Chinese New Year Celebration

Paper Lanterns

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Last night we celebrated Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year. It was the first time for us, and it was a bit last-minute, but we had enough red construction paper on hand to make it fun.

Paper Lanterns

We made these sweet and simple paper lanterns and lit candles. They were very festive. I did some reading about Chinese paper cutting arts and watched a couple of YouTube videos (like this simple tutorial). I didn’t know about this beautiful art form before. Go to Google and search for “Chinese paper cutting” and then click “Images.” The examples you’ll see there are amazing. I fell in love.

These are just two examples I found and I’m sorry I can’t credit the artists who made them. This year is the Year of the Dragon, but you already know that.

So while Daddy made us a gorgeous chicken and stir-fried vegetable dinner over brown rice, we started cutting. Our paper lanterns glowed merrily beside us.

Making

To make this yourself, simply trim your paper into a square, fold in half and fold in half again. Now fold it into a triangle, just like you would if you were making a paper snowflake. Now begin cutting. Chevrons, parallel lines, swirls, squares, triangles, hearts, diamonds, etc. are all good shapes to cut. When you are finished cutting, simply unfold your paper. Voila!

Red Paper Flags

It is always such a delight when the children decide to go along with one of my harebrained crafting schemes. Lucas and I both enjoyed this “paper flower” making a lot and we decided to make enough  flags to create a banner. We made seven square flags.

Lucas's Luck Envelope

Lucas also made his own good luck envelope and filled it with an origami swan, some coins, and a blessing. He used his special fountain pen that he got from Santa. It seems he knows rather more about Chinese New Year than I realized, with some cultural mixing at play.

Dinner for Chinese New Year

Asher Showing Where He Helped

Asher helped a bit, too, but he doesn’t like to be told how to make things. Mostly he wants a chance to use the scissors. To make our banner, we just threaded a piece of red yarn through the holes along the top of each flag.

Red Paper Banner

And this is how our lucky banner looks this morning, hanging near our kitchen. I think it looks terrific and feel that it’s going to do great double duty for Valentine’s Day, too. I can’t help but cut hearts, I guess. (Now I see I’d better cut that extra long piece of yarn.)

Completed Red Paper Banner

I think I’m going to try making some “window flowers” out of translucent red kite paper. Maybe I can try making one that isn’t symmetrical, as most examples I see from this Chinese art form are not. I’ll let you know how that goes. Also, I found that you can buy pieces of Chinese paper art on Amazon.com if you want something authentic.

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Holy Days

Christmas Morning at Home

My Boys

These holy, family days have been so full. We are enjoying. Resting.

Asher got Face Crayons

Coloring.

Dragon from Santa!

Bananagrams

Playing with so, so many wonderful gifts.

We have had long, luxurious visits from friends, and a sweet party that we are very honored to host.

Dog and Ian

Playing

The little dog, Solstice, is a great joy to us all. We still don’t know where he is from. We haven’t had even a single nibble on the ads we placed, hoping to find his owners. In the meantime, whatever the outcome, we are enjoying him ever so much. And now I have someone new and fluffy to point my camera at.

Christmas Day Reading

We’ve been reading new books in our leisure and drinking too much delicious coffee. Nursing head colds.

Ice

Experimenting with magical ice … to see what we can make, of course.

Window Stars

Cutting snowflakes and folding window stars. (LOVE!)

After all the working>making>striving>doing>going> leading up to and including Christmas day, we are now fully and happily settled into our hibernation days, our holy, family days. There is plenty to do—very little of it is urgent. So perhaps we’ll do some laundry. Or cook. Or play more Legos or a game. Or go for another walk instead …

Nature Walk

At the River

Asher Climbs

Or climb a tree …

Asher and Solstice

Brothers

while we learn more about each other …

Heart of Stones: Found Art

and see what we can find along the way.

Celebrating the Winter Solstice

Mama Sara's Solstice Persimmon Jam

The Solstice either was yesterday or is today, depending on where you live and how you figure it. We decided to celebrate last night, at the end of the shortest day.

I spent some wonderful alone time yesterday morning making jam from persimmons that my friend G gave to me. They were so ripe and delicious, and made amazing cookies too a few days ago. The boys were in school and I had the house to myself.

Mama Sara's Solstice Persimmon Jam

I also got to have lunch out with my dear friend, NoNo, which was wonderful. As usual, I dreamed up a little Solstice celebration for our family at the last minute.

Sun Cookie

Best laid plans of mice and mommies. I was going to have the kids help me make this giant sun cookie for dessert, but I ended up doing it alone. While my children were outside enjoying the last hour of sunshine, they came across a cute little dog wandering on his own at the local school. None of the nearby people claimed him, and when my children walked home, he followed.

Sweet Found Dog

He is a handsome fellow.

Charming Fellow

Frankly, everyone is perfectly smitten with this dog. He seems young and spry, but doesn’t nip or crew or mouth. He is well behaved. I sent Ian and the boys right out to see if they could find the owners, but they came home without having any luck. This is why I made the sun cookie alone. (The recipe is from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe here, and I used Reese’s peanut butter chips and Reese’s pieces candies to mosaic a face. It came out perfectly.)

Solstice Night Dinner (Picnic by the Fire)

Solstice Night Dinner (Picnic by the Fire)

See the star? Neat, huh? Ian made red beans and rice for dinner and we had sunshiny oranges and sun-shaped squash with our salad. We ate by candlelight on the floor by the fire.

After dinner, Ian took the dog to the local vet to see if there was a microchip that would tell us where he belongs. No chip. Today we put up flyers around the area and have talked to a bunch of our neighbors. So far, we haven’t found his home. This little dog is so nice, I’m sure someone somewhere is missing him. In the meantime, the boys and Ian have fallen in love with him. It feels like everyone is hoping we will keep this dog. Lucas wants to name him Solstice, which is a big name for a little dog. And yes, I am allergic to him.

Spin Art Lucas Made

 

Santa Lucia: Lights in the Darkness

Santa Lucia Braided Bread

It’s Santa Lucia Day today. My stjärngossar (star boys) helped me make Lussekatter (Santa Lucia buns) last night.

My Baker Boy Lucas

It worked well to have them help mix the dough, then later form the buns before bedtime.

Santa Lucia Lussekatter

Aren’t they pretty? I should have been more liberal with the egg yolk wash over the top and I should have had my oven a little cooler. I don’t do this kind of baking very often because if I did I would EAT all the buns. This year we used the “traditional Lucia buns” recipe that our kids’ Waldorf school provided. It worked beautifully. I used a bit of saffron, which may have been too old to color the dough much, and some cardamom as well for some kick. I didn’t have raisins on hand so we used dried currants instead.

2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 c warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 1/2 c warm milk
1 c sugar
3/4 c butter, softened and cut into pieces
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron (or use 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom and 1 teaspoon grated orange peel)
about 7 1/2 c all-purpose flour
about 1/2 c raisins (or currants)
2 egg yolks mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons of water

In a large bowl combine yeast and water; let stand 5 minutes. Warm the milk and add the saffron to it. Blend in the milk, saffron, sugar, butter, egg, and salt. Stir in about 6 1/2 cups of flour to form a stiff dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Add flour as needed. Place dough into greased bowl and then turn over. Allow to rise in a warm place 1 hour, until doubled in size. Punch dough down, knead lightly again. Pinch off balls of dough about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and roll into a rope about 10 inches long. Curl ropes into S-shapes or into double S-shapes to make a curved cross. Put raisins into the centers of the curls. Cover and let rise about 1/2 hour, until almost double. Brush well with yolk and water mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Check often.

Santa Lucia Braided Bread Before Baking

I also made this beautiful braided loaf. I don’t know if I have ever made anything like this before and I am so pleased with how it turned out. Next time I think I’ll turn down the oven just a tad and bake only about 22 minutes.

Santa Lucia Braided Bread Just After Baking

This morning, for Santa Lucia, I warmed the braided bread loaf and put candles in it. I drizzled a bit of powdered sugar glaze over the top and it was yummy! The kids took some Lussekatter buns to school for their teachers. And I had my dad over this morning for coffee and some bread. Then I indulged in watching several YouTube videos of Lucia festivals in Sweden. I love the music.

The night goes with heavy steps
around farm and cottage;
round the earth the sun has forsaken,
the shadows are brooding.
There in our darkened house,
stands with lighted candles
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

The night passes, large and mute
now one hears wings
in every silent room
whispers as if from wings.
See, on our threshold stands
white-clad with candles in her hair
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

The darkness shall soon depart
from the earth’s valleys
then she speaks
a wonderful word to us.
The day shall be born anew
Rising from the rosy sky.
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

Carl Larsson, “Lucia Morning”

I admit I love these lesser known (at least to us) holidays. Our family can celebrate them or not, as we like and as our lives and time permit. We can make them what we wish because there aren’t loads of people whose needs have to be considered, nor are there decades of family tradition to hold to or break, with all the accompanying risk that goes with breaking it. We don’t hurt anyone’s feelings by doing our own thing because no one in our extended families celebrates holidays like Saint Nicholas Day or Santa Lucia Day or Candlemas or Saint Patrick’s Day. With just a little effort I can make otherwise ordinary days special for my children, just by choosing to celebrate. And these holidays don’t require a month or more to get ready, the way that Christmas does. So these festivals will be a part of our family until they no longer serve us and enrich our lives in this way. For now, we’re are enjoying them very much.

Mama Asher Day

Asher is sick today with a cold. I apologize to everyone he came into contact with over the last two days; I hope we haven’t gotten anyone sick. He had a rough night last in our bed, which means none of us slept well. I confess I find it hard to be a compassionate mother in the middle of the night when a thrashing child is alternately pawing at me and randomly punching my face.

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But look at him. He looks tired and sad. Today we’re taking it easy. I went out this morning into my backyard and gathered up all the spare pieces of wood I could find. These are all the sticks my kids find and bring home, bits of home carpentry projects, bits that fall off our trees in winds, etc. These are the pieces of wood my kids bash each other with at every chance they get—swords, knives, spears, scimitars, poleaxes—you get the picture. Then I lit a fire for Asher and me.

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Unfortunately, this novel entertainment will end soon, as we will rapidly run out of wood to burn.

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So we are playing LEGO by the fire, while it lasts. Asher is telling me about Earthland, and his pet dragon, and pontificating about what color of fire is the most dangerous—blue, in case you didn’t know. I expect we’ll spend a good part of the rest of the day on the couch.

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He tells me I should build ships that do better things than science vessels. Apparently my science vessels are boring.

 

Second Week of Advent

Sunbeams

The second light of Advent is the light of plants,
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

Running UP

Yes, this is how we began the second week of Advent last Sunday. We drove up to Apple Hill to a Christmas tree farm and roamed about for a while. It had been several years of not enough time or good weather to do this family tradition, so we felt it was time.

My Men

The boys enjoyed combing the hillside, and of course, had to go to the very tippy top of the mountain. Asher felt like he was in the woods. That is really an unbeatable feeling when you’re a kid, to feel way out away from civilization and wander among the trees. Most of these trees were pretty young, but it worked fine for little Asher.

Lucas Cuts Our Tree

When we finally found the perfect tree, Lucas did the cutting.

Bluish!

I snapped this photo because I just couldn’t get over how blue this silver fir tree was.

Silly Boys

I conned them into posing for pictures, but only got the super silly kind. That’s OK, though. I think I love those the best. I love to see them having fun.

Apple Hill Orchard

We stopped at Boa Vista Orchards for a lunch of burgers and some produce shopping. We bought the juiciest Asian pears ever. We picked up an apple blueberry pie to take home, too. Daddy felt that a pie baking in the oven would be the perfect compliment to tree decorating. I think he was right.

Decorating

We played Christmas lounge music and covered the little tree with shiny ornaments, red ornaments, and stars. There are lots of ornaments left over this year because this Christmas tree is smaller than usual. I’m thinking up other ways to use them. (I admit I really adore ornaments.)

Our Tree

We think it’s lovely.

Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas Display

Kind old man Saint Nicholas, dear,
Come into our house this year.
Here’s some straw and here’s some hay
For your little donkey gray.

Pray put something into my shoe;
I’ve been good the whole year through.
Kind old man Saint Nicholas dear,
Come into our house this year.

I’m feeling so grateful for all the amazing, creative support we have received over the years and continue to receive from our Waldorf school, especially with regard to festivals. Today, when I picked him up from school, my 4.5-year-old son Asher was clutching a small handful of hay (tied neatly with a piece of yarn) to give to Saint Nicholas’s donkey. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything cuter than my little guy, manfully carrying his lunch box and water bottle at the end of a long day, with this little bit of hay in his fist.

I’m actually (blissfully) ready for Saint Nicholas’s Day this year. This is not always the case, I assure you! In years past, Nicholas has come to our house on December 7. But this year I’ve got goodies for my dovies’ shoes all ready. I also have this handsome Saint Nicholas that I made last year. Today I put out a pretty display and asked Asher who it was. “Saint Nicholas!” he said with that special sophistication that only a younger sibling can have.

Saint Nicholas Display

The other reason I’m feeling gratful—at the moment—is because I just spent a half hour going through two giant binders full of Waldorf materials that I’ve been given and gathered over the last eight years to pull out more Advent poems, Saint Nicholas stories, Santa Lucia recipes and more. These festivals have enriched my children’s lives—and mine—so much, even though they mean extra work and extra mindfulness. I have a deep love for any holiday that includes magic that happens in the dark of night, to be revealed only by the light of the dawn—to the delight of my whole family. In our home, many holidays involve this kind of nighttime miracle.

And so, we will see what happens tomorrow morning, after the shoes have been polished and placed neatly by the front door. We’ll leave out our carrot and that sweet clutch of hay for Saint Nicholas’s donkey in the hopes that they will visit us in the night and decide that we’ve been good—good enough, perhaps, for a treat or two.

Today’s Blessings

Beeswax Lantern

It’s been hard lately. I would be lying if I said otherwise. Today was good in these important ways:

Sleepover friends kept Lucas and Asher well entertained until 3 p.m. I got to work during this time (in between their many feedings).

They created a “Kid Café” in my kitchen and served herbal tea and toast. Lucas wrote out everyone’s orders: “Bred tostid, Honey, Buder, sleepytime.”

I cut a persimmon in half to show the kids the eight-pointed sunburst/wheel of the year inside. They didn’t much care, but I did.

T’s favorite piano piece got markedly better as the day wore on. She practiced it about a hundred times. It’s a lovely, sad piece of music that she is playing by heart.

I watched a kid-made paper puppet play. It was extremely goofy. Asher sneaked in a mention of “poop” at every opportunity to see if I would react.

I wrote a poem. I made a pretty gewgaw. I made plans for more creations.

As soon as their friends left, Asher fell apart and fell asleep. While my sick baby napped (and coughed and cried), Lucas needle-felted two new toys for himself: a knight and an archer, complete with weapons.

I lit candles and enjoyed them, even though my sick little one screamed that he hates candles and why won’t anyone listen to him and put them out?!

I left the house for an hour for groceries and supplies. I bought whiskey. The outing was worth it.

The Internet made me cry, but then it made me cry again in a good way because as awful as some people can be, others can be even more amazing.

My husband is dreamy.

 

 

 

Treasure: The Animal Fair

Birds in the Fall

In the Fall

I walk on yellow leaves in fall,
And see the earth from summer turning.

I hear the brown birds’ distant call,
And smell the autumn fires burning.

Soon all the leaves will fade and die,
The last wild birds will rise and roam.

The wind will blow and snow will fly.
But I’ll be warm and safe at home.

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This poem and art is from The Animal Fair by Alice and Martin Povensen, which is one of the grooviest Golden Books ever published (originally 1952). Bergin Streetman posted about it on Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves, coincidentally on Asher’s birthday this year, so you can see more there. This book is chock-full of amazing artwork, poems, jokes, and stories. It’s very fun.

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Isn’t this lovely?

Halloween Fairy’s Gifts

Gifts from the Halloween Fairy

Frankly, it took my children a while to remember to put their candy out for the Halloween Fairy. I didn’t mind, I know she’s busy; I have it on good authority that fairies are often overworked and running a tad behind schedule. I knew the kids would remember eventually. In the intervening eight days since Halloween, my boys have remembered that there was Halloween candy in the house and asked for a piece exactly twice.

Last night we sorted through the loot. So. Much. Candy. What’s with people these days? Whole Snickers bars? Full-size Hershey’s bars? I watched both of my kids struggle with this candy sacrifice more than ever before. Lucas had been saying he was going to give up 100 percent of his candy to get “something really good.” (Talk like that makes a mama proud, but a Halloween Fairy somewhat nervous.) When it came down to it, though, giving up the candy was harder than he expected. He had to be coaxed to put the bulk of the candy into the sacrifice bowl for her. I do not use the word sacrifice lightly here.

Asher was more than a little bewildered about the whole thing. I think he probably doesn’t remember doing this in past years, being only 4 and a half. And now, he’s got all this candy (my Asher has a sweet tooth) and we’re asking him to do what? Are we crazy? It’s a good thing he is so accustomed to following his brother’s lead in all things.

Gifts from the Halloween Fairy

Don’t worry, there is plenty of candy left over to be doled out on special occasions or for a reward for some great behavior. I’m not above using this as an incentive to get Lucas to practice piano.

Gifts from the Halloween Fairy

So, our tradition is to leave the Halloween candy out in a bowl on the back porch for the Halloween Fairy to come and get it. The boys went to sleep last night with this image in mind. This morning we were awakened by Asher’s jumping onto our bed with freezing fingers and shouting, “The Fairy came! The Halloween Fairy came and there’s something outside for us. Can we get it? Can we?” I repeat, freezing fingers. So we layabout parents got up and the kiddos ripped into their presents in the dawn light.

Gifts from the Halloween Fairy

Amazing! A book about a young master of martial arts (first in a series) and a ninja bear for Lucas. A rainbow dragon and book about dragons for Asher. I have assured them that they can both enjoy the dragon book when Lucas asked about it; Lucas is keen to “study dragons.” To our delight, both toys were played with this morning. Apparently the ninja has a magic sword and the dragon can breath fire and shoot lightning from its tail.

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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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