Category Archives: Crafting

Autumn Crafts

This is going to be just a quick post, hopefully getting me back into posting.  It’s been a busy fall and looks like it might even be getting busier as we start big new projects, but more on that another time. We are off to a good school year and have started the fall yard clean up and garden bedding-down.  There is always time for crafting though, and we have made some fun things.

Last winter I made a heart garland for some Valentine’s Day fun which got me all excited about seasonal garlands and I made a flower one in the spring. I planned on doing a sweet butterfly garland for summer but that didn’t happen. There’s always next summer though.  I found several nice patterns for autumn leaves and set out to make a leaf garland using yarn leftovers.  I settled on this pattern for oak leaves. As I have mentioned before I am not much of a crochet-er so it took a little while to get the hang of this pattern but once I did I could whip them off fairly quickly. They are great when you just have a few minutes here are there. I decided to felt my leaves to make them a bit more solid feeling (and to hide my mistakes!).

Once I had a nice pile of autumn leaves for my garland, I decided not to make a garland. On Andy’s excellent suggestion we went out and found a branch and I hung all the leaves from the branch. Then Andy helped me hang the whole thing from the ceiling. I love it!

The girls have been working on a sweet little fall craft also. Last year my friend Sarah shared a lovely idea for a children’s seasonal craft. You can check it out here on her blog. Unfortunately, as crafts sometimes go, my girls didn’t finish them properly so we never got to display our cute jack-o-lanterns.  I decided to do that project again this year, but instead of jack-o-lanterns I made acorn and leaf templates and they are making fall decorations. Ila finished hers the day we started and Ulka is still working on them.

Ila of course got a lot more help. I cut out the shapes for her and I made little dots on the felt to help her know where to poke her needle, but I think she did a great job.

Ila’s acorn

Ila’s leaf.

Ulka was left on her own to cut out the leaves and sew them on. Her’s are coming out great too!

Ulka’s leaves

Happy Autumn Everyone! I would love to know what projects you all are working on too!

The Egg Dye Failure

Several years ago I started a family tradition of making hot cross buns on Good Friday. I think I have used a different recipe every year, but this years’ were my favorite so I need to record the recipe somewhere. I found it on a blog that I enjoy called The Pioneer Woman. Here is the link to her hot cross buns. We made plenty to share with our neighbors and also our friends who we were visiting that day.

 

Our family loves to dye Easter eggs and for a while now I have been curious about making natural dyes.  I have wanted to try this as much for the sake of experimentation and learning something new as for limiting our use of artificial colors and dyes.  I know people have had good success making natural dyes and their eggs look beautiful. I did a bit of research to find out what to use and how to do it. There are a ton of  resources online for doing this.

I boiled red cabbage which made a lovely deep blue color, but when I added vinegar it immediately turned an incredible pink.

I boiled spinach for green, and chili powder for orange. I though if I got good results with these, I would try some others the next day. Now, I am not a patient person, so I kept checking the eggs every 5 minutes and nothing was happening. I let them soak in their pots of natural dye for hours and when I finally took them out this is what I got- brace yourself……

 

So, it was a little bit disappointing and also kind of funny. My eggs clearly looked nothing like those lovely deep colored Easter eggs I saw on various websites. Obviously I did something wrong. I’ll probably try again next year, but fortunately  my friend Sarah had gone ahead and mixed up dyes using food coloring.  Lovely bright colors which made lovely Easter eggs.

 

Andy also loves to dye Easter eggs, so our family did another round of egg dying on Saturday morning using good old PAAS pellets.

Andy is kind of an expert over achieving egg dyer, so it fun to watch him. He is also ridiculously good at blowing out  eggs – when you poke each end of the egg with a pin and blow out all the innards so you have just the whole shell that you can dye and keep out as decorations. I had planned on making an egg dish for Easter brunch so we already had a plan for all those egg insides.

I washed off all the gunk from the failed naturally dyed eggs and we re-dyed those and they came out great too.

I know some of you have dyed eggs using natural dyes, so if you have any tips for me for next year, please do share them!

Anticipating Spring

I know I’ve said before that I don’t like winter, but I know that I have also talked about how I like the change of seasons- that I need each season to prepare for the next. This year we kept waiting for winter to arrive.

Normally the snowdrops start poking their little heads out of the ground while still covered with a blanket of snow. When the snow melts, exposing the snowdrops, the end of winter is in sight and spring is just around the corner. Since there was no snow this year, the snowdrops seemed to emerge in the middle of winter. I didn’t know if it was me or the flowers that were confused about the seasons!

I wasn’t ready for spring, we hadn’t had winter yet! The thought of preparing the garden and spring cleaning overwhelmed me. I wasn’t ready for all that. I hadn’t had  my time of winter dormancy. I feel like I need that  sleepy time of cold, snow, long nights, and cuddling down by the fire to fully appreciate the excitement of the coming of spring. Winter is a time of planning, and wondering, and pondering before the flurry of activity that the change of seasons brings.

I had just about given up on winter and was starting to wrap my head around the idea of spring when old mother nature finally delivered us the winter weather I needed. Leap day brought us 15 inches of snow. We immediately commenced all winter activities- snow day, sledding, snowball fights, shoveling, and hot chocolate with whipped cream.

We managed to squeeze in a whole season’s worth of winter into 24 hours. Then it rained and warmed up.

A week later we were out in the mud in 60 degree weather. But I got my winter, and now I am ready and eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring.

I’ll end here for I’m  off to order my garden seeds!

A Week in the Life – Day Six

I find that when we are out of milk and bread, we often have a more hearty filling breakfast because we cannot resort of bowls of cold cereal which the kids all love. Usually by Saturday we are pretty low on groceries but we almost always have dry grains and beans on hand, so it was steel-cut oats with lots of yummy toppings. Sounds great, but it would have been better if I hadn’t stormed off in the middle of breakfast because I couldn’t deal with the nonsense. Not a great way to start the day.

The kids have been in 4H for a couple of years and the leader moved away over the summer. I took over the position, not at all because I want to be the leader but because I didn’t want the group to die out.  I’ve got to be just about the worst 4H leader around. I have plenty of plans and ideas but I fail miserably at executing them. All my organizing and planning faculties are used up on school and home duties and the group is falling apart a little bit. I finally asked another mom to take over the administration part of the group- arranging the meetings and e-mailing etc. She is super motivated and organized and much better at it than me.

We had a meeting today and we are making wren houses. The kids were all pretty excited about the project and Andy took charge of it since it is much more his domain than mine. He cut out the pieces but the kids used the drill press to make the holes and to hammer and screw them together. They came out nicely. Next time we will paint them and research more about wrens for our group project for the county fair.

The afternoon was pretty low-key. Ishaan read for hours, Andy split some wood, and I studied Physics. After a lunch of leftovers we went out  to the local DEC Nature and Education Center which is less than 10 minutes from our house. It is a lovely place to go for a half an hour or a whole afternoon. There are lots of trails and a visitors center with some neat stuff including a rescued Barred Owl named Aries.

There are lots of photos from our little afternoon hike/walk. What the pictures don’t capture is Ila crying because she got soap in her sleeve when she used the bathroom, and then crying because she couldn’t put her mitten on her wet hand, and then crying because she couldn’t walk very fast. They also don’t capture my frustration with her crying and my lecture about how she is not a baby and she has to start acting like a big girl. Nor does it capture her glee when she climbed down the big hill all by herself because she actually is a big and very brave girl now.

Ishaan found a dead raccoon on the trail and after poking it with a stick to make sure it was really dead, there was much discussion and speculation about how and why it died. Kairav just kept asking if it was lost.

We returned home to find a package from my mom with an awesome new vest for Kairav and her heart shaped cake pan that she’s passing on to me. We had a quick hot cocoa (mine had Kirsch in it!) and off to Andy’s parents for dinner. Yay! Off the hook for dinner!

Somehow I had enough forethought to take the kids pajamas with us, so they all got ready for bed over there. All they had to do was brush teeth, have a quick story and fall into bed.

Not a bad Saturday. I really should either clean the office- which has become a pile of my tutoring stuff and craft stuff, or work on those pencil roll ups but I know that I will end up crocheting more hearts and watching something mindless on Netflix.

A Week in the Life – Day Five

As I might have mentioned, I love Fridays. Today, did not disappoint.  When my alarm went off at 6:20 I thought there was no way I could get ready and go to the gym. I made myself do it, and my welcome home was worth the effort of going. Ishaan and Kairav met me at the door.  Ishaan took my coat and Kairav brought me my slippers. I was then escorted to the dining room where a bowl of yogurt and molasses and a cup of hot coffee awaited me. The house was spotless and the kids were all dressed. Not a bad way to start the day!

At 9:45 Sarah arrived to take Ishaan and Ulka, along with her two children, to their homeschool bowling group. Sarah, my sweet friend, takes my two so that Ila and I can have some special time together while Kairav naps.  Not only did she take my kids for me, she brought us dinner for tonight. She has some great bowling shots here.

Today Ila and I got lunch ready and then went to the bowling alley to watch the kids. Sometimes we go out for a walk, or paint, or bake, but today we thought it would be fun to go and watch for a little while.


When we got home Ulka and Lucy  immediately put on their leotards and did about an hour of gymnastics. They are both about the same level, incredibly strong and determined, and neither of them want to be outdone by the other so they are a good match.

I love our Friday lunches together. I love that our kids will eat just about anything we put in front of them- with the exception of Kairav today who broke down sobbing because I told him he couldn’t have any more pita chips until he ate his spinach and lentils.

After lunch we sent the kids outside. The Ishaan and Jack wanted to make a fire in the fire pit so we said sure. They couldn’t get it to light with their flint and steels, so they asked if they could bike to the store to buy some matches. That sounded reasonable to us so again we said sure.

A little while later Ulka came in and offered us mints. When asked where she got them, she said that Ishaan bought them at the Marketplace because the matches were free. Sarah and I looked at each other with looks of combined hilarity and horror. We sent our two 9-year-old boys out on bikes in the middle of February to the store to buy matches in the middle of a school day. But the craziest part is that the people in the store said “matches are free”, so they used their money to but a tin of Altoids.

We burst into hysterical laughter tears streaming down our cheeks. Ila looked at us so confused and Sarah said “it’s ok, it’s just laugh-crying”. I’m not sure that cleared anything up for Ila.

Ulka and Lucy were not allowed to go with Ishaan and Jack and wanted to do something by themselves too, so they took their dolls out for a walk around the block.

Anyway, the boys got the fire going and the 5 ‘big’ kids spent the rest of the afternoon out by the fire sipping “tea . I later found out that they were just heating up water in a pan on the fire and dropping Altoids into it. Apparently they did try boiling grass, but I don’t think that worked out.

Last week I saw this really sweet crochet heart garland online and I got it in my head that even though I don’t like to crochet and I’m not very good at it,  I wanted to make one. I struggled through and taught myself (using the pattern that I can’t find right now to link to) how to make these hearts. I made lots of them but they just kept coming out looking awful. Sarah, also a non-crocheter, also gave it a go and hers were so lovely.  She shared her pattern with me and I still couldn’t do it. Finally after playing around with the two patterns I made some sort of pattern mash-up and got them to work. yay! I love them. I’m hooked and spent the entire 2 hours of Ulka’s gymnastics class making them.

A pile of rejects:

And now that I finally figured them out:

Dinner was already made for us and the kids were exhausted which made for an easy, tear free (mostly) evening. Jack brought the next installments of the Mysterious Benedict Society for Ish to borrow, so he is set for the weekend!

 

 

Now off to have left over birthday cake and make more hearts.

Two more days of this project. I hope you, my friends, are not getting tired of it!

A Week in the Life – Day Four

My love for Wednesday does not carry through into Thursdays. Thursday is a busy day and nearing the end of the week and we are all a bit tired. Thursday morning is chore morning. There are  chores every hour of every day, but on Thursday mornings we try to catch up on all the things that got away from us during the week. That way the house is nice a clean for our Friday and into the weekend.

I knew that  leaving that big pile of laundry on the chair when I went to bed would be something that I would regret it this morning. I did. I’m all about portioning my day out and rewarding little small accomplishments throughout the day. I’m talking about for myself, not the kids here. I don’t know what, if anything, this says about me but it really helps me get stuff done. So, I forced myself to fold a small mountain of laundry and put it all away BEFORE my morning coffee. I don’t function well without my morning coffee, so getting it was a big reward. An even bigger reward was that while I was putting away laundry, a task I simply hate, Andy made a Panakeuken for breakfast. Yummy.

After breakfast Andy started work and the kids were all given chores. The kids dusted and tidied their bedroom, the girls tidied the playroom, and Ishaan tidied the mud room while I raced around trying to cross things off my list.

Ishaan has a daily chore of unloading the dishwasher. He used to complain bitterly about it, but after two years of doing it every morning I think he has come to the realization that complaining about it only makes it worse and he is happy to get it over with.

School started a little bit late and seemed to drag on and on. Ishaan had a hard time focusing and I had to keep nagging him.

I am sewing colored pencil rolls for Ishaan and Ulka for Valentine’s Day so I needed to work on those. The kids almost never ask me what I am making so I can still make things while they are around. Maybe because I’m always making something or another so they don’t really even notice. I don’t especially like making these roll-ups but I really love how they turn out and they both need one. Ulka lost hers and Ishaan never had one. I worked on those while Ishaan plodded through his school work and practiced his knot-tying and Ulka and Ila painted and did gymnastics in the living room.

After the kids’ school work is done, my school work begins. I often have a few hours a week of prep time. I don’t mind it though- I like working through problems that have a formula and a clear answer.

My plan was to make dinner early because our Thursday afternoons are a mad rush, but the kids and I were both going stir crazy so we headed outside for a while. Ishaan, Ulka, and Ila go in and out all day but it was fun to go out with them and to take Kairav out to play too.

So, instead of the lentils and veggies and quinoa that I had planned for dinner, Andy made pasta while I took Ishaan to swim practice. I dropped Ishaan off, gave everyone a kiss and hopped on my bike to meet my Physics student. Andy cleaned up from dinner, packed up the kids and drove them over to his parents house, and went over to our friends house for our weekly fellowship group. I biked over and met him after tutoring and gobbled down the banana and yogurt he brought me for dinner. See, too hectic for my liking. I don’t like Thursdays and am exhausted and going to bed so rest up for Friday- my big day of fun.

A Week in the Life – Day Three

My love of Wednesdays started a year and a half ago when Ishaan and his friend went to a wilderness program all day and the friend’s lovely mama and sister came over here for the day. No school, shared lunch, and good knitting and chatting ensures a great day. Now the boys and their sisters do a Friday homeschool bowling group (I know, it doesn’t get dorkier than that- I should just put on my denim jumper right now). So that lovely day off  has moved to Friday which is great because it makes a long weekend. Our Wednesdays have somehow managed to stay pretty low-key. The kids don’t have any activities and I don’t (usually) tutor on Wednesday. By Wednesday the rhythm of the week is fully established and is usually going well. We get school done nice and early and then have a whole free afternoon ahead of us.

I forgot to make yogurt last night, so the morning started with yogurt making. I have my mom’s old yogurt maker that she used when I was a kid and it is so easy to make delicious fresh yogurt all the time.

Ila likes to get dressed by the fire. Although I would really prefer that she gets dressed upstairs like the others it’s not really a big deal and a battle I don’t think is worth fighting.

Today was not a typical Wednesday though because I had a Chemistry student in the morning. I don’t normally take students in the daytime, but he needed some emergency test prep and Andy had a bit of a slower day than usual so it worked out. Kairav went down for a nap and Ila stayed home to make cookies with Andy. I packed up Ishaan and Ulka’s school work and the three of us went to the library. Ishaan doesn’t leave home without his bucket lately, more on that later.

Kids are not supposed to be in the library unsupervised until they are 10 which I think is ridiculous. If they are quiet and well-behaved it shouldn’t be a big deal.  I set them up with enough work  to last the 1.5 hours. They were amazing. They just sat silently and got through their work and then sat in the big comfy chairs and read.

Recently our favorite bread went up to 4.50 a loaf. I am unwilling to pay 4.50 for a loaf of bread, so we went back to making bread twice a week. Today was bread day. I think pretty soon I will be able to hand the entire task over to Ulka.

Ulka has been making bread with me and in her playgroup in Brooklyn since she was 3.  We use a basic bread recipe that they used in playgroup and play around with different flours and always add ground flax seeds. It turns out beautifully every time.

 

 

****Please note, there is a typo on this recipe. It should say 2T of honey, not 2 1/4 cups. I actually use some molasses and some agave nectar.

A new neighbor moved in just down the street today, so we took the smaller loaf over to her and kept the other for us.

Often we eat a hot lunch all together (usually leftovers), but after spending most of the day in the kitchen yesterday I just didn’t have it in me. Plus I wanted to save the left overs for dinner. This is all I could muster for lunch today.

The rest of the afternoon was fairly mellow. Playing, coloring, reading, knitting, a rousing game of ring around the rosy, and a little prep work for my evening students.




It was a wonderful quiet winter day. One more day until Friday, my most favorite day of the week.

Clothing and Fibers Block- Leather Moccasins

The fibers and clothing block that Ishaan and I are working on is by far my favorite so far. It probably has a lot to do with how much I love making things and exploring new fibers and fabrics. The fact that we took a much needed long Christmas break must also play into it. Although it took a week to get out routine back, we came back to school refreshed and excited. Ishaan also enjoys making things so this is a perfect hands on block.

We’ve decided to study leather, flax/linen, wool, cotton and silk. In addition to learning about each fiber and how they are made, we also plan to do a “making” project for each of them. The first one we have completed is a pair of leather moccasins. We looked at many pattern and kits online but ended up choosing a pair of one-peice soft sole moccassins which we found the instructions for on a website called Native American Technology and Art. It is a great site which I am sure we will refer back to when we do our Native American block this spring.

Above is an example of the instructions that we followed. I traced around Ishaan’s feet and then measured and drew out all those complicated looking lines. Really they are not complicated once you read the instructions all the way through.

making the paper pattern

paper pattern

After we made and cut out the paper pattern, we made a mock up out of a piece of scrap fabric. I HIGHLY recommend that you do this as we had to make some adjustments to make the pattern work. We added about 1/2″ to the width of the flaps to make them a little bit longer when folded down. We also had to add a bit to the length and make them a bit narrower across the foot. The photo show the mock up just pinned, but I had Ishaan sew it up to practice his stitching. Also, it gave him something to do while he waited for his leather needle to arrive.

mock up out of scrap fabric

Once we were happy with our pattern adjustments, Ishaan traced the pattern onto his piece of suede and cut it out.

cutting the leather

cutting leather

tool to mark the holes or stitches
We didn’t end up using this nifty little tool. I think it is for softer, thinner leather and couldn’t make a deep enough mark with it. I just marked the leather with a sharpie every 3/16″. We also did not end up using the glovers needle I got.  I could barely get it through one layer of leather and I knew that Ishaan trying to force it through two layers would likely end in disaster. I just punched the holes with a leather punch that my mom had left over from her den-mother days. It made the sewing for Ishaan much easier and he just used thick waxed thread and a darning needle.

Leather punch

sewing up the moccasin

 Ishaan sewed up the moccasin almost entirely on his own. According to the instructions he used a whip stitch from the underneath to about the end where the big toe would end. He did the rest using a running stitch so he could gather the stitches giving a puckering effect. He did a similar thing in the back. The tab in the back was a bit tricky and I helped a lot with that.

finished!

boy in moccasins

It was a super fun and less complicated than i originally throughout project for the clothing and fibers block. Ishaan is proud of himself  and pleased as punch with his new moccasins!

Christmas


I realized that my past few posts have been pretty wordy with no photos. I also know that some of you would probably rather see photos of the kids rather than hear my ramblings. I’ve been meaning to do a Christmas post, so I’ve decided to keep it to mainly photos- they are pretty self-explanatory. We were pretty focused on Christmas morning fun and not taking pictures, so we didn’t get many and the ones we did get are only ok, but here they are.




Advent Ideas

Until a few years ago I never even knew what Advent was. I thought it was all about opening little windows on the Advent calendar and popping out a piece of chocolate. When Ishaan was in a Waldorf playgroup in Brooklyn we learned about the advent spiral, which quickly became one of our favorite of the Waldorf festivals, and that was my first experience with any Advent activity.

Ishaan at the Advent Spiral

Then a few years later we started going to an Episcopal Church in Manhattan which followed the liturgical church calendar and celebrated all the Holy Days. That is when I really started to learn what Advent is all about and we started to celebrate it as a family. I love the idea of taking a step back from all the frenzy and busyness of this time.

Weeks ago I started a draft which I called early Advent. I had planned to get lots of Advent activities and ideas posted early. There were so many little projects I wanted to have done by now. Most of them are from The Christmas Craft Book by Thomas Berger. I love this little book. It is full of sweet and lovely ideas that go from Advent through Christmas. Every year I promise that I am going to make one of the tissue paper window transparencies that I love so much and I’ve never done one. Since those are not a specifically Advent project, we still have time and I’m still hoping to get one made this year. The walnut chain and the angel mobile are going to get missed again this year. I tell myself it’s ok, because I can do them when Kairav is a bit older and will appreciate these things more and it will be new and exciting for him.

Last year I made an Advent garland that we all loved. Andy and I folded pieces of colored paper into little envelopes. I wrote out the Christmas story on 24 small pieces of card stock and tucked one, along with a small piece of chocolate and a star cut out of gold card stock, into each envelope. The kids took turns checking the envelope each morning. Ishaan would read the verse aloud and then we would stick the card stock to the back of the envelope and the star on front. Ok, it’s 3:00 am and I’m not sure this description is making any sense. Maybe I’ll just include a photo.

Anyway, by the time Christmas Eve arrived, we had a bright garland hanging across the living room doorway with the whole christmas story written out on the back. I am hoping to do it again this year, but this year we are making the envelopes out of recycled brown paper bags. I will cut out the numbers from colored paper to brighten it up a little bit.

Earlier today when I was frantically searching for Advent ideas I came across a fun paper chain idea that I think we will try. You make a paper chain of 24 loops, each with something written on it. The suggestion was to write out a verse of the Christmas story, but since we are already doing that with the garland we won’t repeat it. I thought that instead I could come up with 24 fun Christmas activities and write one on each day. Each morning we will tear off one loop of our chain and read our special Christmas activity for the day- such as make paper snowflakes, bake cookies, get the Christmas tree…. I think that will be a fun thing for the kids and will put a focus on doing things as a family during what can just end up being such a hectic time.

I was also hoping to get a few books about Advent from the library, but since Advent starts tomorrow, they are naturally all checked out. The one I am most looking forward to is called The Angel and the Christmas Rabbit. It is a collection of 24 stories and they look so sweet. It is not due back in the library until 12/16, and by then it will be too late, so I may just break down and buy it. It is a book that we can use every year, so it will be a good investment.

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent. I’ve written out the Year B Advent Readings, though we still have to make our Advent Wreath. In previous years we have used colored pillar candles, but this year we decided to go with more simple and natural beeswax tapers made by a local beekeeper  that I got from our farmer’s market.

Previous Advent Wreath

I need to stop getting worked up about all the things that I haven’t done for Advent and focus on the quiet and the waiting and not miss the point. There will be more years to get the projects done and it will be nice to add something new each year.