Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How to Make a Swedish Maypole

We were visiting friends in a little village in Sweden this year on Midsummer holiday, which is the summer solstice, and got to dance around the maypole. Here's how to make one. Start with a tall cross form which you have lashed together with strong string or rope. I think this maypole was about fifteen feet tall.

Now begin to lash a variety of green tree boughs onto the maypole, using the string. Cover the maypole on both sides, all the way to within about 3 or 4 feet from the bottom. The bottom will be stuck into a hole dug with a post-hole digger.

The man wrapping the string is holding the whole ball of string in his hand.

Pick some flowers to decorate the maypole.

This woman made bouquets with the flowers, wrapping them with the string.

The bouquets were bound onto the maypole.

Then she made two flower wreaths to decorate the arms of the maypole, again using string. You can use this same technique to make a lavish flower crown.

Here is a finished flower wreath with a length of string for attaching it to the maypole.

After tying on the flower wreaths, the villagers placed the maypole into the hole and raised it.

They shoved wedge-shaped pieces of lumber into the hole to keep the maypole erect.

In some villages, a permanent maypole is kept up all year, and taken down to decorate it for Midsummer holiday.

An accordion-player began to play traditional maypole dancing songs....

And soon people of all ages were dancing around the pole and singing.

Next May, I will show you how to make the kind of maypole we danced around during May Day celebrations at my school here in the United States.

Varma Midsommar Hälsningar!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Make an Origami Paper Cup

I have found this skill useful over the mothering years. I make cups for sharing drinks, getting water from a dribbly fountain, collecting little things we find, and dividing snacks in the car. I am demonstrating using a piece of computer printer paper. Start by making a square like this.

Tear, after scoring, or cut off the extra piece.

The fold is at the bottom of the triangle in the picture below. Fold the left hand point over.

Repeat on the other side.

Fold the first top flap down.

Turn over and fold the other top flap down.

Spread the cup open at the top. It will survive a good drink of water, but then it will get soggy.

Now, have a drink of water!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Thornton Burgess

Have you discovered Thornton Burgess yet? Chances are, your grandparents or great-grandparents read his books, which are still in print. This book, given to me by my grandfather Daddy Jim, was published in 1911. It is about Old Mother West Wind, her children the Merry Little Breezes, and all the animal characters of the forest and pond.

You can visit the tiny Thornton Burgess Museum in Sandwich, Massachusetts to see a collection of old tinware toys and boxes bearing pictures of some of Burgess' characters.

There is also a diorama with many of the other characters, like Hooty Owl.

Thornton Burgess was a scientist, naturalist, and storyteller from Sandwich, Massachusetts. His father died when he was a baby, and as a boy he found many odd-jobs to supplement the family income. Many of these jobs took him to the ponds and forests surrounding Sandwich, and his observations of nature led him to develop the stories of his Old Mother West Wind series. Today, the Greenbriar Nature Center is situated next to the little pond which later figured in his stories as Smiling Pond, with its nearby Old Briar Patch.

Click on the title of this posting for a link to the Thornton Burgess Museum, and The Greenbriar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen. They have a wonderful line-up of nature classes for children and adults, and I like the little articles about native animals and seasonal changes around Shawme Pond, Sandwich village's mill pond.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Imaginative World of Apak

This beautiful painting called Nature's Kitchen is by Aaron and Ayumi Piland, a.k.a. Apak, an artist couple with a wonderful online store on etsy. If you click on the posting title above, you can visit their imaginative world.

Limited Edition Print (Natures Kitchen)

An Interview With Apak

Beth: Can you tell me about your inspiration and how you get new ideas?

Apak: We are always inspired by nature, science, and all the mysteries and wonders of the world. There is a beauty and harmony that radiates from life and the universe and we are just trying to capture that.

Beth: How do you work together?

Apak: Through many good and bad days with lots of love for each other.

Beth: How did you start working together?

Apak: One art show at the end of 2005 really helped us realize this is what we want to try together. We had a same vision and were excited to share it with everyone.

Beth: Tell me something about where you art comes from.

Apak: It's important for us to be in touch with the important things which we intuitively knew as children but gradually forgot as we got older. We use art to make our fantasies real.

Beth: Can you suggest a good drawing or painting project for children?

Apak: Go for a walk in your neighborhood and collect precious little things. Bring them back and draw them!

Beth: Okay, children, get started!

Elusive Catch by Apak

Limited Edition Print (Elusive Catch)

Monday, June 1, 2009


This is Clementina, the doll I just finished. She has light mocha cotton skin and dark brown mohair boucle hair in two fat ponytails.

Her ponytails are tied with bows.

I love to mix patterns in the dolls' clothes. Clementina is wearing a dress with little farm scenes, and an apron with Mr. Duck on it. Her pantaloons are light green.

Like all of my dolls in my shop, primroses, Clementina is one of a kind. Click on the title of this posting if you want to visit my online doll store.

Pull Taffy

After a haircut, we go to the candy store to pick out a little treat.

When I was little, we used to go to Clarence's in Raleigh, North Carolina, and get tiny brown bags full of penny candy: Mary Janes, wax lips, tootsie rolls, bazooka bubblegum, red hots, tiny wax soda bottles with colorful sweet liquid inside, dumdums, and pixy stix. But a lot of the candy was small then. Now there is super-sized candy. Look at the Pixy Stix below. They are about two feet tall. They used to be the size of a drinking straw.

Chocolate coins tasted fine before we knew what really good chocolate tasted like.

This candy store will weigh loose candy just like in the old days.

Have you ever had a taffy pull? My patient mother used to let us do taffy pulls in the kitchen when I was a girl. It's a sticky mess, but awfully fun. Pulling taffy is an old-fashioned American pastime.

It is best to pull taffy in cool dry weather.

Vanilla Molasses Taffy

1 and a half cups sugar
1 cup molasses
1/4 cup water
1 tb. vinegar
2 tb. butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

measuring cups and spoons
wooden mixing spoon
medium sized pot
candy thermometer (optional)
large baking pan

1. Mix sugar, molasses, water and vinegar in pot and stir over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the mixture begins to boil. As mixture heats, its volume will nearly double. Turn the heat down as necessary to keep the mixture from boiling over. If you have a candy thermometer, attach it to the pot, being sure the thermometer bulb is in the mixture but not touching the sides or bottom of pot. Let mixture heat until the thermometer reads "soft crack" or 275 degrees F. Be patient. It may take 30 minutes or more. If you don't have a candy thermometer, use the water-drop method. After the mixture has been boiling for about 15 minutes, spoon a little out and let it drip into a cup of cold water. The candy ball that forms in the water should be firm and hard. Then the mixture is ready. Keep testing until you get it right.

2. Turn off the heat and stir the butter, baking soda, and the vanilla into the mixture.

3. Butter the bottom and sides of a large baking pan and pour the taffy mixture into the pan to cool for twenty to thirty minutes.

4. When the taffy is not too hot to be handled (but not cool), butter your hands (all taffy pullers should do the same,) and pick up the taffy. Pull the taffy into long strips, and then fold and squeeze it into a large lump. Continue to pull the taffy again and again until it turns much lighter in color and begins to pull apart.

5. Stretch and twist the taffy into long skinny rolls, then cut the rolls into small chewable pieces using a buttered kitchen knife or scissors. Wrap each of the candy pieces in waxed paper.

This recipe is from Steven Caney's book Kids' America.

Play With Flowers in June

See if you like butter.

Weave a flower crown. Slit each stem with your fingernail, and slip the next stem through. Tie the ends together to finish the crown.

Pick daisy petals, and as you pick them, say this little poem:

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for diamonds,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.

Keep going until you have plucked all the petals. What's your fortune?

Your great-great grandmother may have worn a bonnet long, long ago. A bonnet is a hat with a large brim which shades the face. If you have read any of the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, you have seen some pictures of bonnets. You can make a old-fashioned daisy granny by pinching (or cutting) the petals on a daisy in a bonnet shape, with two little ties hanging down. Use a pencil to draw granny's face. I think it would be fun to see some daisy grannies nodding in the garden on a breezy day.

Some of these ideas are from the delightful book, Sunflower Houses, by Sharon Lovejoy.