On any given day you are most likely to find us communing with the gnomes and the fairies Under The Old Oak Tree

Friday, May 27, 2011

Simple Joys: Spiritual, Emotional and Physical Nourishment

One of my greatest needs that has been the hardest to meet since we moved here has been finding a new church for our family to attend.  I'm finding this much harder this time than I did in our previous city.  At that point, W hadn't been born yet and it never occurred to me that I needed to find a church to meet his needs as well as my own.  We were lucky with our church home there.  They have wonderful children's programs, and a nursery staff  who were kind and loving and who knew our family well.  We didn't even use the nursery there all that much.  W stayed with us in services till he was a year old and started becoming disruptive.  Before he turned two we started keeping him with us for the first part of the service and taking him to the nursery if sitting still and quiet started to become an unrealistic expectation for him.  He is a toddler and I think that an hour long service is a long time to expect a little boy to sit quietly and not be disruptive, even if he has plenty to occupy him.

Now, with his new job my husband is working on Sundays so I am also left to take W to church on my own.  In the past he did much of the active parenting during church, respecting my need to be able to participate fully in worship as a way to recharge for the week.  We have tried quite a number of churches since we moved here.  Some were just bad fits all the way around.  Others would have been wonderful places for me, but did not have other children W's age or even nurseries for him.  Another, which I thought was going to work for our family only had a nursery intermittently, and we had very bad results when they did not.  The last time we went to that church, I left in tears as I chased W back through the doors after his third energetic running screaming trip down the aisle during a prayer.  I left feeling more drained and spiritually and emotionally depleted than when we arrived.  It was suddenly very obvious, that this church, while lovely, was not going to meet the needs of W or myself on a regular basis and our search started all over again.

This past week we tried yet another church, and I'm cautiously optimistic.  I took W into the service to start, and he loved all of the singing that started the service.  When he started to become fidgety, I took him to the nursery and he had a wonderful time!  The nursery was staffed by a paid attendant (never realized just how important this is in terms of the nursery being a safe and reliable place before) who had her son who is W's age there too.  She met his needs in a kind and loving way and took the boys outside to play.  I could hear them outside having a wonderful boisterous, energetic time while I was in the service and it was really freeing for me.  The service was very different from what I am accustomed to, but it was deeply nourishing spiritually, and I felt recharged in a way, I have not been since we moved here.  The experience could not have been more different from that of the previous week.  I'm praying that our future experiences there will be as positive.  W had not wanted to even go to church again after the experience we had the previous week.  On Sunday, while I was putting him down for his nap, he turned to me and said "Mama, I love church".

After the service W and I stopped by our local farmer's market for the first time.  It was wonderful!  Almost everything I could ask for in a farmer's market.  It's big!  Lots and lots of vendors who grow crops locally.  Many sell plants as well as produce. The prices were quite reasonable.  Most were comparable or better than what we've been paying at the grocery store.  The herb man is wonderful and knowledgeable and we had a wonderful conversation about the uses of different types of lavender.

This is what we ended up buying at the market...

Two bags of lettuce, asparagus, kohlrabi, sugar snap peas, radishes, baby potatoes, a bag of English lavender, a bag of French lavender,  a chocolate mint plant, an elfin thyme plant (which is the cutest daintiest thing I've ever seen), an English lavender plant and a zinnia.

W couldn't wait to try a radish after we read Peter Rabbit hundreds of times this spring.

He spit it back out pretty quickly so I'm guessing he thought the flavor was a bit strong.  He has been eating them in salads this week though.    We have eaten so well this week and the market ingredients have really energized my cooking. Each dinner has featured some ingredient from the market.  So far we have used our farmers' market ingredients to make several salads,  asparagus pasta (as a treat we added some shrimp and I also added lemon juice and dill to the recipe), steamed sugar snap peas,  a lavender cake (heavenly), and roasted kohlrabi and baby potatoes.  I've also taken to having a cup of lavender tea in the evening before bed.  I think we will make a habit of going to the market each week after church.

All in all, by the time we arrived home last week I felt so nourished: spiritually, emotionally and physically.  Even better, I knew that W had been as well.  It makes our situation after this move feel much less desperate too, which is such a comfort.

In other good news this week, we also found out on Sunday that W and I have been accepted into the Parent-Child class at the local Waldorf School for September.  It feels like such a long way off, but it really gives us something to look forward to as well.  We are really excited!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scherenschitte Bugs of Summer

If my favored artistic medium is wool, my mother's is paper.  Occasionally we like to dabble in each others' preferred mediums.  This past week I have been doing just that.  I am far from great at scherenschitte or paper cutting, but from time to time I do enjoy it.

Scherenschitte reminds me of my college years.  My mother took a class in it and for the entire time I was in college, care packages came with a beautiful piece of cut paper glued to a card or even to a container of goodies.  It was beautiful, but I'm not sure at the time I appreciated just how much work and love she put into these pieces of art she sent.

I've done bits and pieces of this art form over the past few years.  In the foreground of this Easter picture, you can see the Palm Sunday/Easter rooster I cut out last year.

I also used a similar technique to cut out silhouettes of W that I gave as Mother's Day gifts to grandmothers last year.  Somehow, I don't have any pictures or scans of those, but they made a wonderful gift.

Recently, I decided I wanted to do some more paper cutting and sketched and cut out these design patters from white paper.  I scanned these bugs over a sheet of colored paper and scanned them.  I took the image this created and digitally edited it to come up with this banner for the blog.

I think this would make beautiful note cards if I ever decide to get them printed.

Today, I played with these designs some more, re-sketching some all together and created and scanned this template which I scanned and printed out on red, blue, yellow and green card stock.

I then mounted them on small squares of black card stock, scanned them and edited the images together.

I think these would be really nice in some sort of simple wood frames and  placed on a summer nature table.  I'm looking forward to designing some more of these cut paper pieces.

We Have Caterpillars In The Parsley!

This morning W and I stepped out on our balcony to cut some herbs to put into our morning omelet.  While cutting the parsley, I noticed this caterpillar.

I ran back inside to get my camera.  When I returned I photographed not only this caterpillar but also two others!

I think these must have hatched from eggs left by our "flutterby" friend two weeks ago.  This is so so exciting.  I've done a little research and I'm pretty sure this is some sort of swallowtail, possibly a black swallow tail.  If anyone reading this is better at identifying butterflies and caterpillars than I am, please give me you opinion on this!  Also, since these little guys munching on our parsley are a covered in little "horns" I think it is safe to say they are probably first instar and have quite a bit of growing to do before they form their chrysalis.  I hope our balcony will be a hospitable place for them to grow and pupate.  I'm more than willing to share our parsley with these amazing creatures.

I'll be sure to keep gently checking in on them and take more pictures.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Yarn Along

I am continue to participate in Small Things' Yarn Along this week.  

I've done some more work on my shawl, but the stockinette portion is taking a while, and I needed some knitting variety, so I have cast on this scarf.  You may remember I made about five of these last Christmas as gifts for the women in my family.  They are a great quick knit and I had intended to make one  for me and never got around to it, so here we go.  I've made a few small changes to the pattern for interest.  I'm using some purple Patons Wool yarn that I found left over in my stash.

This week I have finished up Children at Play.  I found that I really enjoyed it and that it is having quite an impact already on how I view W's play and toys and reinforces what we are choosing for him in terms of education.

I also have been looking at the verses, songs and stories in Wynstones Press's

Summer: A Collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for Young Children, as we look forward to summer and our Midsummer/ St. John's Day celebration.

This week I found myself revisiting Raising a Son which I have not looked at since W was an infant.  As part of my quest to be a more mindful parent, I felt that I wanted to delve into this again.

For fun I picked up The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte  from the library. I read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre a few weeks ago in preparation for listening to the Diane Rehm Show's program on that book.  One of her guests was the other of this novel, Syrie James.  I loved Jane Eyre and decided to read a novel about the author as well. 

W also made a selection for this week's Yarn Along.  A friend recently recommended Farmer Brown Shear His Sheep: A Yarn About Wool so we picked it up from the library.  The illustrations are very cartoonish for my taste, but the story is told through a wonderful, humorous rhyme and W and I love that it covers all the steps in making a sweater from shearing the sheep to knitting.  It is definitely a fun read, especially for two sheep and wool lovers like W and myself.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ladybugs Under The Old Oak Tree

"Ladybug ladybug fly away home..."

I have a confession to make.  I have a serious aversion to real ladybugs.  It goes back to my college days when thousands of them invaded my dorm room each year.  Every year our dorm was overrun by ladybugs sunning themselves on the outside walls.  That was fine.  It was when they all moved into the dorm that I started having issues with them.  I had always really liked ladybugs until I had to live with huge numbers of them falling from the ceiling and light fixtures on my while I slept or into my drink.  Just thinking about it makes me shiver and feel itchy.

So, fast-forward ten + years, and I am ever so slowly embracing the ladybug again.  I know they are a very beneficial insect to have in your garden, and are harmless in the great outdoors (probably indoors too, but I have baggage around that.)  When I took W strawberry picking, I even caught one for him to see.  It didn't even make me squirm.  I was very proud of myself for being able to handle and enjoy seeing the ladybug.  

I'm not sure this could have happened if W and I had not been doing some serious ladybug reading.  Our first trip to the library in our new town, we found Ladybug, Ladybug by Ruth Brown.  It quickly became one of our favorite books.

The illustrations in this version of this nursery rhyme is just so beautiful!  The depictions of the English countryside where the ladybug meets animals are so gentle and lovely.  W and I also love the poetry of the rhyme and it is yet another example of our love of nursery rhymes that I wrote about previously.

So, to celebrate my new found respect (and possibly even love) of all things ladybug, the newest addition to my Under The Old Oak Tree Etsy shop is this needle felted ladybug.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Simple Joys: Preserving Spring

Recently one of the mom's from my old local attachment and natural parenting groups sent us all a link about making violet jelly.  Later that day W and I took a walk and realized that our new neighborhood was teeming with violets so we decided to give it a try.  Our family went for a walk and picked as many violets around the neighborhood as we could.  Two cups is quite a lot of violets to pick!  But it was a wonderful family outing and we found some really lovely wooded areas in our neighborhood.

We brought them home and I then washed them and let the steep over night.

After they were strained the water was a lovely deep blue color and the violets were practically white.

The magic happened when we added the lemon juice.  The violet infusion turned from deep blue to this beautiful bright shade of pink-violet.

I also recently used this same recipe to make rose petal jelly.  For that we used some of the roses from our balcony and petals from some of the rose bushes my husband cared for last summer ( we visited his old workplace and I gathered them from some of the roses that were starting to fade a bit).

Of course W and I also made jam from all those strawberries we picked.

Here's a sampling of our spring preserves.

Of the three I think the rose petal jelly is my favorite.  It is delicate and just heavenly.  It doesn't have the pink color I was expecting, but I did not want to add food coloring to it.  My mom and I have however toyed with the idea of adding a couple of drops of beet juice  to make it more pink but hopefully not enough to make it taste like beets.  She's going to test it out so we can see how it works.

 I was greatly surprised  by how much I enjoyed the violet jelly.  I remember really disliking some violet candy I was given as a child.  I found the taste to be sickening and can honestly still remember it very clearly.  I'm not sure why I even actually decided to make violet jelly based on that experience.  This jelly was however, much more mild and not sickening at all.  The taste was pleasant, floral and not overpowering at all.  We served the violet jelly with our Easter dinner and it was a big hit.

I'm going to use this post to participate in Natural Suburbia's Creative Friday.  So fun to see what so many people are creating!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yarn Along

This week I have decided to start participating in the Yarn Along from Small Things.  Hopefully it will keep me a little more on track with both my knitting and reading.

Right now I am working my way through Children At Play:Using Waldorf Principles to Foster Childhood Development by Heidi Britz-Crecelius.  So far, I am really enjoying reading her insights on play and the importance of creating opportunities for children to play with the elements.

For my knitting this week I am working on my first shawl.  I can't believe I've never knitted a shawl before.  I'm finding it really enjoyable and I'm looking forward to trying my hand at a bit of lace.  I'm using this Skipping Stones pattern but plan on adding some to the size of it by increasing my stitch count when I start the lace my multiples of twenty-four.    I am absolutely in love with the yarn which is lace weight merino wool that I purchased at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival from Mistralee Farm Studio of Oxford PA.  The colorway is called Mallard and I don't think you can really get a true sense of it from the picture.  It has the most beautiful deep blues and blue greens that are perfectly blended.  This yarn has given me such pleasure working with it.  I can't wait to finish this shawl which is going to be for me.  I've not actually knitted much for myself recently, so I think it's time I make something for me.  I'm also thinking that shawls would make wonderful Christmas gifts for a couple of special grandmothers and I have a beautiful wool/silk blend that I also purchased from Mistralee Farm Studio which would be perfect for those!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Strawberry Time Under The Old Oak Tree

May is strawberry time here Under The Old Oak Tree.  This week W  and I went to our favorite berry patch and picked two of these great big buckets of wonderful strawberries.

W had such fun picking the berries and sampling of course.

He also loved playing in the sprinkler system while I paid for our berries and transfered them into containers to take home.

The next two days were all about STRAWBERRIES!  We ate lots of whole fresh berries, made jam, and shortcake, ate sliced berries on our yogurt, and made roasted strawberries to eat now and froze some.  I think the roasted strawberries which are surprisingly sweet yet savory would be especially wonderful on a sandwich in place of mayonnaise.

Even W's doll Sammy, got to have a strawberry for breakfast.

All of these strawberries inspired me to make an Under The Old Oak Tree creation.    She will was created for my etsy shop.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nursery Rhymes

When she found out I was pregnant with W, one of the first pieces of advice my mother gave me was to get a large book of nursery rhymes and learn them by heart so that I could recite them while the baby nursed.  She told me that she always credited reciting nursery rhymes while I nursed with helping me to develop a large vocabulary as a very young child.  I wish I could say I took this advice to heart at that point.  I didn't really.  I bought said book of nursery rhymes and looked at it a few times.  I even attempted to learn one or two by heart (not very successfully) and then set it aside.  Memorizing them seemed just too hard and I didn't really see the point then, though  I was shocked by how many of them I thought I knew from my own childhood, but then wasn't actually able to remember much past their first lines.

When W was a few months old, something prompted me to pull out the nursery rhymes again, but this time I used a CD that came with a book and every time W and I sat down to nurse I would play the CD and try to recite along with it.  At first I read along with most of them, and learned many of them very quickly.  W seemed to enjoy listening to them too.  Many of them were set to music and I think it helped that we learned tunes to go along with the words.

A few months down the road, I discovered Waldorf education and fell in love with it.  I remember clearly one of the first articles I read about Waldorf and early childhood stressed the importance of nursery rhymes, singing and having a child hear its' mother's voice.  It really helped to confirm for me that we were on the right path and that all of these nursery rhymes while nursing were further helping to nourish my son's mind, spirit and soul.
 Soon,  I realized that if he was fussy in the car or when we were out at the store, saying or singing one (or ten) of our favorite nursery rhymes would often help to sooth him.

Eventually we found we did not listen to our nursery rhyme cd very much anymore.  It had been very useful for learning the nursery rhymes, but, once we had learned them we did not need it any more.  The nursery rhymes became an almost unconscious part a part of our everyday lives. I still used them when we nursed, and we said them at other times frequently throughout our day.
  W also has several books of nursery rhymes that have been favorites for most of his toddler-hood.  I have always made sure we had at least one good nursery rhyme volume among the books we have out in our current rotation.
 W of course started to talk and once he started it was non-stop.  For a long time much of it was babble that I was not able to understand.  Then, not too long after he turned two, something happened.  One day he was babbling to himself quietly, and I stopped to really listen...he was saying nursery rhymes!  To be specific, he was saying Little Boy Blue and he knew every single word!  I was so surprised and excited that I was almost moved to tears.  I started listening to him more when he was babbling and it soon became apparent that during all that time singing and reciting nursery rhymes since he was an infant he had been soaking in the language and that he knew these nursery rhymes (sometimes even better than I do.)

Part of pre and early literacy education for children in Waldorf schools is immersing  them in rich beautiful language.  The meaning of the words is less important than the sounds and rhythm of the language.   In deed, many nursery rhymes include language that is largely nonsensical, but beautiful, and I might add, pretty fun.  W's favorite nursery rhyme from very early on was:

Higety-pigety pop
The dog has eaten the mop
The pig's in a hurry
The cat's in a flurry
Higety-pigety pop

These silly nonsense words have never failed to get a laugh out of him, and yet, they are also the best kind of language for him to hear and to repeat as he learns to speak.
Still, I would say that there are other pre-literacy skills being learned even at the tender age of  almost tow and a half.  W is not only building vocabulary, and a sense of the language and rhythm, but he is learning comprehension skills as well.  He can often look at pictures in a nursery rhyme book or elsewhere and tell me a nursery rhyme that would apply to what he sees.  Other times, he would connect rhymes with what we were doing.  When we go visit our favorite sheep (which include several darling black lambs) Will would walk away reciting Baa Baa Black Sheep.  Other times, he pretends to play a horn and recites Little Boy Blue.

I am also observing that the nursery rhymes color his play as well. Recently, a favorite nursery rhyme of his has been

Little Jack Horner sat in a corner
Eating his Christmas pie
He put in his thumb
And pulled out a plumb
And said "what a good boy am I".

The other day while eating the strawberries we had picked, I stuck his thumb through one of them and started reciting this verse.  He then started to pretend that his bowl of berries was a pie, and pretended that it was Christmas by turning over an ottoman for a fireplace and pretending to hang stockings by it.  Periodically he would sit down with his "pie" and stick his thumb through a berry and reenact the rhyme.

As W has started to really play and imagine independently recently, I am noticing that the stories that are read or told to him as well as situations from our lives are being reflected heavily in what and how he plays.  I love that nursery rhymes are among the places he draws from as he develops his imagination.  They are beautiful and rich in language and imagery.  Many involve scenes from rural life and animals or scenes of royalty (but W's obsession with all things royal might be a subject for another post).  They help to balance his interest in trucks and trains and make his play more well rounded.

In all, I would say that nursery rhymes have not only greatly contributed to W's development, but they have made our lives more beautiful.  My mother was right, all those long hours nursing and learning/reciting/singing them was one of the best things I have ever been able to do for the long-term development of my child.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Celebrating May

Having May Day fall on a Sunday during the week between Easter and Mother's Day really through me for a loop this year I have to admit!  I found myself scrambling to get something together to mark the day/season when all we really wanted to do was spend a week recovering from Easter and having company.  Also, having moved recently, I had a difficult time finding public celebrations near our new home. We like to have a family picnic as well at a local park for May Day too though. As a family, we decided not to celebrate on May Day itself but on the following Tuesday instead.  This allowed Daddy to celebrate with us, and allowed me to delay starting our preparations till May Day.  That day I started making the May wine that Daddy and I like to enjoy as a part of our celebration.  I start with a bottle of German mosel wine and pour it in a half gallon jar along with sprigs of sweet woodruff, sliced strawberries and sugar.

 I let this set in the fridge overnight, then strain it out the next morning.  At that point I also add fresh sprigs of sweet woodruff, rose petals, and a bottle of sparkling mineral water and return it to the refrigerator.  It is so, so good and I look forward to it all year!

Daddy toasts May with some May wine

I also made W this Strawberry pomegranate sun tea and added sliced strawberries to it prior to serving.  It was so pretty, I had to take a picture of it with the sun shining through (please note I did not leave it sitting out in the sun once I added the strawberries). 

W thought this was so special.  Our little May King was so careful not to spill a drop of it!

 Before we ate our picnic, W and I made May crowns with leaves and flowers we found at the park.  Last year we made these braided raffia crowns and we simply slip the stems through the braids.  They work really well and we are able to save the crown base from year to year.

Here we are in our May finery!

For our picnic food we had homemade stromboli stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella cheese, pesto, spinach and Italian sausage.  This doesn't have much to do with May Day per say, except that in our family, this is standard picnic food.

We also had goat cheese salad with grapes and walnuts, and fresh cut strawberries mixed with some xylitol.

For dessert, we were supposed to have Rosemary and  Strawberry scones, but I accidentally left them at home.  We ate them for breakfast for a few days instead and they were so delicious!  I think they taste like May with the fresh rosemary W and I picked from our little balcony garden.  

After we ate we flew kites until W decided that the kites were scary.  Then W and Daddy played catch for a while.

To be honest these pictures were taken a few days before  our celebration (I forgot to get the camera back out after we ate).  I wanted to include them though because I love how my two year old plays catch.  There's always a couple of minutes between each throw while he wonders around looking at something else that has caught his, but he loves this as special time spent with Daddy who is a very patient ball player!

The following Saturday W and I made the trip down to the Richmond Waldorf School for their May Faire.  We loved watching the May Pole dancing and catching up with dear friends there.

We have continued our celebration of May with W spending lots of time out on our balcony playing in his new sand pot...

...and visiting the sheep at a local farm.  W loves all sheep with a passion that is truly fitting for the son of an avid knitter and felter.  It warms my heart to see him walk right up to the sheep and pet them. I also love that he knows at this early age that the wool Mama works with comes from the sheep.

 He is especially fond of the black lambs here and spent a very long time with this little guy, petting him and talking to him.  I am amazed by the gentleness he shows to his sheep friends.

W and I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival on Mother's Day  It was quite a drive, but was the perfect way to end up our week of celebrating the best of May.  I was able to stock up on some fleece, locks, roving and yarn and W was able to spend lots of time with the sheep.  He spent half the day giggling in delight each time a sheep would baa.  He also loves watching the sheep dogs.  Another year we will have to take Daddy as well so that I can participate in some of the workshops and W can spend more time with his sheep while I shop for wool!

Our favorite sheep at the festival.  He was so friendly and demanded attention.  
W was happy to oblige!

Wishing you all the very best of the happy month of May!

Our "Flutterby" Visitor

This afternoon W came running to me saying "Mama!  Flutterby!  Mama!  Flutterby!" and led me to the door of our balcony where we saw this beautiful butterfly checking out each plant in our little container garden.

It first decided to rest in the parsley, but took flight when we went out on the balcony.  It didn't leave the balcony however while we were out there, but it also, understandably did not land on anything either.  It was so beautiful to watch it fly  around though. We sat and watched it and tried to take pictures of it for a while before I ushered W back into the apartment.  The above picture was the only one I was really able to get of the butterfly in flight.

After we came back inside I noticed that the butterfly settled on one of my geraniums for quite a while and I was able to take several pictures first through the glass door and then I cracked the door just slightly open and was able to get some better shots.

In all our visitor stayed on or near our balcony for about half an hour and we really enjoyed watching it!  We used butterflies during Easter as a symbol of resurrection with a caterpillar wrapped in a silk cocoon and then turning into a beautiful butterfly in our Lenten/Easter garden.  I'm not sure how much W understood that but he does know that he still has butterflies on his nature table tree and was very excited to see a real one out on our own balcony.

This first "flutterby" visitor came before our butterfly bush is blooming and when all of our rose bush blossoms had been picked.  I hope as the summer progresses we will have more of these visitors to our little garden.


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