Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Topaz and The Flight Into Egypt

Another varied lot. :-) First, Natalie is much better. I am not a big fan of antibiotics but they are doing the trick against the strep. Today was their Tuesday evening Pizza Night with their dad and I went around doing errands. One was my annual trip to Borders to stock up on calendars. I just love love love a fresh calendar. I always feel so organized, thinking about how everything will fit in its little slot. I really indulged this year and got seven. One is a Witches' Datebook which has lots of cool information about what the moons and astrological signs are doing, when to plant and when to harvest and etc., and includes a color to wear each day. I got it in part for the recipes and information about different holidays which I don't celebrate but want to learn more about. The color thing is just a bonus. Tomorrow is Topaz by the way, so I looked up Topaz on Google to get an idea of the color and found this lovely link from Katz Glass Design so I am passing it along.

Epiphany is coming up faster than ever this year (I guess Natalie being sick has sucked away all my sense of time) so for Sunday School I have to get organized. I used the star stories from Stories for the Festivals of the Year Told for Children by Irene Johanson to explain each king's journey and why he chose his gifts (I just LOVE those stories) but this year I also want to go deeper into What Happened Next. In Matthew 2:14 they mention Joseph's flight into Egypt because the three kings conveyed the message of the Savior's birth to Herod and he had a huge number of Jewish babies killed (parallel to the story of Moses). Magic Wool:
Creative Activites with Natural Sheep's Wool
by Dagmar Schmidt and Freya Jaffke has a wool "painting" for this scene on page 42 and I would like my Sunday School children to make it with me. Painting with dry wool is something that is new to them and I think they will enjoy it.

By the way, I looked back over my Animal Architects unit (there is more than just building shelter -- there is trapping prey) and found that Abel's Island by William Steig is the recommended read-aloud to accompany it. So I will do that and then move on to maybe The Wizard of Oz. I have lots of books in mind for this class, including The Secret Garden, Heidi, The Best Bad Thing, and Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. We'll have to see what moves me as we go along.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Brussells Sprouts and Strep

No, they're not related. :-) I'm just thinking about all the stuff I have to write about. Today in the grocery store we found B. Sprouts growing on the stalk! I've always tried to explain to my kids how they grow but with little luck. However the grocery store had great honking stalks which had just been whacked off at the bottom and the little sprouts were still hanging on to the sides. Adorable. The cashier looked at me like I was nuts but I was so excited to buy it and bring it home. Right now Leah and Rebecca are disassembling it and putting the sprouts in a bag.

To back up, things here have been exciting. Natalie began throwing up yesterday and was sporting a fever of around 102.7 for most of the weekend. However, in a hang-on-to-the-edge-of-your-seats twist yesterday afternoon it shot up to 104.5 and she began to have visual hallucinations. It freaked me out. She was sitting next to me and I was applying cool compresses to her forehead when she suddenly said, Mommy, the ceiling fan is turning pink and purple. And I said put on your coat. We are going to the hospital. While at CMH she came back with a positive strep test. Apparently strep can cause a very high fever and the vomiting is from the fever coming and going suddenly. Today while we were at the pediatrician he tested her temp and it was 104.9 whereupon I really freaked out. I didn't show it but I was so upset and worried. Then we went to the grocery store to get her prescription and were shopping for things like clear soups etc while we waited and Natalie asked me if she could have some orange juice and my eyes just welled up with tears and I choked up and said, "you can have whatever you want sweetheart." Because you just want to turn the world upside down and do whatever it takes to make them feel better, you know?

Anyway, so the younger two and I are making pizza with tomatoes and mozz. cheese and broccoli for dinner and Natalie'll be dining on things like applesauce and crackers. I did let her buy whatever she wanted and we will wait until she feels better to try some of them.

In school news I am getting my Montessori Lower Elem. teacher certification. However, I have the school's blessing when it comes to blending Mont. and Waldorf so here goes! It will be a great school year. Here is our schedule (this may be helpful to homeschoolers as well) for the three blocks of the day.

8:30 am - 10 am

10 am - 11:30 am

1:30 pm - 3 pm

This is three 1 1/2 hour blocks. If you know Waldorf you know that Heart is painting, foreign language, music, etc. For Handwork the school director would like me to teach my class to knit so that's where we'll begin.

The class is a combined class and so children who aren't getting their main lesson can be moving around using the Montessori materials in a self directed way. I want to honor the strengths of the Montessori method (and the materials are lovely) but also bring in some of my own talents and the benefits of Waldorf!

So the way I usually recommend to homeschoolers to set up the year is Alan Whitehead's way (although an artificial constraint it helps to give variety and structure to your year). The MLBs go in the following order:

September - Language Arts
October - Mathematics
November - Social Studies

January - Science
February - Language Arts
March - Mathematics
April - Social Studies
May - Science

This is tweaked a bit; he actually does 3 week MLBs and gets in three sessions of each subject. But I find that a month is an easier way to think of it. I take out December completely since it is full of holidays to study and handwork projects to complete and travel and baking and so on, all of which has educational value and I don't see that there's any way to also add in a subject to study.

So for January we are heading into a Science month. My younger kids will be doing the Four Seasons, which will include (this is stretched quite a bit from what pure Waldorf would do for this block) a look at how the Earth rotates and how the Cosmos was formed and how it moves, writing seasonal poetry -- including introducing Noun, Verb, Adjective and Adverb grammar work and using it in our poems, making a calendar of the year to come and decorating it each month with a poem and seasonal watercolor painting.

The older group will be doing Animal Homes which is a 2nd grade MLB I wrote a while ago and will shortly be adding to the website under the subscription side. We will look at homes of the following animals: bird, beaver, spider, honeybee, prairie dog and ant lion. I will integrate (again, more content than trad. Waldorf) into this simple machines (lever, pulley, wheel), the animal life and biome of our region, natural resources of our area, hibernation and migration, and modeling work. I look forward to introducing this group to modeling beeswax! Look to Arthur Auer's book for wonderful modeling ideas for all ages.

The two topics should blend back and forth beautifully and I am looking forward to this month.

I also want to do The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as our read aloud book, and begin each child on a personal journal which they can write and draw in at the close of each day for reflection time.

Gotta go -- Natalie's fever is at 104.9 again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


An added note: Most people say to wash soapmaking stuff by hand. If you take all those quart Pyrex containers that you used while melting your soap in the microwave and put them in the dishwasher, the foam will come pouring out onto your kitchen floor. My dog went and laid down in it, thinking it was a towel.

Really, it will look like intergalactic ooze is coming to take over your home.

Or, alternatively, like you decided white shag carpet would be the best flooring in your new kitchen.

Or just like a bizarre kind of very low very wide very white and very fuzzy dog has taken up residence. Believe me, it's not worth it.

(Unless, of course, you have decided that the fastest and easiest way to wash your kitchen floor is to let the ooze just keep on oozing and then swipe down the tile with it.)

Lazy lazy.

Candles and Soaps

Today was a big giftmaking extravaganza here at the house. Yesterday was housecleaning, which needed quite desperately to get done, and today we got cracking on the candles and soaps. I did a lovely red and white striped layered affair in a loaf pan (takes several hours since you have to wait for each layer to cool) that I got from Martha S. I added red dye to the clear soap chunks and peppermint oil to the white soap chunks and scored each layer before pouring the next one. Then after you take it out of the loaf pan (ha ha) you slice it and wrap as Peppermint Striped Soaps.

We also added some honey and oats to some white soap and made Honey Oatmeal Soups which we poured into seashell molds. I got a kit with some cool soapmaking stuff in it from Michael's (couldn't resist...) and one of the things was tiny cookie cutters. You can also find these in the cake decorating aisle as fondant cutters BTW. What you do with these is you dye and pour a thinnish layer of soap into a regular rectangular mold. When it is cool you pop it out, cut out the shapes with your cutters, lay the shapes face down in an empty soap mold and then pour a different color soap all around it. When it is dry you have a soap with an embedded decorative motif. Very cute. We did little red hearts in white square soaps.

Next for the candle dipping which was the same old same old regular routine. I'm pretty confident with this craft by this time in my teaching career. My two littlest girls hadn't done it before. The 4 year old cut out early and I finished hers but the 5 and 6 year old girls stayed for the long haul. This was the first time I used the "sticks" with notches for the wick so that you dip two at a time instead of just one. One wick is easier for the younger children. Use a piece of masking tape at the end they hold with their name and voila -- easy as pie. The double candles are lovely and more suitable for gifts. In this case the piece of masking tape goes on the wooden holder and if you stick it across the wick where it crosses the wood it doubles as a handy way to hold the wick in place while they're sitting on the sofa playing with it, waiting for the wax to finish melting.

Always always melt your wax over indirect heat. Wax chunks in a Juicy Juice can (label removed) in a pan of water set to gently simmer is my preferred way. Then I take the wax can and pan off the stove, keep the can in the hot water to retain the heat, and set it in the candle dipping location. Today I put it on the kitchen stool. On the floor in front of the stool I laid the towel. This towel is already full of wax drips from previous projects. Don't put a towel like that in the washer and dryer, the wax in it can catch on fire. I just let it dry naturally and fold it up and set it on my box of craft supplies marked "candlemaking." So the rule was that only one person at a time could stand on the towel. Everyone else is in line behind. You can't move forward onto the towel if someone is still on it. This prevents shoving and knocking over a pot of hot water and a can of wax. You dip then stand on the towel until your candle is no longer dripping. Then you take a stroll around the kitchen and get in the back of the line. Meanwhile, the next person steps up to the towel and the stool. As you walk past a counter you can tap the bottom of your candle on it to flatten it. You can also lay the candle down and roll it somewhat gently but with firm even pressure so that it gets a shiny and smooth exterior. Overall the drips on the kitchen floor were kept to a minimum; worked pretty well. Then I stood two kitchen chairs back to back with some space between to hang the wooden pieces and candles to dry.

Today the girls are with their dad from 3 to 7 for Pizza Night and I get to -- finally -- wrap some gifts!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

4 Links

Cleaning up my computer. :-) Here are 4 pages that I want to share.

1st. Chicago Waldorf School teacher blogs. The one I linked to was 4th grade but there are others. Great way to see how others approach a MLB!

2nd. Finally there's a book out that teaches you how to do lazure painting. Enjoy! And if you try it, let me know how it works out.

3rd. Some experiments with soil saturation and runoff. As you can tell, we are still doing a lot of Earth Science.

4th. Hot Chocolate Cones. Our gift to the students this year.

Speaking of Christmas, I am having a terrible time with this season. I have my kids all taken care of but had somehow forgotten that adults exchange gifts too. Now that I have a job I have coworkers. And I have family and friends! What am I going to give all these people????

Hope everyone is have a very merry whatever they are celebrating. We did St. Lucia on Friday and we are doing Hanukkah tomorrow. Thursday we are doing Solstice. I think we were going to do Diwali but it got mislaid.

Monday, December 8, 2008

G. H. Mortar

Here is the recipe we used for our Gingerbread House mortar. I wanted to pass it along.

2 boxes of powdered sugar (1 lb. each)
4 tablespoons egg white powder
12 tablespoons water OR 2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Since we're supposed to be talking about land and waterforms and also the history of MD still I am going to have the children create a gigantic relief map of the state with the remaining candy. We have Coastal Plains, the Piedmont Plateau, and the Appalachian Mountains. We have rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, and Chincoteage and Assateague Islands. It should be a lot of fun!

Today we read a wonderful book that I want to share. Our read aloud has been The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad by Thornton Burgess, to help the children learn more about our classroom toads in the habitat. But this book was shared by a fellow teacher who found it at the public library and the children ADORED it. It is called A Million Dots by Andrew Clements. It is amazing! You actually see a million dots throughout the course of the book (when was the last time you saw a million of something in the course of one day) and throughout he gives benchmark numbers and gives fun trivia facts to accompany the number. We were amazed when we found out that over 600,000 pieces of mail are delivered by the USPS in one day. There was another one about how many cars are taken to the junkyard in 16 days but I won't tell you what it is... you have to read the book to find out. I highly recommend this one for your classroom, homeschool classroom, or for a holiday gift if you have a mathematical-minded child.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Clothespins on a Ruler

So, here I am back with some teaching ideas. Sorry for the delay -- I got pneumonia and then was in the ER for tearing an ab muscle during a coughing fit and have had to rest in bed for several days. But tomorrow I will be back in the classroom! We are doing our gingerbread houses which I am then going to use to introduce area and perimeter. We also have a parent who is a biologist coming in to do a lab with the children about germs. We'll be growing germs in petri dishes for four days, comparing the dishes with fingerprints from unwashed hands vs. the dishes with fingerprints from hands that were washed and then cleansed with antibacterial hand sanitizer. She also wants to have the children swab some places in the classroom where they think germs might be growing. That should be really interesting. Tuesday afternoon I'm going to some training at The Kennedy Center in DC. Then Wednesday is an Open House where parents can visit the classroom.

I recently read some ideas about strengthening the hand muscles in children with poor handwriting. One which I am going to introduce tomorrow is clothespin work. I am using the Scrabble tiles (100) to write one letter on each clothespin with a Sharpie and then have the children arrange them on the blank side of a ruler to form words. We can then do sentences on a yardstick if it catches on. I can think of lots of ways to use this -- practicing spelling words from dictation, word games where I think of a word and mix up the letters and they have to unscramble it to come up with the answer (or they can try to trick me, or a partner), or the game where you have a big word and have to make as many small words as possible from it. I think it will appeal to my kids who are just starting to read "cat" as much as the higher ones.

Here is the Scrabble tile distribution. The clothespins that I got came in a box of 100 which made it easy.

A - 9
B - 2
C - 2
D - 4
E - 12
F - 2
G - 3
H - 2
I - 9
J - 1
K - 1
L - 4
M - 2
N - 6
O - 8
P - 2
Q - 1
R - 6
S - 4
T - 6
U - 4
V - 2
W - 2
X - 1
Y - 2
Z - 1
blank - 2

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gingerbread House Geometry

One of the things we need to work on is linear measurement -- I think I am going to tie this in to our Gingerbread House Workshop. I remember an article in Teaching Children Mathematics where the teacher took this approach. We could even do our graphing with the candies that children bring in: how many people brought in what type of candy. Making measurement meaningful and not just endless worksheets...

Here's the NCTM article link: Gingerbread-House Geometry by Charles E. Emenaker, Teaching Children Mathematics, December 1999, Volume 6, Issue 4, Page 208. It is six bucks to buy the article through them or get it for free from AccessMyLibrary (you need your zipcode and local library card number).

Felting Needle Mishap

So I have been spending my time needle felting a variety of fruits and vegetables to fill our woven cornucopia. It will make a lovely centerpiece at Thanksgiving and then the children can have them for the play kitchen. This is my stress relief and project for the several days we will be stuck in the house recuperating. However, a little Munchkin named Rebecca got into my stuff and snapped the end off my last needle -- disaster! We spent the entire morning driving around, first to the post office to see if my order from Mielke's Fiber Arts had arrived (it hadn't), then to the quilting store (gorgeous fabrics), the cross stitch store, and lastly to the fiber arts store. I hadn't known the fiber arts store had moved to a new location and was so thrilled to find it! Yarns galore, wooden knitting needles, looms, spinning wheels, a whole ROOM of roving and even felting needles. A wet room for wet felting and for dyeing wool... it was heaven. However, the kicker was that she hadn't yet unpacked her room of roving and she couldn't find the felting needles in all that mess. She had them and yet she didn't. So it didn't work out. But I am consoling myself with the thought that I found some great local craft stores and can support them instead of Michael's.

After lunch we will go back out to the P.O. and see if the needles came in this morning's delivery. Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am pleased to say we have had a wonderful few days. With the exception of Becca being diagnosed -- wrongly -- with scarlet fever Sunday night at Urgent Care and the ensuing worry. She and Natalie have a disease which mimics scarlet fever but is not as serious. We missed the big Thanksgiving Feast at school. But it was very sweet because I had several Tidewater families stop by -- one brought me the three centerpieces that my girls had made: hollowed out mini pumpkins filled with flowers. One family packed up a veggie tray, fresh fruit with cream cheese dip, a loaf of the lemon bread my class had made, and a batch of the pumpkin bars which Natalie's class made and saved it for us. Today the church also dropped off a box of food including a turkey, apple pie, rolls, canned vegetables, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce.

I got a nice card and gift bag from a fellow teacher congratulating me on my one year anniversary of independence. She wrote me a lovely note and gave me a box of tea, two bars of organic chocolate and some trail mix. It was so sweet!

For class yesterday my students baked in preparation for the feast. We made three recipes: a yeasted from-scratch Raisin Bread, a pumpkin bread with dried cranberries, raisins, and golden raisins, and the lemon muffins which morphed into lemon bread when I got tired of putting batter into mini muffin cups and threw some into loaf pans instead. :-) It was a great success.

Natalie and Becca are on antibiotics and Children's Benadryl for the itchy rash. They both also have fevers. Leah is fine and told me today that she was proud of herself for taking such good care of her body.

Lastly, I would like to share the wonderful blessing that one of my students shared at circle time on Friday:

I am thankful for turkeys...

and the corn that makes them fat!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

4 Teams

Well, I thought about it some more last night but was just too lazy to get to the computer. I decided on the children working in four groups -- since one painting showing everything seemed like too much detail & too much form.

Evaporation: these paintings showed a body of water, the heat source (the sun) and the steam rising into the air

Condensation: these paintings showed clouds in the sky

Precipitation: these paintings showed rain falling and some of the children chose to add rainbows

Saturation: these paintings showed large bodies of water on the ground (oceans, lakes, rivers, etc)

Today -- I am proud to say -- I got asked to stay on for the remainder of the year as the Lower Elementary teacher! This means there will be less notes about Toddler and more about reading, math, science, and social studies. Today is also my one year anniversary of leaving my marriage with an abusive partner and moving out on my own. So congratulations to me!!!

Tomorrow we are going to spend more time in Colonial Maryland with a fun script the nice people at St. Mary's City gave us as part of the follow-up activities: a "Pig Trial." In the mini play, one colonist is accusing another colonist of stealing their pig and the legal system gets involved. It will be a lot of fun to put on. Monday we are going to bake the sweet goods for Tuesday's Thanksgiving Feast (a pumpkin bread with dried fruit in it, lemon muffins with a crumble topping, and raisin bread). The raisin bread is a yeast bread so I think it will be good for the children to compare how much longer it takes than the quick breads. I carefully picked recipes that have 14 ingredients so each child can put in one. With the exception of the yeast bread which we all will help with and knead. Then I get the Thanksgiving Break to prepare my curriculum for the year! A read-aloud list, what will we do for Art History, all that good stuff.

I discovered today that we have TWO toads in our terrarium. I was so surprised last week to find one leaping frantically and hungrily against the glass. I had thought it empty! We have fish as well and I bought them some fish food a few days ago plus a really neat scrubby aquarium cleaner thing with two magnets. One magnet stays outside the tank and you pull the inside magnet along the glass as you move it. The inside magnet is covered in scrubbers so as you dance it along the aquarium walls it cleans off the algae. It is super fun and the children love it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Red, Yellow, Blue

Okay, here are my thoughts. Yes, I'm supposed to be in bed but I'm still thinking about this painting idea.

Yellow = evaporation
Red = condensation
Blue = precipitation

Technically, saturation should also be included (water that is standing on the ground) but I think we'll leave it at the 3.

So the yellow is the sky, including a darker yellow for the sun. The red is the clouds. The blue is the drops of water coming from the clouds and falling to the ground. On the ground we want land and sea and mountains (with white ice caps).


Then, when they write their report, they could use the color coding for the scientific terms as they explain the water cycle.

Water Cycle

So now I am going to be teaching the water cycle: evaporation, condensation, precipitation. We are doing 100 ounces of water in a bowl -- representing the salty water of the world. An ice cube of 4 T water frozen -- representing the fresh water in the world which is frozen. 2 T of fresh water in a glass -- representing the fresh water in the world which is in liquid form. Amazing how much of it is salty! I never realized it before this was presented to me in this way.

Anyway, I need to come up with some kind of project to show "mastery" of the water cycle. And I don't want it to be a worksheet. So I'm thinking of some kind of painting and accompanying composition.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Apple Cider Vinegar

Does anyone know a lot about vinegar? I gave the Kindergarten teacher directions for dyeing wool in the crockpot. They used fresh chopped beets in one and fresh blueberries in the other. She was out of white vinegar for the mordant so she threw in some apple cider vinegar. The colors came out much different from how they had over the summer for me, using the same dyestuffs. Did the vinegar make a difference or was it just coincidence?

Today I ordered 25 felting needles (#38) from Mielke's Fiber Arts. I am giving a dry felting workshop to the teachers -- lots of people have been asking me how to do it and they'd like to make puppets for their classroom. I am excited about this! When I plan the materials and project list I'll post it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blow Drying Wool Felt

Here I am at 11 o'clock at night, blow drying a wet piece of wool felt. :-)

I used Suzanne Down's sprinkle dyeing technique with a piece of white felt from Nova Natural and six different colors of Kool Aid and now my saturated wool needs to dry quickly so I can cut two fish finger puppet shapes from it, stitch them together, and practice my story for tomorrow AM!

Date Night went swimmingly. The puppet making was a blast and the children set up a mock stage and went at it. The difference in the stories presented by the elementary kids versus the 3 year olds was hilarious. I spent most of the night in stitches. One group of kids spent the whole night making popsicle stick "trees" complete with foliage. (The materials I brought in were brown paper bags, white socks, popsicle sticks, silks, and some felt finger puppet animals. The children augmented this with the papers, crayons, and scissors that were in the classroom and the classroom blocks.) I cancelled the play dough since we had a celiac kid who can't even touch flour.

Elementary is going well -- we did all the Colonial work on our plan and Monday is the fancy dress tea party. Out of all the work, the cup and button toy and the hammering beeswax were the most popular. Hammering nails into the stump and tea bags (crushing the herbs with a mortar and pestle, combining them, tying shut the tea bags and labeling them) were a close second. At the elementary meeting today so many children complimented me (you go around the room and compliment someone at the end of the meeting, it is a community building thing) and said they were so happy to have me in their class. It was wonderful.

Tomorrow is toddler time and then I am going to take a nap!

By the way, Leah's birthday breakfast was marvelous and that girl was positively glowing over her gifts. I only had $30 and I am so glad that she loved her angel plate. She also loved the story -- it is written by Norah Romer BTW.

Good night, everyone. Back to my blow dryer.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The more I think about it, the more I think that puppetry is the way to go tomorrow night. One, it can be easily adapted for a million age groups. Two, children nowadays seem to be really craving it. There's a concrete product (ie. a puppet) to go home to mom and dad, and, best of all the children can engage fully in imaginative play, create stories and make them as complex or as simple as they wish. So I think we will do this:

read The Little Red Hen

(I haven't done it yet, so why not!)

with making play dough

and some kids will break off here and do modeling the whole time

and the basket of silks

and some kids will break off here and do dress ups the whole time

and the felt finger puppets to show how you can tell the story with puppets

and felt and finger puppet patterns and sewing things for the older children

and paper and crayons and popsicle sticks for the younger children

and socks and buttons and notions for the middle children

and we can all make up stories all night long!

I am not sure about how the group will gel -- if they want to run around or sit and focus on a craft so this seems pretty open ended and since it was billed as "stories and activities" I think it meets the criteria of the night. The children can make it what they want it to be. Simple set up on my end, and easy to tweak if the night goes horribly wrong. Ha ha.

We'll see how it goes!

Then toddlers are making finger puppets too on Saturday so if these children are from the same family (older and younger) they can do stories together. How sweet.

Field Trip

Our Field Trip to St. Mary's City yesterday was wonderful! Today the director came into my classroom (I was at the library doing toddler storytime) and had the children each tell her something about the trip using only signs. She said it was amazing how creative they were in their body language! Then she closed her eyes and the children walked her through a visualization of the field trip, beginning to end. Then and only then did she have them do an art piece showing something they had seen on the trip. Torn and cut paper collage, watercolors, and oil pastels were the media they used. When I got back from the library there was some wonderful art awaiting me.

At storytime I did Caps for Sale (oral storytelling) with silks for the toddlers to wear while they were the monkeys, imitating my movements. Then we did free play with silks. I brought out the felt finger puppet animals and the little girl who was there -- there was only one -- absolutely LOVED finding the pocket to put her finger in! She is about 18 months so you would think she's too young for puppets but absolutely not. Then we laid all the silks over the table edge to make a fort and sat under the table and made up stories with the puppets. Sam especially loved having one animal go outside and behind the silk so you could only see its silhouette and the other animal had to find it. She was doing the "hiding" animal and she was quite good at it. In fact, after a while, she would change where the animal was hiding, switching silks, even putting the puppet behind her back for me to find it. We had a marvelous time.

I have been asked to return next week for another round of subbing downstairs so I am quite pleased. We have big plans for tomorrow -- hammering nails into a tree stump (roofing nails work best for this), breaking up a 1 lb. block of beeswax into chunks (also with a hammer -- this is for our candle dipping Monday), finishing our corn husk dolls, making a colonial cup and button toy, making tea bags with the dried herbs from our garden (Monday is a tea party), and clay work from the clay we dug on the school grounds. Next week I'd like to dip candles, do carding and spinning and felting wool, and make paper dolls in Colonial costumes.

Leah is 5 tomorrow and we have to send in "special snack". I'm completely out of money so we made granola with dried pineapple and raisins and will send that in with little paper cups. Leah helped make it so she's pleased as punch and hopefully no one will turn up their noses and say, why can't we have cake? I have a lovely handmade plate with an angel glazed on it that I bought at the gift shop, and a necklace for her. We'll do the Birthday book by Norah whoever it is and her birthday ring and crown and sing and blow out the candles and do a special birthday breakfast with waffles. It is weird to try to get in all this family time plus working 40 + hours a week. I don't know how people do it! Since I've been single the only time I worked this much was summer camp and I know you get your rhythm after a while but right now I am struggling to breathe.

Tomorrow night is Date Night. I have I think 12 children. I need to firm up those plans. Then Saturday AM is another toddler session where we will be dyeing wool felt by sprinkling Kool Aid powder on it and making little fishie finger puppets. This is a Suzanne Down idea (and she has an accompanying story called The Sea Garden) in an issue of Living Crafts magazine.

Off to write the Friday newsletter for my classroom, dig out the birthday crown and ring, and wrap Leah's gifts.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cornhusk Dolls

I've been asked to teach downstairs in an elementary classroom this week during a unit on Colonial Maryland. How exciting! Wednesday we are going on a field trip to St. Mary's City, MD's first capital. So tonight I am lesson planning and practicing my corn husk dolls, one of the projects for tomorrow.

I will add the plans to 4th grade Local History & Geography when I'm done this week. It is only a week's worth of notes but still might be helpful to someone. We are focusing on how the environment affected the settlers -- plants, animals, landforms, water features, and climate of the region. There will also be a heavy emphasis on colonial toymaking which should be very fun!

some notes on corn husks:

1) I got an 8 oz bag of flattened dried corn husks from a Mexican food store (labeled hojas para tamal enconchada with "corn husk" written below) for $2.59

2) soak in a bowl of water for 10-15 minutes prior to using

3) the size of the doll can vary, depending on how many corn husks you've got on hand. I made a small doll (about Nature table size) with only one husk, cutting it in this way:

cut the husk in half longwise (up and down). you now have two halves.

cut the first half piece into four lengths (cut up and down) and use these for the body

cut the other half piece into halves again ie. two lengths (cut up and down). you now have two quarters.

cut one of those lengths (a quarter of the corn husk) in half crosswise (side to side) and roll the wider piece (the bottom half) to make the tube for the arms. if you don't cut it in half it will be too thick to make good arms.

take the narrower pointed piece (the top half) and cut in half up and down to make two shoulder pieces

take the remaining quarter of the corn husk and use it to make the skirt

If you have a 4th grade child who is already doing fractions you can make a diagram of all these pieces (make the corn husk a rectangle instead of a triangle shape to make it easier) and calculate what fraction of the husk is used in each part of the doll

4) corn silk makes lovely hair. use a piece of husk to form a bonnet for a girl. if you're really ambitious, use corn husk pieces and a small stick to form a broom. your corn doll can be sweeping!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I just came up with a delicious smoothie combination which I want to share. Every time I crave chocolate chip cookies I am making myself a smoothie instead. Works!

Yogurt, frozen peaches, frozen mango, frozen blueberries, apple juice, ginger.

This morning I had ZERO people for storytime which is fine -- we can just do it next week. With all my children being home sick this week and last week, I wasn't able to pound the pavement and promote the program and my usual crew of Tidewater families had gone to the field trip this morning. I was able to make the tail end of the field trip and spend some time with my kids. Natalie, who is just getting over pneumonia, melted down towards the end and so we left early, came home, ate lunch, sorted and put away the clean laundry, and now it is time to rest.

This afternoon we have to get our farm share, take Leah to ballet and the other two to the park if they feel up to it.

Tomorrow evening was supposed to be the first Date Night but that date didn't "take" -- we had everyone sign up for the 14th instead so I get the night off. Saturday is mom and me toddler time, which I need to get organized for, and the rest of the weekend I can just relax! With the exception, of course, of Sunday School but that's pretty well planned.

I was thinking of doing some needle felting this weekend. I am jonesing to create.

Birth to 18 mos

Today is my first time ever leading a storytime for ages birth to 18 mos. Last night I was really nervous -- can't take in paint, they'll eat it! Ditto with crayons. Can't take in puppets, they'll eat them! Can't do anything!!! Then I realized that the point of stories for infants and toddlers is to bathe them in language. Give them safe and enjoyable things to explore in the world, stimulate them with textile experiences. Adult-wise I am there to support moms, give them some helpful information, and help them feel a sense of community.

So we are going to begin with a our morning song, Good Morning Dear Earth. Then talk about storytelling. Story (according to a book I just read and very much enjoyed: From Lullabies to Literature) is events plus emotion. A child jumping up and down in a pile of leaves singing, "I am jumping, I am jumping" is telling a story. Another good point I enjoyed from that book is that we must remember to look at the young child as "being" not just "becoming." In other words, instead of thinking, well, soon they'll be able to walk, they are almost people but not quite yet... you have to look at them as they are now and celebrate their amazing gifts.

Morning song, then the verse I just made up today in the bathroom, while I was looking out the window at the gorgeous color outside.

Autumn leaves falling down, down down.
Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!
We find them on the ground.

This can be whole body: fingers fluttering in the air and feet stomping. Then a nature walk. You can move the baby's arms as the falling leaves and gently tap their feet on the ground. You can lift the infant and bring them slowly down as if they were the leaf falling. You can have fun with it! You sing it, say it, whatever. So I want to model that spontaneity and joy with the parents. I am going to sing the Squirrel Nutkin song with my little squirrel finger puppet and a log. And then we are all going to play with a big pile of boxes.

After birth-18 mos will come my 2 and 3 year olds. For them I am going to do a reprise of The Little Red Hen with finger puppets and homemade playdough as our "bread dough". The notes for this are on the website under Infant & Toddler (bottom of the page).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama!

Sanguine: The World Outside

Today is Self Portrait Day. The children each decorated a 4x6 wooden picture frame at a craft thing they did and so I have been wondering what to put in the frames. Yesterday I hit on it -- pictures of themselves! So we will each do a self portrait and write the child's name and age at the bottom and put it in the frame. I gave Leah some chalk today to practice hers at the easel (while Becca was in screaming agonies over an earache and Leah was hopping around saying, Mom can we do something fun together?). It was so funny to watch her. First thing she put in the grass. She spent a lot of time on the grass, the sky, the clouds. Her body she spent much less time on. Then she wanted to color in the entire background around her body so that the whole thing was covered in chalk. And she was singing happily, You never know when I'm going to look like this again. Blue and green face, etc. I thought it was so hilarious that she began with the background and then put herself in. I've never seen a child do that, usually my others do themselves then proceed to decorate the scene. But Leah is picture perfect skippy dippy happy happy happy in love with life sanguine and they are concerned with the "present outside themselves." So I guess the scenery is an important part of the picture to her. Melancholics are concerned with the past, Cholerics with the future (those instruments of change), and Phlegmatic with "present inside themselves" (the pleasure loving ones).

Today we voted, Leah and I. Becca was at preschool until the school called to say please come pick her up. All of my children are afflicted with something right now. I haven't left the house by myself in almost a week! Yesterday I roasted a turkey. All the laundry is done. All the dishes are done. Lots of housework is getting done, being at home all the time. In a way it is kindof nice, except for the fact that is my absolute favorite time of year and the leaves are peaking here in MD and I would love to take a hike!!!!

Leah's birthday is in 10 days. She will be 5. I don't know yet whether her father has her for her birthday weekend or whether I do (lawyers are so much fun) but regardless of whether she gets a big party we'll have some kind of family celebration so I need to get myself organized & plan that.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pooch Smoothies

Just HAVE to share this recipe from Rachael Ray's magazine. She has a pet friendly recipe in the back of each issue. Natalie laid them all out on the table and picked one -- thank heavens it was not only the only recipe that I had all the ingredients for but it was also the fastest to make. She specializes in recipes that the humans can eat too so we whipped up a double batch for everyone to enjoy.

Pet Day featured:

new bedding for the Guinea Pig (I LOVE Planetwise Cozy 'n Fresh Natural Pine Bedding -- compostable/biodegradable/ flushable, stays dry no matter what, smells great no matter what and I only have to change it every few weeks -- $13.99 for a 20 lb bag lasts me 2 months)

fresh food and water for the GP

a new chew toy for same

fresh food and water for the parakeet

a string of Cheerios (lovingly strung by Rebecca) for her cage

a bath for Toby

heartworm medicine and Frontline for Toby

and Toby smoothies!!!!

Power Pooch Smoothies

8 oz plain yogurt

1 cup blackberries or raspberries or 5 large, hulled strawberries

1 mango, sliced

1 very ripe banana

1 tablespoon honey

1 cup ice water*

Process all the ingredients in a blender at high speed until smooth. Pour pooch smoothies into small bowls and freeze. Remove from the freezer, set on the floor, and let your pooch lick the treat.

* We used regular water since our raspberries, mango and banana were all frozen.

Date Night

I forgot to mention that the school moved my Natural Gift Making Workshop to Friday evenings to masquerade as a kind of Date Night for parents. The idea is that parents will pay for a sitter to have their Friday evenings free, the school makes enough money to pay me by the hour with plenty left over, and I get to plan fun stories and activities for the kids while they are with me. We are trying this for the first time this Friday evening from 6 - 9 pm. That means that I have to prep some kind of theme. I'm not quite ready for my ideas for December so I think I'll do painting with them. How about

1) sewing beanbags

2) making playdough

3) watercolor painting

I'd like to do Nurse Lugton's Curtain by Virginia Woolf as the story, then we can choose fabric for our beanbags, mix up some batches of playdough and make animals with them, and do lovely paintings. We can do a piece of seasonal poetry and a color story. I am not sure how old the children I get will be so I am not going to try for any kind of form.

Autumn Leaves
by Marilyn Helmer

Wind blows
and fills the skies
with gold and yellow

which flit to earth
with skips and hops
to dance and twirl
like spinning tops.

The last one dips
in a puddle to float
like a single scarlet
sailing boat.

Autumn Leaves
by Eve Merriam

Autumn leaves tumble down,
Autumn leaves crumble down,
Autumn leaves bumble down,
Flaking and shaking,
Tumbledown leaves.

Rustle by
Hustle by
Crackle and crunch
In a snappety bunch.

Run and catch
Run and catch
Butterfly leaves
Sailboat leaves
Windstorm leaves.
Can you catch them?

Pile them up
In a stompy pile and

In Autumn
by Fannie Montgomery

They're coming down in showers,
The leaves all gold and red;
They're covering the little flowers,
And tucking them in bed.
They've spread a fairy carpet
All up and down the street;
And when we skip along to school,
They rustle 'neath our feet.

Pet Day

Today my children all have to stay home for about the millionth day in a row (Natalie has pneumonia, Leah has pink eye, Becca is just a victim of circumstance) and we have to miss a birthday party so I thought I'd make up a festival for us to celebrate. We skipped H-day (although we carved pumpkins) so today is Pet Day. After rest time today we are going to think of something special to do to celebrate each of our pets. This began because I need to clean the guinea pig's cage and the birdcage, and the dog needs his heartworm medicine and Frontline, so I was making a to-do list and then I thought: how about a Pet Day! So when I get the kids up for snack we can brainstorm a list of special things to do for them and the practical stuff can get done as well. Special treats, a bath for the dog, who knows what we can come up with! I think it will be a lot of fun.

For Erik's birthday we made him a book called "Going to the Zoo." I put in a bunch of photographs from our last trip to the zoo and Natalie used alphabet stickers to write the names of each animal below. This was a good chance for her to practice her spelling. Then the children all signed the last page and we put 2008 on the back. It came out super-cute and didn't cost me a thing since I had all the scrapbooking supplies on hand.

This week... let's see. Monday - nothing. Tuesday - I have to vote. Wednesday - nothing. Thursday is storytime and I'll do a repeat of "The Little Red Hen" since nobody came to that one last time and I still have the finger puppets. Need to make up some bread dough for us to knead, though, and maybe a selection of different kinds of flours for the children to smell. I have bleached white flour, whole wheat flour, oat flour, buckwheat flour, and soy flour. I guess I could also take in cornmeal. Friday - nothing. Saturday is the second week of the mommy and me toddler program and so I have to prep that. Looks like I'll be getting a lot of housework done! I have decided to unpack the house since MD law is that you can't get evicted during the Winter and spend my time actually organizing instead of hunting through boxes to find things. If the house is organized it will be easier to pack anyway. And the children were running out of toys, I couldn't find any of my teaching books, the craft supplies were all put away and it's time to make Christmas presents -- in short, the system was broken. I like the culling before you pack the boxes, culling after you unpack the boxes process too. You throw away twice as much stuff. By throw away, of course, I mean give to the thrift store or give away on Freecyle. I have a strict rule to take nothing from freecycle but houseplants but go on every day to see what people want that I can give away. Got rid of the baby's exersaucer recently -- whew!

Yesterday I fixed my dishwasher so I will briefly share. It wasn't broken, per se, just disgusting. The dishes always came out dirtier than they went in, with bits of food caked on them all over. So I got fed up and ran the stupid thing with nothing in it except a bunch of apple cider vinegar in the dishsoap dispenser and now it cleans like dream. Hurrah!

Mirrored Forms

Today's Sunday School class was awesome. We did the story about Moses' soul going up to heaven and then the watercolor painting. I had practiced it before -- it's beautiful. If I can figure out how to take a picture of it I will. The whole page is yellow with a sun (darker circle) in the middle. The bottom third is blue. Then you turn the handle of the brush to make a flying V (the classic seagull flying away shape) in the sun and the mirror in the blue ground below. As it dries the flying bird and its shadow get darker so don't worry if you can't see them at first. The children had never done mirrored forms before so the sand trays (I actually used a dark red salt) were a big hit, and also a good chance for them to practice the concept. The paintings were also a big hit. And they are gorgeous!

Next week I am researching now. It will be our day to paste the paintings (I did half size watercolor paper) in the main lesson books and do the composition piece. I will be shaping the head of baby Moses, having cut out the pieces two weeks ago. Each week I am hands on during the storytelling and art/drama piece and then I take a week off from having anything to do while they compose (with the exception of checking spelling and so on) so I work on the doll. The lectionary for next week is Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 and Psalm 78:1-7. This week was supposed to be Joshua leading the people across the river Jordan into the Promised Land and how the waters of the river rolled back and they crossed on dry land. Next week he sits the people down and asks them to commit to serving God. I think that we won't do a page for this, so I will just have the children do their retelling, write their compositions for the Death of Moses, at the end of the morning I'll tell the story of Joshua and the tribes of Israel at Shechem, and that will be our day.

Biblical Art for the Covenant at Shechem

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Caramel Sauce

Making caramel sauce from scratch for the first time today. I found a pumpkin pie recipe that calls for drizzling it with caramel and chopped pecans which sounded so delicious I just had to try it!

No storytime this week. We are doing a Saturday AM mommy and me toddler thing. We will be washing vegetables, mixing paint, and playing with shaving cream. I need to practice a song for washing the vegetables. I'm in love with The Singing Day right now -- thank heavens she includes all 100+ songs on the CD!

Promise I will include more plans as they come. I interviewed today for a part-time librarian position. Wish me luck. :-) It would be nice to have some steady income in the midst of all these projects. Bet my creditors would like it too. I will be doing The Little Red Hen, Caps for Sale, and The Sea Garden (from Living Crafts magazine) for November toddler storytime sessions.

For Sunday School we will be painting Moses's soul going up to Heaven. I want to do an all yellow painting with a blue ground and then turn the paintbrush handle upside down and do a mirrored Form Drawing so that the top part is his soul and the bottom mirror is the shadow as it flies up. I'm still figuring this out in my head and I'll let you know how it turns out once I practice. This goes with the book The Shadow of a Flying Bird: A Legend from the Kurdistan Jews by Mordicai Gerstein, which we did as our Story.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"God is Dead"

Rebecca, who is brushing her teeth, just announced that God is Dead.

(How would she know?)

Anyway, I asked her and she told me that God is in Heaven therefore God must be dead.

Well, you know, I can see the logic path there. :-)

From Green Beans to Lettuce

Well, I have an amazing thing to share. My children eat salad! During the summer, as we went each week to the farm to pick up our vegetables, every week they chowed down on warm ripe tomatoes. When the tomatoes were no longer a part of our share they ate raw green beans as snack. Last night I served raw green beans as the vegetable which they ate perfectly happily. Today I thought I'd try salad (ha) just for fun and, to my surprise, Natalie sat down, took a piece of lettuce in her hand, said "Yum" and began to eat it. Then she asked, what is this? So I told her it was lettuce and she and all the children ate it just fine. They never would eat salad before. But tonight it was a hit; in fact, they liked it more than the meatballs, tomato sauce, and rice! So I am amazed and thrilled and thought I would pass it on.

Today we finished our illustrations of the Golden Calf and our composition pieces for our MLB. I also just cut the pattern pieces for the Baby Moses doll and am excited to begin that project. Next week we are doing the death of Moses, mirrored forms in FD and I'm going to introduce sand trays for Form Drawing practice.

In Life in Other Aspects, not much is going on. I am not teaching any storytimes or art classes or subbing this week so I guess it will be a week of moving furniture, doing housework, and generally having a jolly old time.

Someday soon I should start making Christmas presents. Wasn't this the year I was going to do them all in August?

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Natalie asked me today, Mom, what am I going to be for Halloween?


So I told her, We don't celebrate Halloween. And the howls of protest rose up from the back seat. My kids never knew about trick or treating before they went to school. But I simply told them, we don't celebrate Halloween. We also don't celebrate Hanukkah or Diwali. Then we listed the holidays that we do celebrate and the conversation moved on. I wonder what will happen when they get older. Natalie thought about it for a while and then brought up that I don't like Halloween because all you do is get candy and that's junky food. Later that evening she mentioned that you had to be a Disney character (another reason why she figured I would be against it) -- so I guess she is analyzing the holiday to understand my position but isn't trying to fight me on it. Perhaps she agrees with me that this is one to skip?

Herbal Sachets

I have the girls with me this weekend, so Natalie and I have a sewing project to do while Leah and Becca have their rest time today. We are making herbal sachets for our drawers of bed linens. Inspired by these at Isabella, I am filling them with silk noil, cinnamon, cloves, lemon and rosemary. Mmmmm.

Speaking of delicious scents, the toddler storytime on Thursday focused on smells. The smell of strawberries was the highlight of the story; I also took along the Montessori smelling vials and some fresh herbs from our garden. Mint, rosemary, basil, pineapple sage, and chives. The children got to wash and hull their strawberries, then taste them. It was fun to try the different herbs in combination with the berries. We are changing the storytime venue to a different library which I think will give us a higher attendance. Also, I will do it every Thursday instead of just once in a while. Continuity also helps get a new program off the ground. This means, for all you parents of infants and toddlers, that there will be a lot of new information as I plan these stories! I am going to offer two sessions: one for birth-2 and one for 2-3 year olds.

Today is rainy so we will have rest, baths, do farm pickup, and watercolor painting this afternoon. This morning we made scones which were very tasty. Tomorrow is church and a visit to the park.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Root Veg


Circle Time

“Good Morning Dear Earth” song

“The Tale of the Turnip”


Root Vegetables poster

Variety of vegetables (from different parts of the plant)
Seed Leaf Flower Fruit by Maryjo Koch

Picture Book

From Autumn Tales by Suzanne Down:
“Harvest Moon Magic” story

Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter

(P's Harvest M. is on the list again because I ended up doing Red Berry Wool on Friday for the Picture Book since the class has washed the wool from when the school sheared Kylie and Jasper and it is drying.

Next I will come into the class to demonstrated carding and spinning, knitting, crochet, felting, etc.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Autumn Story

The Autumn Story from the Wynstones Autumn book was awesome -- it held my kids completely spellbound. I used the finger puppet animals from Suzanne Down's Around the World with Finger Puppet Animals: hedgehog and squirrel. I laid out the scene on the floor with a pile of autumn leaves in front of me, a thick branch from a tree propped up against the chair beside me, and a pile of acorns in front of that. I had the assistant teacher read the story because I didn't have time to memorize it. She read it and I acted it out. The students were so quiet, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop. Hedgie Hedgehog snuffling along the ground looking for worms and bugs to eat to get his tummy full before the winter, then finding a pile of leaves to curl up in. I tucked him under the leaves and then got the squirrel puppet which was hidden by my leg. The squirrel scampered up and down the log, gathering nuts from the ground and hiding them in the nooks and crannies of his "tree". Mother Earth sang him a song (which, luckily, I knew the tune to because it was one of the songs we sang last year at Rahima's conference) and so the story reader paused while I sang. Then the squirrel darted behind the tree and hid. It was lovely. I shared the materials with the preK teacher so she can do it with her class -- so nice to have a community of educators! That's one downside to homeschooling, you just don't have as many peers to share ideas with. Luckily, that's a service the Internet can provide.

I've been asked back for next Wednesday so when I make my plans I'll share them. The Fall art classes didn't get any enrollment -- I designed them late and there wasn't enough ability to advertise. However, if I get in the regular Parks and Rec bulletin I think I'll have some takers. I'm going to submit them again for the Winter semester (January - April) and we'll see. My prices are low and there's no one else offering that sort of thing. I hadn't considered P&R before since I thought I'd be homeschooling...

Plans change. Opportunities change. And I'm actually quite happy right now with my life.


Sub Plans for Tomorrow:

Circle Time

“Good Morning Dear Earth” song

From Autumn by Wynstones Press
“Autumn Story” p. 66



"Squirrel Nutkin" song

From Autumn Tales by Suzanne Down:
“Autumn Bear” story


Picture Book

Possum’s Harvest Moon by Anne Hunter

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


By the way, it can be quite funny to see how changing the shape just a little gives you a completely different animal. I had a sheep, a fox, a lion, a horse, and -- right at the end there -- the Golden Hippopotamus.


If you don't have a drawing book, I recommend Eric Carle's Animals Animals. You can find it at most libraries, it gives you a good basic idea of the shapes, and there is a handy index in the back where you can search by animal. To see the list of animals, visit Amazon and click Look Inside.

If I Can't Do It...

This is always a valuable lesson for teachers.

Never ask your students to do what you can't yourself do.

In other words, try each assignment out before you assign it. How long does it take you? What aspects of it are harder than you thought they would be? I discovered this when I was making my Golden Calf out of beeswax. It took me forever! And if I hadn't been an adult I would have given up on it without thinking twice. Now I know that it takes more time and more patience than I can reasonably expect from my class. Today I am sketching a cow. Easy? Not so much, no. First I tried watercolor pencils on wet paper but I forgot (somehow) and began to outline. My kidney was way too long and there was no way it could become a cow. So I kept it as an example for my students of how outlining you boxes you into failure and growing shapes organically from the center outward gives you much more flexibility to adapt to problems as they arise. Second try: watercolor pencils on dry paper. I put on the legs too soon and when I went back to make my animal thicker (it looked quite like a sheep, nothing at all like a cow) I needed then to make it longer to keep the proportions because I made it too thick... and I couldn't make it longer because the legs were already in place. Scratch try #2. Now I am going to attempt it with the block beeswax crayons because I think the pencils are making me focus too much on detail. The last illus. I did of Moses striking the rock with his staff was in pastel chalks and it was lovely. This one is giving me FITS!

A calf to look at helps, too. I am looking at an adult cow and I think that is going to be a problem. Calf pictures:

Sweet Potato Dip

Sweet Potato Dip

1 1/2 lb. sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled and mashed
1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 T extra virgin olive oil

Today after rest time we are going to the cypress swamp. At Rahima's conference last year I bought my little wooden bear and he was displayed on the table next to the "knee" from a bald cypress tree, as his cave. It was lovely and I'd like to see if I can do that for my nature table.

This Friday in Kindergarten I am going to be sharing Autumn Bear and Harvest Moon stories.

While the kids are resting my job this afternoon is to sketch The Golden Calf for my S.S. kids. I am using watercolor pencils and then I will paint the background. I've not done much with paint and pencils combined so I am looking forward to it. There is a cow illustration in Live Ed's book Drawing Simple Animal Forms which I am using to help me. He suggests that if the legs are tricky for your child, just make the animal stand in high grass. Works for me! The cow body shape is a squared off kidney. He is drawn in red with green grass and a blue sky, eating yellow hay.

Turtles Crossing the Road

Am I the only one who is still seeing box turtles crossing the road? It seems that every few days we have to pull the car over and help a little friend.

I forgot in my list of prospective jobs that the school is thinking of offering Mom and Dad's Night Out for Friday evenings. I would stay at the school and be the supervisory teacher and offer crafts and other activities and the parents could go out to dinner or whatever. It would be a fundraiser for the school and work for me. The director is very excited about the possibility and I hope it pans out. My watercolor painting class was canceled -- Saturday mornings doesn't seem to be a good timeslot for people.

Oh, I just realized that if I got the library job we'd have to cancel the Natural Gift Making workshops for Saturdays in December, or move them to the Friday PM, or have another person teach them. It would be sooo much fun to have so much work that I can't possibly schedule it all in! Life was like that during the summer and now it has been so tame lately with the kids in school.

I can also work on the website, so the time is not lost, but a paycheck would be nice. :-)

I have been thinking that I personally focus so much on toddler to grade 3 that I should push myself to write more for grades 4-8. The site is slim and the entire internet seems to be slim on Waldorf for upper el. Anyone out there who is teaching these grades and wants to write articles for the website, please contact me. I'd love to hire you!


Good news. I seem to be finding work. First, there is the Monday and Friday art classes for kids at the community center. Those begin October 20 and if there is sufficient enrollment (2 kids or more) I'll be doing them. I will post the plans if that happens! First Art for toddlers and Storybook Art for the preschool crowd. Parks and Rec is not allowed to offer classes for homeschoolers during the time that the public schools are in session so my plans for Global Art, Math Art, and Science Art (MaryAnn Kohl's fantastic books) were squashed.

Tidewater is going to move ahead with a Toddler Time (storytelling and hands on activities) on Wednesday mornings. We have no space to meet except the library which means they must be free and open to the public ie. I don't get paid but I don't mind volunteering at something which 1) I love and 2) may turn into a job later on.

The library is hiring for a part time staff person which would be 1 to 9 pm on Monday and Wednesday plus 9 to 5 on Saturday and I am hoping to get that job! That would be my only steady income. It comes with benefits and $19 an hour so I am excited!

Anyway, I was just about to apply for food stamps again this morning when I heard about this job and so I am going to wait and see if I get it. It will be nice to be able to support myself without government help. Education is such a good field to find work, since teachers are dropping like flies, but since the kind of work I want to do is so specialized (storytelling, art, etc) I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find a niche without having to sell my soul.

Toddler Time Plans for upcoming sessions:

Caps for Sale & free play with silks -- we can act out the story with each child putting a silk on his or her head and pretending to be the monkey

Autumn Bear (story from Suzanne Down's Autumn Tales with my wooden bear) and crayon leaf resists
I have seen this done very successfully and never knew the trick to it until now. CONTACT PAPER! You lay the autumn leaves down on a board and put contact paper on them. The kids take the block crayons and paper and can color to their heart's content without the leaves tearing.

The Sea Garden (story from Living Crafts magazine with felt finger puppets) and the craft project Suzanne Down suggests to accompany -- sprinkling Kool Aid powder on wet wool felt to dye it and then cutting out a fish shape to make the finger puppet

Owl Babies & chalk on dark paper

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cooking, Cooking...

Today the Breakfast Club met at my house. This is an assortment of moms who don't work and want some social time in the mornings. I offered to host this week -- the first time I have had people over since the separation. I thought it would be good for me. Of course, I didn't go to bed until 1:15 am last night -- I was cleaning and cooking up a storm. I served milk, an assortment of juices, water and tea, fresh fruit (apples, pears, bananas), cottage cheese, yogurt, oatmeal (which I did overnight in the crockpot), brown sugar, white sugar, maple syrup, cream, a Creamy Cranberry Coffee Cake, and bran muffins with butter and chai apple preserves. Delish! Tonight I am cooking hard boiled eggs for the preK and K classes and making a Sweet Potato Dip which I will send in with crackers and vegetables (bell pepper, broccoli, green beans, carrot sticks). I am responsible for providing the snack today and tomorrow. Today I sent in Cheerios, Corn Flakes, milk, purple grape juice, and bananas.

But, the good news is, that my house is clean (although the dryer broke again so it is back to hanging laundry) and so after I

1) hard boil the eggs,
2) make the dip, and
3) cut up the vegetables,

I can GO TO BED!

Chocolate Cake in a Hurry

Today I had to magic up a birthday cake on 2 hours notice. The solution? Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with powdered sugar on top. The girls cut out stencils of the number 33 out of stiff card, which they then laid on the cake and we put some powdered sugar in a tea ball and shook it all over. When we lifted up the numbers they were so excited to see the design on the cake! I did this about 20 min. after it came out of the oven, so it is faster than waiting for the cake to cool and then frosting it.

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

350 degrees F
9 x 3 pan

In a saucepan, bring 1 cup butter, 1 cup water, and 2 T cocoa powder to a boil. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl combine 2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon EACH of baking powder and baking soda, 2 T buttermilk powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Add cocoa mixture; mix well. Add 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 2 eggs. Beat until well mixed. Batter will be quite thin. Pour into greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick tests clean.

In other news, Rebecca got the name "Sweet Strawberry" and Leah got the name "Running Deer" in school today. The preK studies Native Americans while the K studies Colonial times and then they get together for a big Thanksgiving feast.

My Sunday School class was a disaster because the children dropped their trays of paint and now we have blue splotches in the carpet. Lesson-wise it was good, though. I shared a chapter of Little House in the Big Woods about how Keep the Sabbath Holy used to be honored -- very different from modern times! And then we looked up the legend of how Ra turned Nut into a golden cow. I wanted the children to know that the Israelites weren't just making a golden calf for no good reason, that this was a remnant of the religion from the land where they were captive for all those generations. I also make a calf out of modeling beeswax and next week we will sketch and write our composition pieces in the MLBs. No way to have the children model a cow -- it took me an hour to make mine.

Friday, October 10, 2008


By the way, we DID get a guinea pig! One of the teachers was giving hers away. A free pet which then cost $51 in food and bedding. The pig (named Piggie) is very depressed to be with us instead of his old family and it breaks my heart. Leah loves the thing and spends time with it constantly and I think Piggie just wants some peace and quiet. They can be quite shy animals. It used to squeal with enjoyment but now it just sits and eats its litter. I am very sad about it. This weekend my goal is to make that animal happy!

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sub Plans

Here are my notes for the kindergarten class today:

Circle Time

“Good Morning Dear Earth” song

From Autumn Tales by Suzanne Down:
“In my garden grows a pumpkin” puppetry



“Swinging little chestnut cradles” fingerplay


Demonstrate conker skittles

Morning Work

From Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button? by Hajo Bucken:
Button Stacking

Picture Book

The Apple Cake by Nienke van Hichtum

Afternoon Work

Finger Knitting

We also took a Nature walk to look for signs of Autumn both on the trail through the woods and in our vegetable garden. Finally... carrots!

I took the children to the park after school was out so I could spend some time with them before Steve had them for the weekend. There's no school on Monday, however, so we can have a big day of Family Time. I'm really looking forward to it.

Felting the spider was fun and I want to share how I did it -- so easy. Take a longish piece of roving and tie it into a knot right in the middle. Make the knot quite tight. Then separate the roving ends in half and then each half in half again, making four ends on either side of the knot. Twist the ends tightly with your fingers and they will firm up. Voila. A spider with eight legs. I used a very dark grey. The puppetry went well and the children LOVED the fingerplay I came up with for the chestnuts. They were fascinated by the chestnut burrs and the part at the end of the rhyme where you cover the chestnut with your hands so that it is resting in the earth until Spring tied in well with our talk of different kinds of seeds, how plants get ready for the winter, and led into our Nature walk.

All in all, quite a good day.

2 Recipes

Here are two recipes I want to share. One is for the dessert we made last night. The FP gives me a can of pineapple chunks each week and I have been searching for recipes to present pineapple in new and different ways. Here is one from Everyday Food:

Pineapple Pops

14.5 oz can pineapple chunks packed in juice, drained
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
small paper cups
popsicle sticks

In a blender, combine pineapple chunks, milk, and sugar. Pulse until almost smooth with some chunks of pineapple remaining. Pour 1/2 the mixture into a quart Pyrex measuring cup or a mixing bowl with a lip (for easy pouring). Pulse remaining mixture until completely smooth, add to mixture in Pyrex. Divide evenly among six small paper cups. Mixture will expand slightly as it freezes. Insert wooden sticks. Freeze until solid, at least 4 hours, or up to 2 weeks (cover with plastic wrap).

Tonight I made a white bean soup with chunks of chicken and tomatoes. Tomorrow we will have it for dinner with bread. Thursday is usually bread baking day in Waldorf kindergartens. Here is a "Very Easy Bread Recipe" from the The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book:

Very Easy Bread Recipe
Serve warm with butter

2 cups very warm water
Large spoonful of honey
1 T. yeast
Flour (a mix of white and whole wheat)
1 t. salt

1. Put warm water into a large mixing bowl and stir in honey.
2. Sprinkle the yeast over top of the water. Let it foam up.
3. Start adding flour and sprinkle in the salt. Children love to make it “snow” into the bowl.
4. When the dough is stiff and no longer sticky, cover it with a “blanket” and let it rest for a little while (about 15 minutes).
5. Knead the dough and form dough into rolls.
6. Place rolls on an oiled baking sheet.
7. If you have time, you can let them rise a little longer on the pan, covered.
8. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until light brown.

from The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book
page 17


I just found one of my cryptic little notes for the blog. ;-)


I was complaining the other day about my safe sides can opener which I HATE. You can't drain a can of tuna fish because the lid comes off just as wide as the can itself and doesn't fit in it to drain. Also, most of the cans we get from the food pantry are dented and it is hard to pull off the top. I find that it hurts my fingers terribly to pull and pull and try to hook my fingers under the little seam so I can get some leverage to tug...


I didn't want a can opener made in China and I didn't want one that was a plastic piece of junk so I went on to eBay to see if they had vintage ones with wooden handles and they do!

In fact, there were 972 can openers on eBay the other day.

So if you are looking for something and "made in China" is not the way you want to go, I suggest shopping used. It works nearly every time.


I was thinking as I walked away from the keyboard about making the chestnut poem into a finger play and I wanted to share my vision for circle time.

First the teacher recites the poem and demonstrates the movements.

Then each child is given a chestnut (we have horse chestnuts here so that is easy and costs nothing -- take in a horse chestnut to show what they look like in their prickly coverings). Hold the chestnut in your closed right hand and swing it back and forth for lines 1 - 4, then hold the hand still. The left hand is Jack Frost and swoops down to nip at the right, the right hand falls to the floor. The right hand bursts open and the chestnut pops out. Then both hands cup gently over the nut on the floor to represent the sleeping earth.

Lots of Little Autumn Notes

I had a friend write to see if I was OK because I hadn't been blogging lately and she was worried. Sorry! All is well. In fact, I have a box in my bedroom for notes for my blog and my website because they seem to be all piling up. I will try to work my way through for a bit.

Today I prepared a gluten-free sugar-free meal. Brown Rice Pasta with orange and tomato, roasted sweet potato wedges, green beans, and Pineapple Pops. The kids were very excited to help make the Pineapple Pops this morning! Yesterday after school we did a playdate at Clagett Farm, our CSA, and brought some friends along to help pick up our share (and gave them a share too since I was supposed to get a double share). We walked in the herb garden, picked little orange cherry tomatoes, and found the chicken tractor to say hello to the hens. Monday the girls and I took Toby for a walk at Jefferson Patterson Park and we found a bird nest that had fallen out of a tree so Natalie took it in for Show and Tell.

Friday I am subbing in the Kindergarten class so I am preparing what to do. I am relying heavily on Suzanne Down's book of Autumn Tales. For circle time puppetry I want to do "In my garden grows a pumpkin" on page 2. It is a tale about a mouse and a spider who share a cozy warm pumpkin house for the winter. I have a needle felted hollow pumpkin that I made for storytelling but can't find it!!!! So I will be searching in my office tonight. I also want to either tell her Harvest Moon Magic story and read Possum's Harvest Moon later in the day OR tell her Star Kisses story and read The Apple Cake later in the day. I also am torn between introducing Button Stacking from Button Button Whos Got the Button: 101 Button Games OR Conker Skittles from All Year Round.

I get to be there next Friday as well, luckily!

She also wants me to introduce finger knitting. I was thinking about doing that with Red Berry Wool.

Suzanne Down has a nice poem that would go with the chestnuts -- I will put it here since it is hard to find poems for this Autumn subject.

Swinging little chestnut cradles
In the branches high.
Rocking all the baby chestnuts,
As the wind flies by.
Still in the night, stars twinkle bright.
Jack Frost nimbly runs, over fields of white.
He nips at the cradles with fingers of ice,
Down fall the cradles, that's not nice!
Down fall the cradles and split open, POP,
And brown baby chestnuts, out of them hop.
In the warm earth they make a safe nest,
Sleep baby chestnuts, do rest and rest.
Sleep till the spring sun climbs in the sky
And Mother Earth wakens you by and by.

As you can see I'm full of ideas and it is hard to pin them down! I'll be teaching lessons in the classroom when they do their Colonial work (felting, dipping candles, etc) as I did last year. I like the idea of teaching finger knitting first and then looking at the process of making yarn: have us wash, card, and spin yarn with a drop spindle.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lovejoys Everywhere

How funny! Sharon Lovejoy wrote to me to say it must be a different person since her son is happily married. :-) How nice of her to write.

I remember when Reg Down wrote to me to say thank you for saying such nice things about his Tiptoes Lightly books. It is nice when people you admire contact you across the internet. It makes the world seem like such a small and cozy and friendly place.

Thanks Sharon!

Caps for Sale

Tonight Rebecca requested Caps for Sale for her bedtime story and I realized it would be a perfect story for Toddler Time at the Library! I can be the peddlar and when I fall asleep under the tree, the children can all be the monkey and can put silk scarves on their heads. Then we can act out them imitating me and, finally, throwing all their silks down for me to collect!

Now that I'm thinking 2-3 year olds, I'm finding ideas everywhere: The Breathing Circle by Nell Smyth, Suzanne Down's newsletters, even Living Crafts magazine has a good toddler story (the one Suzanne Down contributed with the little felted fish and the large shell). This week we are doing G and the 3 B with texture explorations and I am also beginning my watercolor painting class on Sat. I am supplying the Stockmar paints (the six colors from Nova Natural), painting jars, the 1/2 inch brushes, the sponges, and the bin for soaking the paper. I purchased (spent $72) five tablets of watercolor paper, two big and three small, three different types of sea sponges for texture work, and five tubes of paint. At Nicole's conference I was talking to a woman who said that she gave her students red, yellow, blue, and one other tube of color each session and they had to mix the entire rainbow of colors before they began to paint. The example she gave was burnt sienna. I thought that sounded like fun so we might try that on the second class. We are doing 3 two hour sessions. I am thinking basically to do how to properly care for your materials, soaking paper, color stories, painting the rainbow and color mixing. Then to go outside and paint something from nature. The second class to work more on color mixing and form, adding texture with sponges and watercolor pencils. The third class to add in watercolor resists with beeswax crayons and to do something with salt. I have How to Do Wet on Wet Watercolor Painting (Rauld Russell's book), Painting in Waldorf Education (which gives lots of good exercises) and Watercolor Pencil Magic by Cathy Johnson, so I will begin to work on reading those and get more of a plan formulated. I don't know yet how many students I will have.

Anyway, these are the five colors I picked (Grumbacher)

Burnt Sienna

Chromium Oxide Green

Thio Violet

Cadmium Orange

Charcoal Gray

Friday, September 26, 2008


Anyone going to Rahima's conference in Colorado next month?

I wish I could go but I'm still trying to see if it would work out. Last year she gave Steve a free tuition in exchange for making some conference recordings and I finally got those CDs from him! I am super excited to listen to them and quilt. Ah, what a dull life. But a happy one.

By the way, I don't think I ever posted my six degrees of separation story for Sharon Lovejoy. She's one of the keynote speakers. Her book Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children is totally awesome! Actually, if you have her older one Sunflower Houses : Inspiration from the Garden - A Book for Children and Their Grown-Ups, there is a really cool recipe for a clock garden with different flowers blooming throughout the day and you plant them in a circle to make a clock face. Anywho, here is my connection with her

1) I went to a conference at Barbara Dewey's house over the summer
2) BD's granddaughter was the chef
3) the granddaughter's boyfriend was also there, and (ta da!)
4) his sister's...
5) boyfriend's...
6) mother is Sharon Lovejoy

How funny is that.

The Economy

Well, it looks like my grandparents were right. We all should have been living all this time with the lessons of the Great Depression. I am lucky because I am so poor that all I have is $113.00 in the bank. I am grateful that I am not watching my investments go down the drain. Stocking up on food and water and medicine. What else can you do? Oh, and make sure you have a back up source of heat in case the whole entire world goes back to the Dark Ages. :-)

My neighbors have horses so I can take a child to the hospital if I need to. Of course, the hospitals will probably be out of power and out of medicine. Thus comes the great Pandemic Flu...

Doomsday Prophesies always seem rather silly. Makes you think, though, about what would happen if all the civilization we take for granted crumbles.

I hope that people stay safe and healthy, whatever happens.

It seems silly to be talking recipes when the world is coming to an end, but I will still share. The food pantry gives us a choice of Corn Flakes or Oatmeal each week and since my kids won't eat the Corn Flakes, I always get the other. You can use them in the regular way as a hot cereal, make oatmeal raisin cookies, oatmeal bread, granola, granola bars, even oatmeal baths. So today I went hunting for a fresh source of Granola Recipes and here is the one I am going to try today: Cinnamon Stovetop Granola. I am intrigued by the stovetop preparation method.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I have been doing so much work on the website lately! Today I wrote up and posted my Form Drawing notes and also added some French preschool verses (morning verse, evening verse, mealtime blessing). The FD notes are subscription but the French stuff is in the free section. I also updated the Old Testament Stories page with some of the projects we've done in Sunday School. Hopefully people find it inspiration and not "she's so full of herself." :-)

Today's recipe recommendation: Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts.

Last year Natalie brought home all this artwork from school and I never could figure out what to do with it. This year I realized, why not just tape it to the walls? My ex wouldn't let me put tape on the walls because I guess it takes off the paint or something but I hate endless drywall painted white (grew up in a knotty pine cabin) and so I have vowed to hang up all the art I want to. I think it will make the house look very cheerful!

This weekend Steve has the kids. I am going to the funeral on Saturday and teaching S.S. on Sunday (this week is the Exodus story of Water from the Rock) but other than that I think I'll just be doing laundry and dishes, cooking and packing, spending time with friends, and hand quilting this whale project. It will be drizzly and overcast all weekend so it's a nice time to settle in and be cozy.

The church was dividing their iris beds so I have a grocery bag full of iris (I think it's corms) which I should get into the ground at some point... I think I'll plant them at the house we're going into not the house we're at now. I poured bulbs into the ground last year and it will make me sad to leave them all behind. It will brighten the Spring for the next family, though! And with the mortgage crisis, who knows how long it will be before the house gets sold and we're evicted. I'm hoping that we don't have to move around Christmas time. I think that would be really hard for the kids.

Last night was the first time I thought, hmmm. I think I'll have to turn on the heat soon. It's getting colder here!

I hope to get my Goldilocks and the Three Bears notes up soon. I have several ideas. After the storytelling we are going to do Texture explorations so I need to brainstorm that. Plus, I have some CDs to recommend (G and the 3 B in French, and in Spanish, and a fun musical version that Gary Rosen did).


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Musings

I'm using the rest of the tin of evaporated milk from the fudge in a lovely Roasted Eggplant Soup. We got a long baguette from the food pantry so those will go well together. The children demanded to have the "real" macaroni and cheese today so we are having that for dinner. :-)

This weekend is the county fair. I have decided to take the children on Friday even though it is supposed to rain cats and dogs. It is the day when children are free and Tidewater gets out at noon so that the children can go. There is no school at all for the public school kids. So it is packed with families and a really fun day.

Working on a lot of sewing lately. Hmmm. Christmas is fast approaching. The chair covers, then the baby Moses doll. I'm also taking our hand felted Jonah and the Whale piece and making a wall hanging with it. I am sewing the felted piece to a watery background and quilting all around with waves. This way we can hang it on the wall of our classroom. Making the chalkboard is fun but I think it will be expensive once we get all the chalkboard paint that will be required. I will let you know the final price once I know it.

Does anyone out there remember Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel? Leah has been asking me to read it every day at naps. I remember when I was a kid, that the satisfying resolution was NOT that they dug the cellar in a day, NOT that Mary Anne got to stay and be the furnace for the new town hall, but that the mean man finally smiled in a nice way at the end. That for me was the most important part.

One of the farms we drive by on the way to school had a field with donkey, a goat, and a mystery creature. I wasn't sure if it was a llama or an alpaca so I looked it up on the internet (handy thing). Llama for sure! We drive on all the back roads to get to school so we can see the horses, cows, the bunny hutch, and just generally enjoy the scenery. It takes 20 minutes longer but what the heck.


I ended up combining several recipes, including one from Cooks.com to come up with this:

Baked Apples

Wash apples. Core apples with a melon baller to make a ¾ inch wide cavity, stopping ½ inch from the bottom. Peel top inch of apples; place in ramekin. Fill with dried cherries and finely chopped walnuts. Sprinkle with ½ packet Splenda no-calorie sweetener and dot with a small piece of butter.

Microwave on High, individually, for four minutes each.

For a delicious sauce, mix 2 tsp. sour cream into liquid from dish, drizzle over apple.

I hope that pleases them!

I did a ton of cooking last night: apple bran muffins, fudge, the baked apples, and a lovely pasta dish which I want to share. It is so simple and the kids loved it. Coarsely chop about a pound and a half of tomatoes. Warm some olive oil in a medium saucepan and throw the tomatoes in with a generous splash of orange juice. Add salt and pepper. Let simmer while the pasta water comes to a boil. Add a box of macaroni noodles to the pasta water, cook until al dente, drain, and add the tomato-orange sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and mix. Delicious. You would think the orange + tomato would be too acidic but it simmers for long enough that the flavors mellow and they complement each other nicely.

Today Leah told me at lunch time that she was going to eat all her pasta to earn her "pudge." I thought that was so cute!