Sunday, December 20, 2009

December Happenings

December is flying by, but we are keeping warmth in our hearts and simplicity in our souls. Here is some of the goings-on around the Miller household...

On December 7th we said farewell to Uncle Jared as he departed on his two-year LDS mission. We are so proud of his willingness to serve the people of South Africa, but will sorely miss his fun, sweet spirit! (Yes, we have two Jareds who are very dear to us serving missions. Uncle Jared is my youngest brother - only two years older than Jill, he is very close to our family. The other Jared is Jill's (and our!) dear friend to whom we said farewell in June...)

We have an advent tradition in our home of an advent house with doors that open each day to reveal a little suprise. Each child takes a turn - youngest to oldest- so they each end up with 5 suprises. Here are a couple of the things I made this year. A little felt fox, and a baby mouse in a walnut shell cradle. The fox was designed by Elsa, and the mousey was inspired by a similar one my Oma made years ago. It is such a special treat to pass on memories of my childhood!

This month I participated in the Seasons Round winter nature table swap. The Seasons Round is a lovely swap among Waldorf-schooled families to share ideas throughout the year. My partner was Wendy W. in San Fransisco, and although she does not have a blog, I truly hope that at some point she will, as she is such a sweet spirit and has much to share. She sent me the beautiful beeswax candles shown in the advent wreath below, as well as a good fortune bag of the most heavenly lavender and an adorable seasonal story about a little sunflower seed being tucked in to bed for the winter by Mother Earth.
I made for her a little star-bearer table doll, a Celtic sun spiral tapestry, a beeswax votive, and a straw star ornament. You can read a more detailed description on my flickr site here.

Our cutie Lucy attended a formal 16th birthday party for a friend last weekend. She was so beautiful in her sparkly dress and makeup with her hair all done up in ringlets!

This is our advent wreath inspired by Tasha Tudor. I actually just made it on Friday! I hadn't thought I would, but I sat down Friday afternoon to have a cup of tea and the last piece of Panettone I made for homeschool the day before, and decided to watch the Tasha Tudor video "Take Peace". It was a very sweet and calming moment. In the video, Tasha digs in the snow to find the last green branches of boxwood and brings them inside to make her advent wreath. I suddenly realized that I have a boxwood bush that is sprouting like crazy and needs to be trimmed I went outside in the 72 degree gentle afternoon and cut some branches and wove them into the beautiful wreath seen above. I had two candles from my swap, and just happened to have two more sheets of beeswax. Elsa helped me carefull roll them into candles and we hung our beautiful wreath with plaid ribbons in tribute to our Scottish heritage. I think we have come upon a new holiday tradition!

One of the most meaningful experiences I have had this season was crafting an ornament for a special lady in need. When Nicole (gardenmama) contacted me about this project I was so touched that she would think of me and so grateful to be included. Sometimes service for others is hard to do, but then again, sometimes we need to let go of our feelings of being overwhelmed by our busy lives and reach out to those around us. Perhaps it is time to bring our thoughts inwards, simplify our lives, listen to the spirit and then extend ourselves to those in need.
There is a beautiful quote by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the LDS First Presidency: "In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but he number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance. Let us open our eyes and see the heavy hearts, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers."

I am sure that participating in this act of service was far more of a blessing to me. It has helped me feel the true meaning of the celebration of this season - that love and charity are where happiness and peace reside.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Neighborhood Nativity

Every year our neighborhood gathers for a Nativity play and dinner. Our family helps by providing Mary's "donkey" (our pony) and various goats for the shepherds. This year a new neighbor family brought a "camel" (llama) for the wise men and a darling miniature jersey cow! The cast is the children, with the nine year olds traditionally up on the scaffolding as angels, the oldest 11 year old girl and boy as Mary and Joseph, anyone brave enough to hold a goat as shepherds, and three 9-11 year old boys as wise men. All the other kids join in the Children's Choir. It is a beautiful and sweet event usually held the first Saturday in December. It is such a lovely way to start our season focused on the true meaning of Christmas.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful For Family

Today all 37 members of my Bielefeldt family gathered at our home to celebrate Thanksgiving. We couldn't have asked for a more lovely day. The weather was warm and gentle, the food was amazing, and having all the siblings and little cousins together was just priceless.

Uncle Eric brought a bubble machine and all the little girls laughed and chased in wonderment trying to catch the floating bubbles. We finally got them to stay still (relatively!) by lying in a flower shape and singing "fairies!" up to the camera!

I am so grateful for my big family and our closeness and love. I am the oldest of eight, the youngest leaves for his mission to South Africa on December 8th. We are cherishing these moments together as we will not all be together again for two years.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Crafting, Cooking, Crazy!!

The holiday season is upon us and we are in the full spirit of it here. Earlier this month I signed up for three swaps, you can see the tags on the right sidebar. Two were due this week, we are also hosting Thanksgiving Dinner for my family (37+ people!) and Lucy is making Homemade Pies this afternoon to raise money for her marching band fees. So, it is very festive here!!These are all the cute things we made for the Handmade Stocking Stuffer Swap. We had 14 children on our list, 8 boys and 6 girls. David made the boy things, and I made the mermaid dollies for the girls. I was so glad that David stepped in to help! He is so creative and handy when he wants to be :)

A close up of the mermaids. I had so much fun making these for the swap that I decided to make some for my little nieces for Christmas.

I made these handmade chocolate truffles for the goody in the Enchanted Forest Ornament Swap. They were so easy and soooo yummy! If you want to try them, here's the recipe...
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup good quality chocolate (I used Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips)
Heat the cream over medium heat to just before boiling, remove from heat, add the chocolate and stir to melt.
If you would like to add flavorings, do so now. I added about a tablespoon of peanut butter to one batch, to the other I added about a tablespoon of reduced cherry syrup (another recipe maybe!) and a teaspoon of rum. Stir in the flavorings thoroughly.
Put in a covered bowl in the refrigerator until stiff enough to mold. (about 1-2 hours or overnight is fine.)
Form into little balls - I scooped with a melon baller and then rolled to form. Roll in cinnamon sugar or cocoa powder.
That's it! Easy!
Here they are all packaged up, with the ornament and a kitchen towel. The towel is made of natural linen with a border of Japanese woodland friends fabric I got on etsy.

With all the craziness, I let Jesse stay home from school today (it was only a half day anyway!) and he rewarded me by making these amazing blueberry scones! Thank you sweet boy! I think he's turning into a fine cook!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Grade One, F & R

Letters F & R
Waldorf Alphabet Book
A Journey Through Waldorf Homeschooling Grade One
Oak Meadow Kindergarten

The Curious Fish by Elsa Beskow
The Roly Poly Pudding by Beatrix Potter
Rapunzel by Grimm
The Dream Fairy (poem) by Thomas Hood

Add new fish to our pond
Bake Roly Poly Puddings (recipe in Oak Meadow Kindergarten p. 209)

The newly released in English book by Elsa Beskow was perfect for F! We actually scheduled our lessons for F around the release of the book and I am so glad we did. It is such a sweet tale, and Elsa loved all the different kinds of fish in it.

We told several different tales for the letter R, but the image we finally settled on as most meaningful was the river. It lent itself so nicely to the shape, and really flowed in and out of all our stories this week.

One of our resources this week was the poem "The Dream Fairies" by Thomas Hood. It is in the public domain, so here it is:
A little fairy comes at night,
Her eyes are blue, her hair is brown,
with silver spots upon her wings,
And from the moon she flutters down.
She has a little silver wand,
And when a good child goes to bed
She waves her wand from right to left
And makes a circle round her head,
And then it dreams of pleasant things,
Of fountains filled with fairy fish,
And trees that bear delicious fruit,
And bow their branches at a wish;
Of arbours filled with dainty scents
From lovely flowers that never fade,
Bright ‘flies that flitter in the sun,
And glow-worms shining in the shade;
And talking birds with gifted tongues
For singing songs and telling tales,
And pretty dwarfs to show the way
Through the fairy hills and fairy dales.

So many beautiful images! "Fountains filled with fairy fish" was our repeated sentence for F. And Elsa was so inspired by "...pretty dwarfs to show the way/ Through the fairy hills and fairy dales." that she had to paint her version of her dwarf guide through fairyland...
...a lovely opportunity for a painting exersize in Red!

I wanted to share the picture Robin drew for Elsa. He put in as many "R"s as he could from the story Rapunzel. Elsa had a great time finding them all!

Grade One, G & K

Letters G & K
Waldorf Alphabet Book
A Journey Through Waldorf First Grade

The Golden Goose - Grimm
King Thrushbeard - Grimm

Autumn Nature Walk

Elsa in the golden early autumn light in Payson, AZ. We took a little trip to visit my sister in Gallup, NM the first weekend of October and stopped at my parents' cabin. The woods were so beautiful and golden!

For some reason, Elsa had a difficult time with G. She loved the story, but did not think she could draw the picture. She started and then was so frustrated that we had to put it on hold. It took her about three weeks of letting it settle before she was ready to revisit it and make her MLB entry. That's ok. It is why homeschooling is so wonderful! It was no problem to move on with other things and come back to it when she was ready. I did not make a big issue of it, so she did not feel stupid.

The story of King Thrushbeard is adorable! Elsa loved the Princess' silly descriptions of the Princes, and was glad when she learned her lesson to be less proud and selfish. She had great fun acting this one out with me, and really enjoyed the drawing of the King and Princess dancing at thier wedding!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Mad Hatter Was Here...

Here we see Lewis Carroll as he imagines some of the characters in his new story....

Alice meets the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and two darling doormice.

The Cheshire Cat wasn't all there...

I had to take a few pictures the next morning when the light was nice. It was such a fun party! Friends, family, and neighbors joined us, and many of them had gotten into the spirit and dressed to match the theme.
We ate pumpkin soup, homemade bread and homemade crackers; a variety of cheeses including brie, gouda, white farm cheddar, and my own goat cheese with raspberries and black grapes; cupcakes of course and cookies printed with instructions for Alice; Gramie's traditional homemade donuts; Jill's favorite winter squash dip; October Ale (a mix of spiced apple cider and ginger ale) and our own made from scratch rootbeer.
The setting was so magical with paper lanterns, thrifted tea pots on all the tables (filled with dry ice and warm water for effect!) and all set out under our big pine trees.

Here are some details of the Alice dress I made for Lucy. I finally found a purpose for the antique apron I found 15 years ago!

Every year we put up our "Family Graveyard" for Halloween. I had to laugh when I was able to snap this picture of one of our black cats walking through.

I have to say a little about the Mad Hatter costume. It was AMAZING!!! Jill found the purple velvet Ralph Lauren suit at Savers (thrift store) for $15, added a crazy purple and gold silk tie which she tied into a very fancy knot, my old silk shirt, some awesome shoes also from the thrift store, and of course, the HAT, made by Lucy. She also wore a little silver thimble and had a giant needle threaded with silk ribbon in her coat pocket. She was a most elegant Mad Hatter!
Thank you to everyone who came and helped make our party so fun! It was a truly enchanting evening!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Mad Hatter Halloween Tea Party

Halloween Night
Our Place
Come on over around 7ish or after Trick-or-treating
Good food as always, and this year homemade root beer
Cakewalk donations and prize donations are welcome

P.S. The awesome hat above was made by the talented Lucy and will be worn by Jill as part of her awesome Mad Hatter costume.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Michaelmas Week

"I give to you this cape of light,
to give you courage, strength and might."
We had a wonder-filled week preparing for our Michaelmas celebration. This was our first time celebrating a truly Waldorf festival and I must say that everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. Early in the week we felted shooting star balls, then dyed them and our silk capes with sunflowers from our yard and tumeric. Even my big girls had fun with their capes, and wore them to school on the 29th. They quite happily explained to thier friends why.
On Friday, my sister and her daughters and Gramie joined us for our official Michaelmas Festival...
All the kids made thier own cute dragon breads using Tasha Tudor's White Bread Recipe (made with half whole wheat flour, and goat milk of course!)

They really were too cute to eat! But we did eat them, with delicious Daddy-made potato soup.

Robin spent two days making an amazing dragon pinata. He used a rocket balloon, paper mache, paint, and tissue paper. All the kids took turns fighting the dragon with Saint Michael's sword, and upon it's demise were showered with golden butterscotch candies.

The field for the shooting star throw was carefully marked in 20 foot increments.....

...using stakes artfully adorned by Jesse with sunflowers.

Finally the courageous angels were ready (just look at those characters!)

Stars were flung, capes swirled, and everyone cheered!

After all the outdoor excitement, we were treated to an exciting rendition of "St. George and the Dragon" starring Jesse as the noble St. George, Robin as the ferocious dragon, Elsa as the brave princess, and Jill as the wise queen. We then sang "A Boy's Resolve" and happily agreed that Michaelmas is definitely an awesome festival!
(P.S. You can read my sister's version with a few different pictures on her blog here.)