Waldorf Curriculum Homeschool Blog

Having tried unsucessfully to get Blogger.com to work for me, I suddenly realized that I can easily create journalling pages linked to my site without extra help. This is a very informal page with my personal notes as to how homeschooling is going for my family. Please feel free to email me with comments. Learn more about my preschool curriculum by visiting the Curriculum Packages page.

Other Waldorf-inspired homeschool blogs you may want to check out include:

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December 2006

  • Natalie is 4 years, 9 months
  • Leah is 3 years, 1 month
  • Rebecca is 1 year, 11 months

December 30 - We've postponed gift exchange with my relatives and Steve's gone up to their house today instead to help my brother transform their den into a playroom. My SIL has a new baby coming in a few weeks so everyone is pitching in to get the nursery set up. They'll work on that all weekend and then we will do gifts on Monday. Wonderful -- that gives me some extra time! Today we'll try (again) to do Bathtub Finger Paints and Oatmeal-Honey Soap. I'd also like to practice dyeing wool with Kool-Aid since that's something that is coming around the corner for Sunday School. I ordered some 1/2 lb. bags of wool stuffing from the clearance bin at Peace Fleece and it turned out to be a lovely white yarn that was cut into very short lengths. A few handfuls of that will be perfect to test out my dye recipes. It should be very pretty, too, since the yarn isn't pure white -- it has some slubs of different colors in it. I am not sure what's wrong with it that it ended up being cut up into stuffing but I think it's very pretty. So the assorted color flecks may or may not take on different shades after dyeing. I wrote up the Kool-Aid Dye instructions from Felted Treasures by Jean Paccagnan Armes and added them to my Sunday School curriculum page as a handout for the children, if you're interested in printing it out and trying it for yourself. Also, because there's no gift exchange today we'll take the kids out to see the holiday lights at our local sculpture garden, Annmarie Garden. They put on quite a display. Not really my thing but N loves holiday lights (and is constantly pointing out the Christmas decorations on every house we drive by) so I don't really see any harm. That's going on from 6-9 pm.

My husband told me that tonight he would help me practice my origami cranes. I got some lovely paper from Yasumtomo (the link opens up the origami paper section of their online catalog; they also offer lots of other art supplies - here's the list) which was 60 sheets of translucent paper in 20 colors. Item number 4313. That gives me enough paper to practice myself, have each child make one for their main lesson book to go with their New Year's Resolution as well as one to give to a friend, and I can give each person several extra sheets to take home along with the directions if they want to continue and make more! All for $2.99. A bargain. I have to plan for 15 children (so that comes to four sheets per child), in case someone brings a guest. I don't like to be caught short on craft supplies.

Tomorrow is church and then I'm taking the kids to the shoe store to be fitted. Sometimes they go up a shoe size and I don't notice until someone starts complaining. Since I have to get N new tap and ballet shoes for her class in January, I may as well make sure they are the correct size.

Monday is a holiday so Steve will stay home and work on finishing our schoolroom.

Tuesday also a holiday due to the passing of President Ford.

Wednesday I'm taking the kids to the nature center to sign them up for the next four months of nature programs. That, plus gym for Leah, dance for Natalie, and a music and play class for the three of them, should keep us quite busy through April!

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I just renewed our six library books due today because I haven't had a chance to write Amazon.com reviews for them. They are

December 29 - Today's plan is to wrap the felted ball kit for Tommy & Joe (gift from me and Steve), make their Bathtub Finger Paints (gift from N, L, and B), and make some Oatmeal-Honey Soap for Jay & Kate. Then we'll be prepared for the gift exchange tomorrow! This morning's tea party with Grammy was cancelled because we are going to their 66th wedding anniversary party this afternoon at Papa's assisted living facility. That party is at 3 pm. After the party my MIL is coming over so hubby and I can go on our weekly date night. Tonight it's a bluegrass jam at the local rescue squad. I'd also like to try making some Mint Chocolate Brownies while the kids are napping today. I like to make a special dessert on Fridays so we can have it when we come back from our date.

The Christmas presents the children are getting today are N A Friend is Someone Who Likes You book - L purple doll, stroller - B large rainbow stacker. I think we'll do those gifts after the party. It's hard for the children to get things at night and then have to go to bed but if we do it in the AM then Steve doesn't get to be there to see them open their presents. Last year he just skipped it but this year he says he wants to be a part so we're doing the gifts in the evening. So I have some last-minute wrapping to do. I also need to finish up the knitted baby eggplant I began in CT so the kids can have it for their new play store. That toy has been a huge hit by the way. They play with it constantly. I finished the cucumber and carrot in time for them to receive it on the day they got the play store, but the eggplant has been lagging behind. Find these knitting patterns at Jimmy Beans Wool. And someday I'll update my knitting blogs with these links! That's actually on my list for today. I hope. I hate having to-do lists which drag on and on. But... when I spend all day crossing things off my to-do lists, I hardly spend any time with my kids. Isn't that the basic struggle of parenting? Do you want lots of time to play with your kids or do you want a clean kitchen?

* * * * *

I just purchased two new knitting books. Knitted Toys by Zoe Mellor and Nicky Epstein's Knitted Flowers by Nicky Epstein. That's one shelf I'd love to have an inventory of! My craft shelf. I'm going downstairs to pack up three more boxes now and then I'll come back and write down what's in them.

  • 3 - Handwork (A), HCA fairy tales
  • 4 - Handwork (B), Festivals, Movement
  • 5 - PE/Games, Math manip (math gnomes, clock), Xylophone, Music (A)

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My to-do list for today also includes making the felted baby Jesus for Sunday School, as well as a large gold paper star to hang above the stable. I also need to practice making my origami cranes! I bought a bunch of origami paper in lovely translucent shades and I had a dream last night that I had forgotten to print directions off for the class and was standing in front of them unprepared and the whole thing was bedlam. I hate teaching nightmares! They are always about being unprepared or about a parent watching and I know they don't like what they are seeing. I've gotten a positive response from parents so far though. I just am a bit worried about teaching the children how to card wool and spin it, dye it, and knit. It's relevant -- since knitting blankets for Feed the Children is our service project for January/February/March. But I still wonder what the parents of the boys will say... I've been gathering research to support my case. If anyone knows of online articles or research about the academic benefits of learning to knit, please let me know. There's a great article (pdf file) by Cat Bordhi called A Guide for Bringing Knitting and Spinning into Elementary through High School Classrooms . She gives research and observations about the success of knitting in her classroom (and virtually no problems when it came to her administrators) as well as lesson plans for teaching children spinning and knitting. She claims that there were no noticeable problems regarding the gender thing. She believes that it is because she introduced by helping students "invent" spinning and knitting and learning about the entire process, so they were invested in its success as well as flushed by the thrill of discovery. She also includes a great booklist. It's worth checking out if you're considering working knitting into your classroom. I set aside three books from my Handwork shelf to take into the classroom and show to students to get them excited about the process: Dyeing to Knit: How to Use -- and Create Your Own -- Beautiful Hand-Dyed Yarns by Elaine Eskesen, Spin It: Making Yarn from Scratch by Lee Raven, and Just Hats: Favorite Patterns to Knit and Crochet, edited by Nancy J. Thomas and Adina Klein. I'm also going to encourage them to check out our "textbook" from the library so they can learn more (Kids Knitting by Melanie Falick). I actually like that book better than either of the two traditional Waldorf books for teaching children to knit. It is more user-friendly and I like the projects. Plus it is easy for my students to find if they want their own copy.

So I've got myself and my supervisors convinced. And probably the kids too. But you never know about the parents. It has been proven to help kids with ADHD concentrate and I have several children in my class who have been labelled this way (and I was told in advance they'd be discipline problems, which they aren't) so that is my final weapon in the battle if the facts that I've already gotten a good reputation in the community, my kids love my class, and it's for a worthy cause aren't enough.
Wish me luck! :-)

Oh, my gosh... I'm glad I wrote this because I just realized that I don't have the second quarter Sunday School lesson plans up on my site! Here's the link -- I've added them -- actually, everything but the live links to the Booklist but I'll have to do that later. All the lesson plans are there though. Sorry about that! I had them in the What's New section on the homepage and then when I put the links to the new second grade units up instead I forgot to transfer the Sunday School curric to its permanent location.

December 28 - I set aside this day to catch up on my internet stuff and it is driving me crazy that my internet connection is down! (I'm tying this now and then will save it "live" when the connection comes back up). I need to do banking, update some webpages, and so many other things. Grrr. I had wanted to itemize the contents of every box of books I'm packing up as we transition my office into the new schoolroom but I don't think that will happen. Listmaking is my forte but I'm so eager to get the books moved into the other room that I don't want anything that will slow me down. But maybe when I unpack and organize them on the other side I'll list what is on every shelf. It would be nice to have it organized somewhere (other than my brief list of Waldorf books already posted to the site). All my books organized... what a lovely thought. But I'm trying to at least label each box as to a rough idea of its contents. And number them. Here's what I have so far

  • 1 - Native Americans, Housebuilding
  • 2 - Oak Meadow, Spiritual Syllabus kindy, Storytelling, CDs/DVDs
The problem, of course, with going through all my shelves, is that I keep finding books that I can't possibly pack up right now because I might need them... Not that we are doing a lot for school right now. But committing to putting a book in a box is like saying I for sure won't do anything from that book for school in the next few weeks and I can't possibly do that! Guilt guilt guilt. Maybe I'll go through and pack up a large bin of must-haves and put it in my bedroom and then instead of not packing a book away because my mind rants that it shows I'm a terrible mother and am wussing out on doing school properly, if my guilt complex starts to kick in, I'll just remind myself that I have a LARGE bin of school books already designated for use in the next two weeks and I am not at all a slacker. That sounds like a much more positive approach. I'll do that and then hopefully list them (if I get a chance to get back to the computer -- I've been promising a lot of book lists lately and then sadly not following through, although I'm sure everyone out there understands it's the hectic holiday season) in case people are curious as to what books I feel I can't live without for two weeks.

The kids just went down for their naps so I'm organizing my grocery list for next week. I try to go shopping on the weekends so I don't have to take the kids with me. They stay with their papa. I'm constantly redoing my budget -- currently the idea is $50 per person per week (I know, I know, the Amish would kill me. Their average is like $80 per month for a family of nine. But we don't have a large vegetable garden and I don't put up any produce for the winter. Maybe next year...). The recipes I've chosen are from the January/February 2005 issue of Everyday Food because mine hasn't come yet for 2007. Do I have to cook the January recipes in January? Probably not... but for some reason I do always constrain myself that way. Freedom through restrictions, I guess. Instead of choosing from the thousands of recipes I have, in all my cookbooks and magazines, I get to blissfully choose ten recipes out of just forty-five. It's much quicker. I do the same thing with cookbooks. If I pick a cookbook off a shelf, I do all my menu planning from that one book. You know who else does their recipes monthly? Cooking Light. They have great cookbooks where, instead of throwing all the recipes from a year's worth of magazines into one large pot and sorting them by salads, entrees, etc, they keep each month's suggestions intact and you get a good variety of dishes, all suitable for the season. Using produce that's in season keeps things cheaper. And you automatically get lighter dishes in the summer months and heartier things in the winter. I find their recipes are delicious but expensive when you do a whole week's worth. So, back to Everyday Food. My picks are:

    Banana-Buttermilk Pancakes
    Buttermilk-Thyme Drop Biscuits
    Tandoori Chicken with Yogurt Sauce
    Chicken Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
    Spaghetti Squash with Garlic
    Soy-Glazed Tofu and Carrots
    Greek Salad with Zucchini and Tomatoes
    Flank Steak with Onion, Peppers, and Beans
    Yogurt Parfait
    Seared Shrimp with Cucumber Salad
I'm trying something new which is sorting my grocery list by which mealtime the items are for instead of what aisle you find them in at the grocery store. It's faster to shop when your list is organized into produce, meat, pantry, dairy, frozen, bakery, etc. BUT I'm seeing here when I sort by breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner and non-grocery items that I have practically nothing for lunchtimes. Just a loaf of bread. Which may be why lunches are always sort of a scramble. Hmmm. Have I perhaps discovered perfection in grocery planning? Probably not. :-) I'm just spending too much time on the sofa with my lists and piles of paper all around me on the sofa and my laptop on the coffee table, pretending that I'm organized and my weekend will be marvelous if I just make one more list... Organization is not always the key to happiness. They say that flexibility is. So I'm going to take advantage of naptime and go take a shower!!! :-)

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By the way, Santa (honestly... that's what it said on the package!) brought me a great new book called The Fantastic Rainy Day Book. If you visit it at Amazon.com you can see the table of contents. It's a DK book so it has clear step-by-step directions and nice colorful photos of the projects. Quite a good assortment. The kind of things moms always have up their sleeves (face painting, baking muffins, finger puppets, costume jewelry, and so on) but it's nice to have it all in one place for when your mind draws a blank. Thanks, Santa!

* * * * *

Okay, here's one. Leah was playing around with her dried apricots at snack time and so I put her in her bedroom to finish her food. We've been doing this lately to keep kids from distracting other kids or, particularly, to keep the older ones from setting a bad example for the younger ones. If you are going to play around you will leave the table but you'll still be expected to eat your food. It's not a free pass out of the meal. At least, that's the idea. Well, Leah cleverly dropped all her apricot pieces into her heating vent. So, the question is, if it's my fault that she was in her room with food in hand and no adult supervision and a tempting way to dispose of it, then what kind of punishment/consequence should she get? Because, my husband argues, if she gets no consequence at all, then she doesn't have any way of knowing that you aren't supposed drop food (or any other items) into heating vents.

If I can't yell at her because it's my fault she was in the situation, and she's not supposed to have self-control at this age (3) but I can't just act like it was no big thing because that will cause her to draw the wrong assumption about her actions (that is was okay to drop food in the vent), then what do I do? What's the middle ground? The only thing I can think of is that I go and sit with a child who is eating their food in their bedroom but that actually becomes postive reinforcement for acting up at the table and is guaranteed to increase the goofing off at mealtimes, as all three children fight to be the one who gets to sit with Mommy in their bedroom and get lots of attention. Ideas? I'm not posting this to the group because people sign on to exchange homeschool ideas and not parenting per se. But I'm looking for some help here!!!

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My husband and I have been fighting because he wants me to buy bulk bags of cereal from the grocery store and I won't do it because I think all the bagged cereals are low quality. Full of artificial colors and flavors and preservatives and so on. He thinks I'm wasting money on ~fancy~ cereals. So if anyone else out there is having this problem with their S.O. I recommend Amazon Grocery. And not because I get a small percentage of every Amazon order initiated through my site. Truly. Because they have a GREAT selection, fantastic prices (you buy in bulk), and fast shipping. We've gone to getting all our diapers and toilet paper through them. Now it looks like we'll be shopping for cereal!

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Tonight on mpt (Maryland Public Television) I want to watch a Nova program about global warming called "Dimming the Sun". If you want to find when this airs in your area, visit PBS Home and click on TV Schedules.

December 26 - Time to start planning Rebecca's birthday party. I had previously thought about a peek-a-boo theme, with hide and seek as a party game, a scavenger hunt for the presents (with clues and so on... most of the children attending will be much older than she is and up to the challenge), and fondue. Chocolate-dipped strawberries would be a great -- but messy -- party dessert. So I nixed that idea and am searching for a new theme. I'm thinking stars. Something like

    Star light, star bright
    You're invited to a party at night.
Her gifts would be new clothes (of course), a Poppy Doll, a set of Rainbow Bowls, the Star Stack-Ups game from Hearthsong (18 months and up), and... a new bedroom! Natalie is taking over my office because we've decided each child should have her own bedroom so all my bookshelves and my desk are moving into the homeschool room currently under construction. Her birthday ring ornament would be the star standing ornament from Nova Natural. Party games I'm not sure about, but what got me thinking about this theme is that our local nature center is offering an evening "Pizza and a Program" for families the night I'd wanted to have her party. The theme of the nature program is nocturnal animals so I know it'll include a nighttime Nature walk. It gets us out of the house and doing something new (all our parties include the same small group of family members, so sometimes conversation lags) and the only other time we've ever gone somewhere for a party was Natalie's 4th which we had at the Calvert Marine Museum (it was a beach theme). Party favors? I'll make a list of great nocturnal books and maybe we can read a few before we go and then I can give one to my nephews as a party favor. Feel free to email me with suggestions for nighttime-themed picture books. By the way, if you're looking for a variety of Waldorf-inspired homeschool blogs to scan, Rebecca Besbris (faeriedust) has put together a Carnival of Homeschooling on her site. Check it out!

December 25 - Merry Christmas!

December 24 - Christmas Eve! Today we are making the children's gifts for their father, since I know they can't keep a secret. :-) Actually, we use the word "surprise" in our family instead of "secret" because I read somewhere that you should do that. Apparently child molesters rely on children being indoctrinated to keep a secret no matter what. Something of a bleak thought but it stuck with me and we've never used the word secret with our kids. On to happier things. Besides church this morning and making homemade granola and felted soaps, this evening we will be hanging stockings, setting out carrots and cheese and milk and cookies, and having a nice family dinner.

For those of you who know the Leah story (our three year old is so curious and adept with her hands, she'll take apart everything -- even pulls up the carpeting in her bedroom and rips the drywall paper off the walls), we have come up with a solution. Which is to think of her talent as being that she is extremely mechanically adept. She'll probably be an engineer. So, instead of annoying us, we try to think what wonderful things she'll build when she grows up. Maybe the highest building in the world! That is, if we can get her to start building instead of working strictly in the demolition business. So we pulled a toy out of the garage that was on the still-to-be-unpacked list and put it in her bedroom. The Wooden Workbench from Hearthsong was a instant hit! Now, if I can get her to start saying "hammer" instead of "bang-bang tool" she'll probably get more respect from others in her chosen profession. :-) Looking at the Hearthsong catalogue last night for some building type toys for Natalie (Steve is okay with pretend play to a point... he still thinks she should have some closed end toys which require you to complete a task to achieve a specific purpose -- and I am trying to respect that), I've chosen the following for our next catalogue order:

I'd wanted the Domino Rally but it's no longer available. Oh well. They have some nice things and are moving more into the wood and silk realm (they are a sister catalogue to Magic Cabin, both under Plow & Hearth). I've been pleased with the items I've ordered from them but they do tend to turn their inventory around quickly so if you see something you like, you'd better grab it before it is discontinued. Which is too bad because a lot of their items are exclusive to them -- especially the craft kits. Here's the Post Holiday Clearance page if you want to browse through it. By the way, Leah is more occupied with her new toy and causing less destruction to her room, but is also becoming even more mechanically adept and dismantled a baby gate yesterday by removing all the screws from it one at a time. So, I guess there is a downside. But you can't deny she's talented!

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Santa's on his way! Track his path across the globe at NORAD Tracks Santa 2006. Great fun for kiddies and grown-ups too. :-) He's in Cairo, Egypt as I write this (at 3:54 pm EST).

    The Twelve Days of Christmas

    Dec 25 - gift exchange with Gram, stockings, gifts from Santa, gifts for Papa from children

    Dec 26 - N jewelry box, hair bows, new clothes - L Pandabo - B bear

    Dec 27 - gift exchange with Grandma, B - Bolga basket, RNM finish play kitchen food, wrap knitting needles for Betty and write knitting lesson coupons

    Dec 28 - gifts from GM & GD, phone call

    Dec 29 - N A Friend is Someone Who Likes You book - L purple doll, stroller - B large rainbow stacker

    Dec 20 - gift exchange with Aunt Kate & Uncle Jay, RNM wrap gifts for Tommy and Joe, make soap for Jay and Kate

    Dec 31 - gifts from Aunt Jenn & Uncle Glen, phone call

    Jan 1 - slippers from N to sisters, RNM & SEM gifts (I still need to make Steve's hot water bottle cover!)

    Jan 2 - N cat/dog building kit - L block stilts - B Farmer Will book

    Jan 3 - gifts for Toby and cats

    Jan 4 - N ballet outfit, rose oil - L elf soap, Nell's Elf book - B elf soap

    Jan 5 - gifts from Erin & Robin

    Jan 6 - Epiphany, read The Last Straw

December 21 - Yesterday afternoon Natalie chose three wool sweaters from our Salvation Army stash to felt (in the washing machine) and turn into slippers. I'd like to make one pair for each of the girls to go with their new jammies they'll get Christmas morning. I tried to make the slippers myself using a shoe as a template but I may search online for a pattern as the one I came up with looks a little funny.

One present is done: the children's babysitter. She came Tuesday and we gave her an Amazon.com gift certificate and a tin of hot chocolate mix. She was supposed to get a mug, too, but I forgot to tell Steve and by the time I got back with the kids' prescriptions she had already left for home. It works out, actually, to have one extra mug in the house because we all use special Christmas mugs for Christmas dinner and I had only four. Now Becca gets Carey's mug. :-)

This morning I am working hard to get organized. Several people on my list we won't see until after Christmas (we like to spread it out over the twelve days, giving each person their own day) so my must-do list is a little shorter. My dad's gifts are made. My MIL we won't see until after Christmas. My brother, SIL, and nephews we won't see until after Christmas. All gift packages that have to be mailed have been mailed (and all the Christmas cards, too, and everyone who hated me because I had it on my list to send my cards December 2nd, rest assured -- the last few didn't go out until the 19th). Steve and I exchange presents after Christmas. That leaves

    Grammy & Papa

I spread the children's gifts out over the twelve days, so not everything that is meant for them actually needs to be wrapped today but I'll still try to get it done. I read in Festivals with Children that when you spread out the gifts like that you should skip several days, so that getting a present doesn't become expected. In other words, it's all about reducing the materialistic aspect of the holiday. So I don't do three gifts each time. Sometimes one person gets something, sometimes two. Then Steve and I have our day in there so the kids don't get anything at all but they get to see other people open their gifts. When they get older I'd like to move some of the days to days of giving, ie. giving to charity, helping at a soup kitchen, and so on. So it is not twelve days of getting!


Today (Thursday) is going to be making two Christmas wreaths (plain grapevine bases -- these are cheap and you can find them at Walmart -- plus gumballs and other nature items the children pick up to decorate them with and a large Christmas ribbon bow) one for Grammy and one for Papa. Simple, fun, and gets us out of the house for a Nature walk. Papa's now in assisted living and she's home by herself so they both need some cheering up. We'll do a special tea party and give them their wreaths tomorrow. I'd like to pop Grammy in the car and drive her down to see Papa and we can all be together. I'll call her today to see if she's feeling up for it. Wrap the handprint stepping stone supplies for my Mom. We didn't have time to make them so I'll give her the materials and we can do it as a family project in the Spring when it is warmer. I think it'll have more meaning for her anyway since everytime she looks at the stone she'll not only have the handprints from when the kids are small but also the memory of doing the project with them. I'll have to remember to take lots of pictures of it too! We are doing the same for G&P (giving them the stepping stone materials) so I'll wrap that too to give them tomorrow.

Today we'll also finish the gifts from Natalie: the slippers. I also need to choose the recipes for our special Christmas Eve dinner and special Christmas morning breakfast. My mom is coming for dinner Christmas Eve and I have to ask her to bring a dish, so I'll pick that. I also need to prep for my S.S. lesson by making an ox and a practice sheep. I did the two shepherds yesterday.

Friday will be presents for the cats and the dog. That's felt mice rolled in catnip (I'm using the pattern from The Nature Corner and grey wool felt from Nova Natural) and dog biscuits. I'll pull Leah aside for the gifts she is making for her sisters (Christmas ornaments with the cinnamon dough).

Saturday Steve is watching the kids while I go and get Christmas morning pajamas and assorted stocking stuffers for everyone. He'll make Christmas cookies with the children while I'm gone. I also need to remember to leave the gift wrap and tags out for him so he can do his wrapping. And I need to buy some carrots for the reindeer! My friend Emily always left some hay in her shoes but I think carrots are less messy. I'll pull Rebecca aside for the gifts she is making for her sisters: felt balls. She's too young for anything but wet felting and a few soft balls to toss around is always a good thing. I'm off the hook for finishing my knitting projects on time because the dishcloths are for Kate and the play kitchen food we won't give to the children until the day they get their play store. They will really go together well. I can't wait for that gift day!!!! I had also gotten Becca a soft sturdy basket (a bolga basket from A Toy Garden) so I'm putting that in the pile for that day as well. It will be so much fun to watch them shop.

Sunday is church in the morning. My mom is coming for dinner Christmas Eve and we'll do that, then set out a plate of milk and cookies for Santa plus our carrots for the reindeer and possibly some cheese for Santa Mouse (that is the cutest book ever!) I have a special plate and mug set for Santa that is a beautiful poinsettia design with a gold rim. I bought it when Natalie had her first Christmas. Then I decided I didn't want to do Santa with the kids and changed into her Christmas mug. This year we started in with the Santa thing so I put it on the shelf for Christmas Eve and we were down one mug... good thing I forgot to give Carey hers. Funny how things work out! After the cookie thing we'll hang our stockings -- I need to have Steve put nails in the wall for that -- and then the kids will go to bed. Mom will stay for a bit and help us stuff stockings and put presents under the tree. Then Christmas morning she'll come back for early AM stocking opening, special Christmas breakfast, and then the big opening of the gift pile under the tree. Will it be fun or will it be stressful? Stay tuned! (I'm in a bit of suspense myself.)

Why Santa? Well, this year we seemed to be innundated with it. For one thing, we had no television at any previous Christmas and this year we do have a television. So N picked up on it just from watching ads. We've watched no movies. She's only allowed to watch MPT with me and sometimes Food Network as a special treat but I found out last night Steve lets her watch car racing with him -- monster trucks! -- so I guess the TV needs to go. Once the Santa thing started to come up I pulled out a few extra books I had in my holiday stash... we have lots of Christmas books including some about the nativity and some illustrated carols, and when I get a minute I'll list them all. But the four Santa books are

and they've definitely been the favorites. We read them every night. Natalie isn't very familiar with the carols or I think she'd find those books more interesting. In fact, she's still working hard to memorize the one she had to sing at the pageant (Away in a Manger) even thought the pageant has already passed! The nativity books are a bit over their head. Although N enjoys watching the nativity scene develop in my classroom. The church even brought in a Santa for the after-pageant church lunch last Sunday so the children got to meet him in person for the first time since N was 9 months old. The other two children had never been on a Santa lap before at all. Funny, though, even though Santa has been a definite presence this Christmas season, I don't think any of them realize that he brings presents! :-) One of the reasons I had cancelled Santa after N had her first Christmas was that I felt silly reading her the book The Night Before Christmas, and telling her about Santa since I knew I was lying to her. Also, I didn't have the energy to keep track of which wrapping paper was from Santa and which was from our house (my mom jumped through a lot of hoops for that one). And it just seemed too commercial. But now I tell her about fairies and gnomes... so that I've obviously reconciled with myself. I don't know that I actually believe in the elemental spirits but I don't know for certain that they don't exist. And who am I to spit in the face of generations of cultural legend? Besides, I think that it teaches children a love of nature and a sense of stewardship for the earth. And when they grow up they can decide for themselves. There are plenty of adults who believe in wizards and mermaids and so on. Santa, to me, is the spirit of giving (I love how this is explained in On the Banks of Plum Creek and that's the book I plan to read to my children when they start questioning Santa) and it's worthwhile in that regard, as well as being a beautiful story that is part of our cultural history. Waldorf believes that children have the right to have a beautiful, protected, and magical childhood. So I think Santa will be a feature of that in our home, and is here to say. (Sorry for ousting you before, Santa). I wonder if people who share the legend of Santa with their kids

    1) regret it later
    2) are glad they did it
    3) feel they had no choice

Anyone willing to write in and share their experiences now that their kids are older? Apparently I was extremely upset when I found out there was no Santa and felt my parents and grandparents had been lying to me. Does this happen to all children?

A word of warning to Amazon.com fanatics (I am one myself). I love their site because you can find nearly any book you need and it's great to read reviews written by other people. But I would not recommend getting Amazon Prime and a line of credit. Believe me... I spent $890 on Amazon last month, much to my shock. You put a book in your cart, they'll send it two day shipping for free with no minimum purchase, and they agree to bill you later. So you click Buy. It's just too easy. So I'd like to share my mistake in hopes of others avoiding the same pitfall. I've cancelled both my line of credit and Amazon Prime. Here's to better money management in 2007!

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By the way, a WC member suggested the book Little Tom Turkey to follow up on our wild turkey viewing of a few days ago. I've requested it from the library.

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In other exciting news, I signed Natalie and I up for Barbara Dewey's Family Arts Weekend in January. She wrote personally to tell me she was glad I'm coming. That makes me happy. :-) It's the first Waldorf conference that's really worked out for me because it is close enough to drive to (6 1/2 hours) and the food and lodging are included in the conference price so, all in all, it ends up being really affordable. If you're interested you'd better sign up quick, though, since the limit is 25 people. I promise, as always, to share all my notes and observations from this exciting weekend!

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Christmas Eve dinner
I'm using the Holiday Dinner menu from Everyday Food December 2006 except that I am substituting a simple roast chicken for the more complicated and more expensive Bay-Leaf-Crusted Pork Roast and I am adding rolls (which my mom will bring) and fresh butter (which the children will make with the extra whipping cream from the Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe).

Christmas morning breakfast
Again, relying on Everyday Food December 2006 issue, I've picked their "Family Friendly" recipe for the month which is a lovely breakfast. The recipes are not online but it consists of

    Apricot-Stuffed French Toast
    Tropical Fruit Salad
    juice, coffee, milk, tea

So, that's planned. I went to check on the sweaters we felted yesterday and they are still drying. You're supposed to wash them in extra hot water with a bit of detergent, but no spin cycle because that can stretch the sweaters out of shape. So that means they come out of the washer very wet and heavy. You can put them in the dryer and, in fact, that's supposed to felt them a bit more but it creates so much lint that I feel it is a fire hazard. So they are drying flat on an old blanket (beware... they tend to stain). I recommend only washing one at a time, even if you're in a hurry, because the dye tends to run, since the sweaters have never been washed in hot water before. Even though our sweaters were all similar colors I still think there was some bleeding and, knowing that now, I would rather have done them one at a time. Hindsight is always 20/20. I'm online now looking for slipper patterns. Here are some directions for making cute wet felted doll slippers with a child. That would be fun! I'll go quickly add it to my wet felting how-to page.

By the way, while looking for a slipper pattern, I also found a link to Holiday Handmade Gifts on the Martha Stewart Living site. There are a nice assortment. I like the Jingle Bell Slippers so that's while I plan to try now, while the kids are napping. I have one dry sweater that was previously felted so I'll cut that up and try the pattern. We had a nice morning Nature walk with our pails (I got a set of three at Easter and we use them absolutely all the time!) picking up gumballs, acorn caps, and other cool things. We are so blessed to have found a house with all the kinds of trees I need for craft projects, with the exception of pine trees -- but pine cones are not hard to find. Maybe we'll plant some pine trees next fall. Or, there may be some "live Christmas tree" kits in clearance bins soon and I can grab some. I actually signed the kids up for an activity in April called Grow Your Own Tree where they start one from seed. I can't remember what kind of tree it is though. That's one of the things that every family can do to fight global warming, by the way. Absolutely plant as many trees as you can!!! Ophrah's magazine listed the Tulip Tree-to-Be kit on the "O list" for April 2005. It's a kit which would be a great gift for any family. Here's a place that sells them. Nice last-minute gift idea. When I write my What To Do About Global Warming page for my site, I'll put the link on that too.

December 20 - Well, let's see. I haven't been on the computer in a looong time! Friday my mother took the children to the Christmas party at her work. They participated in a Yankee Swap. Rebecca got a doggie bath mitt (she drew number one and the first gift she opened was a baby gift -- what are the odds of that?), Leah got a string of Christmas lights which she later traded for a golf snowglobe (no snow, just a floating golf ball which you have to maneuver onto the tee), and Natalie got an absolutely revolting salt and pepper set consisting of a bear dressed in red plaid and a fish. She swapped it for a hot chocolate mix assortment but then Gale later gave her the salt and pepper shaker set so we ended up with four items in all. The kids had a blast! I'm glad my mom felt up to taking them. Saturday was the rehearsal for the church Christmas pageant so Natalie and I were at that from 10 am to noon. I was costume mistress. She was one of the littlest angels. Sunday was the pageant, which went well, and then Monday I took the children to a special Holiday Storytime at the library. It was at 6:30 at night which is pretty late for an activity but I felt badly that we've all been sick and haven't done ANY of the homemade projects I'd wanted to do in the past five days so, since we've done so little for Christmas, I thought some storytime would be good. Hear my guilt? Of course it's not my fault that I'm sick and the kids are sick but I am upset that we aren't keeping to our "schedule." So I'm trying for one Christmas-y thing per day, even if it's not a gift-making project per se, just so I feel better. Since preparing for Christmas is our only homeschool plan for the month, not doing the giftmaking triggers all my "am I bad teacher? am I not taking homeschooling seriously enough?" guilt as well as the standard guilt that comes along with 1) making a plan and not keeping to it, and 2) not being organized for Christmas.

Anyway, yesterday I took Leah and Becca to the pediatrician because the congestion had been going on for so long and he had told me previously that a week or so of heavy head congestion can lead to ear infections. So even though no one was acting like their ears hurt, it seemed like a good thing to follow up on. And, yes. They both have double ear infections. Tra la la. So a major medication regimen now to follow for the ear infections and the coughs. This morning my car windshield was hit by a rock and now has a huge crack in it. And our cat is at the vet for possible diabetes.

Hope every one else is doing well!

When I come up with my list of super-duper-great last minute handmade gifts, perfect for people who don't get organized until December 20th, I'll pass them on. :-)

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Eleven wild turkeys passed through our front yard yesterday and Steve managed to get a picture of them. Cool, huh?

I'm trying to come up with teaching ideas for follow-up. Find background information on wild turkeys at Wikipedia.

December 15 - Update. All three kids got sick and I'm now feeling like garbage as well. Ha ha. We didn't do any projects December 11th (my last entry) -- we gave the dog a bath and then all took a nap. On the 12th I discovered that everyone had a fever and realized that we wouldn't be able to do any craft store trips so getting supplies for more Christmas projects was out of the question. Luckily we have shelves and shelves of stuff here so I reorganized the present ideas to things we could do from home and tried to relax. Double ha ha. Made cookies for all the neighbors and delivered those. Yesterday we began our paper chain. I also started wrapping some gifts. Steve declared he didn't have time to make Leah's walking blocks so I called NN yesterday to order them. My MIL shopped at Magic Cabin this year for Christmas -- hurrah! -- and boxes are arriving at our door. She got the kids this Market Stand set up so they'll be able to shop at the store and then go home and cook at their play kitchen. I set up our lavender fairy canopy -- finally! -- yesterday in the living room. We had wanted for ages to hang it up over the play kitchen area but Steve couldn't find the appropriate hardware to hang it from a drop ceiling. Says on the package you can simply hang from a tree limb (of course you have to bring it in after playtime to protect it from the elements) and I suddenly realized -- badda bing! -- we have a tree. An indoor one. So I hung that up and used the pieces of our large stacking rainbow to hold the edges down, tossed in some throw pillows, and moved the homeschool bookcase out of our bedroom to the living room with a shelf of picture books, a shelf of games, and a shelf of art supplies all neatly organized. The Advent calendar is on the top of the bookcase. I also brought up the easel from downstairs. These are all things that require parent supervision so they've been tucked away in different corners of the house but there is no reason why there can't be a play space in the living room. Well, there is actually. I've always used the LR for my handwork projects so there has been craft supplies, scissors, thread, knitting needles, etc. sitting on the sofa cushions. But my husband and I had a conversation and we're going to rearrange some of the rooms in the house so that Natalie gets my old office downstairs as her new bedroom (all of this is going to happen after Christmas -- he has some use it or lose it leave at work that they've agreed to let him take in January -- 100 hours!), the new schoolroom will be a school storage room instead of a classroom and will hold all my books and my craft supplies, Leah keeps her current bedroom, and my projects get moved into the room with the baby. Since she is still in a crib because she is quite small for her age. She is almost two and the crib railing is higher than her armpits. It gives me a hiatus and someplace to put my works in progress besides the LR or our bedroom floor. Steve and I agree that our bedroom should be a haven. It would be nice to walk in the middle of the night without trippping! I've learned from talking to people that most folks do school on their kitchen table so I think we'll try that. It means that I'll have to put some kind of storage unit in the kitchen or living room for materials for current school projects but that's fine. I've been tying myself in knots trying to make the perfect Waldorf school room in a basement room with no windows. I don't think it can be done! Using that as a storage room makes infinitely more sense and I don't need a schoolroom AND an office. At least, I don't think I do. These things are always subject to change. Anyway, when we can afford to buy more furniture and come up with some storage options for my handwork projects and other personal stuff I can move out of Becca's bedroom and give her a toddler bed. The real necessity right now is to not have piles of stuff all over the house. It looks like a federal disaster area. People from church always assume that because my classroom is so organized, and my lessons are so organized, that my home must be immaculate. Nothing could be farther from the truth!

Anyway, I've now learned that it's futile to try to plan which Christmas presents will be made on which day since we're basically improvising, so I won't shoot myself in the foot by trying to write today's plan here. I get nine more days before Christmas...

December 11 - Natalie is down for the count (sound sound sound asleep) so I get to spend some special time with Leah this afternoon. During their morning nap I made Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies so I don't feel like doing any more cookie baking. So we'll move on to some other ideas. I considered some wet felting projects... the gourd projects... and making Indian Pudding. I think we'll wash and scrub the gourds (step one from our directions)

    Soak the gourds in a pail of hot soapy water for 20 - 30 minutes. Then using a metal "scrubby," clean the gourd, scraping the gourd until it is perfectly clean. The gourd may have discolorations that will not be scraped off.

and then make the Indian Pudding. It takes three hours to cook so it will be ready for dessert tonight. Steve promised he'll cut the holes in the gourds after they are ready. We have lots of different shapes and sizes so I'm not completely sure what we will make. Maybe just clean and paint some to make maracas -- they're already full of dried seeds so they make a great noise. One would be a good vase, it has a wonderful shape. There's always the swan thing, but I'm not going to paint a gourd to look like a swan and just sit it on a shelf... that seems like a pretty useless present. I don't think maracas would be a good gift for my nephews, since I hear boys play a little rougher with their toys than girls do and perhaps they'll smash them or something. The membranes and seeds inside the gourds would make a HUGE mess. Maybe we can do some maracas for our family and a vase for Jenn and Glen and a birdfeeder for Joe and Tommy. Hmmm. We'll see. I seem to be rambling a bit.

December 10 - Natalie's got croup so school is once again on hold. Isn't that just always the way? Frustrating. Anyway, yesterday I went to the ACLT Greens Sale and bought a wreath and an armful of freshly cut greens and when she's feeling better we'll decorate the house further. I spent most of Friday and Saturday working on Mary and her donkey for our classroom Nativity scene; see my S.S. curric for which books I got my patterns from. I made the angel first thing this morning before I headed out the door. Got some lovely angel wool from A Child's Dream Come True -- it's very dainty. My Sunday School superintendent told me today that she and the other woman who is in charge are extremely pleased with how my class is going and that they've gotten a ton of positive feedback. The kids love my class. Most people who come as guests end up joining. I had 12 today. Anyway, they want me to be the next superintendent in two years when these women are done with their turn. That's exciting. A promotion! I'm not sure it's one I want but I have plenty of time to think about it. N stayed home from school because of being sick so I brought home something they passed out today and we can do it here. It's a coin book shaped like a stocking and you put a quarter in each day. When your book is full you bring it back to the church and they send them to an orphanage. I talked to her a little bit about how there are poor children who don't have any homes and we should be grateful for all that we have and share with those who are less fortunate. I think it's very age appropriate. She's excited to put a quarter in it tonight before she goes to bed.

Yesterday we had someone stop by as a suprise. And was my clean laundry all over the sofa, ready to be folded? Yes, indeedy, it was. I was mortified. But what can you do. They brought a belated gift for Leah's birthday. It was a book (Some Pig! -- this is a book of text from Charlotte's Pig, edited to be a short picture book but the text itself remains unchanged. They leave out all the parts where he is going to be slaughtered and focus only on his friendship with Fern) and some My Little Pony stickers. The stickers and book were a big hit -- I'll have to remember to have us write them a thank you note.

I'm behind on gift making although I did make the Chocolate-Covered Cherries for my dad so I'm one up on last year. This week... who knows. Our Advent calendar project cards are piling up. I have some money set aside for craft supplies so I'll have to make a project list and get out to the store. I always try to overplan so that I can edit later on and people don't know anything is missing. But, still, everyone needs at least one gift. My husband was saying last night that he hates how the holiday is so tainted. And I do more than a lot of my family, as far as trying hard to keep it non-materialistic and focusing on handmade gifts. But we all feel the pressure from commercialism. In fact, I'll end this entry with a heartstopping commentary on the times... one student today told me, when I asked if he was reading his Bible every evening, that his dad told him that he doesn't have time to read his Bible in the evenings because he has to sell Christmas trees. So there you have it.

December 8 - Yesterday was the first Thursday of the month so my mom came to stay with the kids -- that's my errand and doctor appt. day. I tried really hard to make Christmas cookies for my hairdresser but after two batches of Raspberry Pastries (the first burnt, the second undercooked), I gave up. Maybe next year. So no school for the kids because I was gone all day but my mom played with them, they did the dishes and walked the dog, and played pick-up sticks and Dwarves and Dice (N's favorite). Today I am working on needle felting Mary and her donkey for our Sunday School class Nativity scene. I'd also like to do the hugs but I'm not sure I have a piece of paper wide enough to trace the children and it's very cold and blustery outside... so if my paper is not the right size we will have to postpone it. Natalie woke up this morning with a cough. I'd like to see if the teacher supply room at the Sunday School paper has some of those huge rolls of paper you use for bulletin board displays. That would be perfect. I'm sure they wouldn't begrudge me three pieces -- I've never used it to make any displays so I'm definitely within my quota. I'd also like to do the Chocolate-Covered Cherries for my dad today. They have to sit for a minimum of two weeks before they are ready to give.

A box of books from Bob & Nancy's (www.waldorfbooks.com) came today and I'm trying to look through them. I'll post reviews if I can. I'd also like to start wrapping some of the presents that are piling up around here... so I might not have enough time today. Anyway, I got two books for Sunday School and the rest are for the problems I am having with Leah.

  • Old Testament Stories by Roy Wilkinson
  • Commentary on Old Testament Stories by Roy Wilkinson
  • The Wonder of Childhood: Stepping into Life by Rene Querido
  • The Challenge of the Will: Experiences with Young Children by Margret Meyerkort & Rudi Lissau
  • The Breathing Circle: Learning through the movement of the natural breath by Nell Smyth
Natalie has been asking to do more Christmas decorations so I'd like to make a pinecone garland. When I was waiting to get my hair cut yesterday I was reading Family Circle and saw a nice article on different pinecone decorations. Here's link to the article -- All the Trimmings. They've done it up as a slideshow so you click the arrows to move from one decorating idea to another. Quite nice, actually. They're all very pretty. We have several baskets of pinecones but can always gather more.

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The tracing of the children went very well and it's very quick and easy. I got a roll of plain white wrapping paper (craft paper) from Michael's -- which I use for all my wrapping since it's easy to dress up for any holiday -- and it was large enough for all the children. Their arms aren't wide open for a hug, they are just lying with their arms at their sides. But I still think she will like them. I'll have the children color them later. Family Fun has a project where you do silhouettes of each family member on black paper and then hang them up on the walls at Christmas, or any other family party, and people have to try to guess which one is who. They also have a cool Silhouette Garland project.

Yesterday, while I had a babysitter, I hit the Salvation Army thrift store and cleaned them out of their entire collection of 100% wool sweaters. That's the kind of thing people often donate to a thrift store, because lots of people find wool itchy or too difficult to care for. In fact, one of the sweaters I bought had already been felted which is probably why the person donated it. Most sweaters were $1.50 to $3.50 each which is a good deal since it usually only takes one sweater to do a project, be it a hat, slippers, scarf, a hot water bottle cover, a decorative pillow, etc. I have so much I'm considering a patchwork felt rug or wall hanging. Maybe I can try some quilting techniques with felt -- most of the hassle with a quilt is measuring the seam allowance right, sewing a straight line, and figuring out how to applique. If you had no fraying edges to worry about the whole process would be a lot easier. I'd love to try some decorative projects for around the home... when Christmas is all over and I have more time. My husband recently announced that he'd like a Hot Water Bottle for Christmas and so I went looking for sweaters so I could make a felt cover. I ended up going a little bit crazy at the store but that's all right because I'm happy to have them on hand and you can't find wool sweaters in the summer. I'm even considering some small felt shape ornaments instead of the cinnamon ornaments as package toppers this year. Take a cookie cutter, trace its shape, cut it out, and voila! String a needle and sew a loop on it with thread and you have one ornament. Then you can decorate it more or less as you prefer. Seed beads, embroidery, and so on. A nice evening project. If I do a few each night I'll be drowning in wool felt ornaments by the end of the month. I'll tell you the other thing that I'm really keen on, although it may fall under the category of easier said than done. I'd love to felt some oversized men's sweaters and cut off the sleeves to make a jumper (by which I mean the US term not the UK term -- dress, not sweater). I think I can make a lot of very inexpensive, sturdy dresses for the children this way and if they get a stain or hole I can cover it with a cute shape to make a decorative patch. A complete winter wardrobe in a jiffy if you just add some turtlenecks and tights. Let's go count and see how many sweaters I have (four bags full). They're all here by the front door. Ah, 23. I grabbed everything that was 90% wool or higher unless I strongly objected to the color. Some of them I may try on and decide to keep for myself. :-) I have found it easy to felt knitting pieces in the washer but I'm afraid to put them in the dryer because of the lint issue. They dry just fine on a rack. You can also boil the sweaters in a pot on the stove but that tends to make your entire house smell like wet wool. I also got any sweater that was 100% linen yarn since I can unravel it and reuse in another knitting project. Linen yarn lasts a very long time so it should be perfectly reusable. Plus it's sooo expensive. Why buy new? I got a pretty pale green that would make a nice Easter project.

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I just ordered some Peace Fleece knitting needles for my MIL who would like to learn how to knit. I promised I would teach her, so her Christmas present is going to be a set of needles and a coupon for ten knitting lessons from me. We can shop together to pick the yarn she would like to work with. They also have a nice Bargain Bin -- I'm sure contents are constantly changing but right now they have bags of wool stuffing, needles with mismatched tops (a nice way to get wooden needles at a cheap price), and lovely handpainted buttons. By the way, while searching for Hot Water Bottle, I ran across this touching true story about a child's prayer being answered. It's definitely worth reading.

December 6 - 12:08 am. Just finishing some custom unit design work. Before I shut down my machine, I always like to look at all my open browser windows since sometimes I keep things open to remind me that I've found a great link and want to add it to my blog. (Where I put stuff so I don't lose it. However, as they say, "Wise people think all they say; fools say all they think," which makes me a... fool! Oh well.) Actually, I don't really write everything I think. And for that be grateful! :-) I discovered this when I was adding some new quotes to my website and found this very funny but somewhat useless site of one-liners. That's number 420. I also read a great quote in a catalogue which is "Having children is like being pecked to death by a duck." I think it's hilarious but it is faintly mean and so I don't feel I can put on the site. Happy to share it, though. If you're a mother I know you are laughing! Plus, and this is what really makes staying up until midnight worthwhile, I finally found instructions online for making a sock elephant. Anyone else looking for them? Here they are. Have a good night.

December 5 - I found out today that I've lost my previous blog entries for this month; I have no idea how that happened! Anyway, I guess that's life. Here is what has been happening recently:

Yesterday (Monday) was soapmaking day. Yes, I'm off schedule (below shows my original plans) but things don't always work out. I try to stay flexible and not get stressed out. Yesterday we did the oatmeal-honey soap for Jay and Kate and decided, since we were on a roll, to make some shell soaps for my grandparents. For Oatmeal-Honey, simply cut up one pound of white soap into cubes (it is pre-scored), place in pyrex loaf pan, microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring each time, until melted. Then take the loaf pan out of the microwave (careful, it is hot! also, don't stand directly over it and breathe in the fumes. I don't think they are harmful but they hurt your nose). Add 1 cup rolled oats -- old fashioned or quick-cooking, whatever you have is fine (from the grocery store) and 3 T honey. Mix well. Pour into soap molds. This makes seven soaps so you need two bar soap molds. I got all my soapmaking supplies at Michael's. Life of the Party is the most common brand. For the shell soaps, we used one shell mold (9 small soaps) and melted the clear glycerin soap (in a separate loaf pan). By the way, if you do this at home, clean your soapmaking supplies by hand instead of in the dishwasher. I had an overflow of bubbles come out of the bottom of my dishwasher once because of the excessive amount of suds generated. For the shell mold, one square of soap = one shell. We added bath salts to the melted soap and then poured them. You can take them out of the molds after about half an hour but I do an hour to be sure. Easy as pie. For the bath salts I used Pacific Rim Salt Scrub from DHC, a heavenly -- and wonderfully simple -- blend of sea salt with soybean, macadamia, sweet almond, avocado, olive, and lavender oils. The soaps smell marvelous. If you want to try making soap from scratch (instead of using premade bars) here are some notes from the nice people at Cranberry Lane. They have lots of clearly written information on the process as well as detailed recipes. You can buy soapmaking supplies at their site, too. Check out the newsletter link if you'd like a recipe for Three Kings Sea Salts, complete with frankincense and myrrh. :-)

DO NOT use the plastic Life of the Party molds with cold process soap, though, as the plastic may react with the lye. And, remember, making soap from scratch is not safe to do with young children -- lye is poisonous if ingested -- but the melt and pour method is fine with parent supervision.

I also began a set of knitted dishcloths for my sister in law. I'm using plain cotton yarn (you can get this at WalMart) and the "patterns" in Zen and the Art of Knitting. At the beginning of each chapter she gives a stitch pattern. I'm just casting on size 6 needles with 35 stitches and knitting until the piece forms a square. I'd like to do three: one garter (chapter 2), one waffle (chapter 8) and one irish moss (chapter 10). We'll see how much time I have.

Sunday we set up the tree. Our tree is small and only holds about 20 ornaments so we decorate it a different way each year. This year we chose Swedish straw stars (the kind tied with red thread). They're traditional and very rustic. Plus, they are basically unharmable which is good since the tree is at Rebecca's height. I got them from Target a few years back but you can easily make your own. Craft straw is available from A Child's Dream Come True. Find directions in Crafts through the Year, pp.92-96. Then I set out our pile of books for the season. The kids have really enjoyed having holiday stories for their naps and bedtime. We also hung up a Victorian paper garland of cats carrying plum puddings. Have never made a plum pudding but maybe I will someday. 'Tis the season!

Saturday we went to Michael's to get all the craft supplies for this week's projects.

Sunday (December 1) we began our Advent calendar. I got the Christmas Roses Advent calendar from NN (now out of stock) but unfortunately don't have the Christmas Roses storybook to go with it. Maybe next year...

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    1 - send out Christmas cards - DONE except for 12

    2 - Gram, Grammy & Papa - handprint stepping stone (this is a great gift for relatives who live nearby)

    3 - Grandma - giant hug (simply trace each child - this is a great gift for people who live far away)

    Grandma is also getting a set of coasters made with a kit she purchased for me to do with the children

    4 - Grandpa - Chocolate-Covered Cherries (recipe from Taste of Home Annual Recipes 2004 page 128) - DONE

    5 - Jay & Kate - oatmeal honey soap - DONE

    finish & wrap cotton dishcloths knitted by RNM

    6 - Grandmommy & Granddaddy - laundry powder (recipe from Wholesome Home Book of Recipes and Household Formulas) - substituted shell soaps - DONE

    7 - bake cookies for Jessica (my hairdresser) - Raspberry Pastries, Oatmeal-Apricot Cookies, Cinnamon-Sugar Cookies

    8 - drop off wedding picture negatives for reprints (I owe pictures of my wedding to several relatives, this is a very belated gift but still necessary, since I gave them all mini albums for precisely this purpose the Christmas after we got married)

    plus, make gifts for R. & E. H. (which I'm not going to post here, so they'll be a surprise) :-)

    9 - set up Christmas tree! (I can't bear the idea of cutting down a live tree and can't stand plastic ones so this beautiful metal tree is my compromise) - DONE

    also, kids will make cookies with Steve (Basic Sugar Cookies) at his request! :-)

    10 - begin paper chain (add a link every time a family member does a kind thing)

    S make walking blocks for Leah (from Toymaking with Children, pp.146-147)

    11 - Joe & Tommy, Jenn & Glen - gourd birdfeeder, birdseed

    12 - Leah & Rebecca from Natalie - play kitchen food (I am knitting these, she will help me stuff them with wool)

    13 - Natalie & Rebecca from Leah - Cinnamon Dough Ornaments - make extra to decorate other Christmas gifts

    14 - Natalie & Leah from Rebecca - Felt Balls

    make Green Tea Sugar Cookies for children to take to CMM Christmas party w/Gram tomorrow

    15 - bake cookies for Pastor Dan, Sunday School superintendents - Gingerbread Cookies, Black Forest Cookies, Carrot-Cake Cookies

    16 - make winter hats for Natalie & Leah using the GREAT Felted Hat Kit from A Toy Garden (this is an activity for the kids to do with Grandma since Steve & I will be out shopping for Leah's new bed)

    17 - RNM finish Jenn & Glen's quilted Christmas scrapbook album cover (this is a handmade gift I started last year...)

    gather books, toys, and clothes to donate to charity

    Best Hot Cocoa Mix for Carey (babysitter)

    18 - bake biscotti assortment for Sandy (family friend) - Pistachio-Raisin Biscotti, Almond-Ginger Biscotti

    drop biscotti off at Sandy's house, mail presents for Grandmommy & Grandaddy and Jenn & Glen

    19 - make felt mice for cats (pattern from Feltcraft), roll them in catnip

    20 - bake cookies for mail lady - Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps, Cornmeal-Cherry Cookies, Lemon-Currant Cookies

    21 - bake cookies for neighbors - Lime-Glazed Cookies, Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies, Date-Pecan Bars

    22 - Patty (Natalie's best friend from Sunday School) - Hardware Jewelry

    23 - make dog biscuits for Toby (Garlic-Cheese Dog Biscuits, also from ToH Annual Recipes 2004)

    24 - make cookies for Santa (Steve's picks are Outrageous Chocolate Cookies, Toffee Blondies, Chocolate-Chunk Cookies)

    hang stockings, leave out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa plus carrots for reindeer. I have no idea whether Natalie is going to want to leave cheese out for Santa Mouse but I'd better have some on hand just in case

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More book suggestions for Christmas present ideas:

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