Monday, November 30, 2009

Making an Advent Wreath

I made our family an Advent wreath on Sunday. First I gathered some arborvitae from my yard. Any evergreen is good.

I got out my Advent candle holder, a wonderful Swedish one I got at Hearthsong catalog years ago, my three purple and one pink candle, some household string, (green gardener's twine is best because it is easier to hide,) some scissors, and the lining of a summer hanging-basket. I think it is coconut fiber. I used it to pad the candle holder and to retain a little water, to keep the evergreen moist and fresh for as long as possible. You could use straw, raffia, or even newspaper instead of the coconut fiber. You can soak your Advent wreath in the sink from time to time to refresh it during December.

I wrapped the coconut fiber on the candle holder using the string, and tied a knot.

Then I started to place evergreen cuttings on the coconut fiber, wrapping with string after I added each good handful. Try to cover the ends of the cuttings with each new handful as you go around.

The string will be showing after this first time around.

The next time around I tried to hide all the strings and any remaining ends sticking out with more bunches of evergreen. I tucked thick cuttings into the string, and soon I had a nice full wreath.

I added the candles.

We light a purple candle the first Sunday of Advent, two purples the second, add the pink one the third, and the last purple one the fourth Sunday.

We opened our beautiful new Advent calendar, which has a little storybook for each day, telling about the first Christmas.

Then we ate Brunswick Stew by the fire, our Advent wreath close by.

The Advent wreath is rich with symbolism. If you would like to read more about it, here is a good article: Or you can click on the title of this post for the link.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cyber Monday Sale for Acorn Pies Readers

William the Pirate

I'm having a 15% off doll sale for Acorn Pies readers, all day Monday November 30th until 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (in the U.S.) in my etsy shop, primroses. Just click on the title of this post to go straight to my shop. Type "Acorn Pies" into the special instructions after you place your order. I will send you a 15% refund on the price of the doll! The price of postage will remain the same. This discount cannot be combined with any other discounts.

Here is the very happy recipient of one of my dolls. This darling little girl named her doll Elizabeth, and she sleeps with her every night. If you have never had a waldorf doll, one of the things which is very special about them is that they warm up when you hold them because they are stuffed with wool. It is very cozy to cuddle a warm and best-loved doll. My dolls are handmade by me with love and all natural materials, cotton, wool, and mohair.

I make girl dolls.

I make boy dolls.

Some of the boy dolls have a little wooden tool for adventure and work.

I make dolls in all the colors of people: chocolate brown, mocha, golden, peach, and fair. All of these dolls are 15% off for you, my wonderful Acorn Pies readers, this Cyber Monday.

Also included in the sale are my last two prairie bonnets for little girls.

Not included in the sale are some of my original handcolored lino block prints, designed especially for decorating children's rooms. The theme of my new series of lino prints is Children at Play.

I hope you will enjoy visiting my shop and taking advantage of my special discount for you. much love, Beth

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude: Fresh Air Vision

One of the things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving week is having glasses. Everyone I love who needs glasses also has them. That means we can read and learn and make art and see the tiniest mushrooms growing on the bark of the oak tree. Have you seen them? They are the size of a ladybug's umbrella!

What if you needed glasses and couldn't afford them?

Imagine how that would impair your reading and writing, and seeing the blackboard, and doing school sports.

Think about all the fun things your eyes help you to do, too: predicting the winter weather by looking at the woolly bear caterpillar's stripes,

spotting little gnomes in the forest, and

making things.

I'm grateful for One Sight, a wonderful program which works with the Fresh Air Fund to bring better vision to children in the Fresh Air Fund program. Did you know that one out of four school children in the U.S. has vision problems, and 86% do not get their vision checked before age 12? How can this be?

The Fresh Air Fund and One Sight are doing something about the problem.

One Sight's Vision Vans and a team of local doctors and volunteers visited each Fresh Air Camp this summer for the fifth summer in the row to provide free eye exams and eye wear to thousands of children in need. They screened 3,295 children and counselors, gave 1,757 eye exams, and made 1,629 pairs of glasses.

Consider supporting this wonderful program. To visit their site, click on the title of this post! Thank you! Beth

Monday, November 23, 2009

Make a Fall Swag

The whole family, from kindergartener to grandparent, can do this fall craft together and make a beautiful Thanksgiving decoration, while the baby wallows in the fabric scraps.

My friend Peyton showed me how to make a fabric swag. I created this swag with a group of friends. I provided about fifteen feet of rope clothesline, (not the plastic kind). We pooled a collection of rich fall colored fabric scraps, dumped them in a heap on the table, and started ripping. Tear strips of fabric which measure roughly 2 and a half to 3 inches wide by about 24 inches long. No measuring and no scissors are required, although you may need scissors to snip the edge of the fabric before you tear. Tearing fabric is fun.

Now tie the scraps onto the clothesline. Just loop a scrap over the clothesline, and cross the ends, pushing one end under the cross and through, as you do with your laces when you start to tie your shoes. That's all. No knot is necessary.

You don't even have to be too picky about the colors. There will be so many that they will blend together fine. I might not have picked navy blue and green, but I love how they look. I did try to avoid pastel and white.

I like to bring my swag out in the fall and use it to decorate the mantel until springtime.

It is also beautiful swagged over a wide doorway. Incidentally, it is an indoor decoration. It would quickly become bedraggled outside.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How to Make a Simple Button Toy

This is a simple and fun toy which you can create for your child in less than five minutes. I remember a grown-up making one for me when I was a girl.

Start by looking through your button collection for a large button with at least two holes. I found a nice old button which was bigger than a quarter.

Pick out some strong string or yarn. I used embroidery floss, but it broke after we played with it for a while.

Thread the button through the holes and tie a strong knot to complete a loop.

To play with the toy you must first wind it up until the thread begins to kink.

Now give it a strong pull. The button will spin fast.

Let the thread wind itself up again the other way by bringing your hands closer together.

Now try to keep it going! Can you keep it going while you pass it to a friend to try?

Listen to how it hums as it spins.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Stick Giant and the Oak Family

In a woolly little house in the great, big woods,

there lived a family of little wood people, Mama, Papa, Lucy, and David.

The whole family was busy. Mama Oak was mending the house in preparation for winter.

David, the little boy, was climbing a tree.

Lucy, the little girl, was sitting in the leaves playing with her doll.

Papa was gathering firewood.

Papa suddenly stood up. The ground was shaking, and he could hear tree limbs cracking and crashing to the ground. He had never heard that sound during the day before, but he knew what it was.

The stick giant was coming. He was stomping with his great wooden feet, and breaking off old tree limbs as he came. Boom!


"David!" Papa called. "The stick giant is coming! Run!"

David shimmied down the tree as fast as he could, and

ran towards Papa.

He slipped and slid on the dry leaves as he ran up the hill.

Papa grabbed David and together they

ran to get Lucy, who was close to the house.

Lucy was screaming. She didn't know what a stick giant was, but she was scared.

Papa scooped her up.

She didn't even notice when she dropped her doll.

David ran to Mama and

and Mama ran to him.

David stopped to grab Lucy's doll and

the family hurried inside and

slammed the door.

Boom! Boom! They could hear the mighty footsteps of the stick giant just outside.

They heard the stick giant's hand hit the top of the house with a muffled thump.

Mama held her children close.

Suddenly, with the sound of popping thread, the roof started to tilt. The stick giant was lifting the roof right off its seams!

The children screamed.

Papa grabbed a chunk of firewood.

The stick giant's strange face appeared over the wall of the house. He stared at the family quietly for a moment

while they held their breath.

"Pardon me for intruding," said the stick giant, "But I was wondering if I could borrow an acorn cap of sugar?"

Papa couldn't speak, but

he stepped onto the bed and slowly reached out his hand to shake with the stick giant.

Mama brought the acorn cap full of sugar.

"Thank you," said the stick giant, bowing a little.

Then he put the roof back on and walked away, shaking the ground with his heavy, heavy footsteps. Boom! Boom!

Mama and Papa embraced.

The children clamored.

But soon they got quiet and settled around the fire for the evening.

They stayed close to one another and talked quietly about how we are all wooden inside, even though we may look different on the outside.

The fire crackled quietly, and the family was at peace. Later, they heard the heavy footsteps of the stick giant approaching their house again, but this time, there was just a soft, woolly knock on the door, and the footsteps went away.

The stick giant had brought the family a little acorn pie he had made, and left it on the doorstep.

From then on, they weren't so afraid of the unseen creatures of the forest. They knew the stick giant was there, knocking branches down and uprooting old trees on stormy nights, and hiding in the leaves and sticks and stumps during the day, but it didn't bother them anymore.

The stick giant's face, which at first had seemed so strange, so gnarled, and so frightening, now seemed friendly and kind.

Copyright 2009, Beth Curtin

I created the Oak Family using wooden doll forms with wired rope limbs. The house is made of thick cardboard, wood, and felted sweater patches. Lucy's doll is from "The Nut Cap Mama and Baby" kit from one of my favorite needle artists, Salley Mavor. I will be doing a special posting about Salley Mavor very soon. I will also be doing a tutorial about how to make a stick giant, a toy which seems to fascinate children of all ages, both boys and girls. If you want to know more about stick giants, scroll down to my earlier posting.