Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Corn husk doll tutorial

Mia had a really fun time at the local heritage festival. In particular, she got to make a lot of fun crafts and then teach them to friends and family. One of those fun crafts was making the corn husk dolls. These can be as simple or elaborate as one would like. Mia taught me, and then we decided to share it with others at the Michaelmas festival. Here is a basic tutorial for a very simple doll, easy for young hands to master with a little practice.

The supplies needed include scissors, corn husks, and yarn or embroidery floss. I purchased a bag of husks at our local Latino specialty market. First, you want to soak dry corn husks.I soaked the husks in a bowl of water for about 30 minutes.

Take several husks and fold them in half, together.

Then, roll the husks with the more pointed ends on the inside. You want to roll them lengthwise so the folded side looks like a spiral.

Then, tie around the top, which will make the head. It is important to roll tightly, and tie a tight knot. It helps to have extra fingers to hold the string tightly.

Next, you will want to peel the layers up to form a skirt.

Keep peeling up to the head, all around the doll.

Then, take a smaller piece of husk, roll it lengthwise and tie the ends to form the hands and arms.

Carefully slide the arm into the outer layers of the skirt, up toward the head.

Then, wrap a piece of yarn around and crosswise over the arms, like an "X". This will hold the arms in place. At this point, as an alternative, the legs can be ties to each side to form pant legs.

And, voila! You have a lovely little friend to play with. Does she need some company? How about making a whole family! Perhaps you will want to add some yarn hair or acorn caps for the little ones? The possibilities are endless. Happy Autumn!

Thank you, Mia Belle, for your lovely tutorial!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Autumn Walk

I love a day that includes a peaceful walk in the woods, just taking time to observe and enjoy the beauty of the season. It feels as if time has slowed down just enough to be really present and happy to be among the living world around me.

This afternoon was the perfect opportunity to introduce nature journals for the girls to write and sketch in. I like to use Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study as a reference, and Barb 's inspiring blog as a guide.

Today, what I noticed most were the beautiful trees. We spend the late afternoon meandering through the lovely grounds of the Biltmore Estate. There is this charming walk that winds along a stream to the bass pond. We also followed the path that climbs into the woods.

ironwood tree

playing among the Bald Cypress knees

these look like lychee fruit?

Ahh, the magestic Dawn Redwood

the artful red veined maple

another favorite of mine - the paperbark maple

strawberry bush

Vivienne enjoyed her special find - an earthworm with an iridescent glow. We called him King Worm. She tells me that he is very lucky, and that she will always remember this Fall day. We found a very auspicious home for him under a beautiful pine tree. We contemplated whether or not she might see him again, and she called out her address to him, just in case he had the future opportunity to make a visit.

Mia took a peaceful space ahead of us to make her own discoveries. At one point I heard
her squeal and hurried ahead to see if all was well. She was tickled to catch sight of a small chipmunk in close range. We also noticed the many frogs that leaped as we came close to the marshy area, and the interesting varieties of dragonfly that circled us at the pond.

Jasper said that his very favorite thing was to launch his bark boats into the creek. He also tried hard to point out a creature which he descrbed as a huge cricket, but I never could see quite what it was. One of the many mysteries...

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.

from The Brook, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Art and nature

the lovely, but invasive porcelain berry
Ah, art and nature...These two subjects are very intertwined in my life, and bring me so much joy. Here we are, another week gone by, and so many moments to appreciate. Here is a hodgepodge of the many bits of everyday goodness.
fridge art - Vivienne's hand drawings
The kids have been very happy to have fresh clay to create with, and have made an endless array of works. Another fun theme has been dying with plant materials. I had a beautiful bunch of elderberries that were picked a bit too early for medicine making, but made for a beautiful mauve shade on silk. The elderberry is one of those medicinal/poisonous plants that one needs to learn about with care. Mia has been collecting orange Coreopsis blossoms and next we plan to gather goldenrod and walnut hulls, which coincides nicely with our local history study.

unripe elderberries

Jasper playing with clay

Inspiration came today from the Heritage Weekend at the Folk Art Center. We really enjoyed learning from the talented craftspeople about spinning, weaving, pottery, wood carving, basket making and much more. It was a treat to watch the cloggers dance to the tradition mountain music.

the apple chill cloggers

Jasper is enjoying a new marionette friend that we found at the thrift store. He named him Jack, which seems to be the name of choice for most of his toys, lately. Perhaps the amazing Peter Pan production that we went to see this week will be an inspiration for a puppet show. I have been observing a lot of climbing and leaping, with wholehearted desire to lift off in flight to Never land.

Jack the puppet

Vivienne has discovered the new crop of raspberries and the figs ripening on the tree. Yum! Figs are so beautiful, and delicious. I am thrilled for my tree to produce this year. Which reminds me of when we lived in the country and Vivi was just two to three years old, she would walk along the wooded path near our cottage, and return with a fig. But I never could locate the fig tree, and she never could show me where it was. It was her secret, and no one else ever discovered it.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." ~ Pablo Picasso

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Crafty Snakes

This was one of those fun, spontaneous projects that became the creative focus for the day. Vivienne wanted to sew, and started to patch some fabric together. She planned to make a scarf and wanted to stuff it with wool to make it fluffy. I helped her to sew the pieced fabric into a tube. Then she decided that it should be a snake, so she added button eyes and a fabric tongue. Well, as soon as she had finished, Jasper and Mia wanted snakes, too. So they busily collected their fabric scraps and I sewed pieces together, they picked out buttons, and before you know it a whole snake family was created.

The kids had snake races down our stairs, they made snake leashes, they even made aluminum foil medals for the race winners. Hours were spent playing and cuddling their creatures, and it was so awesome to watch them enjoy being kids! It reminded me of the many opportunities for unstructured play that I had as a child, and how grateful I am to give that to my own children.

three cheers for first place in the snake race!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Journey Ahead

It is official, we are home schooling this year! I am excited for the adventures ahead for my family. It is an uncharted territory for me, and I hope that by holding my best intentions and being present every day, that I can be the best teacher and role model for my children. Vivienne returns to her beloved "yome school" co-op and Mia will work on grade four with me at home.

jasper's lovely "work" during mia's main lesson block

Tuesday was our official start day. We began with simple objectives and I think that it went well enough. It will require some effort to unravel the idea that "school equals boring" and bring the love of learning back in focus. I see this as being one of my biggest challenges. I feel so grateful to get the to opportuntiy to slow down the hurried passage of childhood and I hope that some day my kids will see this as a special gift which gave them the space to stay true to their authentic selves. I am appreciative for the many resources for following the Waldorf curriculum. Between the structure of following a Steiner inspired rhythm and space for freedom of following personal interests in the unschooling tradition, I think that we will have a fine, eclectic year at home!

We started with mapmaking and discussing local geography last week, and this week we will look at the local Cherokee culture and history. I have found some wonderful resources on Western North Carolina, and look forward to continuing our exploration. Mia and I are learning to play the recorder together, which has been really fun.