Thursday, July 4, 2013

July, July and Blueberry Cream Pie!




Hello sweet friends and welcome new ones! I have wanted to comment on each and every new follower on my giveaway post- but I don't want to mess with the random number generator! So welcome to you all. I really truly mean it when I say that you all are my online village. I have made many true and dear friendships with wonderful Mamas across the globe through this blog. And for that I am so thankful. 

Part of me can't believe that it's July already. Midsummer almost for us. We celebrate our season's change that the beginning of the month. It simplifies my planning and is easier for the children to grasp at their ages. So all of June was summer for us, making July smack dab the middle of summer. 

These middle season months are fun for us. They really embody the season. The transition is over and all the truisms of summer are present in July. And let me tell you, here in Virginia it feels like summer. Hot, humid, bug-filled summer. But with that are also so many things we love. 

The kids are getting used to sweating again. Late afternoons lightning shows. Firefly catching. Ice cream eating. Swimming, swimming, and more swimming. Oh, I do love summer. 

Most of all I love the fruit! Deirdre tracks, and has tracked, our summer procession by what fruit is coming into season. Here in Virginia it's, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, peaches, plums, blueberries, raspberries, pears, and to begin autumn- Apples! 


So for our circle time this July our theme will be U-Pick! Our main book will be Peter in Blueberry Land!

We will read it the whole month and do various puppet plays (just like we did with Curious Fish last month here- we do this every month throughout the year with one linchpin seasonal book and verse.) Then each week I will cycle in other books for just that week like Jamberry,
  and Blackberry Mouse
We will keep our summer verse that we have here until September, since that way the kids will learn it well and have a good seasonal continuity. 

We also in lieu of doing extra crafts this month will spend more time berry picking, canning, freezing, and baking. Oh the baking I do in the summer! I miss canning as well. We were pretty low on preserves until strawberry season. As for cherry season, I just baked 2 pies and then froze the rest- and well let's be honest we *ahem* I ate my weight in cherries! No wonder that season is so quick here!

So dear friends I am going to leave you with two recipes, one for my blueberry preserves that I make and the other for blueberry cream pie. I sub in other berries in the pie too and that seems to work just fine as long as you keep it to only 3 cups of berries. No one likes a messy oven from a pie overflowing! 

So what are you all planning this month? Do you like picking berries? What kind of stories do you read to your kids in the summer?

Love and Light, 
Nicole


Also Our $75 Nova Natural giveaway is still going on until 7/19!
Don't forget to enter!





Blueberry Preserves

Adapted from Against All Grain

Ingredients 
(fills one 8 ounce jar)

3 cups blueberries (thawed or fresh)

3/4 cup local honey (you can use more or less depending on how tart your berries are)

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Place the blueberries in a medium sized sauce pan and use a food mill to mash them






Add the honey, lemon juice, and lemon zest, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir frequently while the mixture boils for 15-20 minutes and it starts to thicken. The best way to test if it’s done is to put a spoonful in the freezer for 5 minutes. If it won’t easily pour off of the spoon when you remove it from the freezer, then it’s done.



Skim off any foam, then ladle the jam into a sterilized jar. Then you can either can and seal them or store them tightly covered in the fridge for a couple of weeks or freezer. If you freeze them then leave extra head room in the jars. They expand when you freeze them!



Enjoy!


Blueberry Cream Pie

Adapted from Gingerbread Bagels


Pie Crust (from America’s Test Kitchen)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/4-inch

pieces and chilled
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
and chilled
4-6 tablespoons ice water
1 large egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon water (for egg wash)

Filling
3 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crumb Topping
4 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2  cup rolled oats
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 Tablespoons all purpose flour

Instructions
Process flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined. Add chilled shortening and pulse until coarsely ground. Add chilled butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer to large bowl.

Sprinkle 4 tablespoons water over flour mixture. Using rubber spatula, stir mixture until dough forms. If dough remains crumbly, add remaining 1 tablespoon water. Form dough into 4-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. (Dough can be frozen, wrapped tightly in plastic and aluminum foil, for up to 2 months. Thaw completely at room temperature before using.)

Let chilled dough soften slightly at room temperature, about 10 minutes. Working on lightly floured work surface, roll dough into 12-inch circle. Transfer dough to pie plate. Trim, fold, and crimp edges. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

While crust is firming up, work on the filling. In a bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the sugar and flour. Add in the sour cream, eggs and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Take the pie out of the freezer and put the blueberries on the bottom of the crust. Pour the filling over the blueberries and spread it out.

Now make the crumb topping. Mix together the sugar, brown sugar, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg. Pour the melted unsalted butter into the bowl and mix everything together. Add in the flour and mix until the ingredients form a crumble topping. Crumble the crumb topping over the pie.


Bale pie for 30-40 minutes at 400. Place in refrigerator to cool for 30 minutes after it's done baking until set. 

Enjoy!






Linking up this week with Frontier DreamsMagic OnionsNatural Suburbia, and Crafty Moms Share and a few others! Please check out my 'where I party' page! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bringing Nature In:: Part II :: Our Waldorf Woodland Bedroom






We have had a BUSY weekend over here. My house is a mess- but a huge productive work in progress. After the move this past December, I sorta just wrote off a few rooms in the house. Mainly the children's bedroom that Deirdre and Jonas share as well as our bedroom. It was functional but not pretty. Since I feel like we spend very little time in those rooms, I focused on getting the playroom, family room, dining room, and kitchen in order. But now we've been in the house for six months, the state of our rooms started to bother me. While they weren't terrible, I just did not like being in them. They felt disorganized to me. They took longer to clean. They just felt off. 
Since I have been working on bringing more nature into the children's play and our lives when we're indoors, I thought that bringing it into their bedroom might be a good idea too. During the first seven years of a child's life, they are extremely sensitive to their environments. They consciously and unconsciously imitate their surroundings. This is one reason why in Waldorf, it is recommended that children have beautiful and natural toys. It's not just for the developmental benefit of open ended playthings, but also for the way in which they, our home, ourselves, impact our children as they unfold during these critical first years. Another reason for working on their bedroom was to improve their sleep. While I am blessed with children who do and have generally slept well and for 12 hours at a time- plus naps- I wanted to continue to make sure that their room was conducive for good and restorative sleep (which is paramount to their development as well). 

So here is my little room project. I am very very pleased with the finished product. Most of the decor in this room was re-purposed!!! I got the gnome print from an old book we already had. The fabric and paint I used on the logs I already had on hand. I brought in logs and branches which were free and just added to them. I also reused a lot of decor I had on hand from the kid's old bedroom and the baby's nursery. 

I lazured the walls yellow. The base coat is a light blue and the top veil was made with Stockmar lemon and gold yellow. The lazure was in the end not hard. I was nervous about it but it was fairly simple- just labor intensive. I did this alone, it is a small room, but I recommend having a helper. 






We added bunk beds since the kids are a bit older. So far it is working well. before we had floor beds, which is common with Montessori. I liked the floor beds, but it was time for a change. I hung our two Kinderkram mobiles up in to corners of the room. We got them from Bella Luna Toys and I cannot recommend them or Sarah's store enough. Just lovely. 

I made a branch tree with felt leaves for the corner near the window. I added on some decorative birds and butterflies as well as a nest we found on a walk. The tree was spray painted with gold glitter and sealed with shellac. I also picked up a white ceramic mushroom that I paint red with glitter to set near the tree. 
The kids also requested two gnome and tomten doors for their magical friends David and Timmy. They were worried about them having trouble getting in and out of their rooms. If you're new to the blog, I tell the children nightly stories about David and Timmy's adventures and have been doing so since January 2011. I make them up and they're simple- but boy do they love them! 

To complete the woodland room, I farmed some of their favorite gnome prints in the window frame. I love home rustic it looks. Lastly in the far corner near the door I made some stump mushrooms with fabric and one painted. I also made a burlap 'dream' banner in Waldorf lettering to hang over the stump mushrooms. 


I think that covers it all. Phew. Like I said it was a BUSY weekend, but oh so worth it. The kids love their new room. They are sleeping better and seem to be more peaceful. I am just finishing up Rahima Dancy Baldwin's book, You Are Your Child's First Teacher, for the second time. If you have children under seven, I highly recommend it. 

How did you do your child's room? Did you see a difference in their sleep? Have you incorporated more natural surroundings into their bedrooms? If so, how?

Until next time!
Blessings, Nicole

Also Our $75 Nova Natural giveaway is still going on until 7/19!
Don't forget to enter!

Also please check out my blog hops tab to see all the lovely blogs I visit and am linking up to this week! 












Linking up this week with Frontier DreamsMagic OnionsNatural Suburbia, and Crafty Moms Share and a few others! Please check out my 'where I party' page! 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bringing Nature In :: Part I :: The Playroom



Play is the mechanism by which children learn—how they experience their world, practice new skills, and internalize new ideas—and is therefore the essential “work of children”.
- Dr. Vivian Paley from her book, "A Child's Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play"


Through play, children learn
about the world and engage in activities
that encourage their cognitive, emotional, and social development. 


- Dr. David Elkind from his book, "The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier and Healthier Children"


When people hear that I am a Waldorf homeschooler, the first question they usually ask is, “What is Waldorf “? The second most times is, “I love your toys, but why so simple? Why open ended? Do they really help”? Well, I am here to say that yes they do help and it's not just Waldorf teachers and advocates who say this. It's also prominent child developmental psychologists, former public school teachers, and linguists who say the same thing- that children need to play, that their play does not need to be tinkered with by adults, and that children need suitable, simple, opened ended toys to play with in order to get the most out of their play.  This is precisely where Waldorf, and other educational philosophies, get it right and do it well.


What then could be more simple that having a basket full of natural toys in your playroom? You don't need expensive blocks. You don't even need expensive toys. Really a basket of shells, rocks, and pine cones will do!


Children can get overloaded by too many toys. It overwhelms their senses and it can diminish their play and focus. I know we've all been there too when we walk in our bedrooms at night and have to tidy it up before our minds will calm down and sleep. It is the same for children.



Joan Almon, Coordinator of the U.S. branch of the Alliance for Childhood, and former chair of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, said that "children were most relaxed and played best if the space was fairly simple but pleasing to the senses. It should be calming and lovely, but not so beautiful and complete that the children hesitate to move anything or disturb the order". This is where we as adults can step in and help. We can create environments for our children that are relaxed, beautiful, and filled with natural and  simple toys. In a way that they will not be overwhelmed or underwhelmed.



We also need to make sure that children can easily clean up their playrooms. Almon goes on to say "Play is a messy business in the best sense of the word, for it is hard to create without making a mess. A good play environment invites you to come in and change it – but it is orderly enough that it is easy to clean it up again. There’s a place for everything and it becomes fun for the children to know where each object lives and put it back at the end of play time."



So this Autumn, as your child’s play turn inward and takes place indoors more often, why not try bringing more nature in? Reassess what toys you have in your home and how you have set them up. Does every toy have an simple home to sit when play is done? When you sit in the room do you feel calm or cluttered? If your answer is the latter, than your child might feel the same way too. Over and over again as I was researching why natural simple and open-ended toys were best, again and again, researcher after research said that the simpler the play materials, the more effective they are at stimulating play. And if play if the child's' most "essential work" then ensuring that we bring nature indoors for them and having open ended toys for should therefore be our essential work as their parents.


***********

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fostering Block Play and Creating Waldorf Blocks


One of the things that first drew me to Waldorf Education were it's toys. I know I am not the only one either whose been drawn in this way. The beauty. The simplicity. The wonder. Ironically when I first discovered Waldorf,  I was in school finishing up my BA and Masters in Teaching! Waldorf Education had been mentioned in some of my courses, but it took a Nova Natural catalog from my friend Sarah L. to really begin a direction change. I also at the time had an almost 3 and 9 month old and felt a bit directionless in our home. Yes we had our faith. Yes we had a great parenting helpmate with Love and Logic. But something was missing. But again, I digress... Suffice to say, I am so thankful that Sarah gave me that catalog!

On the subject of toys, I continue to be reminded that less is really more. Now that we've been on our Waldorf journey for almost 3 years, we accumulated lots of lovely Waldorf fluff (fluff is a word that Melissa Nielsen of Waldorf Essentials uses to describe all the lovely enchanting toys and things that tends to draw us initially to Waldorf. While the 'fluff' is GREAT and oh so much fun, it is not the heart behind Steiner's work and educational philosophies). The fluff does points to the heart of Waldorf though, but it's important to not get too caught up in it and miss the true beauty of nurturing your children's head, heart, and hands. Ironically - or not so much- much of Waldorf's pedagogy (and why it really does work) was supported scientifically by what I was learning in my Teaching program. Whether it was or could be implemented in the public classroom is a whole different blog post and topic all together. I do however recommended the documentary "The American Teacher". It's great food for thought.

At any rate, that was a HUGE digression. As you can see I am digging reading Steiner, Melissa, and Rahima. But back to less is more. My kiddos are going through a neat block phase. They go through it from time to time but I was realizing that we don't have many blocks. Block play is a critical milestone in a baby and toddler's development. As they get older, the way in which they play with blocks as well as frequency significantly impacts their math skills later on in life- in a good way. Children who played with blocks often have significantly better math tests scores in 7th grade. I wonder if Steiner knew that? Ha! While I don't care so much about test scores, needless to say block play is important, fun, and super easy to encourage. 






Do you need more blocks? Do you live near a forest or a few trees? Well problem solved. Last week I went out and decided to make some Waldorf branch blocks. All you need are some nice dry branches, sand paper, a saw, rub on polyurethane, shellac or beeswax polish, and some elbow grease (LITERALLY if you are using a hand saw. Ouch!)




And here is my finished product!







Pretty nice, eh?

So next time you're tempted to buy more fluff check and see if you have any good blocks first. If not go make some. My kids helped me sand them and pick out the branch. 

Are your kids into blocks right now? What are their favorite blocks? What types of games do they play with them? Have you ever made blocks? Please comment and let me know- I am curious!

Until next time, 
Cheers!
-Nicole

Also Our $75 Nova Natural giveaway is still going on until 7/19!
Don't forget to enter!

Friday, June 14, 2013

World Oceans Week



We have been enjoying our weekly theme here over the past few days. My children are dolphin and shark enthusiasts. For Deirdre's fifth birthday this year she requested a dolphin party. My son Jonas soon after, of his own volition, decided next to trains, sharks are the coolest thing around. They have a pet dolphin and shark names 'bubbles' and 'toothy'. Most nights, along with their David the Gnome story, they ask me to make up one about the adventures Bubbles and Toothy go on together. It is really quite adorable. 

So for World Ocean's Week, we decided to focus on the oceans and their favorite friends, dolphins and sharks. Our local Living Museum has baby dogfish sharks at it, as well as bay touch tanks and aquariums. We headed there on Monday to explore, have circle time in their new learning garden, and eat lunch. 

Then we headed home and did our first pre-planned sensory play. At our home we do lots of sensory play every week with beeswax, play dough, our outdoor mud and sand tables, ect. I have been seeing lots online about sensory bins and thought I'd give it a try this week. So here is ours with a Waldorf twist- as well as our weekly nature table. 

During circle time we've been enjoying our summer rhyme and board book. Our book of the month for June is The Curious Fish by Elsa Beskow, which matches perfectly with our summer and ocean theme. This week we also are acting out and reading The Owl and the Pussycat By Edward Lear and Jan Brett. This edition in particular was one of my only books as a young child, so it's near and dear to my heart :) I added some picture of the books we use below if you'd like to find them yourself!





We're continuing to use our water blocks as our circle time props as well as our blue play silks and different ocean figures- like our Ostheimer mermaid and dolphin or wooden sharks. 

Enjoy and I hope you all have a lovely week celebrating the ocean!

Until next time, 
Love & Light
Nicole
















Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chippy the Cherry Gnome (and some cherry picking!)










This week the kids and I have been continuing our summer theme as well as beginning to talk about cherries. One thing that we love about this season is all the u-pick fruit. Last year we desperately tried to go pick cherries. However due to the frost, the season was only one week long. This year though, we made it up to the mountains just in time. I did not want to go home it was so gorgeous.

In order to make our circle time complete, I whipped up a felt cherry gnome. The kids promptly named him Chippy. I am not sure why but at any rate, it's his name now! 




I even got to make a cherry pie from scratch last night. Oh, how I love being close to where my food comes from. The store bought cherries to not hold a candle to the ones we picked. Let's just say I am a convert. Enjoy the photos of our crafts and Chippy. If you're in Virginia and would like to go pick cherries, then you can find the orchard here!






Also Our $75 Nova Natural giveaway is still going on until 7/19!
Don't forget to enter!
Until next time, 
Nicole

Please check out my blog hops tab, I am linking up with some amazing bloggers this week!