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I am finally feeling like life is settling down- our family is still facing a lot of challenges, but that has actually started to seem status quo… haha… and I am ready to delve back into a more spirited undertaking of the festivals.  We need some celebration in our life at the end of a very long, cold winter!

St. Patrick was captured by raiders and enslaved for six years, and then he escaped.  He then chose a life of service to the country where he had been enslaved.  This reminds me of the Hebrew tradition, outlined in the Old Testament.  Anyone taken up as a slave in a Hebrew household was required to be set free on the seventh year.  Because slaves were often afforded protection and livelihood, and sometimes even felt as if they were to some extent a part of the family, they could choose to stay if they had a good master, and were then called “bondservants”.  They  “bound” themselves to their master and promised to serve him the rest of their lives.  It became an act of service born of freedom. So during this week of St. Patrick’s Day I am considering the ideas of slavery and freedom.

Wonder with me, will you, what things in your life you have felt a slave to?  I have been considering habits, thought patterns, and more which hold me down.  I have also been considering those good things which, out of meniality, necessity, and daily-ness have come to feel like slavery- those things I must do to keep my home and family thriving, that I seem to be internally grumbling about.  How can I make the switch from slavery to freedom?  By affirming my own personal responsibility and dwelling on my capability to make my own choices.  Indeed, we make the choices for everything in our lives.  We are not trapped, obligated, forced, manipulated… unless we allow it- or choose- to be!  This often does not “feel” true- but it is.  We step into a brand new realm of freedom and possibility when we take responsibility for our choices and actions, and stop taking responsibility for the choices and actions of others.  I am reading a wonderful book along those lines, called Boundaries in Marriage- highly recommend it!

St. Patrick’s Day is also a time to celebrate Ireland and all things Irish.  We borrowed some beautiful picture books of Ireland from the library, a Riverdance DVD, an Irish cookbooks, and plenty of leprechaun tales. We are actively studying the little creatures.  I’ve been painting up these wee pot o’ golds- wooden pots painted black to look like cast iron, and filled with small chunks of fool’s gold. They are so cute!

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I plan to hide them around the house for each child to find, under rainbows (perhaps Grimm’s rainbow stackers, a needle felted wool fairy with rainbow skirt, or rainbows created by these prisms).

I am painting some wooden rounds with gold craft paint to drop gold coins along the treasure hunt path to lead the way as “hints” and keepsakes, and sewing up little shamrock-shaped felt pockets (two sheets of green wool felt cut out in shamrock shapes and sewn together with a slot at the top to insert coins), probably to be attached to a finger knit string and worn as necklaces.  I am also painting 12 wooden shamrock shapes and designating a number on each little cloverlet- 1-48- to practice counting by fours. I am working on a needle-felted clover bunting, too! I’ll post again when it is finished.

St. Patrick's Day Bunting

I also bought a bunch of these “floating clover” candle molds.  Ok, so I’ve never seen a five-leaved clover, and I am not sure why they are calling them that… but we’ll go with it.  Great and easy way to use up leftover wax bits after making beeswax cookie cutter candles. Of course there is no need to have scraps laying around to make them… I had a couple sheets I just crumpled up and tossed in my double boiler because I was so happy with how they turned out. And when Mama Erin and I tested them out, they truly did float!

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We will paint with green on Watercolor Day, make homemade green mint essential oil playdo for the littler ones and make beeswax modeling wax leprechauns with my older one on Modeling Day, make Irish soda bread on Baking Day, and work on painting our wood rounds and clovers for Craft Day.  There will also be an attempt to catch a leprechaun, inspired by my friend Mari.  She says in her house last year, they glued sequins to the walls of a cardboard box, filled it with treasures and made a little ladder leading to it in hopes the leprechauns would leap in and become trapped.  They were smart little creatures tho- in the morning her children found the latter flipped to the inside of the box where the leprechauns could escape, after stealing sequins, leaving the box contents in disarray, and even overturning kitchen chairs and sprinkling flour about the kitchen!

If I have time, I’ll be needle-felting a leprechaun as well.  I made one already, and learned a lot- but he did not pass my personal aesthetic standards, lol, so I am trying again to make him just as I envision him.  I’ll admit it… it was his face.  I tried giving him a face and his features sort of creeped me out.  As in I could not be in the same room with him at night, lol! My boys, however, were thrilled I took up their suggestion to display his mischievous leprechaun ways by having him moon everyone.

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If anyone has a good recipe for natural corned beef, please share.  We are trying to avoid nitrates and also have a freezer full of our neighbor’s beef, so I don’t want to buy supermarket corned beef… but we will try colcannon for sure!

Visit my shop soon if you want to add a little Waldorf style Irish flavor to your home- orders that come in by tonight will ship priority mail tomorrow to arrive on St. Paddy’s Day or earlier. It tends to be a week long celebration for us, since one day is never enough to pack in all the fun!

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Seeds Worth Saving

I truly hope no one held their breath to find out who won the big giveaway I did a few weeks ago. Because if you did, I am sure you are currently unconscious. :) The winner is comment #6, Janel! I really did plan to come back and announce (and post more!) sooner, but I consider blogging one of my “guilty pleasures” and when I have co-op packages to be sent out, website development to do, and household tasks looming… blogging always gets shoved to the bottom of my to-do list! But, a recent issue has shoved blogging back to the top of my to-do list! I was just very saddened to read a negative review of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds because they source from  seeds produced in China (in addition to about 150 small time growers worldwide and their own magnificent farms). I fell in love with Baker Creek several years ago. Prior to learning about Baker Creek, I looked for organic, or better yet, biodynamic, seeds. To me, this seemed crucial in getting “the best of the best”. However, when I began to read Michael Pollan’s books and learn about biodiversity in our crops, my perspective of what is truly important changed a lot.

I stand strongly against GMO’s (and so does Baker Creek- they are leaders against genetically modified organisms and do everything they can to avoid them, testing to ensure they provide non GMO varieties on seeds prone to be tainted with gmo, like corn). But they are not the only threat to our food supply; lack of seed variety is a huge problem. What happens when farmers and gardeners begin to depend on a very few varieties of food crops- a tiny percentage compared to what we use to grow in our backyards and farmlands? These varieties have less of chance of standing up to inhospitable weather conditions, pestilence, and disease. We know the story of the Irish potato famine; this is a case of a nation depending overwhelmingly on a small variety of one crop. With all the weather and climate uncertainties earth currently faces, our food supply stands the best chance of providing for us if we are using many varieties, all with different strengths and different reactions to adversity. We have a greater chance of harvesting a tomato that is rarely affected by wilt, a corn crop that is happy in drought, or a cabbage that withstands worms when we have plant diversity available to farmers and gardeners, evening out odds and supplementing our mostly mono-cropped, industrialized food supply. Read more about the importance of food crop diversity here.

When I approach the question of which seeds to buy, I am enamored with the unusual, exotic, and ultra functional. I want the corn that stays “evergreen” if hung by its roots to partially dry. I want the tomato that will keep til the end of December. I want the funky gourd that can be turned into a basket. And I want to support a company that is constantly seeking out heirloom varieties that protect earth’s biodiversity and food supply. My criteria has switched from organic, biodynamic, local seeds (what I originally thought was most important)- to heirloom, open-pollinated, unique seeds.

What is heirloom? There are several opinions. Some people hold a true heirloom seed needs to be handed down from family to family. Others simply require them to be pre-1951, the year when many hybrid varieties were marketed widely. Basically, heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, non hybrid, and have been loved and appreciated, many times by isolated, small growers- since World War II or before. The fact that they are open-pollinated helps preserve our biodiversity; when pollination lies in the hands of nature and is not controlled, the plants have the possibility to run a larger gamut of traits. Offspring grown right next to each other can grow up to be uniquely different from each other and showcase a wide variety of features. What hand does Baker Creek play in this? Well, while there are three major seed banks and the Seedsavers Exchange, Baker Creek has many more varieties- and plans to continue to increase their varieties at their adventurous pace- than any other publicly accessible seed catalog around. While I do hope to join Seed Savers at some point, membership is pricey and having to write to and send payment for seeds to farmers and gardeners all over the country, different sources for every variety, becomes time consuming and expensive. A catalog that boasts over 1500 varieties, all in one place, without requiring membership fees to be able to order from it, is a labor of love and passionate work worth supporting!

Incidentally, all of China is not an industrial complex.  While we certainly need to be very vigilant in buying items made in China- and this post really opened my eyes to the degree with which we must be vigilant- there is a big difference in sourcing seeds from China, and sourcing plastics and metals made in pollution belching factories from the industrial sectors. There are over 300 million farmers in China and many of them are small time farmers cultivating on only approximately 1.6 acres.  This is very different from the typical US farm. If you’ve read some of my previous posts on gardening, you know that I feel very strongly about cultivating a relationship with my plants.  I love the human interaction and attention that small farms allow for.

I am so excited to honor diversity and teach about different cultures through food in our gardening this year.  I am planning 4 “mini gardens” within our larger garden, each with an ethnic theme.  My potager garden (“kitchen garden”) will pay homage to France and boast The French Breakfast Radish, French Dandelion, a french thyme variety, chervil, Tete Noir Cabbage, Bleu de Solaise leek, Merveille de Quatre Saisons lettuce (Marvel of Four Seasons), Corne de Belier peas, Rouge Vif D’Etamps pumpkin, Peche tomato, and Calima beans.  A homeschooling project will be to talk about France, build a mini Eiffel tower garden decoration for the plot, and cook authentic French meals from our bounty.  Our Asian themed garden will have a fairy pagoda and feature Chinese Chives, Chinese motherwort, Tatsoi Green, Baker Creek’s amazing Siamese Dragon Stir Fry salad mix, Chinese Red Noodle Bean, Extra Dwarf Pac Choy, Red Kuri Squash, and Chinese lanterns. Our “three sisters” garden will have a teepee structure over it and honor native Americans with corn, squash, and beans; and my Russian Dacha will feature some hardy and quickly growing tomato varieties like Raspberry Lyanna, Golden King of Siberia, Emerald Apple tomato, Pilcer Vesy tomato, Paul Robeson tomato, and Emmer wheat.

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I am so excited to have added all of Baker Creek’s 1500+ varieties from the seed catalog they mailed me… I had so much fun learning about all the varieties offered this year. As I do every year, I am offering everyone the opportunity to order their seeds through our Cedar Ring Circle Baker Creek Heirloom Seed special order, and you can order through that link and save 20% with the code SAVESEEDS at checkout (and free shipping on orders of 10 packets or more in the US- otherwise I will contact you for $3 to help with shipping costs). You may want to refer to Baker Creek’s website for pictures and descriptions, at http://www.rareseeds.com, too.  Although if you don’t have their paper catalog, you definitely want to order it… it is full of anecdotes and recipes.  I will place one order tomorrow, so earlybirds will want to get their orders in by midnight tonight, and another on March 3rd.

I am so excited that my dear friend Mona Sophia is guest posting for us today. She is a self described alchemist and intuitive life coach.  Her personal study of creativity, meditation, mindfulness, Anthroposophy, and relationships have led her down many different avenues including that of a Waldorf class teacher, homeschooler, artist, filmmaker, and wife and mother.

Mona Sophia begins our contemplation of the Sense of Warmth with a quote from Sherry Wildfeuer…

“An even more intimate connection occurs through the warmth ether.  It provides the impetus of enthusiasm to arouse our thinking to activity at the moment of our first seeking to understand what we behold.  It energizes us along the way, and it culminates with our becoming aware of the inner impulse, the seed nature of what we see.  Thus, the whole quest for knowledge is fired by the warmth ether.  It also allows us to transform ourselves or something in the world around us.”  (“Getting to Know the Living Forces In Nature”)

Winter is the time of year when harsh weather and cold forces us indoors.   Even more so, metaphorically, this “forcing us indoors” can serve to propel us towards developing our inner warmth and our quest for self-knowledge.  In Waldorf Philosophy and Education there is so much emphasis placed on cultivating the warmth of the child, but what about the cultivation of warmth in us as individual developing human beings?

While it’s obvious to see rapid development physically and mentally in children, with adults we too often forget or deny that development is still taking place.   However, if we look to our inner self we can see it is always continuously seeking new ways to manifest its growth and development, whether or not we choose to honor it.   In consciously choosing to honor our inner growth, it is essential we create and direct warmth towards listening to every call of our inner voice.

“Perhaps most importantly, warmth is the essential ingredient in transformative work. Without warmth we cannot change…”-Dr. Adam Blanning

Warmth is an essential element of life.   Think about what a seed needs to grow…water, nutrients, air and light.  That light is warmth.  When we as individuals choose to purposefully seek and develop the light in our own beings, we can nurture the warmth not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of those around us.  But it is essential that we start with ourselves first and do so with kindness and compassion.

This time of year when the world grows dark and our consciousness is turned inward we can very often find we are becoming impatient, restless, or dissatisfied in our outer lives and inner thoughts.  The outer cold can cause us to take a fetal–like positioning towards the world, which helps us preserve not only our physical warmth but our spiritual warmth as well.  What we are left with, though, is to come face to face with our inner mental processes.   In order to penetrate these darker crevices of our thinking, we must consciously and actively create an attitude of warmth towards these thoughts and truly understand their “seed nature”.  But how can we do we do this?

First we must honor that these emotions and feelings are presenting to us for a reason.  They are speaking to our innermost needs.  Instead of denying the darker sides of our thoughts, and trying to change them for the positive, look to them with gratitude for their utter honesty.  These small, sometimes ugly inner voices are the way our inner self screams for our attention.   More often than not they are screaming because we have denied them too long.  But what do we do?  React to these emotional outcries or respond to them?  More often than not we just react.  I now challenge each of us to respond to them instead.

Meet each of these angry, bitter, resentful mutterings with the warmth that a saint would meet a sinner.  Ask them what they need and how you can help them.  More often than not, these inner voices just want to know you are listening to them and will in turn show you they aim to serve you instead.  When we listen to these voices without self-judgment, they begin to point the way towards cultivating a more passionate and fulfilled life.

Think about your most intimate and passionate moment.  All your senses were stimulated and your physical awareness was heightened.  A feeling of warmth most likely overtook your body.  Can you imagine living life like this on a daily basis?  It’s possible.   But only when we seek to listen to those inner yearnings which have tried so hard to get our attention.  Look to yourself with warm thoughts and know that you are valuable enough to deserve a fulfilled life.  There is no secret recipe for how to do this, though, as each of us will have different ingredients.  But what matters most is that we can look honestly at what stimulates, intrigues and disgusts our palettes.

Are you happy giving to others when you have not made time for yourself?  After spending the whole day caring for others and neglecting yourself do you have anything left to cultivate a passionate life for yourself or with a partner?   However, if you took just minutes a day to make love to yourself first, perhaps the amount you could give to others would exponentially grow.

So how do we make love to ourselves?  Do you have a spiritual practice you can devote yourself to?  Do you have a purpose and a drive for your direction in life?  Have you questioned what your deepest desires are for yourself, or a life with a partner or a family?  What can you do on a daily basis to bring these into fruition?   Have you looked at yourself with love and kindness for everything you aim to achieve during your day but just didn’t manage to?  Can you look in the mirror daily and say, “I am a beautiful, sexy, creative being!”?

If the answer to any of these questions is I don’t know or I don’t have time, then it’s no wonder your inner murmurs are screaming for your attention.  Our lives are a product of our creative imaginations and if you haven’t taken the time to imagine what you want or desire from your life you will get second-rate results.  We are called to be creative, inspired individuals because creativity is the vital force that fuels our existence.

So face these dark murmurings of your inner self with warmth and compassion and see them as guideposts on your journey.  Honor that they are serving to drive you towards a more creative and passionate life and that they are the seeds, which when nurtured with warmth and light can help you to undergo the transformative work necessary to find your highest self.

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 Mona Sophia has a passion for connecting with others and helping them to discover the passion in their own lives.  Her counseling services are offered online.  See her Facebook page for more details: Mona Sophia Talks

As her friend, I have to pipe up and tell you that the grace with which she navigates her life impresses everyone lucky enough to know her. She has walked with me through many difficult times in my life.  We have been through thick and thin together, and every time I have felt “stuck”, at the end of my rope, or needed someone to share my joy, she has been there for me.  She has the amazing ability to listen without judgement, to exude empathy, and to refuse to allow me to have a pity party or self-defeating mentality.  She can help me “find the gift”, notice the silver linings of any gray cloud, and most of all, she has infused me with inspiration and confidence to boldly take on the world, and take charge of my life instead of “letting life happen to me”.  I am incredibly lucky to call her my friend, and after endless hours of conversations with her, I now know exactly what question to ask myself when I am feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or upset.  I know she would tell me to take some rescue remedy, and cut right through the whirling chaos in my mind by asking me “What are you needing right now?” For truly, how can we work towards getting our needs met, if we aren’t even certain what they are?

In addition to knowing what our needs are, we need to develop a good game plan for getting those needs met.  In his book, Non-Violent Communication”, Marshall Rosenberg tells a story of a man who is searching for his keys beneath a streetlight one night.  A passerby offers to help him, and after much crawling about on hands and knees beneath the light, asks “where exactly were you standing when you dropped them?” The man replies that he dropped the keys in an alley nearby. “But,” he says, “the light is much better over here.” We are often more comfortable trying to get our needs met in ill-suited ways that have become ingrained over the years, in ways that are based on manipulating or degrading ourselves or those around us, or we may not even feeling worthy of trying to get them met.   Mona Sophia is willing to go on an adventure with you, to discover your passion, your needs, and how to get them met and live a rich life of fulfillment.  For a chance to win a 90 minute coaching session with her, leave a comment below!

Rudolph Steiner went beyond the five senses, and outlined twelve senses within the faculties of human perception.  These senses correlate to those three aspects- thinking, feeling, and willing- that we strive to maintain in equilibrium to be whole, grounded individuals.  The “feeling” senses are smell, taste, sight, and warmth. During these last few cold days of January, I’d like to explore the concept of warmth as it pertains to both body and soul, for we sense it on both levels of our being.

Much is often said about warmth in regards to temperature of the body and keeping our children warm in Waldorf spheres.  Here is a wonderful and informative post that explains the why and how of bringing warmth to our children. Layering clothing, having warm slippers inside, and wearing knit caps and warm mittens when we go out is certainly vital during this time of year for us New Yorkers.  Our house is warmed primarily by our woodstove, and those mornings when we wake up to mere specks of embers left in the grate, I find it very, very hard to go about my household tasks of beginning breakfast, showering, and chores until the air has warmed enough to entice me away from my cocoon of blankets on the couch where we huddle together as we wake.   When we are cold, we shrink in to ourselves and try to reduce our exposure to the elements around us.  On a soul level, I find many people experience the world as a cold place, and also shrink away, huddling beneath their security blankets, trying to escape the cold.  What is it that warms the soul?  Well, I will bring in more of the spiritual elements of warmth in an amazing guest post about passion my dear friend Mona Sophia has written for us, but for now, lets examine the way we can bring warmth to our physical bodies, a physical warmth that also touches the soul with its wonderful comforting properties.

    • Beeswax.  It is just magical, and has amazing capabilities for holding warmth and exuding it.  Beeswax candles, beeswax modeling material, and beeswax sun catchers like this one (from one of our wonderful Cedar Ring Circle members!)

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  • Hot water bottles placed by the feet at night, and millet or buckwheat microwaveable pillows.
  • Hugs.  Lots of them!  Put reminders all around the house to hug your children; make it a practice to hug friends and family when you meet.
  • Tea and warmed milk.  I love warm coconut milk with chai spices… mmm.  Children love hot chocolate, and you can substitute honey for sugar. Make warm drinks “a thing” in your home, and make sure everyone has a special mug for their warm drink.
  • Gather “fairy kindling”.  Bits of twigs and brush bound with thin twine for the fairies; stock the gnomes and fairies on your nature table up with a good firewood supply.
  • Warm colors- red, oranges, yellows. Warm materials- wood, wool.
  • Soup. One way I am working towards warmth in my home is “the perpetual pot of soup”.  If you prefer vegetarian soups, check out my old post on Hunger Moon Soup. If you love bone broth, read on…

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A long time ago, a mentor and chapter leader of my local Weston Price Foundation, Elizabeth Benner, shared her chicken broth rhythms and rituals… she began her email asking if anyone in our group would like to purchase some stewing hens, as a local farmer had a few dozen old laying hens (who were no longer laying).  “Normally I would swipe these up”, she said, “but I overbought this year in  my greedy love of chicken broth.” She went on…

“Stewing hens make the best broth- mainly because they are like a fine wine- and bear the fruits of an “older woman”- mature, full-bodied, and flavorful! The older a chicken, the more intense and wonderful the chickeny flavor and aroma- and the yellower the fat and hence the higher density of fat soluble vitamins A & D and all the more delicious.  They are also half the price of organic chickens you normally would pay. You can only use them for broth because they are too tough to eat.  These old gals finding a home at your house with make for you the best chicken broth I think you will have ever had in your life. I am always scouting for stewing hens- they are hard to come by. I have my secret sources.

I enjoy a cup of chicken broth or of two times daily.  Read up in Nourishing Traditions about bone broths and you will understand the daily importance of consuming a bone broth… then of course there are all the soups you get to make with your broth.  I also stock extras for gifts to my family and friends who have come down with a little something and need some comfort food.  And of course I always stash some for myself in time of need. Lastly are the most delicious gravies you can imagine.  Here are my recipes…

Easy Chicken Stock

This will make your home smell so wonderful.  I have a little broth table set up in my house- some ol’ table I found in the trash and I painted up and put a little antique kitchen table cloth on.  Often with the season I’ll have a few pretty candles or whatnots- flowers and the like. I purchased a hot plate (Kmart/Walmart for about $8) and a great broth pot from Chef’s catalog- Cuisinart all steel, largest size.  Next plop in about 4 chickens, add filtered water to cover, about 1/2 cup of vinegar and some Celtic sea salt (this and the vinegar is what draws out all the calcium and minerals into the broth).  Bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer and leave for minimum 24 hours, but ideally two to three days.  Often I will just keep my old pot going for about a week because then it is always ready, guests pop in and I have a wonderful drink for them, or my starving husband needing to eat now- has something to bide his appetite til dinner is ready.  The same works for me- I always have broths as I am preparing dinner so I don’t dig in- I only taste so I am cooking so I can then later enjoy my meal and not be full when I sit down to eat!

Ooohh- and don’t forget, skim off the fat- you’ll have lots of it, put it in a jar and keep the fat in the fridge to use as flavorings for all kinds of wonderful things like in your soups, Italian sauces, just about everything. I remember a couple of summers ago in the annual August issue of the New Yorker they reported on how the food processing industry flavors food.  The secret and primary sell is chicken flavoring.  If they have a food (not counting sweet stuff) and they are struggling in developing it they just add in some chicken flavoring and that usually takes care of it in the taste tests they do on consumers.  I started doing this, and have found it to be true.  The color of this chicken fat is unbelievable- the brightest golden egg yolk color!”

I’ll share a few more recipes, including Elizabeth’s “Best Chicken Creme Gravy”, and my own “Time Flies Bone Broth” shortcut for amazing homemade chicken stock from scratch that takes only one hour, and is almost as good as the one that simmers for hours on the stove, soon!

What are your favorite practical ways to bring warmth to the bodies and souls of your loved ones and community?

Some of you may remember this post about beeswax cookie cutter candles.  Ever since then, I had been turning over in my mind a way to make heart candles, and then I realized- I just had to make vertical stacks instead of horizontal ones…

I gathered up my children and supplies, and we started cutting out hearts.  We each used two or three beeswax candle sheets for this project, and our tools included assorted cookie cutters, cutting boards, wooden skewers, and candle wick.  Beeswax sheets handle best if they are warm; I find placing them in a sunny window for a few hours before you begin is the best way to warm them.  They really “catch” the warmth of the sun and become pliable and easy to work with.  You can also hold them over a steaming pot of water for a few seconds or run a blow dryer over them for faster results.

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After pressing the cookie cutter down on one side, flip the sheet and cookie cutter upside down and finish pressing the wax downward towards the cutting board.

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My eight year old was able to analyze how best to use each sheet so that there would be minimal scraps.  I helped my four year old place her cutter streategically. :) At the end of the project, we gathered each color into its own scrap ball.  I save these in a mason jar for future projects- melting down and adding color to homemade beeswax crayons, modeling wax, or candles.  I think we’ll be using these scraps to make Valentine tealights or floating walnut shell candles.

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The shapes quickly stacked up.  You may wish to rub a few drops of your favorite sweet smelling essential oils onto the cutouts, but be careful- some essential oils are highly flammable.

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We carefully made holes through the center of each candle cutout.  After the first one, we used each consecutive cutout hole as a guide for our next hole, to be sure all the holes would line up well. My eight year old was able to do this on his own, but I did my four year old’s holes for her (she might have been able to do it but her attention span was elsewhere, lol!).

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Next, we strung them onto the candle wick.  This was the trickiest part- but again, my eight year old was able to do it.  If your holes are big enough, you shouldn’t have much trouble.  Next time, I think I’ll dip the tip of the wick in some melted wax to keep it from fraying, so it is easier to pull through. Save one sheet for the base sheet of the candle, no hole.

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When you are finished stringing your shapes onto the wick, pull the wick firmly to ensure it has not looped up in between sheets and there is no slack.  Press your sheets firmly together, and again pull your wick firmly so it is taut. Then trim the wick flush with the bottom, and press it down onto the reserved “base” cutout.  Trim the top about half an inch from the uppermost cutout.  Your candle is done!

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My children absolutely loved this craft, and the results were lovely.  They will make great gifts, centerpieces for our Valentine meal table, and the possibilities with other seasonal celebrations and cutout shapes are endless! Our candles lasted 2-3 hours.

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Candlemas is coming up this Sunday, too.  If you are in need of beeswax sheets or candlemaking supplies, visit my newly redesigned shop- you’ll find everything you need.  You can order kits of 8 sheets in natural, rainbow, or a special Valentine assortment- or just pick and choose individual sheets from a selection of 17 colors. To receive your items in time for Candlemas, get your orders in by midnight today (Tuesday, January 28th).

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If you read my last post, you know my family has faced challenging times recently.  One of my struggles has been that my website provider outsourced to a new service, and to get the Cedar Ring Circle website up and running, there is a lot of tweaking to do.  It takes time, and as I redo countless hours’ worth of work, I appreciate everyone’s patience.  It will be worth it- the new site is beautiful and much more functional. I’d also like to transform a difficult task into a fun, creative process supported by the intentions, enthusiasm, and interest of our wonderful online Waldorf community, as well as keep everyone engaged as the website grows and new products are added.  In that vein, one of our co-op members is creating a special peg doll named Woody, and Woody is going to be making random appearances throughout the Cedar Ring Circle catalog.  Each week, he’ll be hijacking a new product photo, and each week, the person to spot Woody first and email me at becca@cedarringcircle.com or comment on the Cedar Ring Circle facebook page will get a $10 credit towards in stock items. I’ll announce Woody’s first appearance soon!

In the meantime, let’s kick off the newly designed website and the first products I’ve uploaded to it so far with a giveaway!

Jan2014GiveawayThe giveaway includes a copy of Winter Nature Activities With Children, 20 beeswax sheets in your choice of colors, a set of 40 assorted peg people, and a $50 gift certificate for in stock items at Cedar Ring Circle (and I’ll be adding new items all week!).  Ships free to US recipients; winners from other countries must pay shipping costs.

To enter, leave one comment per person letting me know how many points you earned…

  • 1 point for visiting the new site and sharing what you like best about the new design
  • 2 points for sharing the giveaway on facebook or if you don’t have facebook, with a friend
  • 3 points for signing up for the Cedar Ring Circle newsletter (do this right on the new website) *if you do not already receive it*

Giveaway will end Friday, February 1st. Good luck!

I’m back! Back in a place where I can write in this space, back in a place where I have something worth saying. Our family had a very, very difficult few months and I really let it get to me.  My attitude went down the tubes!

Life gets messy sometimes.  After moving twice in two months, and getting very sick in between moves, barely keeping the co-op from falling apart, and setting my hair on fire, mess would be the appropriate word. :)

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Don’t worry, it is better now.  Not perfect… but I’ll take “better” over “worse”!  And hair has a handy way of growing back. Gray. LOL.

It was at about that stage of the game- when our living space looked like this, and I had just scoured the bathroom only to have someone puke all over it, that I was at my lowest.  I was making scrambled eggs, and the bowl of eggs (the last of the eggs we had) was knocked over by a child by accident.  I totally lost my composure, raised my fist to the heavens, and looked up at God, saying “IF YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT HARD FOR ME, I’M JUST NOT EVEN GOING TO TRY!”

Then I paused and looked at myself without judgment.  Well, I tried to anyways… but I realized I was like a tragic comedy and started laughing, and laughing, and laughing.

And God answered back with an inner knowing, a flash of awareness of where I was at.  I was able to take inventory of my spiritual and emotional life. I realized that I somehow felt entitled to be spoiled by the universe.  I felt like things had been going so well for me, until some unknown entity stole the princess tiara right off my head. Bad things should not happen to good people, right?  Ah, but there is a catch.  I chose to view the things that happened to me as “bad”.  And because of that, I started a war against the bad things, and whatever people or circumstances I viewed as bad.  I was creating battles and setting myself up for the fray.  I was mad at God because I didn’t perceive He had joined my side- you know, the side that was against “bad things” happening to me.

It is easy- and yet, incredibly hard- to fix this spiritual state.  Rather than viewing the things that happened to me as bad, I just said two words.  “THANK YOU.”

I am not saying we need to lie about it, and act as though we are thrilled about those less-than-stellar happenings in our lives.

But, miracles happen when we make the shift from being closed off, set against, and disconnected- to open, soft-hearted, and connected to our Source, those around us, and our understanding of our needs and values.  When I approach things with an open heart, and set aside the judgment, the critical eye, the “what’s in this for me”, the sense of lack- when I choose to ask myself “Wow, this is an unexpected turn of events… where is the lesson?” When I choose to ask myself “How can I work with this?” When I wonder aloud “If I set aside my preconceived notions, my cultural conditioning, my self-serving desires, how can I view this in a different way?  How can I welcome this situation in my life, while still clinging to my value system, and still honoring my needs?”… I move from being against things, and being a problem finder- to being a curious, inventive, adventurous problem solver.  Sometimes my sense of things being a problem even “POOF”- disappears.

And really, we had much bigger problems than puke-covered bathrooms, spilled eggs, and bad hairdos.  Things too personal to share, too hurtful to dredge up, and privacy to protect.  But this brings me to another point…

Sometimes, when our problems are so freakin’ HUGE, we try to put ourselves into the “I AM AN EXCEPTION TO THE RULE” category.  You know, the place where we suddenly aren’t like the rest of those lucky people who don’t have problems as big as ours.  We’ve got problems, you see, that the nice people down the lane couldn’t fathom, and would never be strong enough to get through- we are lucky we made it to the pathetic state we ourselves our in, after all, looking like something the cat dragged in, but still breathing.

No one is an exception to the rule.  The work is the same, spiritual laws remain the same, and the bigger the problems, the greater the  work to be done- but the work is not different, and you are not somehow in a category-of-your-own-of-special-or-hard-to-understand-work-for-the-highly-distressed.  But lucky for you, you’ve got me, and other loved ones, and yes- even God- ON YOUR SIDE.  Hand me a pitchfork and I’ll help you shovel some poo out of your stall.  I’ll hand you your rose colored glasses when you can’t find them.   Ah, and don’t fall into that other trap, either… the one where, once you’ve done the work, and learned your lessons, you now think you have a handle on it, or are above those lucky people who only have tiny problems… for as two dear friends have recently reminded me, “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.  Some of us are roses, and some of us are oak trees.  It is not better to be one than the other, but we would certainly expect the oak to handle a storm or a cold hard winter a little better, right? Yet where would we be without the beauty of the rose?  If you are an oak, and you are facing oak-sized problems, you will make a great shelter from the storms of life the rose is going through, and her beauty will encourage and delight you.  The universe is a place of harmony and balance, and to whom much is given, much is required.  Conversely, when our capacity for experiencing pain is deepened, I believe our capacity for experiencing pleasure, also deepens, when we don’t close ourselves off and allow apathy, jadedness, self-pity, anger, or bitterness to deaden us and desensitize us to both the pain and the joy.

I’ll talk a little more about the work, about how to get your house out of chaos (as I do it, lol)- since I know many women struggle with where to begin when things get out of hand- and, I will be doing a series on Warmth and inviting an amazing friend, Waldorf class teacher, and anthroposophical counselor to guest post here- great things coming up for 2014!

I also want to say a huge “Thank You” to everyone who has been a part of Cedar Ring Circle, and especially those ladies who were incredibly patient with me during October, November, and December as my family went through those difficult times.  There were many times I felt like giving up, and a kind word on facebook or by email from a mama kept me going.  Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sweetness Flows

It has been a challenging few months.  I’ve missed blogging, but the words just wouldn’t come; I believe I was trying so hard to process and make sense of my rapidly shifting circumstances, that I wasn’t able to pin my thoughts down with enough certainty and clarity to write in this space. I don’t know what’s going in with the planetary movements and star impulses, but I’ve noticed a decided shift in the past week, one that has entered not only my life, but the lives of loved ones around me as well.  Perhaps, we have finally finished strengthening the will after the season of Michaelmas, and are beginning to enter, moving towards Martinmas & Thanksgiving, the sharing and reflecting on the efforts and fruits of our deeds. It is not only the spring work of sowing and the summer work of cultivating- but the harvest itself is work, as gathering, storing, and preserving take just as much, if not more, effort than the work of spring and summer.  Winter approaches, and brings with it a slower way of living and being. We reflect on and savor taste the results of our hard work with a forward gaze, planning to incorporate the lessons we have learned into our future pursuits.

I have been juggling homeschooling with three children and a baby, running Cedar Ring Circle (which has grown to 300 families!), soccer season, being a mostly single parent while my husband helped a business partner open a natural living store a few hours away.  Things did not work out as the partner had envisioned, and he left to pursue other endeavors.  I am now moving households to be closer to the store to take over running the store and making it successful with my father, a family friend, and our wonderful staff esthetician.  My husband has returned to work as a sales rep in the natural products industry, realizing it takes time to build a retail business that can support our family financially and right now, supporting his family financially is his calling.  The new store is wonderful, and I am creating a Waldorf section to complement all the holistic products offered here and attempting to gracefully merge these two efforts.

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What is the secret to truly catalyzing our efforts to get the most out of them, and accomplishing all the work we believe we are called to do?  Faith and intention.  When we merge these, to both call forth our purpose in life and to believe that we are given each moment- never a moment less, never a moment more- that we need to fulfill it; this lends itself to true productivity.  I have recently, jokingly, made Wonder Woman my facebook profile picture…

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Friends have asked me how I manage it all, and while I can thank my energetic sanguine temperament for some of the emotional go-go juice, learning about the power of human intention and believing that each moment is a gift to be enjoyed with thankfulness and purpose are a very important piece of the puzzle. This does not mean I begrudge myself down time; there are many times when I purpose to just stop moving and doing, and rest a moment to pace myself.  For instance, in the mid afternoon “slump” of the day, I hand my 3 year old a container of warm water, a paint brush, and let her “paint” my face, arms, and legs with warm water- a sensory activity she enjoys (she has such a nurturing spirit!) and one that relaxes me.  It is important not to drive ourselves too hard, or we will burn out.  But it is far more important to be passionate about what we are doing, because passion can propel us forward with much less of our energy being expended.  Take a moment and check in with yourself; is the way you spend your time in line with your passion? If not, you begin moving in that direction simply by intending it to be so; a very practical way to do this is to envision what your life would look like if you spent your time doing what you are passionate about. The fruit of sowing these intentions, which like seeds magically emerge from dormancy and become amazing organic life, will come.  When we do the work of intending, we do not need to come up with a plan that is set in stone.  We create a fluid, dream-nuanced imagination of what calls to us. I still don’t know how all the details of my new set of circumstances will work out.  How will each of my children will be cared for during the hours I work at the store? How I will manage less rural living and still keep my connection to nature strong and thriving, which sustains me and builds me up spiritually? What will our homeschooling schedule look like? But I do know that these things will work out and I am attracting the wisdom and support I need in real time.  I appreciate you, my friends, attracting it with me.  Even though we may be hard-pressed at times, the work we do that is true to our calling, is worth it. And through it, the sweetness of life flows.

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