Favorite Last Minute Gifts to Make

It is almost down to Christmas Eve, and many of you would love some ideas for a few last minute gifts that are quick and easy to make.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Peppermint Bark:  You will need a bag of milk chocolate chocolate chips, a bag of white chocolate chips, peppermint extract and about four or five regular sized organic candy canes if you can find organic.  Unwrap the candy canes and put them in a ziploc bag before you start – crush them with a rolling pin.   Preheat your oven to 250 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with a lid with parchment paper or wax paper.  Spread the milk chocolate chocolate chips in an even layer in the pan and put in oven until soft enough to spread with a spatula (about five to ten minutes, watch them carefully!).  Put in the refrigerator to cool for about twenty minutes.  Melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler (you may need a teaspoon of canola oil to make the white chocolate chips spreadable), stir in about 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract and  some of the  candy cane pieces.  Spread over the milk chocolate layer, sprinkle the rest of the candy cane pieces on top and put in the refrigerator to cool.  Break into uneven pieces and package for friends you love.

If you have a dehydrator (and I bought a nice one used), you could make grain free granola or coconut macaroons. Both make fabulous gifts!  For my grain-free granola, I take an apple and mix it with about a cup and a half of dates in a food processor, then add salt, cinnamon, orange zest and the juice of a lemon.  Then I take pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds that have been pulsed in a food processor, mix them with the apple-date mixture and stir in a cup of dried cranberries.  This can be dehydrated for about 8 hours and then packaged.

Easy to package is to make savory salt.  This salt is divine on brown rice.  There are many recipes on the Internet.  The other easy last minute gift is bath salts.

Please share your favorite last-minute gifts below!

Many blessings, happy merriment,

Carrie

Ideas For The Fourth Week Of Advent

Such a short time, this fourth week of Advent, this year!  Therefore, here are just a few very simple ideas for this special time:

Read the story of “The Greedy Woman”  from “Hark! A Christmas Sampler” by Jane Yolen and Tomie dePaola.  This tale is best suited for ages 7 and up.

Here is another tale to try, this one is regarding Saint Francis and the first Christmas at Greccio:  http://www.mainlesson.com/display.php?author=smithe&book=christmas&story=greccio.  This would be a lovely story for eight year olds in the midst of second grade on up.

Make Gingerbread People.  Here is Martha Stewart’s gingerbread recipe:  http://www.marthastewart.com/336115/gingerbread-people

And, on Christmas Eve Day, won’t you consider making several stars to light the way of the Christ Child?  Here is a wonderful tutorial from Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys:

http://blog.bellalunatoys.com/2012/how-to-make-waldorf-paper-window-stars.html

Some countries also use this day to commemorate “Adam and Eve” and place red apples in the branches of their Christmas tree in order to remember.  Bread decorations are also sometimes made and used as a sign of redemption.

And here is the “To Do Ahead!”  Continue reading

Ideas For The Third Week of Advent

This is the third week of Advent; for some Christian denominations this is the week the rose candle of “joy” is lit on the Advent Wreath.  What brings you joy?  The true mark of being a Waldorf parent, and also being a spiritual person,  is joy and contentment.  Are you reflecting this to yourself and to the world?  What would help you do this?

This week also finds many of us in the Anglican Communion observing Ember Days on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of this week. You can see  more information about that here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ember_days

I am sharing a few of my simple plans for this week.  As we get closer to Christmas, a beautiful Feast day, I try to pare things down as much as I can and enjoy the time I have with my family in simplicity.  Here are a few of the things nourishing me this week, a week where we look closer at our animal friends awaiting the love and joy that is coming to Earth.

Sunday, December 16th:  Church; our oldest child is singing at our evening Mass that is an entire Mass of “Lessons and Carols”…a favorite out of the whole year!

Monday, December 17th:  Make treats for our feathered friends; read “The Legend of The Birds” – found in “Hark!  A Christmas Sampler” by Jane Yolen and Tomie dePaola

Tuesday, December 18th:  Continue reading

Favorite Posts of The Week

I have rounded up some wonderful, wonderful posts for you to read today.

First of all, yay for Kara for being back at Rockin’ Granola.  This post is just wonderful and you must go read it right away.  I have been married almost twenty one years, and this one is so right on:  http://www.rockingranola.com/2012/12/baby-our-love-song-must-survive.html

Are you searching for lovely Santa Lucia stories to tuck away for next year?  There is one here on The Parenting Passageway, and here is another one over at Bending Birches:  http://bendingbirches2010.blogspot.com/2012/12/embracing-lightand-our-time.html Continue reading

Ideas For The Second Week of Advent

The second week of Advent is upon us; perhaps we are fasting and praying in accordance with our religious traditions of Advent being a small Lent.  Perhaps we are feeling weary from having a holiday season that is moving rather fast; the fatigue that comes from trying to create perfect holiday memories for the children or the fatigue of spending.

I invite you this week to go back to the true meaning of Advent.  Perhaps this is the week you really think heartily about that question that truly seems to afflict first-world citizens more than others:  how much do we really need to “get”?  What are we giving?  How much do our children really “need”?  Is that what they are going to associate this season with – getting?

Staring new traditions can be difficult.  I was reading the post on gratitude the other day on the blog A Holy Experience and how they exchange no gifts at all and instead choose gifts from catalogues designed to help others – giving the gifts of animals, trees, seeds, bees.  If you are thinking about new traditions, I don’t think it is ever too late to start.  I saw this post on Simple Mom regarding supporting mothers in need for the holidays here:  http://simplemom.net/csp/  Perhaps a tradition along these lines will be of interest to your family.

Here are some nourishing ideas for this second week of Advent. Continue reading

Favorite Stories For Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas Day is fast approaching, and I wanted to highlight some of my very favorite Saint Nicholas books!

First of all, here is a series of stories you can tell starting on December 1st written by Christine Natale, esteemed Waldorf teacher and available for free at the St. Nicholas Center.  Here is Day One:  http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/waldorf-1/. You can enjoy more of Christine’s seasonal tales in her fairy tale collection here:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0557591317/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=stnicholcente-20&link_code=as3&camp=211189&creative=373489&creativeASIN=0557591317

Fairy Tales

And, as a special treat, Christine left a comment below with a special offer.  She writes:

“As a special gift, I would like to share with your readers a Winter story that I wrote last year. It is not in the collection mentioned above, but will be in any future editions. Here is a link to the story in PDF format to download. The illustration is by Josephine Wall and I do not have permission to use it, but I think it is ok to share among friends.”

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10811968/Stories/King%20Winter%2C%20Mother%20Holle%20and%20the%20Snow%20Maiden.pdf

She also makes great points below about the more common legends of Saint Nicholas and the Waldorf curriculum.  See the comment box below!

Here are a few other tales and some comments:

This is one of the best St. Nicholas books for children Early Years through about first or second grade, and then just as an enjoyable read-aloud for the whole family: Continue reading

Celebrating The First Week of Advent

The first light of Advent is the light of stone–.

Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants–
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts–
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind–
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.  –  attributed to R. Steiner or to an anonymous author

That beautiful season of waiting and anticipation is here, and I love the slowing down and stillness that occurs during Advent.  In a season full of  often materialistic bigger and over the top, we have a chance to wait the coming of Christ with a realization of our own frailness, and the time to search for own epiphany of what God can do  everyday with the ordinary, with the small, with the weak, with the impossible.  It is a season which demands our attention, our watchfulness, and our slowing down to really be present with our children and families.

Celebrating festivals often starts simply, and traditions deepen over time as the children and the family unit and family culture grows.  Each year layers upon the next, and it is never too late to begin. Continue reading