Monday, November 24, 2014

Adventures in Letterboxing

This weekend I took my Junior Girl Scouts to a Letterboxing event at one of the Girl Scout camps in Connecticut.  I've always been interested in finding out more about letterboxing and it was such a fun day.

First we each thought of a symbol to represent us along with a name and we created handmade stamps.  Maia chose The Bookworm and I chose Little Acorn, of course.  Then we were provided with clues leading to four letterboxes hidden in the woods.

We didn't realize how challenging some of the clues would be.  There were so many leaves and it made going up and down inclines really difficult.  We were so excited when we did find the letterboxes!  Inside each one was a special stamp that we could stamp into our homemade log book.

Unfortunately we were unable to find one of the letterboxes.  By the time we realized we went too far, we had struggled getting down a huge hill by holding onto one another and we were unwilling to go back up.  

Letterboxing is a really fun hobby and I love to be outdoors and hike as it is so this will really add some fun to it for my family.  The woman who ran the program told me to check out to find Letterboxes near us and I was really surprised to see there were some in our own town and close by.  

If we weren't preparing for a huge snow storm on Thanksgiving, we would go Letterboxing again this weekend but I think the snow will really make it a bit too difficult.  We are expected to get 6-10".  We just got a new shipment of wood to prepare for the winter.  Initially we got 2 cords of wood but we realized the source was not good.  The wood we received was not well seasoned and is burning way too fast.  Hopefully this will get us through the winter.  The girls may have to take off school tomorrow to stack it :)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

An Outdoor Thanksgiving

This event is put on by friends (family, really) of ours each year.  It is such a cool way to celebrate Thanksgiving in the true sense of the way it was celebrated between the Pilgrims and the Native American Indians.  We feel so lucky to be included in this amazing tradition.  

The event is held potluck style and turkey and all the fixings are served.  It's usually very cold outside and this year was no exception.  I have to admit that even though I consider myself an outdoors person, I was silently dreading the bitter cold we may face.  I'm glad I didn't let that concern take over enough for us to cancel our participation.  As long as you dress the right way, have warmth by the fire and (for adults) something to drink to keep you toasty - it's really such a fun fun day.

I was thinking that it is something that individual families could even do in their own backyards.  Maybe not the actual day of Thanksgiving but close to... invite a few friends and family over and start a huge fire outside.  Have everyone bring something special and enjoy an Outdoor Thanksgiving yourself just like the First Thanksgiving.  Just a thought.  If you do it - please share it with us.  We'd love to see photos!  xoxo

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Leaf Garland

Thanksgiving Leaf Garland
Supplies Needed:

Leaves from Nature Walks
Thread and needle or sewing machine or yarn

Take the time to bring your children on daily nature walks this week.  As you walk along, gather any leaves that catch your eye to create this Thanksgiving Leaf Garland to decorate your home or nature place with.  You may even wish to drape the garland over your mantle, doorway or use it as a centerpiece at your table. 

Tell the children that you are collecting Mother Nature's leaves to make a pretty garland and show her how thankful you are for the earth's blessings.

There are a few ways you can do this: 
  • You can use a thread and needle and carefully create the garland.
  • You can poke holes in the center of the leaves and string the leaves with yarn.
  • You can use a sewing machine to stitch over the leaves and create garland.  

Have fun and be sure to send us photos of any creations ( 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brewing Up Kombucha

Found in many health food stores, as well as in the kitchens of hippies alike, Kombucha is a tea which is made by fermenting sweet tea and healthy bacteria.  The bacteria and yeast (aka scoby) is the good kind that can aid in health.  Much like the probiotics in some yogurts are known to improve health by aiding in digestion and fighting "bad" bacteria, Kombucha is claimed by many to strengthen the immune system.

I've bought a good over-the-counter kind called Synergy Raspberry Chia on and off for a few years.  It's pretty good but very expensive.  When my friend (who is health conscious like I try to be and also battling cancer) asked if I wanted to come and help her make a homemade batch of it I was intrigued, happy to help and of course thought it would make an excellent blog post ;)

There are many critics who indicate the health benefits cannot be proved and the dangers of brewing the tea at home outweigh the potential good stuff.  The tea must be brewed in very sterile conditions as to make sure that only good bacteria ferments and none of the bad stuff.  However, after doing some careful research of my own, I found that REALLY bad bacteria like E.Coli and and other scary crap does not survive in Kombucha.

Luckily my friend doesn't play around and knows what she is doing.  We sterilized every single bottle, cap and made sure to wear gloves when working directly with the tea.

The SUPER gross part is of course when you see the Kombucha "Mother".  This is the mushroom-like structure that the bacteria and yeast form.  My friend already had a batch of the tea brewing from a culture given to her from a nutritionist we know so we basically bottle up the fermented tea and put the mother in a new batch to ferment.

Yes it's THAT nasty!

Enough to make you run home?  Luckily I've seen worse in my life so I was in it for the long haul.

I'm not going to give you the instructions on how to make Kombucha as I don't want to be responsible for any contaminated blog followers but it was a fun experience and now I've been sucked into the Kombucha cycle.  

How many friends do you know who will share their Scoby with you?  

So now we are sharing the Kombucha mother and taking turns brewing.  Every 10-15 days you repeat the process to keep a constant demand of Kombucha in your fridge.  
The Traveling Scoby
Sadly, I think I'll be the only one in my family brave enough to consume it but I added organic chia seeds and pomegranate juice and it tastes even better than the stuff I get at the grocery store and I didn't pay a dime (thanks, friend) :) My family is used to me bringing weird shit home like this.  They didn't even flinch.

Bottom's up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Weaving Goodness, Community and Home

Today is Martinmas and also Veteran's Day in America.  I love the way that Waldorf schools celebrate this special day with lantern walks, songs, crafts and community.  I'm not sure I ever really got over the fact that my girls could not attend our local Waldorf school but one thing I have worked hard to do is to weave the beautiful things I love about Waldorf Education into our home life and our community the best way that I can.  

There are a lot of ways that I have tried to do this.  Filling our home with a lot of art, singing, baking and natural materials has always been important to me.  I also did my best to limit a ton of mainstream media, especially when the girls were very young.  I will admit this gets harder as they grow up into teens but we really do not watch much TV even still.  My hope was that by doing this, they would be free to develop into their own beings without all the crazy images of what they should wear, buy or talk like in order to be "cool".  I've tried to remember to celebrate the special festivals and seasons.  I've also put an emphasis on plenty of outdoor play, the importance of protecting our earth and being comfortable in nature.  

In my community, I've done things like hold a Forest Preschool program outdoors for little ones.  I had a Nature Club that met once per week for older children and I do my best to work with my Girl Scouts in a way that brings these values I hold dear further into the world.  My nature club actually came up in conversation with friends last night and I may consider doing it again in the Spring.  It took a lot of time to plan and organize but it was so awesome spending that time with the kids outdoors and helping them to pull them away from their IPhones for a few hours per week and be a part of the natural world.

As part of earning our Journey Award, my 5th grade Girl Scout troop has decided to put together a Community Coat Drive.  This is such perfect timing around Martinmas as many Waldorf schools do the same thing as a way to honor the old tale of St. Martin ripping his cloak in half to give to a beggar on the street.  

One area that I am really striving to improve is with our food at home.  We eat dinner together every evening and eat good meals but I want to focus on eliminating the processed stuff I sometimes turned to in a hurry and really get myself and the rest of the family to eat clean.  Not only the granola bars and things like that but even many of the condiments that I used to make gravies or add flavor to our dinners.  Have you ever read the ingredients of even things like English Muffins?  It's really crazy all the crap they put into things.

The good thing is that I truly love to cook and I have a nice vegetable garden during the summer that we can enjoy.  The hard thing is that cooking fresh each day is very time consuming. I assume that years and years ago while it was difficult, it was likely more attainable because many mothers were home and did not need to also provide an income.  For us modern moms, it's not easy.  I have to make sure I find time to still write, blog, process orders, package crayon holders, manage my daughter's school schedules, keep up with emails, do necessary work for my volunteer responsibilities, take care of our pets and SO much more.  

The truth of it is that if I want us to eat healthier, I need to make it a priority over some of the other things that are on my list.  If you look in my laundry room, it is always a mess and the house isn't ever ready for drop by company.  If I focus more on cooking, it will only be worse but in the grand scheme of things I think it will be worth it.  So that's what I've been trying my best to do and also to cook in larger quantities so I can freeze and use leftovers more often.  

We've also been trying to be more mindful of wasting.  Wasting electricity, food, leftovers, paper and so many other things.  Again, it's often a matter of time.  Feeling rushed and having to go quick.  It is sometimes easier to throw out the leftover food than to figure out a way to reuse it.  It's easier to turn the heat up higher than keep the fire going.  It's easier to throw the towel in the hamper then hang it up to dry.  But we are trying.

I made my first batch of Sweet Potato Chips this week and they were a HUGE hit with the girls.  But OMG do they take a long time to make and they disappear in a matter of seconds.

A few people asked for the recipe.  There really wasn't much of one but here you go:
Peel, wash and cut sweet potatoes into thin slices.  (thinner the better)
I actually ran out of olive oil so I used organic melted butter and coated them all in a bowl.  I think this really helped with the flavor and I'm not afraid of using butter.  I think it can be a healthy fat as long as it is whole and organic.
Then I just added salt, pepper and rosemary and laid all slices on a cooking tray to bake.  I think I had the oven on around 350.  It did take a long time and I flipped them all individually every 20 minutes or so.  Like I said, it was time consuming.  Maybe about an hour in a half of baking time before they were ready.  But they were yummy.

I'd love to hear time saving tips any of you have come across while trying to eat clean and healthy.  Having a big family also makes it a challenge because we need LOTS of food on a daily basis.  My older girls have began helping to prepare things which helps but it's still a lot of work.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Winner of the Free Martinmas and Thanksgiving Festival E-Book!!!

Congratulations to Serena who is the winner of a free copy of Little Acorn Learning's  latest festival e-book for Martinmas and Thanksgiving (Serena please contact us at info (at) with your email to send your e-book).  Her comment was randomly chosen from yesterday's post:

"This is our first year celebrating Martinmas. We spent a morning last week sharing the story of St. Martin and his cloak and making lanterns. This week we will have our lantern walk, sing songs, and share a meal with our extended family. I am so excited to be celebrating this year and plan to make it a new tradition in our family." - Serena 

We LOVED reading all of the wonderful ways you and your family will be celebrating Martinmas this coming week.  Please be sure to head over to Little Acorn Learning and grab a copy of this very full and heart-warming book.  A ton of love and energy was put into it and we truly appreciate your support.  

Here are some of the ways our members will celebrate with their families this year.  We hope it will inspire you:

heather reilly said...
i loved reading this blog post (congrats on new stove!). we have never done much more than make our lanterns and go on our lantern walk with our classmates. but we do sing the martinmas songs all weekend long and try to be mindful of what st martin did, his kindness to the beggar as a metaphor for what we can do in our own lives. but i would love to read your book as we could certainly use some new ideas! enjoy your cozy stove!
1:24 PM
Denise said...
Love your new wood stove
We like a lantern walk with friends then home for soup
Happy days x
1:26 PM
Jamie Bennett said...
I adore your new wood stove! Martina's is so special, it's my son's birthday! He will be 9, so we spend the day celebrating him, then ficus the rest of the week purging and giving away, like St Martin, then next Sunday we will gather with our friends for a lantern walk through the woods and share a meal with them
1:26 PM
Blogger Suzie Stephensen said...
There are so many lovely ways to celebrate Martinmas, I tend to get overwhelmed with trying to do it all. Last week our homeschool co-op made beautiful paper mache lanterns. This week we are gathering clothes and toys to donate, and on the night of our lantern walk we'll have a bonfire with hot apple cider before taking to the woods with our songs and lanterns. I'm looking forward to this soul-warming ritual. It's going to be a chilly walk, though!
1:37 PM
Blogger Michelle Emery said...
My very hopeful plans include making lanterns and carving our pumpkins with St. Martin images. I'm not sure what will be on the menu yet but it's never a celebration around here without good food!
1:41 PM
Blogger Sarah Policastro said...
We will enjoy a lantern walk with other Waldorf home schoolers this year. We made balloon lanterns. We also always perform an act of service decided upon by the whole family.
1:47 PM
Blogger Viola Höll said...
In Germany we made lanterns at Kindergarten or elementare school and mostly the church communities organizer a huge lantern walk through the village streets.The local Brass Band and a Saint Martin in his red coat on his white horse would lead the walk. The band played Martinmas songs and people sang along.At the end Martin would do a little play and part his coat to give it to the beggar. Children got "Martinmas geese", little cakes to share with each other like Martin did. Geese because there is a legend about him hiding in a geese barn when he die not want to become bishop -too modest- but the cackling of the geese gave him away and people found him...Sometimes there would also be a Martinmas fire and people would drink hot cider as well...
1:58 PM
Anonymous said...
We will be making gluten free Martinmas horseshoe cookies and also metal lanterns. We will walk through our neighborhood delivering the cookies while singing Martinmas songs in both English and German.
Blogger Jana Karsnitz said...
Sorry if this gets posted twice.

This will be our first year celebrating Martinmas and I'm pretty excited about it.

We will make lanterns, go for a walk singing the songs we learned, have apple cider, bake gluten free cookies, and give away items that we no longer need to a local womens and childrens shelter.

I hope that my little one enjoys it!
2:39 PM
Chelsea Wipf said...
This is our first year celebrating Martinmas and I am excited to teach my kids about St Martin and the biblical tie-ins of the good Samaritan and the "whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me" passage. We are also planning a lantern walk with homemade lanterns, some baking, and yummy food.
2:51 PM
antoinetterascon said...
One year, my son's kindergarten class celebrated at their teacher's home. We had stories & songs by the bonfire, homemade play dough for the kids, a beautiful potluck dinner. Then we strolled through the neighborhood with our handmade lanterns, singing our lantern songs door to door for the neighbors to enjoy. It was a very memorable Martinmas celebration.
2:55 PM
JK said...
We made glass lanterns, feasted and took a walk along the edge of the forest singing i go outside with my lantern whike the moon rose full and bright over the nearby mountains. So lovely!
3:08 PM
Rachel S. said...
We read a story about Martin and talk about being a bright light in the world. We make different lanterns every year and walk down our gravel road singing Martinmas songs carrying our lanterns. This year we were going to make felt lanterns but I just broke my arm so we may modify our plans this year!
3:38 PM
Christel Bassett said...
We usually tell the story of St. Martin, make lanterns and take an evening lantern walk while the Weckmann are rising!
3:57 PM
Kimberly said...
We love going on lantern walks in honor of St. Martin's day! Thanks for this great offering!
4:59 PM
Blogger The Princess said...
We started painting our paper for our lanterns yesterday and will assemble them on Tuesday. We plan on making a chicken and vegetable soup and having almond horseshoe cookies for dessert. We will walk with our lanterns (weather pending) and sit around the fire table and probably roast a couple marshmallows. We still have our clay pipes from our Weckmann when I was in elementary school in Germany. I always enjoyed St Martin's Day, I am very happy to share this time with my boys
5:47 PM
Blogger Serena said...
There is nothing better than wood heat on a cold day.

This is our first year celebrating Martinmas. We spent a morning last week sharing the story of St. Martin and his cloak and making lanterns. This week we will have our lantern walk, sing songs, and share a meal with our extended family. I am so excited to be celebrating this year and plan to make it a new tradition in our family.
8:01 PM
Blogger jennifer johnson said...
We talk about the story of St Martin sharing his coat, and how we can share our warmth and light to others. So we spend the day preparing treats or small gifts to share with our neighbors, then as the sun recedes we light lanterns and walk to our friends homes sharing our light with them. The first year we did it my 3 year old daughter said, "Mom, I loved sharing light with my friends, my heart feels warm." I knew it was a tradition to keep!
9:14 PM
Blogger Lizzie said...
After listening to a short story of St. Martin, we walk with our Waldorf community, the younger folk, with lanterns and singing through one of our local parks. We decorate lanterns and learn songs in the weeks beforehand. We walk quietly and reverently through the park, stopping to sing along the way.
10:11 PM
Blogger Agnes said...
Love your woodburning stove! My in-laws also have one in their house and it is the only source of heat. It feels like a campfire indoors! My children attend a Waldorf school and we celebrate by making lanterns in class and at home. Last year I bought beeswax and we dipped balloons into it, quickly pressed leaves against the wax, and dipped again--it was so fun. The lower grades will have a lantern walk on the 20th around the neighborhood. Happy Martinmas!
11:09 PM
Blogger Adam Dun said...
In Italy this is the time to eat chestnuts and open the new wine thereby celebrating both the chestnut and grape harvest. An Indian Summer at this time of year is known as a Saint Martin Summer - l'estate di San Martino. In some areas of the country children do a type of trick or treating. Tania
2:57 AM
Tammy H. said...
We are new to Waldorf traditions and last year were fortunate to celebrate our first Martinmas! Our daughters daycare family invited the children and their families for soup, cider and making little watercolor lanterns. When then bundled up and went for a walk in the neighborhood singing the Lantern Walk song. It was so sweet! We are lucky to be doing that again this year. I'm excited to learn more of the Waldorf traditions and would love to dive into this book.
7:09 AM
Blogger Roxanne Gregorio-Anthony said...
I make lanterns with my children and give a special puppet play. Our community gives a lantern walk b on Saturday and we will participate. I would love to bake also.
8:08 AM