Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gingerbread House

The girls had such a blast at their Grandmothers house yesterday making this beautiful house and very tasty cookies. I think this will have to be another Christmas tradition:)

Winter Solstice

So often we get swept away in all the Christmas preparations that we forget to watch the beautiful dance that our planet is engaged in and the almost magical changes that take place right outside our doors.
Since we moved into our home last January, this is our first full holiday season out here in the country and I have felt so inspired to make it magical.
For so many years I have managed to overlook winter solstice in the rush, but this year I was determined to make it a special day.
I was first inspired by the awesome craftsmanship of my friend Carrie Tidd and asked her if she would dream up and create a solstice family for our seasons table. Even during this busy season, Carrie produced a hand-crafted wonder that far surpassed any vision I could have dreamed up. So at this point, I knew the presentation had to be perfect and I set to work solstice eve preparing our nature table for the coming season...the driftwood palace was dusted with snow, pine cones and sprigs were added, gems and crystals were shining through the snow and all the woodland creatures and friends came and stayed the night to wait for the frosty family.
I wrapped each family member in midnight-blue tissue paper and placed them in a cloth bowl with a note to the girls that said: Happy Winter Solstice!
*Choose a package and open it carefully
*Search for their magical home
*Greet the friends who are waiting there
*Celebrate winter together!

My girls have marveled over these creations all morning. ***Carrie, thank you so much for making this possible, you are so very talented.
Happy Winter!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Advent Spiral

Thank you so much to all who were part of this magical evening. It could not have been more perfect.
This evening of quiet warmth perfectly mirrored what this season is all about, a journey to a most perfect light that we then carry with us out into the world to share with others. May all of you enjoy abundant peace as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child and a new season and may the warm glow of this time resonate deep in your hearts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy Human Rights Day!

The last few years, I have shared this list with my kids. It always leads to lively discussion especially about the RIGHT to play:)

Plain language version

Principle 1
All children have the right to what follows, no matter what their race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, or where they were born or who they were born to.
Principle 2
You have the special right to grow up and to develop physically and spiritually in a healthy and normal way, free and with dignity.
Principle 3
You have a right to a name and to be a member of a country.
Principle 4
You have the right to special care and protection and to good food, housing and medical services.
Principle 5
You have the right to special care if handicapped in any way.
Principle 6
You have the right to love and understanding, preferably from parents and family, but from the government where these cannot help.
Principle 7
You have the right to go to school for free, to play, and to have an equal chance to develop yourself and to learn to be responsible and useful.
Your parents have special responsibilities for your education and guidance.
Principle 8
You have the right always to be among the first to get help.
Principle 9
You have the right to be protected against cruel acts or exploitation, e.g. you shall not be obliged to do work which hinders your development both physically and mentally.

You should not work before a minimum age and never when that would hinder your health, and your moral and physical development.
Principle 10
You should be taught peace, understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Grandma's Apron

The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. And don’t forget those dresses and aprons had to be ironed!

It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.

And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.

Send this to those who would know, and love, the story about Grandma's aprons. Or it can be a good history lesson for those that have no idea how the apron played a part in our lives.

Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.

They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.
I don't think I ever caught anything from an apron......

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Spiritual Letter from Santa

~~~~Thank you so much Kristie! This is so wonderful.~~~~~

Letter from Santa
By Kristie Burns
Note: If you repost this to other lists please include the above header as this is original copyrighted work :) Thanks!

Update from last year:

Sofi has been talking about this letter all year and refers to it often when the tooth fairy comes and the Easter Bunny, etc...she treasures the letter and keeps it on her desk and has already brought it out again this year and said to me, "Mama, remember when Santa made you put presents under the tree last year?" As if she enjoyed the fact that Santa was playing a little "joke" on me:). The response to this letter has been more overwhelming than I I am reposting this year. She talks about so many aspects of the letter. It really fits her world-view and has been a real blessing to her!

Intro from last year:

Truly I was inspired to write this letter. I didn't even think about it. I sat down this morning and it seemed to fly off the page directly from the depths of my mind to the keyboard without any thought inbetween. Perhaps it came because it is needed at this time when my children are questioning who Santa is. I have known for a long time who Santa is, but I have been unable to put it into words until today...

Dear Sofi,

This is from Santa. Not the Santa of the chimneys and reindeer, but the real Santa. I have enjoyed the stories that people have created about me over the years but I think you are old enough now to know the real story. Did you know that in some countries I don't come on Christmas day? I come on St. Nicolas Day and I fill their boots with treats. In America they changed the story to Christmas day and I fill their socks instead of boots. Some people thought it was sort of icky to fill their socks so they created really pretty socks for me to fill.

Did you know that my story started in 280 A.D. When St. Nicholas was a saint? My spirit has existed since before then, but that was when people first started calling me St. Nick. The real Saint Nicholas was greatly inspired by the spirit of giving. He wandered the countryside giving away all his wealth to poorer people. He especially treated children with kindness and helped children who needed money or gifts. After that, many people in Europe, inspired by his name St. Nick, continued to give money and gifts to people in need and to children even after the real Saint Nick was gone. I didn't officially come to America until 1861 when the Dutch brought my celebrations to New York and distributed pictures of what I "looked like". Their name for me was Sinter Klass...which Americans made into Santa Claus.

However, as I mentioned before, just because my name did not come to America before 1861, does not mean that I have not always been here. For I am the spirit and angel of giving and charity. This concept is hard for some people to understand. People have a hard time understanding ideas or spirits or angels because they cannot see them. So to make it easier they sometimes make stories or draw pictures so it is easier to understand. That is the short story of how I, the angel of giving and charity, became known with a name and a face. And that is how you probably know me. I don't really mind.

I am known by so many different names and faces that are not the "real" me, but who doesn't like a story? I find the stories very creative and wonderful and since they are each accurate in their own way I don't mind! My favorite is the one about my riding a sleigh and delivering presents all night. That is accurate in a way, for I never sleep or run out of energy so I could, in theory do that, but I do not need a sleigh to ride. There are so many angels on the earth that watch over you and protect you and we each have our own job - some protect from accidents, some teach wisdom, some are keepers of history, and we each have done our jobs since the beginning of time and will continue forever to do our jobs for angels never tire and never sleep. We don't really have names but in some books we have given ourselves names to make our stories easier to read.

It is hard for humans to understand something that they cannot see and that does not have a name! You may also be familiar with the angel of awakening childhood (the tooth fairy who guides you across the bridge from childhood to being a young lady or young man as you loose your teeth along the way), or the angel of eternal life who teaches us about the endurance of spirit and the rebirth of the soul during Easter. And what about your guardian angel? Everyone has one of those. Some of the angels don't even have names. They are eagerly awaiting the day when humankind gives THEM names too.

It is an honor to be recognized by those we serve and to be given names and stories. You mom is writing this letter for me and she may or may not remember writing it. That is how it works. I inspire people to do my work through their spirit. Sometimes this may awaken them in the middle of the night to fill a stocking and they may think they were dreaming. Sometimes they are aware of what they are doing and remember doing it. But in both cases I have been able to motivate millions of parents around the world to share my vision. And at some point everyone understands that I am the angel of giving and they also know that they must continue to work for my vision in the ways that children will understand.

I don't know what story your parents shared with you. They are all different - even in little ways. However, I do know, that whatever story your parents told you was one that they thought would touch your heart and prepare you to understand more about giving and charity and joy so that you would be able to carry on my traditions during your life as well. My vision is that all children feel a sense of wonder and awe at the power of giving.

I want people to always feel this spirit within them and to look for ways all year to give and to help others. I am honored that a day was chosen to do this, but I don't want people to forget that we should do this every day. But since humans have created a day to honor my spirit, I want all children to wake up Christmas morning and to feel so wonderful and filled with joy that they are inspired to share this joy with others. This is my gift to the world. It is simple and yet is so powerful as you can see from what is happening around you this Christmas season. Please continue to tell my stories. I enjoy them.

I sometimes come by and sit by your guardian angel and listen to them. They are beautiful stories that make who I am into pictures instead of spirit. It is almost like when a painter has a dream and then he paints it. He is not really painting the dream, because nobody can really do that, but he has made his dream into a picture. That is what it is like with my stories. Nobody can ever really understand me completely - for you are humans and I am an angel spirit. However, the more stories you create, the closer you come to understanding who and what I am. So please continue creating stories and pictures and please continue my tradition and pass it on to your children.

Please know that as your mother was inspired to write this letter one day, you will also be inspired to write a similar letter one day. You may also keep this one and pass it on. Merry Christmas! Please enjoy the gifts I have sent you through others and please pass these gifts on to the people you love. - Santa

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Puerto Rican Discovery Day

A Commonwealth of Puerto Rico official holiday. Christopher Columbus (Don Cristóbal Colón) landed on the northwest coast of Puerto Rico near Aguada on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. Puerto Rico is the only territory associated with the United States that Columbus saw with his own eyes.

Here is a printable pdf for kids grades 3-5. Short description of holiday followed by questions and color sheet of Puerto Rico's flag.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I took some of the extra bread dough, rolled it out and made chewy, gooey, sticky, lick your fingers wonderful, perfect when it is snowing outside cinnamon rolls. Envious? You should be:)

Old Fashioned Bread Making


6 cups of warm water - if you have boiled potatoes potato water works the BEST for bread.
2 TBS. dry yeast
6 TBS. sugar or honey
3 TBS. salt
16 cups various flours
(My favorite combination is 10 cups Whole Wheat, 2 cups oatmeal, 1 cup bran and 3 cups white)

1. In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 2 cups of warm water. Add the sugar and salt. Let it stand 5 minutes.
2. Stir in 4 cups of water and 6 cups of flour. Beat well. Let stand for 30 minutes (this resting
period is important to give extra rising to the bread)
3. Add the remaining flour and knead 8 minutes or until dough is flexible but not sticky.
4. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise (in a bowl) until it is tripled in size (6 hours?)
5. Punch down, Make into loaves and put in loaf pans, let sit for 30 more minutes and then bake
at 375 for 30-40 minutes
6. Roll out and spread with any filling like a jelly roll and roll up. Cut into rolls and put on a pan
and bake for 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees.

This recipe comes from 'August Lesson Plans' by Kristie Burns

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Gracie!

Unschooling with Hot Chocolate

After a morning of looking at snowflakes through a magnifying glass (science), my girls were in desperate need of some hot chocolaty goodness. This recipe that I had serves 10 so they halved the recipe and boom, we've done math!
We even learned the history of hot chocolate (social studies) !!
After they are all warmed up, they are going to write the word chocolate in five different languages:)


Homemade Hot Cocoa
1 cup of sugar
2/3 cup of cocoa
1/4 teaspoon of salt
8 cups of milk
2/3 cups of water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, cocoa and salt in a large pan. Stir in milk and water. Cook and stir over medium heat until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat and stir in extract. Serve in your favorite mugs with a few little marshmallows on top to finish it off.
Yields: 10 servings

Friday, November 14, 2008

Happy America Recycles Day!


Get youth involved - This ARD kids activity (pdf) is designed to encourage children to be more involved in recycling and to care for the environment. By completing certain activities, a child can receive an America Recycles Day prize.

For more info on America Recycles Day visit my Zen Fem blog at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Earth Prayer

This great prayer was sent my way by my friend Shanda King. She did some research and found out that it was translated in 1887 by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark.

**Lydia will begin memorizing this great work for her November recitation**

Oh, Great Spirit
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world,
hear me, I am small and weak,
I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes
ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy - myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my Spirit may come to you without shame.

Thank you Shanda!