncompensated care, which allows Seattle Children’s to provide quality medical care to all children of the Region regardless of a family’s ability to pay.”

Teddy Bear Suite 2

In addition to the Christmas Tree display/auction, the Festival of Tree includes the famous Teddy Bear Suite. This is a hotel suite that has been decked out for Christmas and is full of teddy bears. It makes a great photo-op, but can get really crowded later in the season. I am hoping that one of these years we might just stay at the Fairmont for a night and enjoy the seasonal displays without having to deal with parking, plus partake of their holiday tea while we’re there.

Gingerbread Festival 4

Last weekend, we went to a gingerbread house making workshop, which is a fundraiser for the local Children’s Museum, KidsQuest. If I have it my way, I will never again try to make a gingerbread house outside of these workshops. The houses are pre-assembled, which in itself, is worth the entry fee. They also have tons of candies, cookies, sprinkles, gum, etc. to decorate your house with. Dora decided that she hated the feeling of the frosting, so she nominated herself for dictator. She told us where things were to go, while Secunda and I did all of the actual work (Dora also noted that it was much easier to dictate if she was chowing down on candy at the same time). As you can see here, Dora had a one-track mind, which was saying “when can I get my mouth on that gingerbread house?”.

Reindeer Festival 3

Of course we had to go to the Reindeer Festival at Cougar Mountain Zoo, where we not only were treated to two new baby reindeer (only one shown here, with his mama rolling her eyes at me), but low and behold, we found a fairy house in the Magic Forest! This was a total surprise to us. Dora had just asked me why it was called the Magic Forest and I speculated that maybe fairies lived there or something. All of a sudden, we came around a corner and the fairy house, complete with Christmas tree and lights, was just sitting there. I guess it has been there all this time, bit we never saw it before!

Reindeer Festival 4Dora told everyone how disappointing it was that we never got to see the fairies that lived in this house, though we waited, and waited, and waited (oh yeah, did I mention that we waited?).

Seattle Symphony - Kindermusik Holiday Show

Another fairy-ish-themed event that we attended in Seattle was Dora’s first concert, which was the Kindermusik Symphony Serenade. One of the characters that was part of the show, was the Story Fairy. Dora fell madly in love with the Story Fairy and was crying in the bathroom, because the Story Fairy’s wings were “just so beautiful”. I kid you not!

Three Little Pigs Tickets

An event that we actually attended last month, was Dora’s first play, which was not Christmas themed, but fun nonetheless. She sat through the entire play with no problem. It was a highly-adapted version of The Three Little Pigs. I had planned to buy a CD of the play’s music, but after listening to Dora sing “Piggy Power” all day for several days in a row, I decided that such a purchase was not in my best interests, psychologically speaking.

This weekend, we will be off to ride the Santa Train at the Northwest Railway Museum. This picture is one of the museum’s from several years ago, I only wish we would be greeted by so much snow tomorrow, that would make for a truly memorable affair (in fact, Dora’s memories of Mommy freaking out from driving down the mountain in so much snow, would probably be permanently seared into her brain and result in many hours of future therapy for her).

Labels: Christmas, Things To Do Around Seattle, Winter
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Our Christmas Book Basket

Christmas Book Basket

Recently, Secunda was roughhousing with Dora and they accidentally ripped two of our wall bookshelves off the wall. In all honesty, I was kind of relieved. The shelves were not cheap and were from a very popular children’s furniture manufacturer, but Dora’s books were always falling forward off the shelves (they were like the rain gutter shelves that you see all over Pinterest). So now, I am highlighting special books for Dora by using book baskets (we still have regular shelves-full of books). Thus far, the baskets are easier for Dora to access, but don’t seem to grab her attention as well. So I’m going to try to work on locating them in more eye-catching places. In the interim, I thought I would share some of our favorites from our Christmas book basket.

A St. Nicholas Story: The Fiercest Little Animal In The Forest, by Terri Reinhart, is a new-to-us book. The book contains some definite religious undertones, which you  may or may not feel comfortable with, so I recommend that you read through it before passing it on to your children. The story is about the real St. Nicholas, who “tames” a pine marten to use it help deliver gifts to the needy. The illustrations in this book are superb and the story is a sweet one. Since it is a forest-based story, it was an immediate hit with Dora. She loves to re-enact stories with puppets and we have a good set of forest creatures.

In our household, anything that combines fairies with Christmas is bound to be a hit. So, needless to say, Little Fairy’s Christmas, by Daniela Drescher, has been a popular Christmas read with Dora this year. In it, Little Fairy gets lost and her wings freeze. She receives some help from some forest friends and finds a small elf boy, who is also lost. The two are rescued by Father Christmas, who takes them to the elf boy’s house, where Little Fairy decides to stay for the winter.  I have to say that Daniela Drescher has become my new favorite children’s author and illustrator. Were this story to have no words, it would still be a treasure to behold.

Continuing along with nature-themed Christmas books, in The Snow Tree, by Caroline Repchuk, a small black bear cub wakes to find the world covered in white. The local animals, however, come one by one to bring a piece of nature to decorate a tree with. Each animal contributes a different colored item and tells what the items represent. In the end, the bear is left to guard the tree. Not only is this story endearing and the illustrations wonderfully realistic, but all of the pages have raised relief designs that provide a texture that Dora couldn’t resist gently rubbing her fingers over.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas, by Holly Hobbie, celebrates what I consider to be the most important part of Christmas, being gathered together. Toot, as usual, has been gallivanting around the world, but has promised Puddle that he will be home in time for Christmas. Life seems to conspire against Toot getting home for Christmas, but then a mysterious stranger provides a miracle, in the form of a ride home.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas, by Karma Wilson, stars the bear from Bear Snores On series. It is another truly sweet story about Bear’s friends keeping Bear awake from hibernation long enough to enjoy Christmas. An emphasis is placed on traditions and giving, more than on receiving, gifts. The illustrations are as beautiful as those contained in the rest of the series. It also has been a fun story to re-enact with our forest puppets.

I have to say that I have enjoyed having some different Christmas reads this year. I’ve read over and over, so many of the popular children’s Christmas books with my older children, so it is a Christmas gift for me just to be able to read something new.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Christmas, Literature, Winter
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Natural Christmas Crafts

Making Lemon Pomanders 6

This year, we made a couple of Christmas crafts out of natural materials that went well. The first craft we did was to make lemon pomanders. I’ve seen some where people made them much fancier than ours and ended up with beautiful decorations for their tree, but we just kept ours simple. First we poked the lemons with toothpicks to make holes. Then we stuck whole cloves into the holes. Their smell has been heavenly!

Making Lemon Pomanders 2

Making a Garland From Dried Orange and Apple Slices 5

We also made a simple garland out of dried oranges and apple slices by using an embroidery needle to string a red ribbon through the dried fruits and tying them on with a simple knot (do the knot before you move on to the next fruit or else the fruit will slide all over and you’ll have to go back and restring them all so that you can tie knots – I say this from experience).

Making a Garland From Dried Orange and Apple Slices 6

To dry the fruits, first cut them in 1/4” slices. Then lay the slices out on a cake cooling rack or cookie sheet, so that they are not touching each other (we actually put ours on a cooling rack and then put the cooling rack on to a jelly roll pan, just to catch any juice drips). Cook the fruit slices on the lowest temperature your oven will go to (mine went down to 170 degrees F). Cook the fruit slices until you reach the desired texture, flipping and rotating the slices at least once every hour. We cooked our orange slices for about 4 hours and our apple slices for about 10. You can also dry the fruit by hanging them on thread or skewers and letting them air dry for several days. I sprinkled the apple slices with cinnamon, just to give them a better smell. It also so happens that they taste good this way! I had not planned on serving them, but Gohan and Mr. Mo grabbed them before I could tell them they were meant for decorations. Also, some people like to core their apples before drying them. I wanted the apple stars to show, but that meant that some of the apple could not be used.

Making a Garland From Dried Orange and Apple Slices 2

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Labels: Arts and Crafts, Christmas, Winter
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

A Diagnosis, of Sorts…


In previous posts, I’ve referred to me having health problems. Since my early teens, I have had various episodes of bodily weirdness, such as recurrent fainting episodes, GI problems, etc. Nothing serious would ever show up on labs and either the symptoms would pass over time or I’d just learn to live with them. In the last two years, however, my health problems have started to have a bigger impact on my daily life, limiting my ability to exercise and so forth. Also, various labs have been coming back confusingly irregular, while others have indicated that I am in perfect health. Finally, my inability to maintain my potassium levels, despite heavy supplementation, earned me a trip to an endocrinologist. After one round of labs with him, he informed me that my kidneys are dumping huge amounts of potassium and that I either had Cushing’s or intrinsic kidney disease. Today, he called to let me know that I have intrinsic kidney disease and need to get into a nephrologist in a hurry.

I’m still having a little trouble believing that after three decades of ill health, I finally have a medically documented explanation. I’d kind of lost all faith in the medical community and am still waiting for a zinger, such as the nephrologist saying that I don’t actually have kidney disease and she doesn’t know what is wrong with me or how to help me (while seeming to hint that a psychiatrist would be my best bet). At the same time, I know this is not possible, I’ve just been too sick recently and no normal person could take as much potassium as I have been taking without suffering from hyperkalemia (multiple prescription-strength tablets per day).

Anyway, I’ve been holding off on writing about this, as I do get tired of saying, “I’ve been having health problems” and never really having an answer to exactly what those health problems are. I feel that I owe you, my readers, some sort of explanation, however, as I feel that the quality of my blogging has gone done hill recently, as I have battled with lack of energy and brain fog. I haven’t even been doing as good a job of reading and commenting on other blogs, much less keeping up with Pinterest or updating Twitter, G+, or Facebook. I intend to blog next week and then take off two weeks for Christmas, my birthday, Gohan’s birthday, and New Year’s. Hopefully 2013 will find me having renewed energy and brain power.

You may also notice some other changes with my blog, however, as the last few months have caused me to question my spirituality, my values, my reasons for homeschooling, what I have accomplished with my life, what I would like to accomplish with what life I have left, and so forth and so on. Hopefully I won’t get too weird on all of you, as I’ve been having more and more episodes of feeling like my brain has been going out to “la la land” lately. This is most likely due to the fact that my kidneys aren’t filtering out enough toxins, so my brain is being poisoned.

One thing that will definitely have to change in my life, and will therefore most likely change my blog’s direction, is that I will need to start eating a lot cleaner. It’s not like I was one of those people who rushed out to stock up on Ding Dongs before Hostess went out of business or anything, but it is my understanding that I will need to adhere to a fairly strict diet that will require that my food be organic, low in protein, and free of any added chemicals. I will also be working on discontinuing my use of hair color, cosmetics, commercial skin products, and so forth.

I’m sorry if this post is way too rambling, I just am trying to be up front about things, but my current brain fog is making it a bit hard to word things as ideally as I would like.

Labels: Peg Dolls, Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disorder
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Are the Powers That Would Be Trying to Tell Her Something?

UW Shooting

Secunda is still debating which major she wants to pursue. She keeps bouncing back and forth between interior design and linguistics. So she went with some friends to tour the University of Washington here in Seattle. While she was there, I received a text from her reassuring me that if I had heard about the shooting, she was fine! It ends up that there was a shooting outside the university bookstore. The shooter was caught very quickly and no one was hurt, but the picture above was taken by one of her friends. For this to happen so shortly after the seemingly illogical behavior of the professor at the university she just was essentially “forced” to drop out of, we’ve all begun to half-jokingly wonder if the universe isn’t trying to tell her that university isn’t the path she should be following right now.

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Ode to My Little Pony

Your show is most great,
but I must admit that as of late,
I grow quite weary
of your series,
because though glossy may be your tail and mane,
your presence is driving me quite insane.

See, though I might like a pony,
I am no brony.
My little girl
however, loves you so much, it makes me want to hurl.

So young she is,
that she is no reading whiz.
so research your plot
must I, as I learn of places like Canterlot,
Fillydelphia and Ponyville.

How weak grows my will
as background characters I must investigate
and I dare not hesitate,
for even if a line they never speak,
my daughter is not meek.
Her tears and cries
are not pleasant to the eyes.

Games I must play
Whether I be Sunny Rays or Fluttershy,
Twilight Sparkle or Pinkie Pie,
my daughter likes it best,
when I play with her and the rest.

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Working With Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles

Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles 1

I have to be honest and say that Dora has seriously started to rebel against using Montessori materials. Plus, she seems to be learning things in other ways much better, such as through imaginative play and listening to literature and music (for instance, I was quite surprised last week to learn that she could do basic addition, which we haven’t remotely begun to address in our “homeschooling”). Ironically, the child who really seems to thrive with the Montessori method is Gohan. Unfortunately, Gohan is in 8th grade and Montessori did not develop a curriculum for high school. At times, however, Montessori seems to the only way for him to learn a concept. Previously, I posted that I used a Montessori-inspired approach to teach Gohan how to subtract negative integers. That was in May and he hasn’t had any trouble with working with negative integers since! I only taught him the concept using the manipulatives once and it just clicked.

Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles 3

Last month, he began struggling with fraction word problems. He was doing review work of concepts that he mastered two years ago, or so I thought. Clearly he didn’t really understand the concepts, however, as he was unable to do the word problems. So, I finally broke down and bought some cut-out labeled fraction circles. I wanted the cut-out fraction circles, as opposed to the metal fraction circles, because a) they take up less space, and b) the metal fraction circles only go up to tenths, while the cut-out fraction circles go up to twentieths, and c) this method doesn’t work as well with knobbed pieces. Were I to do this again, I’d buy .pdf files and just print out the pieces. I taught Gohan how to do just one problem using the fraction circles and he hasn’t had any trouble with fractions since!

Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles 4

The problem was a pretty straight forward one. It was “What is 2/3 of 3/14?” So we laid out three 1/14 pieces. Just looking at the pieces made the answer pretty obvious, but we worked out the whole problem just to be sure. We separated 2 of the 3 pieces (or 2/3), which was 2/14. Of course, Gohan needed to reduce the problem and that he can do easily in his head, but we completed the final step using the fraction pieces, because I wanted him to really see how the paper worked answers and manipulative worked answers are the 100% the same. The 1/7 piece fit over the two 1/14 pieces perfectly. So we had our answer of 1/7! I really, really, wish I had understood how Montessori worked when Gohan was younger. He would have benefitted so much from using manipulatives to learn everything.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Labels: Math, Montessori
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff