A Break from the News

Schneckenband

When I first heard the news about Boston yesterday, my kids were in the middle of playing.

We need some string.

What?

The red string. Where is it?

I made a half-hearted attempt to find the string and then told them I was busy, couldn’t find it, they would have to figure it out somehow.

My eight-year-old, very sweetly: It’s okay, Mommy. We’ll find a way. Don’t worry.

And they left.

Boston holds a special place in my heart. It’s my husband’s hometown and the place we lived when we first met. I fell back into iPad world, checking to make sure friends and family were okay, writing people I knew might’ve been near the blasts. I couldn’t do anything else for what seemed like a long time.

Awhile later I went downstairs to find this scene in the back yard, kids happily occupied. Sigh. What a welcome relief from sad news, and how nice to see they “made it work” with one of our favorite toys. More about the Schneckenband (literally snail-band—–the thing holding up the bucket) here.

We ate scrambled eggs for supper at the campsite. It was a happy distraction.

I hope you and your loved ones are well. My heart and my prayers go out to the city of Boston. I miss you always, but especially now.

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Itty Bitty Stick People and Furniture

DSC_1031

I scooped up these beauties at the last Waldorf craft basar we attended in Germany. I got them as much for myself as for the kids.

Carved Doll Stove

Don’t the stove and tiny pot, just like, kill you? I realize it’s hard to tell the scale here, but the pot has about the same circumference as an acorn top. I’m powerless before this kind of stuff. Makes me want to take up whittling, because, you know, I totally need another creative hobby.

Hand Carved Toys

Acorn dishes!

DSC_1030A teensy Fair Isle cape!

I think one of the things I like best about these is the bark. For some reason it never occurs to me to make things out of actual sticks from trees.

Hope you had a good weekend. I’m pressing forward on my novel revisions, though I had a reminder this morning of just how slow I am when I looked at where I was last year this same week. Yipes!

Are you in a reflective mood about what you’ve done over the past year? Celebrating goals met? Making new ones?

Waldorf Craft Basar

The spring Waldorf basar, with crafts, kid activities, and yummy food, happened a few weeks ago. It was our last one before we move back to the U.S., which makes me a little sad. There is really nothing like a Waldorf basar, and there aren’t any Waldorf schools or kindergartens in Charlotte that I know of.

The Waldorf handicrafts are so different from what I’d seen before, so very German, and all from natural materials. The rabbits above were what I made this year. You wouldn’t believe the hours that go into making one tiny bunny.

Below are some feather babies, who are sleeping in painted walnut shells:

Bock! Bock! Knitted chickens:

and my personal favorite this year, deer:

The bunnies in front of the deer are mine, thankyouverymuch.

I just bought Stofftiere zum Selbernähen (Stuffed Animals to Sew Yourself) by Karin Neuschütz so I can make some more animals on my own. It has patterns for camels, donkeys, giraffes, pigs, everything–except deer, which bums me out. I’ll have to find that pattern somewhere else. Looks like the book is only available in German, but you really only need the patterns and a blanket stitch to make them. She does have a few other titles that have been translated, looks like.

I also just bought Hütten von Kindern Selbst Gebaut (which translates something like Huts Children Can Build Themselves) by Louis Espinassous. I think it may be originally French. Anyway it’s all about little forts kids can build out of sticks, brush, or scrap wood. For some reason, after seeing this one, I am kind of determined for the kids to have a fort in Charlotte, though maybe I just want one to play in myself.

I got some good writing done this week. Trying to get as much done as possible before our move. The weather has been amazing this week, after a long, long winter. We hope to get in some bike riding this weekend. Have a great one!

Real Easter Grass

You’ve got to love a country where people grow their own Easter grass. When I saw it growing in my sons’s kindergarten class last year, I asked Frau F., the teacher, about it:

Me: Wow, you grow your own Easter grass in Germany?

Frau F.: How else?

Me: We buy pink plastic grass at the store.

Frau F.: *look of horrified disbelief*

Me: *looking for the nearest place to hide*

There’s something so exciting about the simple charm of growing a little pot of grass. The kids love to watch for it to pop up. Reminds me of that old Easter hymn Now the Green Blade Rises.

The Waldorf kindergarten also decorates in style. Here’s an egg chandelier, the base of which was hand-carved by Frau F. from the bottom of last year’s Christmas tree, because, as Frau F. enjoyed pointing out, “Christmas and Easter are connected.”

A few more Waldorf arrangements:

 

Sorry the pictures are a little grainy—the light in the classroom wasn’t great, and I was just using my phone.

BIG NEWS! I’ll be traveling to Bologna for a few days for the International Children’s Book Fair. This is the largest trade fair for the industry. It happens every year in Bologna, and I’m so glad to have the chance to join. I’ll be sharing with you about it when I get back!

Handcrafted Tiny Toys

I seem to have a thing for tiny-ness. These beauties are from the Waldorf School Christmas Bazaar here in Hannover. Aren’t they awesome? The little wooden table and chairs were for my niece, but now I’m sad that I didn’t buy any for our kids. And let’s be honest, I want my own, too.  What could be better than having tea out of acorn cups while sitting at your tiny, tiny tisch? We did keep some of the tiny dolls in dresses, and well, there’s always the May bazaar!

There’s something a little bit magical about small toys out of branches. They make me think of Miss Hickory coming alive and the way, when I was a kid, I hoped my own pine cone/ moss/ acorn arrangements would turn into a colony of wood sprites.

The finger puppets went to my kids, so they’re still around. They’re so very German—-the little people are called zwerge, which is kind of like dwarves but only in the Snow White’s dwarves kind of way. They are maybe a little closer to what we’d call gnomes.

 

And here they are all together below, so you can see scale. Also below are a beeswax candle shaped like a beehive, a hand-sewn first aid kit (complete with a piece of candy), and a knight’s tunic. Playing knights is very important here. I don’t know if it’s a Waldorf thing or a general German thing, but you’ve really gotta invest in swords and pretend chain mail if you want to keep up with the cool kids.

Some of these items (tiny dolls with dresses, knight’s tunic, first-aid kit, beehive candle) were made by Waldorf school parents and students. The others were made by vendors at the bazaar, I think some by these folks.  The website is all in German—sorry—but sometimes you can find Waldorf stuff on etsy if you search with that term.

Speaking of tiny things, Angry Chicken had a fun post about them just this week, which led me also to these cool tiny things and an awesome new-to-me blog. 

Okay, I really have to get back to my writing work. Things are happening with my book projects—so happy.

Almondy Cookies

Fairly often when I pick up my son from Waldorf kindergarten, there’s some little treat they’ve made that Frau F. insists I try. I’m not one to ever turn down a treat. Once not too long ago there were these tiny almond-meal cookies that I just couldn’t stop thinking about later. Such great texture, not too sweet, perfect. When I asked for the recipe, though, Frau F. said it was something her daughter had made up and she didn’t really have a recipe. Rats!

I kept obsessing and finally found this recipe, then altered it to suit me. In Germany, there seem to be a lot of tiny cookie cutters, which I just love. I mean, sometimes you only want a little bite, right? Or a bunch of little bites. The cookies just seem better that way. Unfortunately we don’t have but a couple itty bitty cutters, since the kitchen store was nearly sold out last time I looked, but I’ll try again.

Yeah, I know this is kind of a Christmas post in January, but who says you can’t make cookies now? Who?

The cookies turned out really well. Very tender and great flavor, though they don’t look like anything special at first glance. They were all gone in a flash.

ALMONDY COOKIES  (heavily adapted from cooks.com)

250 grams butter (2 sticks plus 1 1/2 TB or so)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 tsp. almond extract

1 1/2 cups almond meal

1 cup  all purpose flour

2 cups spelt flour (did I use white or whole grain? I can’t remember but either is fine)

pinch of salt

Cream together butter, sugar, egg, and almond extract. Beat in flour, almond meal, and salt.

Make a ball and flatten it, wrap in wax paper and place in the fridge for an hour or a day.

Preheat oven to 325°, roll out dough, and use cutters to cut shapes. Ours were a little thicker—in the 1/4 inch range but you could go thinner, depending on how crispy or chewy you want yours. Just watch the time—you definitely don’t want to overcook them.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. They should be very lightly browned.

**

The words on the cookies is an inside joke. Santa brought a nifty contraption that allows you to print words on your cookies. Little Miss wanted to print everyone’s names, but the letters are really too fiddly and tiny to do that much work. I told her to pick one word we could print on lots of cookies. She came up with “Leibniz,” which is the cookie brand of Hannover’s famous Bahlsen factory. This cracked me up, as it’s like printing “Keebler” on your homemade cookies.

Leibniz, the father of calculus, was from Hannover, and they love to name things after him here. So awesome.

Oh, we also tried these Swedish Rye Cookies from 101 cookbooks. They rocked.