December 26, 2009

Wishing you all wonderful holidays!


We woke to find the Child of Light on the Advent table with an angel overhead.

The stable I made for Lo's Buntspechte animals. Huz helped quite a bit in the building-we cranked most of it out on Christmas eve. Thanks hunny!!!!!

Dea with the canvas lightscape that I made her

I edited and converted to b&W these pictures that Dea took on her trip to Europe. Printed them on canvas paper and mounted them on artist canvases.

Huz made Lo that great painting board for watercolors.

Dea made Lo this nice tray

December 21, 2009

Winter light-Solstice's symphony in blue

The shortest and darkest day of the year. A time when the sun peeks above the horizon for a mere 5-ish hours a day.... leaving our outside world awash in Solstice's symphony in blue. From the lightest periwinkle to the deepest indigo...a fresh blanket of white snow and trees dressed in crystalline hoar frost. My breath escapes me at times when standing out in it. It is so beautiful and just begs for quiet and reflection. It is still dark now at 8am but I anticipate today's rising sun and hope it will be clear enough for spectacular colors and morning "elfin" glow (Dea's word for Alpine glow when she was little) on the mountains.

Inside on solstice is a different story!

The glow of wood burning in our stove and the light of our many candles and lanterns warms our home and souls. Today, my hopes are that Lo and I will enjoy the morning outside and an afternoon of making beeswax candles and ornaments, cookies, reading stories...bathed in light and just being. The sweet scent of bees wax and it's beautiful warm color adds to the glow within. I just wish Dea and Huz could be a part of it-they have to work today.

Lanterns and candles we have been working on:

Lemons, walnut shells and seed pods make great vessels for beeswax candles!
Tomorrow our light will return, little by little, every day. I look forward to it but am also grateful for it's unhurried return... and the lingering of winter color.

Celebrating Advent-Week 4, The Human Kingdom

With this 4th light of advent
We honor the fold.
We give thanks to humans,
the young and the old

Bless the earth's people
a wish for peace among all
hand in hand, united,
together standing tall

Bless our family
and friends far and near
where there is so much love
and connection so dear

December 20, 2009

Woman's day

Last week my friend, Nature Lady, hosted a crafting and cookie exchange at her house. It had been awhile since I was able to attend one of these lovely get-togethers and this female-infused creative chat time was something I really needed! And this time, I actually got something done! What usually happens is that I scramble to get all my crafting paraphernalia in the car and by the time I get to Nature Lady's house I realize I've forgotten some key component in the making of the particular craft that I'm working on. Like the sewing machine.

I was totally thrilled with myself for making alot of headway on the crayon roll I'm making for Lo. I SUCK at sewing-both hand and machine- so this was BIG for me! And so nice to accomplish this in my friend's warm home among other like-minded mamas, hearty soup, sinful cookies, and good conversation. It hearkens back to an older time when things were simpler, more in tune with the natural, and more connected.

And here I sit on the couch plugged into my new laptop. As much as I LOVE it and can't wait to really take my photography to the next level with it, I think I'll put it away for now. (For the vulgarly decadent Chocolate Star recipe, buy the latest Better Homes and Garden's Ultimate Cookies.) Off to bake more cookies and enjoy the new 23 inches of snow we have!


December 16, 2009

Celebrating Advent-Week 3, The Animal Kingdom

Beneath night's dark blanket
a white candle is lit.
A warm Advent gift,
the flame of human spirit.

With this 3rd light of Advent
We give thanks to the animals
To beasts large and small
Who reflect back our souls

Bless the friendship
and wonderment they provide,
Their gifts of self
nourish our lives.

Bless the deep knowledge
and the lessons they offer,
about caring and loving
And sharing Earth with each other.
(This week's gift from the Advent faeries is this sweet Buntspechte donkey -from the Puppenstube ;) -Just in time for our reading of Mary's Little Donkey!)

December 14, 2009

The BIG four-o.

Dea baked the sheet cake and drew on the wording, Huz did the rest. 'Twas YUM!

Ready for the keg!

Youth abounded at the party. Wish my cold hadn't kept me from joining the sledding outside.

December 9, 2009

Retro stocking stuffers!

Before I get started, I want to mention the funky new comment threading thang I found on my blog journeys. It's called IntenseDebate and it's a commenting system that enhances and encourages conversation (among other things) on your blog or website. Leave a comment and check it out! Fun or superfluous?

OMG. Remember that movie!?!?! That box office phantasm of roller rink lovin'?!! That excellent hijacking of 93 minutes of your life ?!!? XANADU!!!! ??????? Remember? Oliva Newton John and her AWESOME ribbon barrettes?!?!? Back.In.Style!!!!!!!!!! Made some for Lo recently. She LOVES 'em!

I lost the tutorial I set up :( and tis the season to have NO time to go back and do it over. So here is an instructional vid I found:
Who could forget Chinese jax! Move aside Rubix cube! HUGE in 5th grade! I spent much allowance money at the Ben Franklin store by my Grama's house buying up those bags of little plastic circle thingys! My friends and I had so much fun making cool color combos and playing-mostly at school. Portable fun!

And I just couldn't leave out the once-ubiquitous PET ROCK. Never had one, but...

I prefer a nice tumbled gem stone. No eyes.

(photo courtesy of flickr)

December 7, 2009

Celebrating Advent- Week 2, The Plant Kingdom

Beneath night's dark blanket
a white candle is lit.
A warm Advent gift,
the flame of human spirit.

With this 2nd light of advent
We give thanks to the plants.
To the flowers and trees,
to the vegetables and grass.

Bless the shelter
and life force they provide,
their nourishment and oxygen
Enfolds our lives.

Bless their beauty
Gracing the land,
The strength of their roots
Above which we stand.

(the little tree you see on our Advent table was this week's gift from the Advent faeries)

Our first REAL Christmas tree!

Making decorations

Huz made this beautiful Pan au Lait braid as well as a loaf with a cinnamon swirl. We made the YUMMIEST french toast out of the loaf!

Pan au Lait ingredients:

Pâte Fermentée (starter):

½ tsp. (2.5 mL) traditional dry yeast
1/3 cup (80 mL) lukewarm water, 75° to 95°F (24° to 35°C)
4¼ oz. (120 g) unbleached hard white flour

Pain au Lait:
2/3 cup (160 mL) lukewarm water, 75° to 95°F (24° to 35°C)
25 oz. (710 g) unbleached hard white flour
8½ oz. (240 g) semolina flour
3 oz. (90 g) sugar
¾ cup (180 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups (300 mL) homogenized milk, at room temperature
2 extra large eggs
4 tsp. (20 mL) traditional dry yeast
1 recipe Pâte Fermentée, fermented 4 to 6 hours
4 tsp. (20 mL) salt
canola oil to lightly coat mixing bowl and pans
1 egg white for glazing
cornmeal (for baking boules)

For the Pâte Fermentée:

Carefully measure all the ingredients. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) of the water. The yeast should take on a creamy-looking consistency within a few minutes. (If it has not, discard it and buy new yeast.) Add the remaining warm water and stir. Place the flour in the standing mixer bowl with the dough hook attachment. Add the water and yeast mixture and mix on slow (#2 speed) for 2 minutes until the flour is incorporated and the mixture has the look of playdough or silly putty.

Transfer the pâte fermentée to a lightly oiled, medium-sized bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to ferment at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours. It should look puffy and have a few air bubbles when it is done.

When the pâte fermentée is complete, it can be used immediately or refrigerated for a few hours. Bring to room temperature before continuing the recipe.

For the Pain au Lait:
Pour 1/3 cup plus 3 Tbsp. (125 mL) of the water into the standing mixer bowl. Add the white flour and semolina flour, the sugar, butter, milk, and eggs. Hold back ¼ to S of the flour mixture if your bowl is not large enough. Attach the dough hook and mix on slow (#2 speed) for 3 minutes. Drape a kitchen towel or plastic wrap over the bowl and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. This process is called autolyse. It allows the dough to absorb water and the gluten to develop. Don't be concerned if the dough clings to the dough hook.

Pour the remaining 1/8 cup plus 1 tsp. (35 mL) of lukewarm water into a small bowl and stir in the yeast until dissolved. Add the pâte fermentée and the dissolved yeast to the dough and mix on slow (#2 speed) for 1 minute. Add the salt and mix for 2 minutes on slow (#2 speed) and then on fast (#4 speed) for 3 minutes. If you have not added all the flour, remove the dough from the bowl and knead it in now. Use the push-pull method, allowing your palms to push the dough away from you along the surface. Pull it back over itself and continue the action for about 4 minutes. The dough, when ready, should feel slightly sticky when pressed with your palm.

Pat the dough into a ball and place in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Turn it over so that it is completely coated in oil. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for about 1½ to 2 hours. The dough should almost double. Leave it up to an extra hour if necessary.

To Make Loaves
Lightly oil 3 pans approximately 3¾ x 7½ x 2½ inches (9½ x 19 x 6½ cm) in sizeTeflon-coated if possible. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in 3 equal pieces, approximately 1½ lbs. (700 g) each. Shape each piece into a ball, cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let them rest for 15 minutes. Gently pat each piece of dough into a rectangle 8 inches (20 cm) long and of even thickness. Using your palms, roll one long side of the dough toward the other like a long jelly roll and pat into a shape that will fit your pan. Gently press the seams together. Put the dough into the pans, seam-side down. Again, drape with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature until approximately 1½ inches (4 cm) above the rim of the pan (about 2 to 3 hours). Press your finger into the dough. If it leaves a slight indentation, the bread is ready to be baked. If it springs back, cover it and check again in 15 minutes. As the dough is proofing, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C), or 325°F (165°C) for a convection oven. Check the temperature with an oven thermometer.

Uncover the loaves. Brush the top of each loaf with lightly whisked, room temperature egg white. Open the oven door and generously spray the sides of the oven with hot water. Alternatively, place 5 or 6 ice cubes on the oven floor. Close the door. Wait 10 to 20 seconds and place the pans on a rack a third from the bottom of the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Breads put in a convection oven may bake slightly faster.

The bread should be a golden brown and produce a hollow sound when you tap the bottom crust. To do this, carefully tip the bread out of the pan. It should just slip out. Tap the bottom crust with your fingertips. If it is fully baked, it will sound hollow. If not, return the bread to the pan and bake a further 5 minutes. Repeat until the bread is done.

Remove the loaves immediately from the oven and cool, well spaced, on a wire rack. Resist the temptation to cut into them immediately. They will taste much better about an hour or two later.

***Great gift ideas: Check out Mama4Earth's wonderful shop! The Magic Onions is offering a giveaway of Mama4Earths sweet pink mohair kitty!

Hop on over and check out Onion's ETSY shop as well! I'm loving her round felted mice and little seed pod babies-which I've just discovered have already sold! :( I'm so SAD. Should have been on top of it.

December 3, 2009

Celebrating Advent-Week one, the Mineral Kingdom

Beneath night's dark blanket
a white candle is lit.
A warm Advent gift,
the flame of human spirit.

With this first light of Advent,
we give thanks to the stones.
To the shells and the sand,
to the crystals and bones.

Bless the strength
and support they provide,
holding us steady
on our foundation outside.

Bless their beauty
and inner light.
Illuminating our lives
in the darkest of nights.

Anticipating the return of the light, both the physical and the spiritual, is a revered and important event -especially living here in Alaska where our days are currently averaging about 6 hours of daylight! At a time when the outer world is asleep, we attempt to temper our own deep inward turning with the reawakening and aching longing for light. Whether wrestling with ones demons, coming to peace, or warmly incubating the next step of one's evolution...the Advent season is a most welcome time.

About 3 years ago, around the winter holidays, I got the inspiration to create a Better Advent Calender. Actually, I was just beginning my journey into the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf education . The plastic and/or obnoxious toys had recently been donated and I was anticipating the wonderful new natural toys that "Santa" would bring. At the same time, I wanted to make the season meaningful with less emphasis on list making and mall shoppping . I wanted it to truly be a SEASON of celebrating, sharing, giving, and above all, being thankful. I was tired of hectic, arrhythmical days after Thanksgiving leading up to the One Carnal Christmas Day Frenzy and the CRASH soon after. Our society has distilled the Advent season down to Black Friday, advertising bombardments, and a simple cardboard calendar containing cheap waxy chocolates under it's flimsy doors. I wanted something more for my family. I created our current Advent calendar containing the occasional chocolate, but also little gemstones and gift cards for special events like sledding at the park, an owling walk, a foot rub... We had always made our own Christmas cards and yearly ornament, but now it was the start of emphasising gift giving from the heart. I helped to kids to come up with handmade gift ideas for our family and close friends. Things they would enjoy making and feel proud to give, knowing the recipient would cherish their gift.

Last year was my first attempt at incorporating the 4 weeks of Advent into our holiday season. Each week is a celebration of one of the four worldly Kingdoms: Mineral, plant, animal and human. A new candle is lit for each Sunday of Advent, and depending on what Kingdom is being celebrated that week, we add special items to the the nature table, read stories and poems, perform table plays, make crafts, and enjoy special outings. The morning after each Advent Sunday, a gift from the Advent gnomes can be found on the nature table. Yesterday, Lo found the beautiful tall quartz behind the candle that you see in the photo above! For week four, I'm sure the gnomes will bring our new Mary and Joseph to the nature table. And, of course, sometime on Christmas Eve the Child of Light will appear with them.

Here are some of our Advent ideas for this season:

The Mineral Kingdom

Trip to the crystal and rock store
Add rocks, gemstones, crystals, bones, and shells to our nature table and candle.
Dig out the bags of rocks and shells we have for counting, sorting, building, and creating designs and patterns.
Basalt stones that we have collected from Alaska rivers can be warmed up and used for massage or just to hold in your hands. WONDERFUL on a cold winter day! Yay Kingdom of Stones!
Read the Festival of Stones from Tiptoes Lightly-The Festival of Stones

The Plant Kingdom
This year will be our first trip out to buy a REAL tree!
Collect pine boughs for decorating
Trim the tree
Add pomander balls, pomegranates, and plants to the nature table
Feed our many hungry houseplants with fertilizer
Make a yummy holiday salad with dried cranberries and winter nuts
Trip to the botanical garden
You can order gifts from companies using GoZero to eliminate the carbon footprint of online shipping!
Read The Festival of Plants from Tiptoes Lightly

The Animal Kingdom
Add little wood and felt animals, feathers, tufts of fur to the nature table
Volunteer to walk dogs at the Humane Society
Groom our nappy pets
Make treats for the hungry birds outside
Take a winter trip to the zoo!
Read the Festival of Animals from Tiptoes Lightly

The Human Kingdom
Add gnomes, and fairies to our Mary and Joseph on the nature table

Adopt an American soldier and send a care package- Soldier's Angels
Buy a chicken, goat, or even a yak for a family in an impoverished country!
Visit our elders at a nursing home
Bake and deliver goodies to our neighbors
Enjoy all the socializing that we do with our loved ones this time of year!
Read the Festival of Light from Tiptoes Lightly

*Ecofun gift ideas:

for those kiddos who would love to help with cutting the firewood for warm toasty woodstoves-SAFELY! Head over to Learning Apple Gardens and their Etsy shop for wooden chainsaws!

*Nicola from Which Name? is doing a giveaway for one of her amazing natural crayon caddies on her wonderful blog this week! Please do take a moment to check it out!*