A Dickens Christmas

Bay Bridge #California

In late November, we enjoyed a terrific day at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco. The boys had never been before and the last time Ian and I were there was probably 15 years ago. We left a rainy Sacramento to drive to the city, where I got to admire our pretty bridges and took some fun shots out the car windows. (Don’t laugh, they’re worth it.)

#dickens #faire

The Fair does an excellent job of representing a Victorian London “where it’s always Christmas Eve and the streets resound with celebrations of the season!” Chestnuts, puppeteers, street musicians, stage shows, Bobbies in uniform, gangs of urchins, card players, and dancers enliven the place. I don’t remember it being so elaborately textured and staged! Honestly, it’s a feast for the senses.

#dickens #faire #music #waltz #violin

I got to dance a bit at Fezziwig’s Christmas party.

Foresto #dickens #faire #waltz

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We watched dear friends perform and dance. That’s Bryn and Nicole there, playing with the Bruno Band.

Ebenezer and Ghost of Christmas Present #dickens #faire #christmas

Ran into Ebenezer and the Ghost of Christmas Present—you know, this fellow:

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Scrooges third visitor-John Leech,1843” by John Leech

Mad Sal's #autumn #dickens #faire

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Hammered dulcimer

Wands

We bought the boys wands as souvenirs. Asher chose Harry Potter’s wand. Lucas got a beautiful custom wooden wand.

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After a while, Asher reached a melting point. We realized that from his shorter perspective, it was all a bit overwhelming. I wish we could have stayed a little longer, but when you have to leave, you have to leave. The city glowed under stormy skies for us on our way home.

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Salad Days

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I ate soooo many salads this summer. Starting around June 4, I decided I wanted to eat more vegetables and challenged myself to eat 100 salads this summer.

I had one rule:
1. They had to be meal salads, which means they could have meat or other protein or fat or dairy or carbs like croutons or quinoa, but they must be mostly vegetables.

I didn’t count side salads, like when we had hamburgers and salad, or when we had pork chops and salad.

I'm calling this a breakfast salad. #100saladsummer #food

Breakfast salad Kale, Brussels sprouts,  cabbage, sungold tomatoes,  over-medium egg. #100saladsummer #food #summer #health

Then, for the first time in my life, I started eating breakfast salads.

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Salad days continue #summer #100saladsummer #food #health

I ate salads for lunch and salads for dinner.

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Salad number 22 #summer #food #health #100saladsummer

Still eating meal salads ... I think this is 19. #100saladsummer #food #summer

Lunch salad: chicken, spinach, broccoli, snap peas, tomatoes

Power lunch: kale salad with hard-boiled egg and good salami, coconut water "martini" #summer #food #health #100saladsummer

(Alas, that was coconut water and not a martini.)

Salad number 51, approximately.  I lost count. #100saladsummer #food #summer #health

And I know you don’t really care what I eat (ate). Totally fair. But this challenge I created for myself was good for me and I’m very happy I did it.

Grocery store kale salad. Too sweet, but I ate every bite. #100saladsummer #food #summer #health

Grand total? Not 100. I ate approximately 57 meal salads from June 4 to Sept 22.  I lost count somewhere in the 30s, and made an educated guess. That’s 57 burritos I didn’t eat! I call that a win.

 

Our Evenings

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We have been spending our summer evenings reading. Daddy has been reading Harry Potter books to us for hours almost every night. We’re into the middle of book 4 now, and the children’s enthusiasm for this nightly ritual has not waned. They even prefer this over a movie night.

#magic #7yearold

You might say it has ignited their imagination.

Wizard #summer #boys #7yearold

This one loves to shout spells and play wizard.

Reading Harry Potter book 3 tonight under the wisteria while rare, blessed raindrops fall.

Sometimes we read outside together, if its not too hot. Sometimes we’re inside, enjoying the AC. Ian got the ebooks too, so if we’re out at a restaurant he can read to us while we’re waiting for a table, or when we’re waiting for the play to begin.

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Ian is a master of funny voices and accents. It’s amazing to hear him read a conversation in a scene with eight wizards in the room, some sounding Scottish, Irish, Russian, English, American, powerful, weak, evil, or snobby. He switches between these various voices with such facility. I applaud at the end of certain scenes because they sound damned difficult to read aloud!

I’m loving this summer’s evening entertainment. I love how we’re all enjoying it, how the Harry Potter books have wide enough appeal that all four of us are engaged. It’s simple, and sweet, and bonding.

Valhalla Renaissance Faire

Lake Tahoe #tahoe #summer

Just after school let out a week ago, we took off for the mountains. Originally we were going to stay a few days in Tahoe, but some work obligations shifted around and we ended up changing our plans and making just a day trip to Valhalla Renaissance Faire at Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe. As we drove to the Faire, I mentioned to Ian that I’d never before stopped at one of the tiny turnouts at the summit on the edge of cliff a couple thousand feet above the Tahoe valley floor. Before I knew it, he was pulling over so we could look over the edge.

Stopped near the summit #tahoe

Asher wouldn’t get out of the car, but the rest of us got to look down into the valley and at the beautiful blue of Lake Tahoe off in the distance.

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I had a Groupon for the Faire admission, but I have to say, it was almost more trouble than it was worth; we had a hell of a time getting online to the Groupon to get into the Faire. Next time I’ll have to print the damn coupon instead of relying on the phone. Maybe it’s my carrier—Credo—but I have a heck of a time using the Internet on my smart phone up there.

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Anyway …. the Ren Faire was super fun and the boys enjoyed it. The most spectacular feature was the jousting by Imperial Knights. Great show, beautiful horses.

Knights at the Ren Faire #renfair #tahoe #summer #knights

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Asher,  me, and photo bomber #rennfaire #tahoe #summer #7yearold #mamaandbaby #mamainthepicture

Beautiful macaw

#rennfaire #tahoe #parrot

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This fellow has been doing his show Fowl Tales with his macaws for years and years. Gypsy has been with him 42 years.

Boys looking at swords and knives #rennfaire #tahoe #summer#12yearold
Unsurprisingly, Lucas was fascinated by all the weapons sellers’ wares. Like father, like son. I could see Ian sizing up the sellers based on his own extensive experience hawking swords for Mayhawk armory at Black Point, Navato, back in our college days. Spending the day at the Faire was an interesting trip down memory lane.

Giant bubbles #rennfaire #tahoe #summer #7yearold

Asher found this cool giant bubble-making booth.

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We saw the show of Captain Jack Spareribs. Ventriloquism!

Lucas shooting arrows at Valhalla Renaissance Fair enough #rennfaire #archery

Lucas found the archery to be a little disappointing. The bows weren’t up to the quality he’s become accustomed to.

We ate yummy Faire food and drank expensive beers and wandered about. We enjoyed seeing Nicole and Bryn and RJ, whom we almost never get to see. The boys were tempted by the real and toy weapons and I admired the woodcarving and the jewelry. So, yeah. It was a pretty normal and fun Faire experience—a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a 78 degree day when it was 105 degrees at home!

100 Salad Summer

100 Salad Summer #100saladsummer

I’ve decided to do a challenge that I’ve just made up for myself. I’m going to eat 100 salads this summer (it’s got a nice ring to it: #100saladsummer). I don’t diet very well. I am totally committed one moment and then, as soon as I’m hungry, my commitment usually vanishes. So usually I don’t diet. Which is a fine trend that I don’t really care to try to break. And I don’t have time to research the latest food thing. But I started thinking it would be better to eat fewer burritos (my weakness) and more salads. So. This.

These are my rules for myself:
1. They are meal salads, which means they can have meat or other protein or fat or dairy or carbs like croutons or quinoa, but they must be mostly vegetables.

What do you think? Join me? Encourage me?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's Day baking. #baking #vegan #waldorf #festivals

Asher and I baked vegan sugar cookies yesterday. I always forget how long you’re supposed to chill the dough to make rolling and cutting the cookies easier.

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Lucas, Asher, Daddy, our dinner guest Kimmie, and I decorated the cookies after supper. I think we all enjoyed it.

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Aren’t they pretty? Icing made from coconut oil is delicious, by the way. We made these treats to leave some out for the Leprechauns (and for us to enjoy!).

Party set for the Leprechauns! Tea and cookies, with cream and honey. #waldorf #spring #leprechauns #festivals

Here is the little party we set out for the Wee Folk last night. Shamrock cookies, hot mint tea, honey, and cream.

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Opening gifts from the Leprechauns early this morning.

Early this morning, we found the Leprechauns had eaten up all the goodies and left the boys presents. Two pots of gold! With five gold dollar coins each and rainbow sour candy wrapped in gold paper.

It wasn’t until later, when the boys were getting ready to leave for school, that we realized the Leprechauns played a prank on us after all. They duct taped all our shoes closed! Those wonderful, pesky Leprechauns!

Tonight we’re going to dinner at our friends’ house. We’re bringing cookies!

Best Valentine’s Day Books for Young Children

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Are you looking for a good Valentine’s Day story to share with your family? Good luck! I’ve found that by and large the pickings are pretty slim. I started writing this post of my favorite Valentine’s Day picture books more than a year ago, and it’s pretty much too late to be much use this year. But what the heck, right? I’ve done a lot of research to develop this list and I can assure you that many, many titles didn’t make my list. (Write me and I’ll give you my opinions about what to avoid.) As usual, I recommend steering clear of any holiday book from a movie or TV franchise.

Snowy Valentine, by David Peterson, 2011

I think this is my favorite of all the books in this list. Peterson is the author/illustrator of Mouse Guard comic book series, for those of you in the know. This is his first picture book. In it, Jasper bunny searches the forest for a Valentine’s Day gift for his wife Lilly. He looks to his neighbors for ideas, and considers knitting a gift, chocolate-covered flies, and wilted flowers. He narrowly escapes the fox’s soup pot! (This part could be unsettling for the youngest readers.) Over the course of his day, Jasper creates the best possible valentine for Lilly. The story and illustrations are compelling.

Henry in Love, by Peter McCarty, 2009

A simple, tender story about a first crush. Henry brings a blueberry muffin in his lunch. Henry likes Chloe very much; he really likes the way she does cartwheels. Chloe and Henry get to sit together at lunchtime, and he gives her his blueberry muffin. Good for the Kindergarten or first- or second-grade child.

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Woof A Love Story, by Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Holly Berry, 2009

“A dog is a dog and a cat is a cat, and most of the time it’s as simple as that.” Dogs and cats are different, but it doesn’t stop the dog from falling in love with the cat. Dog tries and tries to say “I love you!” but unfortunately, they don’t speak the same language. Cat can’t understand him, until he finds the universal language of love that she can understand. The illustrations in this book are bold and vibrant.

Plant a Kiss, by Amy Krouse, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, 2011

A perfect choice for a toddler or preschooler. Its adorable illustrations and rhyming text are cute, and it’s pages are embossed, so there is a tactile element to the reading experience. The meaning is simple: Love grows!

Mouse and Mole Secret Valentine, by Wong Herbert Yee, 2013

Secret Valentine is a 40-page “chapter book” for early readers. If you like Frog and Toad books, you’ll probably like Yee’s Mouse and Mole books too. Together Mouse and Mole make valentines for all of their forest friends, and the text gently teaches simple valentine-making skills such as cutting hearts and applying glue and glitter and then tapping off excess glitter. Then Mouse and Mole deliver their valentines together and have lunch at a restaurant. Each wants to give a secret valentine to the other, and they visit the sweet shop and the flower shop for gifts. Then they attend a Valentine’s Day dance. This book shows an innocent romance for little readers or listeners.

One Zillion Valentines, by Frank Modell, 1981

This is a sweet story about two friends, Marvin and Milton. They learn that “Valentines aren’t just for girls. Valentines are for everybody,” and “If you don’t send any, you don’t get any,” and finally that you can make your own. They make valentines for everyone in the neighborhood, and they sell some, too. With the money they earn they buy some chocolate and end up giving it to each other. This is the only Valentine’s Day book I found that includes same-sex valentines.

The Valentine Bears, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Jan Brett, 1983

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Mr. and Mrs. Bear hibernate in the winter, but Mrs. Bear sets her alarm clock for February 14 to wake up and celebrate Valentine’s Day, even though it’s not spring yet. Mr. Bear sleeps on. She makes lots of preparations such as getting honey, beetles, and bugs. They celebrate together, and then go back to sleep till spring. The black, white, and red pictures in this book are charming, but not as lavish as many of Brett’s other works.

Pleasant Fieldmouse’s Valentine Trick, by Jan Wahl, illustrated by Erik Blegvad, 1977

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Find this one at your library, maybe. The animals of the forest want to know if spring is coming (but Groundhog doesn’t do his job). They are grumpy with each other and tired of winter. Terrible Owl and Tired Fox steal food. Pleasant Field Mouse figures out a way to make his neighbors happy again. The pictures are black and white ink drawings as you see above. This is a good read-aloud story for 4–8s.

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The Day It Rained Hearts, by Felicia Bond, 2006, was previously published as Four Valentines in a Rainstorm (1983). Cornelia Augusta catches hearts that fall from the sky and turns them into valentines. Because each one is different, she’s able to make unique valentines for her friends. This book is an endearing choice for a young child.

Bee My Valentine, by Miriam Cohen, illustrated by Ronald Himler, 2009.

This book explores the social life of the first grade. The teacher directs her class to make a valentine for all the children in the class. But they don’t all follow her instruction; some kids send extra valentines to their best friends or even to themselves! George gets fewer valentines than anyone. This makes him feel sad and left out, and he hides in the coat room. The class then cheers George up by playing music for him. The art in the book is quite beautiful, but the valentines are all store-bought and the whole scenario makes me wonder where the kids’ parents are. I would never allow my child to fail to bring a valentine for everyone.

Love Splat, by Rob Scotton, 2008

Splat has a crush on Kitten, and he made her a special valentine. But Spike also likes Kitten and this discourages Splat. Eventually, Splat learns that Kitten likes him back. Very simple. Cute. Not at the top of my list, though.

Will You Be My Valentine, by Steven Kroll, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, 1993

This older story is OK. The story explores the feelings a young child might have when wanting to play with a child of the opposite gender, and not being sure if that person likes him. It covers his insecurity and jealousy when another boy gives his female friend a valentine. The mother in the story does a good job of facilitating their friendship. Some might think it’s a sweet story, as Thomas and Gretchen become friends and each other’s special valentines at the end, but I feel it’s too gender stereotypical and kind of mature for the age of the kids in the story, who appear to be Kindergarteners or first graders. Also, the way the teacher organizes Valentine’s Day for her class is crazy: She has each child choose one name out of a hat. Recipe for disaster.

Cranberry Valentine, Wende and Harry Devlin

I have lukewarm feelings about this one, I admit. But since I didn’t hate it, I figured I’d include it here. Mr. Whiskers has never had a valentine before, but this year he gets one from an anonymous giver—in fact, he gets several. At first this is very upsetting to him, but then he thinks, well,why not me? “I’m the best clam digger in the bog country. I have wonderful whiskers. I sing like a blinking bird.” Turns out, the local sewing circle has been sending him valentines. I don’t really see what about this book would appeal to children, apart for the recipe for cranberry upside down cake in the back of the book, which is cake from a mix plus cranberries. This book is part of a five-book series about the town of Cranberryport. Maybe this book is better taken in the context of the other titles in this series.

Tutorial: Homemade Rainstick

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We are in desperate need of rain here in California. We basically haven’t had a winter at all. Most days are in the 60s, sunny, and completely pleasant. It means that we’re out and about and active, which is nice. But our lakes and reservoirs are woefully low. When the high temps (100+) come this summer, we’ll be very sad about having had so little winter rain.

The sky is currently cloudy and we’re hoping that the “storm door” will open with a rain in a couple of days. We thought it would be fun to do a quick craft project to make a rainstick. Maybe it will help the rains come?

Materials

  • poster tube, or paper towel or wrapping paper tube
  • nails that aren’t quite as wide as the diameter of your tube
  • hammer
  • cardboard
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • dry beans or peas
  • masking tape
  • decorating supplies such as mod podge and tissue paper, or paints

Tutorial

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The nails you use should be not quite as wide as the diameter of your tube. Nail them straight into the tube in a helical pattern all the way down the length of the tube.

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Watch those fingers! Hammering is such a good time. Kids should hammer often, I think. Make sure everyone gets a turn!

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You can kind of see the spiral pattern of the nails in this photo.

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(My boys jumped at this project. I think it was the chance to use the hammer.)

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Insert your dry beans (or peas or rice or pebbles—use whatever you like). We used dry chick peas because that’s what we had on hand. Once the beans are inside, place your hand over the open end of the tube, turn it, and listen to how they sound when they run through the gauntlet of your nails. Experiment with using more or less beans until it sounds like rainfall.

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If your tube came with end caps, great. Ours had one, but we had to make the other. Using a pencil, we traced the tube end onto a piece of cardboard and cut out the circle. We trimmed it until it fit neatly on the end of our tube. When we were sure we had the right rain sound, we put on the end piece and taped it down with masking tape. Make sure both tube ends are completely secure.

Then we taped over all the nail heads all the way along the tube. We didn’t want any nails working their way out of the cardboard later.

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That’s it. The rainstick is done and functional now. The rest is decoration! Asher enjoyed this next part a lot; 11-year-old Lucas was happy to let Asher finish it.

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We used tissue paper in watery colors and mod podge to decoupage the outside of our rainstick.

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After it dried completely, we added stamped designs, which you can see in the top photo. Alternatively, you can paint your tube with acrylic or tempera paints to decorate it, or draw on it with sharpie markers.

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We hope this gray sky will open up and produce several weeks of decent rains. As much as we enjoy these short-sleeve temperatures and sunny days, we need to splash in some puddles! I asked my kids if they thought our rainstick would have any magical effect and bring the rains. They chuckled and said, “No. But it was fun, Mom.” Still, I’m hoping …

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Halloween Fun 2013

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Well, with store-bought costumes and some travel toiletry bottles we had a wonderful Halloween. My little Potion-Maker loved everything about making the potions he wanted to carry along with him as part of his costume. So instead of spending the afternoon sewing, we did this.

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With four little clear bottles, some food dye, water, and one bottle of bubbles, Asher had a ton of fun. He even picked herbs from our garden to add into his potions, elixirs, philtres, and tonics.

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He really got into the part.

Potion-Maker

“Would you like a sample, my dear?”

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Lucas was an Assassin. With a plastic katana and an old Harry Potter robe, he was quite happy. I think the blooming adolescent in him may have been relieved that his costume was a little downplayed. (But it didn’t stop him from playing assassin, running, climbing, jumping, and slicing with his sword.) I suspect next year he will want to be something really scary or gruesome.

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Watch out. Assassins are everywhere.

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Because it was a half-day at school, we had a little time to carve jack-o’-lanterns on this beautiful autumn afternoon.

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(Since Halloween, our chickens have enjoyed eating the remains of our jacks.)

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I figured out a costume for myself too: I went as the Cemetery Fairy. I figure that if there are fairies of the woods, meadows, fields, and seashores, there must also be fairies that take care of cemeteries too. At first, Asher didn’t like seeing me in white makeup with dark circles under my eyes and pale blue lips. But after a moment of thought, he decided he wasn’t going to be upset about it. “Go ahead, Mama. It’s OK.” Lucas took this cool photo above for me.

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We spent the rest of the evening at a party at our friends’ home. Lucas and Asher enjoyed seeing their school friends and trick-or-treating with them. The neighborhood was really decorated and all the neighbors seemed to enjoy the spooky fun. Many people answered their doors wearing costumes! Lots of trick-or-treaters were out roaming. There’s something really marvelous about being a kid outside at night, running wild. Kids don’t get to do that much nowadays, so I think Halloween is just what the witch doctor ordered.

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My kids got a huge haul of candy, some of which they sacrificed to the Halloween Fairy, aka Candy Fairy or Sugar Sprite. She was generous, I tell ya! Both kids got LEGO sets.

Tutorial: Make an Herbal Dream Pillow for St. John’s Day

herbal pillow

This article is excerpted from our Midsummer Festival E-Book.

Herbs harvested at Midsummer and during the Feast of Saint John (June 24, 2013) are said to be especially magical. Certain herbs, such as mugwort, laurel, sage, or marigold petals, are believed to give prophetic dreams if placed under a pillow at night! Will it work, do you think? Wouldn’t it be fun to find out?

It’s best to use dried herbs for your dream pillow. You’ll need two squares of muslin, two squares of yellow cotton fabric (about 5” by 5”), sewing machine, needle and thread, dried herbs, and a hot iron.

Cut your muslin squares to be about ½ inch smaller than your yellow squares. Sew around the muslin squares, leaving a 2 inch gap. Cut the corners off, but don’t cut into the stitching (this makes the pillow easier to turn inside out). Now turn your pillow inside out and iron it flat. Spoon in your dried herbs. Use a needle and thread to stitch up the hole. Now make the yellow pillow case. Put your “right” or pretty sides together. Sew around the three sides and the corners of the fourth side using a ¼ inch seam. Cut off the inside-out corners as before. Turn the pillow right side out. Use a pencil to make the corners look nice. Iron the yellow pillow case flat. Insert the inner muslin pillow into the yellow case. Turn in ¼ inch seam at the opening and iron it. Now sew up the fourth side, using a top stitch.

Now place your herbal dream pillow under your head before bedtime. Perhaps you’ll dream of the future! Or perhaps you’ll have amazing, fanciful dream that you can write down in a dream journal or draw a picture of in the morning.

Midsummer Festival E-Book

For more fun midsummer crafts, herb lore, Waldorf verses, handwork, and ways to celebrate Midsummer and St. John’s Day, please check out the Midsummer Festival E-Book by yours truly, Sara Wilson of Love in the Suburbs, and the fabulously talented Eileen Straiton of Little Acorn Learning. Click the link or the cover photo above to go directly to the page to find out more.

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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