Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Loaves of Revelation

WE baked bread and it was a success! I had never done this before, but have wanted to for so long. I would go back and forth between being super-enthusiastic about my new 'project' (wanting to go out and buy a milling machine, for example, so that I could mill my own flour), then overcome with doubt and deciding I should start small with a packet mix of the 'just add water' variety. Then finally yesterday I managed to get past the overthinking and just made it. A little background for those to whom bread baking is no big deal: I have always thought my cooking skills to be quite good, but baking was just never my thing and even homemade cookies frequently end up being donated to the birds. I admit, I have a problem following recipes.

Well the actual act of baking was not especially eventful; Emma had fun transforming Basil into a dalmation by 'raining' on him with handfuls of flour; I was trying to put some elbow grease into kneading the dough - not very easy with a slumbering little bundle suspended on your front in a sling. But when it was finally baked, I even procrastinated cutting into the loaf to see how it turned out. (Ever done that with a letter that you know contains exam or interview results?) When I finally did, half a day later, I was amazed to find that not only was it fully cooked inside, it held up to being sliced thinly, was not too heavy and even tasted good! You can't imagine how clever I felt! Emma and I high-fived all through our bread and cheese lunch.

I do realize this small feat is not exactly comparable to Neil Armstrong's steps on the moon, but to me it was! And that led me to a revelation. Emma likes to dress and undress and redress her dolls in Alexander's clothes oh, maybe thirty times each day. That's great except she can't fasten the snaps (poppers). So guess who gets this job (thirty times each day)? Today she came running to me announcing ecstatically: "I did it up Mama all by myself!" My first instinct was "Thank heavens! About time!" Then I remembered that I baked bread all by myself, and shared her moment of joy.

Friday, September 19, 2008


YESTERDAY Alexander had his first introduction to our Waldorf Homeschoolers group, as we went on a guided children's hike at Autrey Mill Nature Center. With the group of eight children ranging from 3 to 8 (excluding Alexander, who was tucked into a sling), the resident naturalist managed to capture the attention of each and every one of them. Soon he had them scurrying after him to see what was under the log ahead, who could spot the next tulip tree, and what would come out of the hole at the top of the dead pine tree if we shook the base a little. We learned about different habitats as we walked through the hickory forest and looked down onto wetlands and into the creek bed.

Then, as we looked at leaf types, someone spotted a ferocious-looking insect! Anyone familiar with the exceptionally bad Tremors movies might agree that this caterpillar bears a striking resemblance (albeit on a thankfully miniature scale) to the subterranean worm-like creatures that terrorize a small town in Nevada. With a couple of pairs of long curving horns, orange spikes and an impressive five-inch length, we had every reason to be taken aback. However I've since found out that this bug's bark is worse than its bite. It was a Hickory Horned Devil, calmly munching its way through a hickory leaf, and is quite harmless to humans. Body colours can range from deep blue-green to tan, depending on its instar, or developmental stage. Similar to the way a snake sheds its skin when its body has outgrown the skin, a caterpillar does the same. The one we found was brown, not green like in this photo. Unlike most caterpillars that spin a cocoon or chrysalis, this one burrows into the ground then overwinters in the pupal stage, emerging in the spring as a beautiful orange Royal Walnut Moth, also known as the Regal Moth. Was this not a cool find?
Photos from

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Baby's First Trip to the Beach

THOMAS has been longing to show us a bit of river he came across, so today we packed up our swimming things and a picnic and headed out. This place was fabulous! A wide, shallow river bed filled with sand banks, rocks and little waterfalls. Emma wasted no time getting in the water and not even the cake we brought with us could coax her out. She was too busy sailing a 'ship', crossing 'bridges' and collecting freshwater mussel shells. From my position on the bank, it looked like she was repeatedly slipping over and only papa's hand was preventing her from a mouthful of water. As I later discovered when I was on river duty, actually she just liked to practice her swimming strokes with her legs, dangling from a parental stronghold.

Alexander had no objection to a bed of sand and drifted peacefully off to sleep under the blue sky and canopy of gently waving leaves.

Apart from a fisherman, we were the only people in sight. Three hawks circled overhead, and a doe with her two fawns pranced across the road as we approached the river. It was a beautiful place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Little Nut Tree

AFTER days of the house being in disarray following the arrival of our new baby, I decided that if we at least had one beautiful corner, there would be hope for the future. So I revamped our nature table. Though September has begun, it still seems too early for a harvest theme, and I'm not familiar enough to do a Michaelmas table without researching it first, so decided on the nursery rhyme I had a Little Nut Tree. I used yellow beeswax for the golden pear, and took a nut from Emma's collection and painted it silver to make the silver nutmeg. The tree was made from a bare twig to which I added six green felt leaves. The princess's dress was made from a scrap of fabric left over from a dress made by Grandma, wrapped around a cardboard cone, pipecleaner arms and a body stuffed with wool. The head is a another nut, and the hair more wool.

The characters in the nursery rhyme are believed to refer to the visit of the Royal House of Spain to King Henry VII's English court in 1506. The 'King of Spain's daughter' refers to the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. The princess in the nursery rhyme is probably Katherine of Aragon who eventually became the first wife of King Henry VIII, much loved by the British people.

I had a Little Nut Tree

I had a little nut tree, nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg, and a golden pear;
The King of Spain's daughter came to visit me,
And all for the sake of my little nut tree.

Her dress was made of crimson, jet black was her hair,
She asked me for my nut tree and my golden pear.
I said, "So fair a princess never did I see,
I'll give you all the fruit from my little nut tree."

Monday, September 1, 2008

New Life, New Rhythm

BABY Alexander is here! Just when we thought we were getting the hang of the daily rhythm thing, along come days filled with endless nappy and clothing changes, nights not filled with sleep and the sudden exponential elongation of every 'getting ready' step that causes you to be late for everything and get very little achieved in a day. And then there's the incredible new life so entirely dependent on you, the heart-melting moments when Emma brings her very special cuddly toys and blanket to "make baby brudder happy", the look of utter peace and contentment on the baby's face when asleep on papa's chest. Give us a few weeks, and our new addition will be fully incorporated into a brand new family rhythm!