Gratitude Prayer Flags

Very young children have an expectation that all good things will come their way. It is a pretty good place to be. Gratitude, however, means taking a step back from this space and looking at what has come our way, sifting through it and feeling love for those good things.

It isn’t very easy to cultivate this kind of soul mood with very young children. You can’t sit down with them and say “Now, what are you grateful for?” I am not sure that gratitude is something that very young children experience on a conscious level, although it may come out in a physical way – expressions of joy, cuddles, caring play and precious out-of-the-blue remarks that make your heart sing. I think it is a pretty important skill to learn, and one that we can teach through imitation – that is by demonstrating gratitude in our everyday living.

There are a few ways we can show gratitude at home. They are simple, and some are considered old-fashioned now – but we make an effort to do them regularly:

– saying a blessing before meals

– acknowledging thanks and praising others for their achievements (my goal this year is to write more thank you letters)

– talking about our day in terms of what we experienced, what we enjoyed and what we learned.

For playgroup this week we made prayer flags – little colourful reminders of happiness and thanks to flutter in our windows. To be honest painting with children is not one of my favourite experiences – I have troubles getting over the inevitable spills of colour and the need to clean up afterwards. But it is so worth the preparation and the patience.

 

The children drew their own thing and I talked about the messages I was writing and the love I put into my pictures as I drew them. The littlest one was pretty grateful for the opportunity to paint – on herself. And it was a while before I realised she was just as happy to paint with a brush and plain water …

My son is a bit older and he caught the idea of the exercise quickly. Here he is grateful for his strength, which he used to create a straw bale cubby in our yard. This cubby has brought many hours of joyful playing and constructing.

We made them with an old bed sheet ripped into squares, felt pens and watered-down fabric paints. Hung to dry and stitched on to a ribbon. What are you grateful for?

Recipe:Banana Bread with Cashew Cream

At first glance this recipe looks pretty strange – there’s not much to it. There is no flour or eggs, in fact there appears to be nothing but banana holding this together.

But it’s so yummy and it is a great morning tea snack, served with sweet cashew cream – and if you cook it in a loaf tin and then slice it, it makes an awesome breakfast served hot with butter for hungry kids in the morning (this would be what my kids might eat while they are waiting for their 2nd breakfast of something more substantial). It also freezes well. You can slice it, keep it in the freezer and just warm up as many slices as you need.

And of course, I have adapted the recipe from another one, because that’s how I cook. The original recipe can be found in the 2001 edition of The Australian Women’s Weekly Allergy-Free Baking cook book, on page 40. I have taken out the sugar and changed the oil from vegetable oil to coconut oil but that’s about it. It’s unclear what the purpose of the baking powder is in this, as it doesn’t rise much, so I think you could probably leave that out too.

BANANA BREAD

(grain/gluten-free, sugar-free, egg-free, dairy-free)

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups mashed over-ripe banana

1/2 cup dates

1/2 cup coconut oil

2 tsp gluten-free baking powder

1 tsp mixed spice

2 1/2 cups (200g) desiccated coconut

1 3/4 cups (225g) linseed, sunflower and almond meal (LSA)

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease loaf pan/muffin trays.

Blend banana, dates, oil, baking powder and spice until smooth.

Pour mixture into a bowl and add coconut and LSA.

Spread into loaf pan/muffin trays.

BAKE – 10 minutes for mini muffins, 20 minutes for large muffins, 45 -50 minutes for loaf pan

(should go brown on top but not black – watch that coconut it burns quickly!)

 -*-*-

CASHEW CREAM

INGREDIENTS

1 cup soaked raw cashews

1/2 cup water

2 tbs maple syrup/honey

1 tsp vanilla essence

METHOD

Blend on high until smooth. Chill for half an hour before serving.

Celebrating Thriftiness: How to Hide a Stain in a Nice Shirt!

We have been given lots of beautiful clothing for the kids over the years. They come from family and they come from children of friends who don’t fit them or need them anymore. Often I am given a big bag of wonderful bits and pieces and we take what we need and pass the bag on. I’ve had to buy the kids very little clothing over the years, actually!

One of the wonderful gifts was a little pink shirt with an oriental collar, pearly buttons and butterflies machine embroidered on it. Rosella is neither here nor there about it, but I love it and I felt really sad when I found that it had been tossed off the verandah onto a part of our garage floor that we hardly visited, and sat in a puddle for probably two weeks. I washed it and soaked it and scrubbed it and it mostly came good except for a big brown stain on the back. The stain didn’t bother my daughter because she couldn’t see it, but I could!

Not ready to toss the shirt, and not able to pass it on to anyone with a big stain on it, I decided to cover it.

I could have cut out a patch in some nice fabric and machine stitched it on, but NO – I decided to embroider an elaborate and very large butterfly – much larger than the stain!!

Fortunately about the time I was taken with idea, we were spending the weekend at my parents place, where the kids disappeared and happily played and pottered about – and I had the opportunity to virtually disappear behind my embroidery, not emerging until the butterfly could stretch it’s pretty wings. I found mum’s book of crewel embroidery stitches and tried out some new ones. The butterfly’s body is made with cretan stitch, and the wings have chain stitch, long and short blanket stitch, french knots and a few woven spider webs (my new favourite embroidery trick!).

Now do I hear you say “I wish I could embroider”? No excuses! Embroidery is great because it is work you can take with you anywhere, and do a bit at a time. You can trace a picture you like or draw one of your own, and then choose which stitches to use. Crewel embroidery is very flexible, has no rules and you can learn new stitches easily with online tutorials. Even youtube have embroidery tutorials. You can make anything beautiful when you know a few basic stitches.

With just three stitches my grandmother embroidered a massive copy of this Egyptian picture of the garden of a high official of Amenhotep. My grandfather copied the design and sketched it out for her onto the fabric and she embroidered it. It now hangs in my parents house and I love looking at it. So simple and so amazing!

On a much smaller scale, I have a new long-term embroidery project. My friend gave me a pair of camouflage print shorts and even though I am not a fan of wearing camouflage I kept them because they actually fit me (a rare occurence! I never pass up clothes that actually fit!) so I am making them pretty with embroidery. Will show you what I’ve done with them when I’m finished … or maybe before then because who knows when that will be!!

Sacred Essence: Shining Some Light On the New Year

I am excited! Our first Sacred Essence Women’s Circle has crept up on us and it is THIS WEEK!

Our monthly women’s circle is going to be held on Thursday evening this year – every SECOND THURSDAY of the month. Mark those Thursdays in your calendar now, so that you can plan to come, particularly if you need to arrange some babysitting.

Every day is a great day to set new intentions and goals – however there are times of the year that just seem to call out for the broad vision – a clear description of where we want to be by the end of the year and how we are going to get there. Everyone needs to do this. I am not talking about resolutions. New Years resolutions have never worked out for me, because just saying “I am going to do this” makes you feel great at the time, and inspired for a few weeks, but unless you have a plan in place to help you achieve that, then how do you keep the momentum?

One of my favourite quotes is ‘will power, like the brain, is like a muscle – it is strengthened with exercise’. I am not sure where I heard that but it is a reminder that stating our dreams and visions is the first step, but unless you take a step every day you can’t walk towards that vision.

So this will be our focus for our first circle of the year, and we’ll be doing this creatively within a reflection of the energy, inspiration and passion that the SUN brings to us. After our program of yoga, meditation, story and reflection we’ll be playing with collage – creating our own beautiful sun mandalas as a visual representation of our intentions for this year. Do you have some burning desires that need your focus? Do you have a lack of passion that needs firing with energy? Do you (like me!) have too many wonderful ideas for this year that need some focus? Come and join us, come and play in the company of women and sacred ceremony. This one is for you!

Go to Sacred Essence for more details and to follow our sacred work with women.

SACRED ESSENCE JANUARY CIRCLE

Silkwood School Moonlight Prep Room

39 Shepherd Hill Lane, Mt Nathan, Gold Coast

7:00 – 9:00 pm,

$20 or $45 for three sessions

 

How to Make a Doll Baby Carrier

The only thing I recommend new parents buy (in terms of equipment) for a new baby is a good baby carrier.  Ours is an Ergo and it is so good that it has been used pretty much every day for the last four years. I have never had to buy anything else, and we even gave our pram away.

Here is my littlest one feeling sleepy on my back. She used to spend a lot of time there when she was smaller. At the moment she is spending more time on my back because she is feeling pretty miserable with six teeth coming in all at once 😦

And as so often happens, my daughter’s babies have been feeling a bit miserable now and then too, and they want to be closer to their mummy also. We tried wrapping them on to her snuggly with one of my long silky scarves, and it worked ok … but it was a bit floppy and the scarves were not really long enough for a good fit.

So Baby Rosie and Baby Hans received a baby carrier for Christmas. It was a rush job (as my home-made Christmas presents so often are!) and I have some improvements to make on the design, however until I can update you, I’ll show you how I made this one.

I used a few online tutorials for ideas. I particularly related to the 41 steps involved in this tutorial! I’m pretty sure I managed to make mine in about the same amount of steps, but lets see if I can whittle it down for you. Sorry about the quality of the photos!

YOU WILL NEED:

1 baby doll

2 metal rings

at least 2m of strong ribbon (see note at end)

fabric of your choice (I used flannelette)

STEP ONE: Measure width of fabric

STEP ONE: To find the width of your pattern, fold your fabric in half and lay baby on top of it. Cut the fabric so there is about 2 inches either side of your baby. You will, of course, lay your baby more central than I have done here!

STEP TWO: Measure length

STEP TWO: To find the length of your pattern, lay baby so that the fabric reaches just up behind baby’s neck, depending on how much head support you feel baby is going to need. Fold the fabric up between baby’s legs so that it comes up and over baby’s tummy. Measure this point and cut there, leaving some seam allowance.

STEP THREE: Cut a tab for the rings.

STEP THREE: Place baby somewhere comfortable to watch the proceedings. Then cut some of your ribbon to make the tabs to hold the rings. Just enough so that it can be stitched into the seams.

STEP FOUR: Mark out place for ring tabs, just above midway.

STEP FOUR: Fold your fabric so the pattern is on the inside. Mark a place just above the end of the fabric when it is folded up for baby in step two. This is where we will sew the rings (but unlike me, you will pin them on the INSIDE of the fabric, not the outside!)

STEP FOUR: Pin and stitch straps and ring tabs on the INSIDE.

Fold your ribbons tabs through the rings and pin them INSIDE your folded fabric at the place you marked. I didn’t do this, so of course when I folded the fabric right way out, the rings were on the inside, which wasn’t very useful and required some unpicking.

At this stage, cut your remaining ribbon in half and pin those ON THE INSIDE right up at the top, at the fold of the fabric. These will be the straps (You can just see the edges of the straps peeking out at the top of the folded fabric.

STEP FIVE: turn right way out, then stitch up the bottom edge.

STEP FIVE: Stitch down either side of your fabric, over the straps at the top, and the ring tabs mid-way down. Leave the bottom open and turn your fabric right way out. Tuck in the raw edges at the bottom and sew them up.

DON'T do this.

STEP SIX: Fold the bottom edge up to just under the ring tabs and sew securely in place. DO make sure your straps are out of the way, unlike me.

Ready for wearing

That’s it! Baby sits in the seat of the carrier and is placed on the front or back of the child, then the straps are taken over the shoulders like a back pack, or crossed over if preferred, then through the ring tabs and tied up together.

 

Because this was such a rush job, I didn’t buy proper ribbon, and the stuff I found in my cupboard wasn’t very strong. The stitching from the machine effectively perforated the ribbon, so it tore off after the first wearing 😦 That’s ok – today’s job is to fix that with some straps made of fabric so that Baby Rosie and Baby Hans can be carried about when they need a cuddle from a busy mummy.

I am also thinking of attaching clips to the ends of the straps so that they can be clipped on instead of having to be tied up.

 

Repairing Old Dolls: Baby Rosie is reborn

Recently my daughter has become quite tender and loving towards our collection of dolls. She is spending lots of time talking softly to them, and listening to them and making them comfortable. It has been an absolute pleasure to observe her play with the little people who have been in our playroom longer than my daughter has been alive. Baby Rosie is at least three times older than my daughter.

I am not sure how old Baby Rosie is – maybe 12 or so years old? I think maybe even older. She was made a long time ago as a preschool baby at Silkwood School, and I brought her home to give her some repairs. Then I had babies of my own and time escaped me … and Baby Rosie had become a part of our family and our children’s lives and she still wasn’t properly repaired.

The children have always loved her as she is. Her balding hair and her faded skin and her loose limbs were just a part of who she was, and children are remarkably acceptable of such shortcomings. I did re-attach her limbs several times but I never used the right kind of thread. Once I even used dental floss because I didn’t have any other thread strong enough! I did always mean to fix her bald spots too … but you know how it is. It just never happened.

Baby Rosie, however, had been whispering to her newest mother and was telling her how sad she felt about not having a mouth (you know dolls do not really need mouths to speak to the people who love them – communication is achieved through the heart), so when Baby Hans had his arms and mouth and hair repaired, it was clear that Baby Rosie needed immediate attention too.

 Here she is, all pretty again. I really did want to maintain Rosie’s original stitched fleece hair (particularly as I wanted to do a tutorial on how it is done!) but I couldn’t find the same colour fleece. I did have a similar colour yarn though, one of those fluffy yarns I found in a discount store. It didn’t cost any more than $2. It is synthetic fibre, however it is so soft and fluffy and I have found that it crochets into a beautiful hair cap for baby dolls, and looks as much like real baby hair as yarn is going to.

I think it still captures the essence of Baby Rosie, and she seems happy with it. Her original hair is still under the cap and maybe one day it can be restored.

My daughter picked out a rose-coloured thread for the mouth, and together we gave her some pink cheeks with a bit of crayon rubbed onto a bit of paper. Her arms and legs were firmly re-attached with linen thread (it was funny to find the dental floss in her limbs that I’d used previously!) Doesn’t she look happier?

Baby Rosie now goes everywhere with my daughter, and when I slung our (real) little baby up on my back to go to the park, Baby Rosie needed a sling too. We improvised by making a baby wrap with a really long scarf … but guess what Baby Rosie received for Christmas?

 

Repairing Old Dolls – Baby Hans visits the doctor

This is Baby Hans. He is the original Lavendilly Doll, made before my first child was born, 8 years ago. In that time he has been loved and hugged, left lying around, lost, done a bit of gardening and a bit of drawing too. He has been washed many times and has many a long soak in a nice warm (lightly bleached) bath. He is proof that Lavendilly Dolls last and are loved even when they are a bit grubby.

As you can tell though, from my daughter’s unhappy face … Baby Hans wasn’t well. His arms and legs were loose and one leg had a seam coming undone, which required a handkerchief bandage until he could be repaired. Rosella was insistent that Baby Hans need urgent care, and wanted to hold his hand through the whole process. Such a good mother, there she sat, in her best gardening tutu, stroking his hair and singing to him softly while I patched him up. I am sure it made all the difference. It certainly settled me 🙂

With my tool kit nearby I was very gentle, and his leg felt much better soon. I talked to her about how her finger was stitched together by a doctor with a needle and thread when she was a baby and she had caught her finger in a door hinge. macabre conversation maybe, but this child is a bit melancholic and it seemed appropriate to share the experience with her baby. What I was a bit anxious about sharing with her, however, was the next part: re-attaching Baby Hans’ arms and legs. They would need to be snipped off and re-attached with the doll needle.

The previous night, at my Craft Night, I was asked if I ever made the dolls while the children were watching. My answer was no – they might see bits of unfinished dolls, and they have seen me stuffing parts or making hair, but the bits that involve using those gigantic doll needles I have never completed in the presence of children. Those needles make me squeamish – I can’t imagine the effect upon a child watching unattached limbs or a blind doll head being stabbed with needles as long as my hand!

It had to be done though, while the time presented itself, and I knew Rosella wasn’t going to be entertained anywhere else until her baby was feeling better. She took it better than I did when I watched her have her finger stitched up at the hospital (I fainted on to the floor and had to lie there with my head on a pillow, while my baby presented her finger as if she was having a manicure!) My stoic daughter watched with interest, and said to me: “It doesn’t hurt him mum. My baby is a doll.”

Right. Ok.

I’m still not going to do it again.

Anyway, here’s how he was repaired:

I snipped the joint thread between his legs and his body and pulled all the old threads out. If Rosella wasn’t watching, and if I had more time I would have re-stuffed his legs a bit too. Then I threaded the doll needle (see what I mean about how long it is!) with a really long piece of strong linen thread (which I buy HERE). I took the needle straight through one leg, the body, through the other leg, and pulled it out the other side.

Then I inserted the needle about 1cm away from where it came out and brought it back through the 2nd leg, through the body and through the 1st leg, coming out about 1cm from where the thread entered the 1st leg. I pulled the thread tight and tied it in a double knot. Then I re-threaded each end of the linen thread separately and brought them back through the 1st leg, the body, and out the 2nd leg, where I tied them together tightly in a double knot.

Then I brought each of the ends out underneath the leg, close to where the joint was made and snipped the thread very close to the fabric, where the end will disappear into the stuffing and won’t be left hanging out. Nice and neat.

His arms received the same treatment, and he was looking much happier. So was Rosella 🙂

I trimmed his hair a bit (gave him the equivalent of a #3 buzz cut) and gave him a new mouth, as the thread of his old mouth had faded so much that you couldn’t even see it. Then we gave him a bit of colour in his cheeks, which really made him look happy!

This was done by rubbing a bit of crayon on some paper and then lightly rubbing the paper in a circular motion on his cheeks. It is good to practice on a bit of unwanted fabric first.

All this took a bit of time, because as you can see my littlest assistant came along to sort through my toolbox. She’s still in training, and actually, she isn’t very helpful yet.

Baby Hans was returned to his mother and greeted with a big cuddle. Then Rosella said, now it is Baby Rosie’s turn! Baby Rosie is even older than Baby Hans. She is stained and bald and her mouth wore off a long time ago. We had great fun working on her together … but I will tell you about that next 🙂