Monthly Archives: May 2013

Yarn Along Wednesday–It Actually Looks Like a Sweater

Sunday Sweater in ProgressI missed the last two Yarn Along Wednesdays again. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, both Dora and I caught colds, which set me back a bit. Also, I had to start over yet again on Dora’s Sunday Sweater! My thwarted efforts have not had anything to do with the pattern, which is very easy to follow, but have been a direct result of my lack of knitting skills. I finally seem to have hit my stride though. I’m 3/4 of the way done with the body and then just need to do the sleeves, neck, and add the buttons. Dora is super excited and keeps trying to convince me that the sweater is finished enough and that she should be able to wear it now.With us being sick and staying home so much the last week, I have been getting in more reading time than usual. I finally just gave up on Becoming Jane Eyre. It has some really good reviews and at another time, I’d probably enjoy it. Right now, however, I found it to be far too depressing. Instead, I started reading about another Jane – Jane Austen! I’ve been reading Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: Being A Jane Austen Mystery. This is the tenth book in this series, which I have been reading since day one. It is a historical-mystery series about Jane Austen. This book also stars Lord Byron, who I did not know much about. He has been such an intriguing character in this book, that I’ve done some extra research to learn more about him. He was such a cad, that after learning more about him, I had a nightmare that he had seduced Tertia! He definitely was the type of man that you didn’t want sniffing around your daughter!On a more serious note, I’ve also been working my way through American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques. I checked this out from the library, but it has been so helpful, I intend to purchase it. I am hoping that I can start collecting seeds or using other propagation methods to grow new plants from the plants that I am already growing. Not only will this save me money, but I will harvest seeds only from the hardiest plants, which did the best in my garden. My hope is that by using this method over the years, I will be able to grow continually hardier plants with a higher yield. In regards to this year’s vegetable garden, I actually do not intend to collect any of the seeds as I have been very unhappy with the seeds I purchased. They are producing an adequate amount now, but it took three times more seeds than it should have to get a good number of plants and the plants that have grown have not been very hardy. So I will begin harvesting my vegetable garden seeds next year, hopefully. This year, I may start to propagate some of my flowers, as more flowers means more pollinators to pollinate my fruit trees and flowering “vegetables”. Not to mention, Dora and I just adore flowers.

I’m linking this post to Ginny’s:

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.

Maureen

Labels: Yarn Along
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Crunchy Tuesday–Body Custard Recipe

Crunchy TuesdaySorry for my absence last week, but I was working on a project for this blog and then Dora and I came down with colds, so hopefully everyone can forgive me (since I know that everyone noticed my absence). Recently several weekly link-ups/memes that I participated in have closed. It has been very disappointing, though I totally understand why the bloggers who ran them felt the need to close them. After awhile, it occurred to me that I should start hosting a weekly link-up/meme to help fill the void. It took awhile for me to come up with a common theme between all the link-ups that I participated in, but I finally realized that the one thing they all had in common was crunchy-ness. So I created “Crunchy Tuesday”. You can read more about this link-up at the bottom of this post.Body Custard RecipeFor my first “Crunchy Tuesday” post, I’m going to share with you the body custard recipe that I feel is finally ready to post. What is “body custard” you ask? That is a really good question! I was originally trying to make a creamy body lotion recipe from the book Better Basics for the Home, by Annie Berthold-Bond. Unfortunately, Annie never clarifies in the book (that I could find anyway) whether or not to use fluid ounces or weight ounces in her recipes. I e-mailed her to ask for clarification, but never heard back. So I finally just opted to muddle through the recipe to the best of my abilities. My best abilities were apparently not good enough, but I ended up creating an interestingly textured product, though not something that was truly useable. Once I figured out how to make the original recipe from the book (all measurements are in weight ounces), I decided that what I really wanted was something that was in between the actual recipe and my goof-up recipe.The problems that I had with the original recipe and many other natural body lotions and butters is that my very dry skin doesn’t seem to absorb oil. So these products just sit on top of my skin until I brush up against something, at which point I have dry skin AND oil-stained clothing and furniture. After months and months of experimenting, I ended up with what I believe, is a perfect recipe (at least for my skin). The texture is very custardy, so if the thought of a custardy body lotion seems gross to you, then don’t even bother with this recipe. I use it twice a day and it keeps my skin perfectly moisturized with no lotion build-up, like I get from commercial products and no oily residue, like I get from other natural lotion recipes.

Anyway, without further adieu, here is my recipe (and please be kind if something goes awry, this is the first recipe that I have ever written/made, even though it is actually a variation of someone else’s recipe).

Body Custard

* All measurements in ounces refer to weight, not volume

** Disclosure: I am providing Amazon affiliate links for all the ingredients to the exact brands of products that I personally use for your reference, but any brand should work just fine. If you click on these links and subsequently purchase from Amazon, I will earn a small percentage.

  1. Mix aloe vera gel, distilled water, glycerin, and grapefruit seed extract in a medium-sized heatproof mixing bowl.
  2. Melt the oils and beeswax in a pan over low heat.
  3. As soon as the oils and beeswax are melted, pour them into the mixing bowl with the aloe vera mixture (do NOT allow the mixture to cool as the beeswax will begin to form into small bits if you do)
  4. Mix with a hand mixer, working your way up to full speed setting (start on speed as it will splash at first, when it is very liquidy). Beat until the mixture is the texture of warm custard.
  5. Store in a glass jar with top. The mixture will become even thicker as it cools.
  6. Depending on the temperature and humidity, the mixture may begin to separate a bit, but it is still safe to use for 3 months (I go through a batch within 3 weeks, so I can’t verify this estimate, but the grapefruit seed extract acts as a preservative.) Obviously, if the “custard” begins to smell or you can see any mold, dispose of the product immediately.

 

Maureen

Labels: Crunchy Tuesday, Natural Personal Care
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–May 19

Wildflowers 1Sunday – A wonderfully relaxing Mother’s Day, doing exactly what I wanted to!

Monday – Rain, at last! Ending the heat wave!

Tuesday – Setting up an obstacle course and competing with Dora to see who could complete it on her Purple Plasmacar the fastest (it can accommodate“children up to 220 pounds” – I’m interpreting the word “children” to mean “children at heart”, because I doubt you’ll find many children that weigh 220 pounds).Making Ice Cream 1Wednesday – Making homemade ice creamBalance Bike 2Thursday – Dora doing really well with her new balance bike

Friday – Seeing an abundance of wildflowers and two baby deer at the parkStory Fairy 6Saturday – Enjoying the last Kindermusik/Seattle Symphony concert for the year and Dora getting to visit with the Story Fairy

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

Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

DIY Vanilla Extract

DIY Vanilla ExtractThis week, our daily rhythm has been thrown all out of whack. Firstly, Dora has been tired and stressed out from doing vision therapy. I know that she needs it, as surgery is the only other option, but she is really having to work hard at it. Also, her balance bike finally arrived, so she’s wanted to be outside riding it every moment possible. Then, to top it all off, we bought her some of the Lego friends sets and now Dora is a Lego addict! None of our other kids have been interested in Legos, but Dora has been spending hours with them and they are the first toy that Dora will play with happily all by herself. So, though we’ve not been doing any Waldorf, I cannot complain about how we’ve been spending our days.
I also can’t complain about the weather. It’s been so warm that we decided to break out the ice cream maker. While making the ice cream, I suddenly realized that I have never posted about making homemade extract on this blog.
Several years ago, I went to buy some vanilla extract and it cost $15/bottle for non-organic extract! I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it at that price. I figured there had to be a cheaper way to make it myself. So I did some research and learned that it was very easy to make myself. I’ve been making it from scratch ever since. Here’s my “recipe”:
Supplies and Ingredients:

  • A clean amber colored bottle (I buy all my bottles from Specialty Bottle, with whom I have no affiliation)
  • 3-4 vanilla beans (you can use lemon rind instead to make lemon extract, mint leaves to make mint extract, etc.)
  • Vodka (other types of alcohol can be used and will yield different results, but I have found that vodka renders the most traditional taste)

Directions

  1. Slice the vanilla beans open lengthwise and place them in your bottle (you may need to cut them into smaller segments to fit them in your bottle)
  2. Fill the rest of the bottle with vodka
  3. Allow the bottle to sit in a cool, dark place for 3+ months, shaking the bottle up once a week (-ish)
  4. After three months, you can use the bottle of extract just like you would any store-bought extract
  5. I usually remove the beans after six months, if the bottle lasts that long. Some people like to use the soaked beans to make vanilla body scrubs or vanilla sugar with, though I usually dispose of mine.

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

Labels: In the Kitchen
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Pumpkin Jack Gets Carried Away

Pumpkin Jack 1I posted back in November that we decided to grow a pumpkin from Dora’s Halloween pumpkin, just like the boy in Pumpkin Jack did. In February, our Pumpkin Jack was just starting to decay, but by March, he was just a shell of himself. Jack started growing a new plant recently, but in the last two weeks, our first, albeit minor, complication to the Pumpkin Jack experiment has arisen. He never stunk or attracted pests, as I had worried he might, but he did start growing a bazillion plants! This picture was taken last week. Right after taking it, I pulled up all, but two, of the seedlings. Today, there was a whole new batch of seedlings, just as many as before! To give you perspective as to how many seedlings they are, you can see the stem from the original Pumpkin Jack off in the left hand corner of this photo (I must admit that I’ve also grown a bit curious as to how long it will take for the stem to decay).  So all these seedlings are growing in about a 3” x 3” space!

One really interesting footnote is how healthy the soil is where Jack decayed. Every time I pull up some seedlings, I unearth about a dozen worms! The worms and other bugs (which I try very hard to ignore) are very clearly concentrated in that specific area. I guess Jack has provided a yummy feast of decay for them!

I also recently read that if you harvest seeds from your plants to grow the next year and continue to do this year after year, the plants will start to adapt to your specific soil and climate. Though, in reality, what is actually happening is that as you will most likely keep the seeds from the healthiest plants of each crop each year, you will be using an unnatural form of natural selection to grow healthier and stronger plants in each subsequent generation (clear as mud, eh?).

How is your garden doing? Though Jack is doing well, our other crops are only doing okay. I’m not happy with the brand of seeds we bough this year. I bought heirloom seeds (specifically to avoid seeds that were genetically modified), but I don’t think that should account for the exceptionally pour turnout that I’ve had. I’d say that only 1/5 of the seeds have grown. In fact, over the weekend, I planted a second crop of some vegetables. Next year, I’m going to try a different brand of seeds, as our weather most certainly cannot be blamed this year. I also may try to start my plants a bit earlier in some sort of mini-greenhouse type of arrangement.

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.

Maureen

Labels: Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–May 12

Icelandic Poppy 9Sunday – Finding Waldorf again in time for Dora to benefit from it. She absolutely thrives on the rhythm, so much so, that she has been trying to get us even more into a rhythm!

Monday – My Icelandic poppy has white flowers too!

Tuesday – Being able to go for a walk while Dora rode her scooter

Wednesday – Being able to help Gohan work through some extreme anxiety (it pains me that he and Dora inherited my anxiety issues, so I’m especially grateful when I can help them work through an anxiety episode)Toad Flax 26Thursday – Toadflax is a new plant for my garden and I’ve decided that I love it!

Friday – Dora’s new vision therapy went so well. She is doing it in hopes of correcting an outwardly wandering eye (exotropia) without surgery.Azalea 3Saturday – Finally attracting pollinators to our yard this year!

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

Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Yarn Along Wednesday–May 8

Yarn Along 5-8I missed the last two weeks of Yarn Along Wednesday, because I was very busy finishing photo albums, which I made for Mother’s Day presents. Also, I hadn’t made a lot of progress on Dora’s Sunday Sweater, since I realized I had made a mistake early on and had a perfectly curved line of purl stitches on my stockinette side of the sweater. I have no idea what I did, the curve was so perfect that at first, I thought it was supposed to be there. At this point, I’m 35 rows into the sweater. I do have a few messed up stitches, because I didn’t know that there was a right and a wrong to switch from knit to purl and vice-versa. So when I was incorrectly switching between the two, I was ending up creating extra stitches. I corrected this as well as I could and caught it early, so hopefully it will be okay. I am very nervous now as I am going to be doing the sleeves soon and I’m worried that if I mess up, I’ll lose everything I’ve already done. I did buy a new Bolga Basket for carrying my knitting supplies, which was a relief, as the sweater was getting to be too big for my old basket.

Reading-wise, I’m reading this month’s Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, as always. I also just started reading Becoming Jane Eyre: A Novel, which I’m not far enough into to give an opinion on yet. Finally, I’m reading The Art of Feltmaking, because, even though I can needle felt very elaborate projects, I’m a complete failure at wet felting. I really don’t like working with wet wool anyway, but Dora wants to learn how to felt, so I need to figure out what I’m doing wrong with my wet felting so that I can teach her how to do it.

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.

Maureen

Labels: Yarn Along
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Exploring the Four Elements: Water

Elements Stackers 1Recently I’ve become intrigued with role that the four elements play in Waldorf education. Like many families, we  have the Grimms Spiel & Holz four elements stackers. We also have some framed postcards of “elements fairies”. I’ve also known of some Waldorf homeschoolers who put elemental pieces on their nature table, based on a four-week cycle. I don’t quite understand how they know which week is which, so I just try to include items that represent the four elements at all times.Element Postcards 2

What I didn’t know, and am still far from truly understanding is why Waldorf educators place so much emphasis on the four elements. After doing some research, I’ve concluded that the elements’ role in Waldorf education comes largely from anthroposophy, which I’ve promised not to spend too much time blogging about, and which I’m just in the infancy of my understanding of. Still, I feel compelled to post a quote from an interesting post:

In Steiner’s anthroposophical world-view, the whole world is a macrocosmic reflection of the human microcosm. From this perspective, each of man’s four bodies finds its echo in an “element” of nature. Thus, the physical body is of the nature of earth, the etheric body of the nature of water, the astral body of the nature of air and the ego is akin to fire. In terms of the “kingdoms of nature,” we share our physical body with the mineral kingdom, our etheric body with the plant world, and our astral body with the animals. The ego is shared with no other kingdom: only the human being carries this “divine spark” into earthly life. –

Schwartz Eugene. Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education: The Kindergarten Years [Internet]. Version 1. millennialchild. 2009 Mar 16. Available from: http://millennialchild.wordpress.com/article/anthroposophy-and-waldorf-education-the-110mw7eus832b-9/.

From a less “mumbo jumbo” point of view, each of the four temperaments is associated with one of the elements, with the melancholic temperament being associated with the element of air, the phlegmatic with water, the sanguine with air, and the choleric with fire. Furthermore, the four temperaments are associated with the various stages of human development, with childhood being associated with sanguine, adolescence associated with choleric, adulthood associated with melancholic, and old age with phlegmatic.With all of this in mind, I decided to purchase the book, Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. I was adequately forewarned by an Amazon reviewer that this book might be a bit out of my element (har, har, aren’t I so punny?), but I decided to give it a try anyway. When it arrived, sure enough, I could not begin to imagine doing most of the projects in the book, which required a lot of woodworking and craftsmanship skills. So I set the book aside for awhile. Then, I was recently browsing A Toy Garden’s website and I realized that they carry many of the toys covered in the book, either in kit or pre-built format, from a variety of boats and boat building kits, to a wind car building kit, to tops, to a climbing bear, to a hot air roundabout, to a whirly gig, and more. The cost of these products range from $5-$15-ish dollars, so are quite reasonably priced, if you don’t go overboard and order them all (no, I am not an affiliate for them). There are two major projects in the book that are not carried at A Toy Garden, the first being a marble maze, which we already own as I consider it an essential to own anyway, and the second is a waterwheel, which I’d love to make, but would probably cut off a finger if in the process of doing so. Other than that, most of the other projects in the book are doable for me, such as making pinwheels, kites, paper airplanes, etc.Playing With the Elements 2-3Ironically, Dora wanted to explore water first. I say “ironically”, because neither of us was even thinking about summer at the time and because Dora is terrified of water and currently I am trying really hard to find some sort of swim lesson arrangement that meets her needs (none of my other children were afraid of water, so this is all new to me). We had a nice water-exploration set up in our backyard, with a giant metal tub full of water (why I even own such a large metal tub is beyond me, but it did come in handy!). Then, over the weekend, Dora fell into the tub, soaking herself, and we had to put it back in storage, due to her subsequent refusal to go into the backyard again if it was out. So I am not sure how much more we will do with exploring water. So we may be moving onto another element very soon.Playing With the Elements 3-3So, if you’ve made it past all of my anthroposophical woo-woo-ness and are still reading this, what is your take on the role that the four elements play in Waldorf education? And how do you incorporate the four elements into your child’s life?

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.

Maureen

Labels: Anthroposophy, Four Elements, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–May 5

Mt Si 21Sunday – Having time to scan all of our books into Goodreads (as I keep accidentally buying the same books over and over, because I don’t know which books we own and which we don’t!).

Monday – Peanut butter filled pretzels (though my waistline indicates that I’ve been a bit too grateful for them)

Tuesday – Today was full of things to be thankful for, here are just a few!

  • The view of Mt. Si while we were shoe shopping
  • Roses right after it rains, I love the way the water collects amongst their petals
  • Mr. Mo taking care of the tent caterpillars on our apple tree after a long day of work (I am not too much of a bug wimp, but tent caterpillars kind of freak me out)

Rose After the Rain 9Wednesday – Gohan being able to work through a stumbling block he had encountered in math. He stuck to it and spent over an hour solving the problem, but insisted he wanted to figure it out and he did!

Thursday – chai, it really helps to soothe my soul during times of stress

Charlotte's Web 11Friday – watching Gohan in his year-end homeschool production of Charlotte’s Web

Saturday – Getting the yard work and weekend errands done, despite Gohan having another play production, so that we can take it easy tomorrow. It is so nice when Sundays really can be a “day of rest”.

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

Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Happy May Day

Happy May DayIn keeping with the Waldorf tradition of celebrating a full year of seasons, festivals, and holidays, we decided to celebrate May Day this year. We have never celebrated the holiday and I really didn’t know much about it. So I referred to my handy, dandy copy of Festivals Family and Food. I was quite surprised to learn that Victoria Sponge Cake was a traditional May Day treat, as my blogging buddy, The Adventurer at Life’s Adventures, just posted a recipe for Victoria Sponge Cake. The recipe was easy to make and the cake was delicious!Victoria Sponge CakeWe had also hoped to make May Day crowns out of tree branches, but just learned yesterday that we have a bit of a tent caterpillar infestation. Yuck!

I hope you all had a wonderful May Day!

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.

Maureen

Labels: May Day
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff