Friday, February 24, 2012

A Lenten Journey: The Joys of Keeping a Lenten Garden

We follow Lent to follow Him
A time of sacrifice and prayer
We give up something we desire
That His example we might share.
-Excerpt from a Lenten poem by Elena dal Friuli

My family has been on our Waldorf journey now for three years this coming Spring. Since then, we've added a new member to the family and started homeschooling our eldest. At times it saddens me that I did not have a guiding philosophy in mind for my eldest’s early years, but thankfully now we do (and she doesn't seem to know the difference). This means that our family traditions are not really traditions yet at this point. They’re new and evolving as we incorporate various festivals into our yearly rhythm. One new tradition, going on its second year in our home, is having a Spring Lenten garden.

Last March after I went outside to cut some of my wild daffodils to bring inside, I sat down and read a bit of All Year Round by Lifeways. This book has become an indispensable resource as a Waldorf Homeschooling teacher and I highly recommend it. At any rate, its section on Spring had a bit on Lenten Gardens. I had never heard of this before and I was intrigued! What a special way to teach children about Lent- a topic that most young ones can rarely grasp.

My husband and I are both Christians and both celebrated Lent growing up. Usually, at least for me, we gave up a luxury for the 40 days of Lent. While this practice should have held some significance for me- it did not. It wasn't until this past year while doing the Lenten Garden with my daughter and son, did I really reflect on what the Lent’s true significance was for me personally as a Christian.

The beauty of the Lenten garden is that it can be used in anyone’s home, regardless of what they believe. Just to reflect on the coming of Spring and the many blessings we have daily that seem to slip by without us knowing would be a welcome tradition in many homes. The possibilities are endless. I treasured being able to stop and pause with my children and it’s a practice that I feel I could never do too much.

So below are the practical ways in which we used our garden and how we made it. It can be tinkered with endlessly to suit your family’s beliefs and climate. I wholeheartedly encourage you to take the time to pause and reflect the unfolding of Spring with your families. In the hard dark days that come from time to time while raising young ones, those still moments serve as a beacons of light for me to guide me out from within.

A tray or platter
Sandy Dirt
Spray bottle
Two large rocks and a handful of medium ones
A small bowl or container lid filled with water (to be a little pond)
Plastic wrap
Dish towel
Purple playsilk or cloth
Fresh flowers in a vase
A sheep figure
Various spring animal figures to decorate your garden scene

All the supplies I used for our garden last year I found around my house. I found an old wicker serving tray that I seemed to never use and I went to work. After laying down a terry cloth towel and plastic wrap to protect the bottom of the tray, I layered on the dirt, moss, rocks, water tray, and stones. Once they were all set in place, I added some Spring figures that we had on hand from our Woodland Fantasies farm set and a wooden mushroom I painted. Then I hung a purple mini playsilk behind the tray and added the freshly cut flowers from my yard.

Each day the children and I gathered near the garden after breakfast and moved the lamb to slowly towards the two stones on the far side representing the tomb. On Shrove Tuesday, the the first day that we did the garden, each of the children chose a toy to give up for Lent and set it near the garden. We recited our Lent verse daily when we moved the lamb and read the story of Easter by Patricia Pingry. On Good Friday we hung cross and black silk in the garden and then on Easter morning I rolled away the two little stones and had an angel there.  This tradition sealed its permanence in our family that morning after my daughter emphatically shouted, “He really is risen”! The look on their faces when they saw the angel was priceless.

All in all, The garden was a great tool in talking about all the themes of Easter, Lent, and Spring. It continues to amaze me that in the process of teaching my children, I have learned- and even re-learned- so much about life and my faith. I hope in the years to come that this ‘new’ tradition for us becomes a fond childhood memory for my children and yours.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


This winter has been quite a mixed bag for us. Last year, here in the coastal plains of Virginia, we had quite a few good snows. From early December to late February, we consistently had cold weather and a nice smattering of snow. Having as much snow as we did last year was actually quite rare. I've lived in Virginia my whole life and I have to say that it was probably the most snow in recent years (with 2004-2005 being the 2nd biggest snow year I can remember). 

However, it seems that regardless at least once a year growing up we got one nice snow that you could play in for a day or two before it melted. 

Not so this year. 

Coming up on the end of February, we have yet to get a real snow that has covered the ground and stayed put for at least 24 hours, much to the chagrin of my children and I

To make matters worse, God Bless Waldorf, but in homeschool we studied  snow, winter, animals in the winter, and hibernating for a month on and off-without any snow to speak of! My poor kids would wake up daily asking, "is today the day we will get some snow"?

So after much frustration on both of our parts, Craig and I decided that we'd go and seek out some snow, albeit man-made, at a local ski resort. It was about a 3 hour trip and we made great time. The kids played nicely in the back of the car and I have to say I was very proud of them. 

The set-up of Wintergreen was very family friendly. We took the kids to the child fun park, called "Ridgely's". In it there is snow tubing for young kids, a snow carousel, sledding, snowshoeing, snowball making stations, a little play area, and a tee-pee with a fire pit to warm up by. The parking for the fun park was right next to the area, so I was able to dress the kids in their snow clothes in the lot (I had them ride up in the car in their long underwear). 

It was not expensive either for a day trip. Yes, the driving could have been bad, but for us it wasn't. The kids played their little hearts out once we got there and then napped on the way home. We got home in time for dinner and some playtime. All in all, it was perfect for us. As long as I have the kid's favorite books, snacks, and lovies in the car- they don't mind a long ride once in awhile. 

I think the funniest part of the trip was that on the way home from Charlottesville to Richmond, it poured down snowing, Haha! Oh but it gets even better, by the time we got home- it was just rain! Needless to day I felt totally justified in taking the trip. 

Plus Craig and I had a blast too! I think this will have to be a yearly, if not monthly, wintertime trip next year. 

Sometimes I really wish we lived somewhere where the seasons were a bit milder and normalized. But until then, I guess I will just have to seek out Old Man Winter. 

So if you have missed winter this year and want some snow fun, check out your local ski resort! The rates are very low this time of year and some do have special areas just for little kids. I also think taking little adventures with your kids as a family away from home, it a good thing and quite doable even with little kids. I have been pleasantly surprised by our experiences with a 2 and 4 year old. :) 

Until next time, 

Brother and Sister snowtubing together! 

About a 1/4 of the park! 

And the winner is....!

The Random Number Generator says it was: 1 out of 40

So the winner is...

Julie who commented: " I would love to have a rainbow streamer for my girls!"

See it does pay to comment first!  I always wondered about the odds, but Julie proved me wrong.
 Julie, I will shoot you an email later today to get your address and final selection :) 

Thank you everyone who entered and hello to all our new followers! Hopefully I can keep "sharing the love" by hosting a giveaway monthly. 

If you're interested in sponsoring one, please email me at: 

Have a great day and check back later for a blog about our fun weekend trip to Wintergreen and Shrove Tuesday! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Deep Wound

Nala, the black one on top, I raised her from a chick. 

Adult Nala- She was the friendliest with the kids.

Tonight, inexplicably, my favorite pet hen died in my arms. She was fine this morning and afternoon. Then as I went to put her up three hours later, I found her laying in her coop very weak. An hour later, after I brought her inside the house and began to treat her, she had passed. 

I usually take death well with my animals. We have had predators get them and it always saddens me but I just accept it as part of life and move on. But I've never lost one and not known why. It just sorta eats me up, especially since Nala was just so so sweet. 

So I had big things to share tonight about our fun weekend and some homeschool developments, but right now I just don't have the heart. I miss my sweet hen

Until next time, 

Friday, February 17, 2012

A New *No Stitch* Heart Gnome Tutorial

As you all know, I love gnomes. My daughter is responsible for this love and in an effort to make her gnome play things- since you can't really find gnomes in the store- I set about learning how to make my own gnomes. 

About a year and a half ago, I stumbled upon Wee Folk Art's peg gnome tutorial. Since then I have made my own wee folk gnomes, as well as modified them to make my own versions. It seems to me once you work with two artistic mediums enough, in this case peg people and felt, the possibilities are limitless. 

When talking with my friends about my gnome crafting, a lot of them remark, "well what about the blanket stitching and embroidery... all that for one little gnome?" It is true, doing all the stitching does take more time and I do like the look, but it isn't for everyone for sure. I am all about practicality and empowering anyone to craft. If the stitches are a deterrent for you then ditch them! This makes crafting peg gnome even easier for kids as well

I will show you how to avoid stitching all together, except for sewing the cloak closed and sewing the hat together. Both of these are essential and easy. They're just joining stitches. If you're especially great with fabric glue then I bet you can figure out a way to avoid this as well, but alas I am not and my gnomes come out looking to gummy. 

Ok, Let's do this!! 

Step One: Go to Wee Folk Art's Blog and download their 'Waldorf peg gnome pattern' and directions. It is free. 

Step Two: Cut out all the pieces for your gnomes as directed. For a girl heart gnome cut a pink hat and body piece and a red cloak and small heart. For a boy heart gnome, cut a blue hat and body with a purple cape and heart. 

Step Three: Instead of stitching all the edges of the hats and cloaks, just don't! 

Step Four: Fabric glue the gnome body piece on. Then, once dry, glue the heart on the middle of the body. 

Step Five: Thread a needle with either blue (boy) or pink (girl) embroidery thread. Drape the cloak around the gnome's shoulders and gather stitch the cloak closed around the gnome's neck. Then if desired, to prevent the cloak from shifting, glue the back of the cloak to the gnome's body. 

Step Six: Take the gnome hat piece and turn it inside out. Stitch the open sides shut with a simple running stitch. Then turn the hat inside out. Stuff the hat with wool. 

Step Seven: Take a copious amount of fabric glue and place it inside the hat. Place the hat on your gnome's head. The gnome should have a large rim on his hat. Gently pucker the edge of the hat down onto the gnome forehead using the glue seeping out from under the hat. If you're not sure what this looks like then see the hats above. 

Then ta-ad, you should be done! Mine took me under 10 minutes per gnome. They are just as cute and as fun for the kids. Enjoy, and I hope you craft many of these gnomies too for your little ones. 

Also don't forget my current giveaway for Sarah Silks. You still have until the 23rd to enter and win a playsilk or silk streamer! 

Always, Nicole 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sharing the Love: Our First Giveaway to Sarah's Silks

Comments are closed and winner has been chosen by the all powerful Random Number Generator. Thank you to all who entered and all the new followers we have! 

I recently won an extremely generous and lovely giveaway from my favorite silk toy company: Sarah's Silks.  Since the beginning of our Waldorf journey, about a year and a half ago, Sarah's Silks has been a staple in educating us about the importance of free play with open-ended natural toys through their blog , as well as providing my family with fair-trade high quality silk toys. 

After dyeing some of our own play silks at home, we took the plunge and bought our first silk toy, a rainbow streamer from them. The amount of play this one toys has participated in during the past 18 months astonishes me. It has been a fairy magic wand, a tightrope for gnomes, a party banner, a doctor's boo-boo healer, a fishing pole, and pony rein... and the list goes on. 

Since then we've added on a few more streamers, magical pet wands, mini-playsilks, large playsilks, silks capes, and costumes from Sarah's. I continue to be amazed by their quality as well as my kids' love something that seems so simple, yet that is so beautiful and full of possibilities for them. 

So now on to the giveaway. I'd like to share the love a bit too, since as my friend Emily pointed out, I have been winning a lot of giveaways recently!!

Therefore, I am giving one Playsilk (color of your choice) or one Silk Streamer (color or your choice) to the winner. 
Shipping is included and I will ship internationally. 

How to Enter: 

1. Go to Sarah's shop and then leave a comment on my blog letting me know what kind of playsilk or streamer you will want to have if you win. 

For extra entries (you must comment each time you do one of these): 

1. Follow my blog and leave a comment letting me you have (if you already follow me, then just let me know as well in a new comment) .
2. Share this giveaway on Facebook
3. Share this giveaway on Twitter
4. Mention this giveaway somewhere on your own blog

I will pick a winner using the random number generator next Thursday morning here in this post! Make sure you check back so we can get in touch! 

Good luck and don't forget to share the love with those around you :) 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Real Snow and a little Valentines

A view of our school room, Seasonal tree, and the gifts the kid's received today.  

Finally it seems winter is here... or was at least! We had a lovely little dusting this past Saturday (the same day as my son's 2nd birthday party).  Altogether that makes for a great day. Especially since, two years ago, it snowed on the day he was born too. What sweet memories that snow brought back to me. Plus we got to play in the snow before it melted away on Sunday. It was bliss for my kids! 

I will post later on more about Jonas' actual party and why we choose to do parties. When each birthday and holiday pops up I find myself reflecting of our Waldorf journey a bit more than usual, mainly due to the gifts and materialism issue. This time around all of that went well and I'd eventually like to share about that. Thank you for your wishes also. Jonas felt quite loved in blogland! 

Today was also Valentines day here for us. I find it very funny that my daughter and my son (and this baby) are all/will be born quite close to big holiday (Christmas, Valentines, and possibly Easter respectively).- but I digress. Our little family tradition is giving some small presents right when the kids wake up. They always have been a book and little toy. This year both kids got a book and a silk toy. Then we go somewhere fun together and make a special dinner. Crafts are usually involved, but today we did not craft any since we will be having a nice big co-op Valentine's day party later this week. I also made gnomes for all the kids, so I held off on giving my kids their gnomes until then. I also plan of wet felting hearts with the kids that day- oh I am just so excited! I also am excited about exploring with them who Saint Valentine really was as well as a better idea of what this extremely commercial holiday is truly about. 

Today was overall a pretty good day. My son was pretty fussy, much more than usual, so just my daughter and I went out at lunch time to a frozen yogurt place. While Jonas and Daddy played outside and hunted for worms to put in our compost. 

DD and I had a sweet Mommy-Daughter time together. She, in her 4 year old wisdom, opened up to me about how her friend just got her ears pierced and she liked it. I was really happy with how the conversation went, I asked lots of questions and listened a lot. Then, by herself, Deirdre concluded that she doesn't need her ears pierced yet and that she wants to talk about it again when she is 10. I thought that was a great idea. 

So I hope you all had a sweet and relaxing Valentine's day with your little sweeties! I can't wait to see all the fun crafting we all will be up to this week! 

Always, Nicole 

Friday, February 10, 2012

{this moment}... and a happy birthday to my son

Minutes old

 Dear Sweet Emil Jonas, 

Two years ago you came into this world with your eyes wide open. What a blessing you were and still are to this day. You helped me become a better stronger mother to not only you, but also to your older sister too. You showed me just how great my capacity for love was and how a mother's love really knows no bounds. 

All my worry about how I could love another child as much as I loved my first vanished when I held you in my arms. Now as we all get ready to welcome another new baby into our family, I have no fears or worries because of what you have taught me. 

Oh sweet Jonas, we are just so so thankful to have you!! You brighten all of our lives. And boy are you so much fun, so brave, yet so tender. I am very excited to see where you go in this life.  It is a true privilege to be your mother. 

Love you to the moon and back, 

6 months- and his first non-breast-milk food

One Year Old at his first birthday party

a little over 18 months old

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Outdoor Co-Op

This past Friday we had our co-op outdoors at a local park. I really love this park and we frequent it often. It is not ridiculously crowded and in addition to having some very kid friendly trails, they also have a great outdoor classroom, playground, and nature center. You can even camp at the park! 

During the winter it becomes pretty obvious to me that during the other seasons of the year, we are outdoors a lot. Rain or shine, we always seemed to make it outside for a sizable portion of the day, everyday. This winter however, whether from the random temperature changes or the plethora of cold rainy days (ones that are just so yucky that my kids don't want to go out)- we have been house bound a bit more than I like. 

I notice it more mainly because of our daily rhythm. When we cut out outdoor time, for whatever reason, we move through our days slower. We continue to do the activities we usually do daily, school work and free play, but then there is an hour or so leftover when there used to be none. I don't want that time to be filled up with TV, so I have had to get creative (board games, scavenger hunts, play dough play ground) but I also want to get back outside. 

I love the outdoors, I always have. I was forced to be outside as a child (albeit a little too much- but that is a whole other issue), so I grew to love it. Being outside in my yard was when I felt whole. I could breathe and be myself there- away from the chaos indoors. I was blessed enough to live close to the bay and ocean as a young child, so I am quite attached to the water. So for me being indoors too much, is not good for the soul. 

So I resolve to do more outdoor co-op away from the house, as to not be tempted to go inside. We spent probably 2 1/2 hours totally outside. We played, we hiked, we discovered, we learned, and we picnicked! My kids also came home with a pretty sweet nature collection (which is proudly on display on our seasonal nature table) and they took a great nap. Plus, I felt refreshed. 


Always, Nicole 

Saturday, February 4, 2012



In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer
-Albert Camus


This quote today popped up out of an old college notebook I was thumbing through today, and it has really stuck with me. I don't quite know what it is about them, but there are power behind these words. (And there are few words apart from the scriptures that I find powerful in my life). I guess I just really needed to read this today. 
I am an invincible summer. 


Friday, February 3, 2012

Hello Spring! Our Imbolc and Candlemas Celebrations

Dear Saint Bridget of the Kine
Bless these little fields of mine,
The pastures and the shady trees,
Bless the butter and the cheese,
Bless the cows with coats of silk
And the brimming pails of milk.
Bless the hedgerows, and I pray
Bless the seed beneath the clay.
Bless the hay and bless the grass,
Bless the seasons as they pass,
And heaven's blessings will prevail,
Brigid, Mary of the Gael

So here we are, already three days into February. It seems to me that January creeped by due to illness in our house. I am quite ready for all of that to be over! We rang in February actually with Jonas getting a terrible stomach bug on Tuesday. I despise stomach bugs the most out of all illnesses. Thankfully it was short lived and he was the only one to get it. My fingers are crossed and I am determined that we shall be out of the woods with colds from here on out! 

With February came our first celebration of both Candlemas and Imbolc, or St. Brigit's Day. I really wanted to celebrate both holidays since I love all the themes of St. Brigit, Christ's presentation in the temple, and the reawakening of the earth for Spring. My children and I have been noticing the signs of Spring all around us, so doing a  joint celebration seemed fitting. 

Last night we had our co-op buddies come over for a party at our house. Deirdre was so excited to have a party. During nap time I finished up our February decorations and crafted the kids some presents to take home with them. I wanted them to all have a special votive candle to remember our time together (inspired by Wee Folk's votive but a bit different). I also finally got a seasonal tree fixed up and placed in our school room. My hope is that we can craft little ornaments for each seasonal and holiday to hang on it as the year progresses. 

Votive Directions: 
First I painted on a tissue paper heart with glue.
Then, once the heart was dry, I painted the whole votive with glue and rolled it in sugar until it was totally coated.
Then you must let it totally dry.
Once dry, seal it with Mod Podge.
Viola, you have a frosted heart votive that should last!

Deirdre also wanted to help with the party preparations, so she decorated her playroom with her play silks. I love her and her desire to help and create.  She was so giddy about having a party, it really warmed my heart to watch her. 

I made a tasty dinner with Anya's help for us all as well as a 'sun' cake for the kids to decorate with yellow and red sprinkles. Because according to Deirdre, "It is not a real party unless there is cake"! I concur! We used this recipe. It was very tasty and I thought making fruit based cake would help tie in the idea of Spring coming- along with fresh fruits again! I am already dreaming of strawberry season. 

Then we headed outside for a candle boat race. The kids had a blast and so did I. Jonas was way more interested in playing in the water than with his boat though. Got to love him! Afterwards we ate dinner and cake. Then it was circle time by our fire. I read a story about the earth getting ready for Spring and gardening. I had little garden props for the kids to play with while they listened. They seemed to enjoy themselves and the girls really got into the book. They are ready to garden for sure! I ended by telling them the story of St. Brigit- which they also loved. Deirdre was trying to spread her cloak today over the playroom to stake out her claim to the land. Fun times were had by all. 

We ended the party with some quiet playing and crafting. We made St. Brigit crosses (as seen in the first photo on the post). I got the idea from my friend Laura's blog: Nestled Under Rainbows. Anya and I ended up doing most of the crosses but the kids sure loved playing with them. 

All in all, I loved our time together. I think they kids will remember it for some time to come. I know I will. 

Always, Nicole 

For the Kids Friday

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Waldorf Doll Giveaway over at Itsystitch

A blogging friend is hosting a free giveaway of one of her beautiful dolls (see above photo) over on her blog. I suggest you hop over there and enter- the doll is gorgeous! It ends today at 2pm! And if you don't win, and love her dolls, check out her ETSY shop as well! 


PS: I promise to be backing blogging soon. As if things could not get worse health wise here, my kids got a stomach bug a day ago. We are still reeling from it!