Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dragon Bread - September Project 2

I want to start bread making once a month! We have baked bread in past but we go through fazes: months of bread machine bread, weeks or sometimes only days of hand kneaded bread (lets be honest it takes time, organization, upper body strength not to mention clean-up, flour moves everywhere and quickly!) – and then months again of no bread from the house! My husband is the king of the bread maker, but he too is inconsistent! I have lots of recipes. I would love, love, love an outdoor (or indoor if I ever build a larger home) European bread oven. I mean the bee hive, farm kind, great for bread, pizzas and deep brown beans – another mental note – I want to make my own beans from scratch, maybe in November when we need the comfort food!

Today was Dragon bread day (tradition we picked up at Waldorf,) so that can be our first in a new routine of baking bread each month! Dragon bread, as you remember was the 2nd of our 2 projects for September. Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael, is today September 29th! There are so many lesser known holidays to explore. We chose this because they have included St. Michael in both schools we’ve attended, Waldorf and Catholic. My children love to shape their dragons, the scales, the pointy teeth. Each year they want photos of their dragon! Then they love to eat them, light overcoming darkness! Any simple bread recipe, single rise for ease, double rise for those more used to bread making! Bread making is actually quite easy, just don’t over heat the water and kill the yeast! The water is luke warm, baby bottle temperature!

Preheat over to 400 degrees

1 c water (warm to wrist temp)

1 Tbsp sugar or honey

1 Tbsp yeast (or 1 envelope)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour

1 ½ c all purpose flour

decent pinch salt

more flour ½ to ¾ c usually

Warm water and dissolve in sugar or honey.
Stir. Add yeast and let it “puff up”

Put measured flours and salt in a bread size bowl (large)

Make a well or draw a picture in the middle

Pour in water / yeast and oil and fold until well combined.

Knead (push and fold / push and fold) for 5 mins or 30 to 50 times.

Cover bowl with a cloth and let rise in a warm area.

Shape bread as dragon (or dragons), bake 20 mins at 400

Butter and enjoy!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Soup's Up

I am not getting to the bedtime song much so far this fall. Even when the children ask I seem to be singing a line then getting lost doing something else. So much for being present! The other day a friend mentioned that I only had five years left with my son as he is twelve (plus 5 is seventeen and well on his way to independence and adulthood – frightening!) I will have to keep this in mind and sing as we get near to bedtime, more often. What a lovely memory to have and a calm way to get to bed!

With the harvest season I am making soup once a week and collecting some great and easy recipes. OK, so this is my second week of this, sounds like I’ve been doing it for months. But the intent is there! I make a batch then freeze 2 to 3 tubs so I have it on hand. I will also have soup on hand as a gift. I find people have always loved my homemade gifts but my new thing is homemade gifts that do not sit and take space- rather the love they are made with can be immediately consumed. A bottle of wine is always an easy one, but soup, bread, veggies and herbs grown in our garden are great!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Where Has The Time Gone?

We are half way plus through the month and I cannot believe it. The morning routine has really helped to set our rhythm and all is going quite smoothly. This morning the children quite spontaneously sang “For the golden corn” as our blessing at breakfast – so I guess its time to change the morning verse as I had planned to mid month anyway. As we are half way to our focal festival Michaelmas or St. Michael’s Name Day we will also repeat one of my son’s favorite St. Michael verses at breakfast:

Morning Verse for second half of September


“In autumn Saint Michael with sword and with shield

passes over meadow and orchard and field.

He's on the path to battle 'gainst darkness and strife.

He is the heavenly warrior protector of life.”

Followed by (sung)

“For the golden corn and the apple on the tree

For the golden and the honey from the bee.

For fruits and nuts and berries we gather on our way

We thank our loving mother earth we thank her every day”

I will have to find the authors of these.

This weekend we coloured in the children’s St. Michael line drawings (1st of our September projects completed). They are fabulous! I have some lovely white frames from Pottery Barn that have a sleeve that allow you to change the picture so I put the children’s art in these and have leaned them against the wall on the corner theme or seasonal table. I have changed the table last night slightly, changed the flowers to new cut from the garden and replacing the fall fairy with a harvest cart and ox from the children’s wood toys. Plus the wonderful addition of the framed art (if I did not have these frames, which I have had for 8 years and never used until now! I would have simply masking taped them to the wall). We have replaced the “golden cloak” line with the Saint Michael verse as above. My son wrote this out for us 3 years ago so it is fun to use see his young handwriting as I keep it in our fall basket for the table. The children love seeing things they have made in past. I will instruct the children to look at their art and say the verse for a meditative experience. I will suggest once a week.

I will look for the brightly coloured dragon fruit in stores as it is usually available this time of year. It looks great on our theme table with its bright pink scales. Later in the month we will try eating it though in past it has been mostly left on our plates, even mine. It’s very bland!

Last week in the car on the way to school we began by testing each other on spelling words as these are coming home from school weekly now, and then we did a new meditation lead by me and focusing on greeting friends and teachers at school with words of kindness while connecting with their eyes. I am hoping to instill looking at people when speaking with them and the virtue of courtesy. We also picture the goodness from the world around us as a colour and breath it deeply into our cells and our being! On the way home we do one math times table as we need some work there, we keep it short and fun!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back to School - September Project 1

First day of school, again! I keep it basically the same year after year. I think this provides some security on day when one is faced with the unknown - new responsibilities, a new teacher, a new grade. The children have their clothes laid out, clean, ironed, at the end of their bed. They wake to their regular morning routine, me trying to remain calm and unhurried singing in full or in bits, our morning song. “Good morning to you, good morning to you”. Luckily this year we switched off the light at a reasonable hour so I am somewhat refreshed. The children, as they have done now for years make beds, get dressed and start on piano while I make breakfast – outside today (always if possible). We have added a covered area out back of our house and I highly recommend it! We all wear our night robes over our clothes if it is nippy or we have a heater too but in the morning I never seem to get that on.

Breakfast served with the morning verse we’ve said and sung all week – no w a rhythm we are used to. I sit for breakfast. I take a first day of school photo at the table and one later in front of flowers just as we leave. It took me many years to get to that – I wish I had always done so. My folks always did I think. Teeth, more piano and out the door. Bags were packed last night and lunches were made then also so the morning could be more relaxed. Nothing I hate more than a crazy morning flying out the door. A few years back we just started getting up earlier so we could accommodate a slower a.m. That has worked rather well. We started drive to school visualizations today right off the bat. I will explain that at a later date, but it is a wonderful way to start the day!

Noon pick-up and the children are calm and happy. Today I go on the internet and print some photos of Michael and the Dragon. Samples on the table the children draw lovely line drawings as this is the only early dismissal this month. These are line drawings. We will pencil crayon them later this month and put them up for contemplation mid-month. This is a new idea this year and I like it. Children are older. September Project 1.

Now like last night I aim for 5pm dinner, reading by 7, 7:30pm and lights out by 8. This will allow everyone to be fresh by 7 tomorrow morning and get us into a routine I hope!

Monday, September 7, 2009

We Grew a Watermelon!

We have been looking after our neighbours fish, house and vegetable garden while they are in France (ok I am jealous)! It is a great exercise for the children, caring for someone else’s things, especially an animal and a garden. The harvesting of a garden is calming and connects them to the earth in this oh so suburban mecca we live in. We have our own veggie patch too and this year, though small and somewhat scraggly, it has produced a bounty of tomatoes, cucumber, lettuces, peas, beans, blueberries, zucchini, one watermelon which is very exciting. Even if we only got two tomatoes it would be worth it though – veggies we grew on our table teaches more than hours of explanation from mother or teacher.

Day before the first day of school! 5 pm dinner. Reading 7pmish. 8pm lights out. Lots of outdoor time today to insure a good sleep and it worked! Lots of trampoline! Bags packed (by children),school clothes out on end of bed (children responsible for this), lunches packed (by me tonight, will work toward children’s involvement more this year I say – I say that every year but I’d better get on it , they are after all grades 4 and 6)!

Often at bed my son starts a wild and wonderful series of ideas, anecdotes and philosophical questions. He is wide open at this time – great way to learn what is going on for him, but not tonight! I actually think I should start him to bed ½ hour earlier to make better use of this great time for communication but so far have not been able to accomplish this. My daughter goes right to sleep most nights. My son’s mind starts going! Luckily not tonight – he is physically tired and nods off quickly without the ongoing discussion first. I read and get to bed at a reasonable hour too for a change!

Friday, September 4, 2009

September, New Beginnings

I managed to implement our September rhythm. Once chosen it is simple and repeated daily. I can only do this so quickly because I have been doing it for years and I have all my verses, decorations etc organized in folders, drawers and colorful flowered boxes. As I mentioned I have the cardboard suitcases for Autumn, Winter, Spring & Summer. They are filled with things I have made, or friends have made, or the children have made at home or school & that suit the season. Also decorative items that have been collected, winter fairies, bells, just stuff. It doesn’t take much, a seashell, an especially curly beach stick, a pine cone, a birds next. Go with your own style, your own ideas.

I keep a presentation book for each season for verses, poems, stories, drawings. I keep another with waking, bedtime and birthday verses. And I add anything written that speaks to me as I go. I try to include poems the children like or have written themselves at school. My sources are everywhere and though I initially hunted for things, once I had a beginning I just added literature (?) as it showed itself to me in my life. I was thrilled to find a stack of cue cards with poems and verses my mother had written for her days as primary school teacher, so I added those that I liked. I typed up singe verses from poems I have always loved from the classics. I also have a presentation book of projects but as said those for me seem vividly filed in my head. I have added verses from Remembrance day services at school or the newsletters teachers send home. From magazines that come to my door or quotes from books I am reading that I note are suitable! And in time I have built a collection, a resource and the key is that it is organized for quick reference because mom’s (or dad’s) do not start off with time to spend two weeks arranging for next months family rituals.

So on the first day of September as I have said, I put together a simple seasonal table on our corner cabinet and it was there in time fro breakfast. The children noted the display with enthusiasm and will add to it and change it themselves over the month. When we sat together for our breakfast of pancakes and fruit on the deck, I made a point of moving the wee bottle of flowers from the seasonal table to the breakfast table and I brought the words to the verse and song. We spoke and sang those together and then ate. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know the words by heart and it is nice just to participate in this together. I made a point of sitting to eat breakfast with the children which I love but find hard to do when there are so many other things calling me to do them round the house and what an opportunity to get things done when the children are involved and eating – but I try to ignore these nagging things because it is settling and nurturing for me to eat with my children and to enjoy that time. Something I have had to force myself to sit whether I have food for myself or not. These are the moments we will miss when our children are gone and these are the moments they will remember when they are grown and I will remember when it comes time for me to leave. I often have to remind myself that this is why I am an at home mom, that this stuff is more important than all those tasks that need doing, that life is too short, and still I don’t always sit, but the more I choose too, the more I do so. I believe that this is one of the gifts of motherhood and that this is a valuable use of my time, but at times I have had to force myself to believe that as the chores build up and no pay cheque comes in. I know now in hindsight that part of our children’s flourishing stems from these simple times. It is also a fabulous way to have a moment to talk freely and nurture the lines for communication.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Monthly Goals and Planning Pages; Rhythm

This is long but necessary to get organized - So no photo!

September for some of us moms is like a second New Year’s – a second chance to start, yet again, and get our rhythm and routine in order. To make things right. Thank goodness for the human quality of hope and optimism. I am very excited! I have a general layout for my year ahead. At present the details are quite lofty, vivid in my mind, though a week from now they may be gone if I don’t write them down. But it is easy to spend too much time in the planning though for me the planning indeed needs to be done. So, I am going, once again with my keep it simple motto, use what I’ve got (this also being a more green and less money and time consuming method). I am also employing some coping strategies learned in counseling years back – aiming to get through time in small packages (not day by day in this instance but perhaps month by month, having each month broken into two week sections).

As taught in Waldorf Schooling and various religions, I use the rhythm of the season and the accompanying festivals, around which to develop my daily curriculum. Seasonal festivals abound in every country and every religion on earth, but they are all very similar within each season and serve the same purpose. Latin cultures are a fabulous resource for festivals, Mexican, Italian, Catholic as are middle eastern countries and religions. Asia too has fabulous ritual. And of course probably first, for success and ideas that work with your own, it is best to look within your own culture and spiritual practice. Our own backyard, as usual, holds an abundance of ideas easily accessed within the community.

Here’s my general skeletal structure. One festival per month (Christmas having many semi festivals that I just can’t avoid, being a lover of the Christmas Season). Two weeks, general seasonal celebration to get into the swing of a new month. Two weeks prep time to work up to a particular festival , final celebration and then close it up and move on. In reality, however, I can get so into a particular festival that I find it hard to let it go, especially birthday, Halloween and Christmas. Some overlap which I find is fine sometimes, but in general my hanging on can be unhealthy. This year I will work on that specifically. I believe in the repetition, the joy of a season, but as always I need to work on my finish, my clean up!

That said, here’s my plan for September (and I realize it should have been done last night at the latest so I was all prepped for today) but I am quick with lots of experience and organized resources so I can now pull it all together pretty quick!

A Festival or Theme (could just be in general – harvest or a specific holiday or from any ethnic origin)

Set the Seasonal Table

A Verse for the next two weeks (month if children are young)

2 Projects one for each two week section (or more)

Theme Stories (traditional stories I read sporadically through the season)

For September I use the, (lesser known in America unless you are Catholic) celebration of Michaelmas. I love the focus on personal strength, courage and power as well as the facing of personal demons. Michael overpowering the dragon. Light vs dark. Good over evil! Personal strength is something our children, we all, need. Strong self image being one of the keys to a successful and happy life.

Festival or Theme for September

Michaelmas, September 29th (personal strength, courage)

Quickly, while the children are making beds, dressing and doing piano I rush together a theme table (we use a corner cabinet in the kitchen for this ever changing visual). I have a mid size cardboard suitcase (from Home Sense) for each season, filled with things we have made or collected over time for seasonal tables. Today I use a square of yellow fabric, a beautiful felted fairy in fall colours, a glass bottle my daughter painted filled with a few yellow flowers I quickly pick from our garden, some fall coloured, knotted, string bracelets my son bought in Mexico where he went this summer with a family and his dad, and three copper coins flattened in a machine when we were in California last week – the kids paid fifty cents to press their pennies with an imprint of the town we were in – the colour works and they are reminders of fun had this summer. I choose a yellow candle holder from my candle drawer and put in a tea light. I may add store bought sunflowers because I love them – later, we’ll see. I find a piece of rainbow coloured paper from the mess called our art room and asked my son to write the following line that I love, found years ago in a preschool handbook,: “I give you a cape of golden light, to give you courage, strength and might” but I change it to I HAVE a cape of golden light, to GIVE ME courage, strength and might, so we can say it and embolden ourselves subconsciously. My university psychology and years use affirmations with nutrition clients, paying off yet again.

For each month, I choose two morning verses, songs, poems or prayers of thanks fort the breakfast table – one for the first two weeks one for the second half of the month. Two weeks seems long enough to learn and to begin to have the verse penetrate our soul yet short enough that we don’t get bored. When the children were younger I carried on one verse for the whole month. Today I will use the “golden cape” line above (author and source unknown, though sounds like something from a Waldorf classroom) add a short poem I found a couple of years ago (also sounds like a Waldorf source) and then sing one of te children’s many favorite blessing songs which they learned in Kindergarten and we have used for years at home.

Breakfast Verse for first half of September


“I have a cape of golden light, to give me courage, strength and might.

My deeds I will do with my feet on the ground, My head will direct them that they may be sound"

Followed by (sung)

“Blessings on the blossom, Blessings on the fruit, Blessings on the leaf and stem,

Blessings on the root, Blessings on our meal today"

I also choose a project or two or three related to the theme. I have a file of project ideas I have collected over the year. Sources include my memories from childhood, years of baby sitting and Sunday school teaching in my teens, jobs as camp counselor in my very late teens, books, magazines, experience as an artist, workshops taken and lead, my children’s early schooling and my own conglomeration of experience. I have always been crafty, as they say. I have organized everything into files by month and this is key, however, artist that I am I don’t usually look too much up any more but pick or make something up on the spot. It is lovely to repeat projects year to year, creating rhythm, routine and ritual, the security of childhood and the things of which memories are made. For example most years we incorporate dragon bread – my children love it!

Projects for September

Drawing or painting Michael or the dragon or both, to place on the wall (and this year to actively contemplate) (first two weeks).

Dragon bread sometime closer to the festival (September 29th) 2nd two weeks.

I think I will add a harvest soup as after September we are into the very full All Hallows Eve! Hmmm, I’ll think on that the harvest soup and lanterns of Martinmas are a joy to me – I will work them either into this month or next.

I will also organizing my waking and bedtime songs which I have never done and choose one or each for this month or season (or more likely, I will sing this through ‘till Christmas based on past experience). For now I will simply choose one I remember as today is September! This morning I sang the first waking song that came to mind, so that will be the one I continue. Work with what I’ve got!

Waking Song

"Good morning to you, good morning to you, We're all in our places, with sunshining faces,

Oh this is the way, we start our new day, new day, new dilly, dilly daaaaay, hey!"

Bedtime Song

“Train whistle blowing, makes a sleepy noise

underneath the covers go all the girls and boys,

rocking, rolling, riding, out along the bay

all bound for morning town many miles away.

Tyler’s at the engine, Carissa rings the bell,

Daddy swing the lantern to show that all is well

rocking, rolling, riding, out along the bay

all bound for morning town many miles away.

Somewhere it is morning, somewhere it is day,

Somewhere there is morning town, many miles away.”

This is probably one of my children’s very favorites and I have sung it often for years. I do not even know if I have the words right but it doesn’t matter. Any song from your childhood, or a nursery rhyme book, children’s tv show, nap time at school, lullaby collection or whatever song speaks to you – or you happen to now, is suitable – don’t be shy!
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