Gratitude Sunday–April 14

Conch Shell 3Sunday – Mr. Mo sawing a hole on Dora’s conch shell, so she could play it (I made the mistake of telling her that some people blow them like horns). Amazingly, she can play it quite well. I still have yet to be able to make a sound from it.Blowing Bubbles 2Monday – Mr. Mo holding down the fort for me while I slept almost all day after having what was supposed to be a minor nose procedure. Not sure if it was the procedure (they did inject epinephrine into my nose to minimize the bleeding and my body did not enjoy the effects of the epinephrine) or the arthritis flare up that I had over the weekend that wore me out so, but I’m very lucky to have a husband who will just jump in for me during these episodes, when I practically “pass out” (especially given that he also happens to have a stressful job that we need him to keep). He never complains though (once again ladies, he is taken).Face Painting 4Tuesday – Receiving a new bag and wallet in the mail today. My old one was starting to fall apart. I am beginning to wonder if I will ever go back to carrying a normal-sized purse again. Every single time I try to, Dora has some sort of mishap and I end up greatly regretting not having a change of clothes in my purse. Plus we both have Raynaud’s, so I always need gloves/mittens in my purse. Then, I always have to carry sun hats and sunscreen, as even a little bit of sun exposure sun can cause my connective tissue disorder to flare up. Add to that rain jackets, supplies for impromptu geocaching, etc. I don’t know how other mothers manage to carry so little, I have always had a big bag in tow.Yarn2Wednesday – a big box of yarn came in the mail!Face Painting 1Thursday – Finding a new vision therapist for Dora. She suffers from exotropia (her eyes wander outward) and our wonderful ophthalmologist has had to take an indefinite leave of absence, due to a family crisis. There aren’t that many doctors who can treat this condition in children Dora’s age and those that can, often favor surgery. I really wanted a doctor who would at least try vision therapy first, as it worked really well with both Primo and Tertia, who had eyes that wandered inward. It has taken me six months to find the right doctor, but it was well worth the effort. The only negative is that this doctor is about 45 minutes away (without traffic) and we will have to drive there once a week.IMG_1395Friday – Dora slept late for the first time in months! She doesn’t appear to be sick, so I have no idea why she slept so late, but it felt good!Being CoolSaturday – The food co-op had Bosc pears again! I think they taste so much better than Bartlett pears, though I think people are prejudiced against them, as they are kind of ugly.

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Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Bird Nesting Materials

Bird Nesting Supplies 4Some birds have been returning to our area for the season and both Dora and I have been sad that we can’t feed them like we did last year. For those of you who haven’t been reading my blog for long, here is a short summary of what happened to our feeders last year: We woke up one morning to find our bird feeders completely destroyed. We were standing there, staring at the feeders in disbelief, shaking our heads sadly, trying to puzzle out why vandals would feel the need to so thoroughly destroy our feeders and worrying a bit about how strong the vandals must be, when Tertia came back from walking our dog and pointed to three bears headed our way. Once we thought that the bears had departed the area, we rushed out to clean up the bird feeder mess, realizing that the bears must have been attracted to it. Then the mother bear suddenly charged at Mr. Mo from behind our neighbor’s house while he was trying to dispose of the food and so forth and so on…. I then made the big mistake of calling the Department of Wildlife to report the bears and ended up getting chewed out for putting out bird feeders, given that I lived in “bear country” (which was news to us).  To top the whole thing off, a law was passed a couple of months later, which makes it illegal to feed bears, knowingly or otherwise,  in the State of Washington. This year, I briefly toyed with the idea of placing bird feeders in our backyard, but was a bit worried that the bears would just climb over our fence. Plus, I didn’t really want to attract birds to the area where our fruit trees, berry plants, and vegetable garden are.Bird Nesting Supplies 2Still, we have been really missing the company of all the birds who visited our yard last year. So, we finally decided to set out some nesting materials for the birds. We filled a suet cage with some scrap yarn and wool roving. Dora was very interested in this project and insisted on picking out and cutting the yarn herself, which is why the yarn is a bit brighter than I would have chosen. Maybe the birds don’t care, but I kind of felt that they might prefer colors that lent themselves more towards camouflaging a nest, but who am I to argue with a four-year-old? I did get to pick out the wool roving, however, so I chose a natural, undyed Alpaca wool for that. Thus far, the birds have not opted to take any of our offerings, but our tree is still a bit bare for the birds to be hanging out in. In fact, the only birds we’ve seen thus far, have been  robins and sparrows eating worms from the grass in our yard thus far.Bird Nesting Supplies 3-2What about you and your family? Do you set out feeders or nesting materials? If you set out feeders, do you have problems with bears or other unwanted guests? If you set out nesting materials, what types of materials have you found that the birds in your area like best?

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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: Nature Study, Spring
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Our Summer Gnomes

Summer GnomesI finished our summer gnomes some time ago and then forgot to post about them. For those who have missed my previous posts, Dora asked me to make a gnome for each month of the year. We put them out on our nature/seasonal shelf with our days-of-the-week gnomes and weather gnomes. Dora doesn’t know the names or order of the months, but wanted a gnome to associate with each calendar page of our family calendar. With five children, three of which are in college, our calendar plays a central role in our life and is prominent in our kitchen. You can go to these links to see my previous posts about our winter gnomes and spring gnomes.

I really struggled with the summer gnomes. From the beginning, I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to do with the winter, spring, and fall gnomes. The summer gnomes – not so much. Some readers gave me some suggestions and I kind of bounced off of some of those. I was trying for a hot and fiery look. To make their hats, I needle felted a “skull cap” for the gnomes, but left the tops of the caps unfelted. I then kind of twisted the tops to make them resemble a candle flame. I’m not 100% happy with them, but have yet to come up with a better idea (other than perhaps make felt sun caps, which I may yet try).

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Maureen

Labels: Gnomes, Needle Felting, Peg Dolls, Rhythm, Summer
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Oral Storytelling With Props

Saint Patrick's Day Story PropsOne component of a Waldorf education that I have really struggled with, is oral storytelling. I have trouble memorizing stories and Dora won’t listen to them if I just read them from a book. The reason that Waldorf educators are so adamant about engaging our children in oral storytelling is that it is believed that this is a natural step in language/literacy acquisition process.Koala Bear Puppets 2So far, I’ve not been too successful with telling my own made-up stories, mostly because Dora begged me for more so soon after I told one story, I just didn’t have enough creative juices in me to satiate her needs. Also, the sad fact is that I have lost a lot of my abilities to tell children’s stories. It is not a skill that I have used much in my adult life, so the process does not come very naturally to me. So, the best compromise that I have found is to use stories from books and just do my best to memorize the story and wing it on my own. In addition, I have found that using props to accompany my story telling, really grabs Dora’s attention. She will often play a game with the props after a story telling session, bouncing off the story. All of the photos included in this post are prop setups I used for one story or another. The Rabbit and the Carrot Story PropsI try to use a variety of props, as I don’t want to fall in to a rut. Props I have used thus far, include Ostenheimer wooden figures, Folkmanis hand puppets, shadow puppets, handmade beeswax props, and other little toys/figures that I make for Dora (needle felted figures, knitted animals, peg dolls, pompon animals, etc.).Shadow Puppets 5What about in your house? Do you have any good story telling props? Have you learned how to tell stories to your children (or did you never forget)?

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Maureen

Labels: Storytelling
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–April 7

Pine Lake 1 - 15Sunday – A gloriously sunny day, heady with the scent of cherry blossoms and daffodils.

Monday – Dora telling me that she was taking pictures with her “Hello Kitty” camera so she could put them on her blog.

Tuesday – After an absolutely horrid day, physically speaking, spending an hour at the local lake/beach really helped to calm my frayed nerves, soothe my senses, and center my being.Pine Lake 2Wednesday – Enjoying a lovely spring evening with Dora exploring downtown, after her gymnastics class.

Thursday – Perfect dental checkups for both Gohan and Dora.

Friday – Going to see The Croogs with Dora and having an unexpectedly good time, laughing hysterically. I think that a good laugh is the best medicine on the planet!

Saturday – The first anemone of the season.

Anenome - 6

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Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Why So Knittin’ Quiet?

Knitted Pony - 3

I know that I’ve been quiet on this blog the last week or so, but I have some excuses (mind you, I don’t promises that they’re good excuses, just that I have some). For one, we’ve been playing hooky. Yes, you read that correctly – we’ve been ditching homeschool. Not really, we just have decided to switch to a year-round schedule with four one-month breaks. This seems to help with burnout for both Gohan and me. Of course, Dora had to join the bandwagon and wanted a “spring break” also. I asked her what she would get a break from and she didn’t have a good answer, she just knew that she wanted spring break too. So I told her that she was on spring break also and she was happy. Then we’ve been a bit busy with this and that, like nice weather, doctor’s appointments, nice weather, dentist appointments, nice weather, gardening projects, and (did I mention?) nice weather. Finally, I decided to knit this pony for Dora, who is obsessed with the My Little Pony show and all of it’s various tawdry merchandise.

I took a knitting class shortly before Dora was born and made a very nice scarf in class, which I never finished off. At the time, I decided that while it was nice enough, knitting wasn’t a hobby that really rocked my world. Fast forward several years and I’ve had to redefine “rock my world” since my body can no longer handle things like martial arts, distance biking, hardcore geocaching, etc. Now, I need to be happy with more sedate activities, which amazingly, I am finding that I can do. I also have become fixated on starting to make more of our clothes, due to the price increases and quality decreases in the clothing industry. (Not to mention, that at the ripe old age of 44, I just don’t fit into clothes like I used to, but I am not ready to throw in the towel and wear granny clothes yet.)

Anyway, I had to start this pony over many, many, many times, because of how much I had forgotten or never learned. In the process, I learned that the lady who taught me to knit, taught me some unnecessarily complicated ways of doing things. So I also had to relearn some things. In addition, I had some problems with me zoning out and doing things like suddenly switching to purl in the middle of a knitting row (if only I could unknit better, I would have saved myself many hours of work!). This project definitely helped me work on my focus and attention span, which did not used to be such a problem, but I guess I am developing some ADHD tendencies as I get older.

The pattern that I used for this pony is from Mam4Earth’s Etsy shop. Fortunately, she also has a Ravelery Group (and a lot of patience). Dora loves the pony! It was actually supposed to be a unicorn, but she said that she just could not wait long enough for me to knit a horn. Now, however, she is begging for me to knit a Rainbow Dash, who is a pegasus, and she says she’s willing to wait for me to knit the wings. Oi vey! What have I started?!?!

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Maureen

Labels: Knitting
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–The Easter Edition

Easter MuscariSunday – The first muscari of the year bloomed!

Monday – The sunset reflecting off the lake today (as in a real sunset, with the sun and everything!).

Tuesday – Pumpkin Jack has completely decayed (except for the stem) and one of the seeds has started to grow a new plant!Cherry Blossoms 9Wednesday – Cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom and the streets are lined in pink!

Thursday – The grandmother who helped me at the park today so that Dora could ride the zipline without being scared.

Friday – Finding the hidden gnome at the local preserve at the very end of our hike with friends, just when we thought we would be leaving without having found it.

Saturday – Feeling pretty good, despite the previous day’s long hike in the sunny weather, proof that the rheumatalogical medicines are beginning to help!

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Maureen

Labels: Easter, Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Naturally-Dyed Easter Eggs

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs 1As we’ve been trying to do things more “au natural” around here, I thought that we’d try making natural Easter egg dye this year. I read several posts about it and kind of winged things in regards to making my dyes. I filled large mason jars about 3/4 full with my dyes, added a tablespoon of vinegar to each dye, added our eggs to the jars, and left the eggs sitting in the dyes for about 24 hours.Naturally Dyed Easter EggsWe did run into a couple of obstacles. We did two batches of eggs. For the first batch, we used eggs that I had blown out. These tended to float at the top of the liquid and thereby, only get dyed on one side. I tried holding the eggs under the liquid, so that liquid would fill the empty eggs, but I found that the egg membranes would create a seal over the hole I used to blow out the eggs. I then used a toothpick to try to hold back the membrane so that the egg would fill with the liquid and sink. This worked, but was time-consuming and then the next day, I had to repeat the process in reverse to drain the eggs.

For our second batch of eggs, we used hard boiled eggs. The big challenge with these was that I had to make sure that all of the dyes had cooled to room temperature or else the eggs would often crack. These eggs sunk just fine, obviously, but wherever they pressed against the glass of the jar, the dye color did not take. So, in general, I’d say that whether you use blown eggs or hard boiled eggs, you need to check on them several times and move them around to make sure that they get colored all over.

Overall, I liked the look of the natural dyes. They definitely aren’t as intense as store-bought dyes. They also produce a less consistent look, but I personally liked that. I did have problems with some of the dyes not producing the color that I had read that they would produce. For example, I read that boiling carrots would produce an orange dye, but after several attempts, I never was able to produce more than a pale orange liquid. I also was never able to get a dark green. Next year, I might just make the orange and green by blending the other colors. I did achieve several good colors using these items:

  • Yellow – turmeric (add turmeric to boiling hot water until desired color achieved)
  • Blue – boiled red cabbage (the liquid looked pink, but turned the eggs a light blue)
  • Indigo – grape juice
  • Pink – boiled red beets
  • Brown – tea, boiled chamomile flowers, and red onion skins all produced different shades of brown

No matter what coloring agent you use, be sure to add a tablespoon of vinegar to the finished dye to help the egg shell absorb the color.

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Maureen

Labels: Arts and Crafts, Easter
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Gratitude Sunday–March 24

Sunday – Dora’s response when our garage door opener broke and we opened the door manually. In order to open the door manually and keep the door in sync with the motor, Mr. Mo and I had to physically force the extremely heavy garage door up, while Secunda pushed the button. As soon as we got it all open, Dora yelled, “Yea for Secunda! She did it!”. Nightstand Reading

Monday – Books! They are like blood transfusions for my mind…

Tuesday – A working garage door. Yea for quick and efficient service at a reasonable price!Snow - Spring 2013 - 2lomoWednesday – The first day of spring.Thursday – Having a warm, safe home to shelter from the storm in. Ironically, we had some snow this afternoon, after having no snow all winter.Daffoldils 2Friday – Picking a vase full of daffodils and finding one tiny daffodil that is the perfect size to tuck behind a certain four-year-old girl’s ear.Tiny Daffodil 3Saturday – My new lotion recipe, which I will post when I have it absolutely perfected.

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Maureen

Labels: Gratitude Sunday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Edible Flower Lollipops

Edible Lollipops 4

This project was not one that I had planned for us to do this year, since it entails cooking candy at extremely high temperatures, but Dora started arguing with me that people could not eat flowers and I felt that I just had to show her that some flowers were not only edible, but yummy. We bought our flowers from our local food co-op. They were labeled as edible and were 100% organic. Obviously, one shouldn’t go picking flowers from any old garden and eating them and one should be 100% sure about which flowers are edible before eating them. Ironically, Tertia (age 18) came in while we were making these and started arguing with me about the edibility of flowers also, so clearly this is a gap in my kids’ education that I have failed to address.

Edible Lollipops 3

I used theses directions for making spring flower lollipops. Some notes that we came away with are:

  • The flowers kind of shrivel up when you put them in the candy, so you can use a mold that is smaller than your flowers (Tertia insisted this was a case of cruelty to flowers and it kind of did seem like the flowers were crying out in pain as they were scalded to death with the candy mixture Smile )
  • SprinkleBakes mentions using a candy mold, but I couldn’t find any that were safe for using with hard candy, which gets much hotter than soft candies, so we used the powdered sugar method
  • These lollipops are extremely sweet, so I recommend making them when you know you’ll have a lot of people over. They look lovely, so would add an added extra to your table and people wouldn’t feel the need to eat more than one.
  • Use real white sugar to make these (we used a pseudo-white sugar that we get from the food co-op, because it is fair trade and slightly healthier than regular white sugar – our sugar made the lollipops kind of yellow-tinted, such that they looked a bit jaundiced).

All, in all, this taught Dora (and Tertia!) that some flowers are edible, but I wouldn’t make these again, unless I was doing it for a party. It might have been the cherry candy flavoring that we used, but I just found these to be too cloyingly sweet for our family.

Edible Lollipops 5

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Maureen

Labels: Arts and Crafts, In the Kitchen, Nature Study, Spring
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff