Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter Crafts from the Archives

There is still time to do some Easter crafts. Here are four special Easter tutorials from the Acorn Pies archives. You can find the links in the right-hand column.

How to Make a Pompom Bunny

How to Make a Mossy Felted Rock

How to Make a Tiny Willow Basket

Natural Egg Dyeing

The picture below is from my story, "The Easter Egg Hunt". To link to it, click on the title of this post or go to "Beth's Stories" in the right hand column.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Make Butter

I love this picture of Mary Ingalls churning butter, drawn by Garth Williams, illustrator of Laura Ingalls Wilder's wonderful series of children's books about growing up in pioneer times. Mary looks proud that she can help her mother at such a young age.

This is a picture of a little churn like those which women and children used to make butter in the 1800's. We saw it in the Freeman Farmhouse at Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts.

My college-aged daughter and I love to work in the kitchen together when she is home. A few days ago, she made us some butter using her French butter press.

When you make butter with your young children, it's fun to shake it in a mason jar. I used to have the children sit in the grass as they shook the jar so it would have a soft place to land if it slipped. As you churn you can chant this traditional churning rhyme:

Come, butter, come,
Come, butter, come,
Johnny's standing at the gate,
Waiting for his butter cake,
Come, butter, come.

Here's a picture of an old lady churning butter. We had fun making butter, but if I had to do it every Thursday, on top of all the other endless chores of being a housekeeper in the 1800's, I'd probably look disgruntled, too.

It takes patience to make butter. But it helps if you can take turns. It's fun to watch the butter turn to whipped cream. Eventually, the butter fats starts to separate from the buttermilk. The butter clumps together in a lump and starts to slosh in the buttermilk. The butter is ready.

You should taste the buttermilk. It is delicious...much better than the sour tasting kind you buy in the store.

Wash your butter with plenty of cold water, until the water runs clear. Now mix in some salt to taste. We used kosher salt. My daughter had been soaking the butter press in ice water. She filled it with the fresh butter and chilled it.

Can you see the little cow embossed on the top of the butter pat below?

We had to make some multi-grain bread to have with the butter. Oh, yummy!

I wish I could give you a taste!

Now read "The Buttered Bread", by Maj Lindman. It's a wonderful book about where our butter comes from.

Easter Treasures

I have a wonderful collection of Easter eggs which I bring out each year. Some of them were given to us by a neighbor, like the wooden painted one above. I wish I knew where it came from. Do you know?

I think this gorgeous papier-mache one is from India.

The children and I made the three eggs above by painting beeswax on some blown eggs, dyeing them, and then melting the wax off with a candle.

My husband brought me this treasure above from Poland. It is a real egg decorated with paper cut-outs. Did you know that if you don't blow out a raw egg, it will eventually dry out?

The egg above is a blown egg, and was beautifully painted by my sister-in-law.

These are some more eggs of mysterious origin given to us by a kind neighbor. I love their folkloric colors.

This is one of my most favorite Easter treasures. My daughter made this bowl when she was a little girl. I love it so much I asked her to paint the bowl into a still life I made about ten years ago. Now it holds jelly beans every year at Easter time.

Easter Egg Decoration

To make a little egg like this, start with some dyed raw eggs. Make a few; some may break.

Put a tiny pinhole in the narrow end of the egg for a thread to hang it by. Gently put another pinhole in the side of the egg, as a place to begin cutting with a pair of sharp nail scissors. Cut ever so gently, with tiny, tiny little cuts. Pour out the raw egg and let the shell interior dry.

What do you want to put inside your egg? I snipped the thread off a little painted wooden bird Easter ornament, and glued it into a little nest made out of dried grass. The tree branch is from a dried out thyme plant I have in my garden. The children might have fun making little chicks or eggs or a bunny out of modeling beeswax. You could also decorate the interior with a little scene made out of cut paper, or with a tiny drawing. A nice finishing touch on my egg would have been a border of rick-rack around the cut edge, but I couldn't get to the studio this week!

P.S. Childhood Magic learned how to do this from her grandmother. I just went to look, and her eggs are amazing!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spear the Ring

This toy is made of a piece of dowel, string, and three wooden curtain rings from which we removed the tiny screw eyes. You could also use a pencil, string, and three canning rings.

Can you catch the rings one by one? Try it!

Doll Raffle to Benefit SOS Children's Villages

I am raffling this doll to benefit SOS Children's Villages in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Flore is a waldorf doll handmade by me. She is twelve inches tall. Her chocolate brown skin is cotton jersey. Her face is embroidered, and her hair is soft curls of black mohair. She is stuffed with creamy wool so that she warms up when you hold her. It is wonderful to snuggle one of my dolls. My nieces each have one, and they say that their dolls keep them warm at night.

SOS Children's Villages has 500 villages in 132 countries. The Port-au-Prince village sheltered 150 children before the earthquake and now shelters 509 boys and girls. The children are getting a roof over their heads, health care, emotional and psychological help, and three home-cooked meals a day. SOS Children's Village is trying to reunite children with their families or with relatives whenever possible. The Village is also trying to keep families together by providing basics through their Family Strengthening Program. Check out their web site: The title of this post will link you to the site.

If you would like to participate in the raffle, make out a check to SOS Children's Villages for a minimum of $5.00. For every $5.00 increment in your check's amount I will put your name in the pot again! So if you send $20.00 you get four chances in the raffle. Be generous to this wonderful cause! Every single penny donated will go to SOS Children's Villages in Haiti. Once a week in the coming month I will send out a reminder about the raffle. If you have a blog, please help spread the word. I would love to send a large donation to SOS Children's Villages. Please make sure I can get in touch with you in case you are the winner. (I need an address or email.) We will draw a name on Wednesday, April 14th and announce the winner on Acorn Pies!

Send your check to St. Joseph Church, 92 Hope Street, Providence, Rhode Island, 02906, attention: Beth Curtin.

Wouldn't you like Flore to join your child's doll family?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? -Blake

We had to go into the studio one day during my boy's vacation so that I could work on a doll. I asked him if he wanted a stuffed animal. He wanted a tiger, his favorite animal. We used wool felt. As I drew a pattern on paper, he cut out the stripes the way he wanted and showed me where to sew them on. It turned into a bean bag (filled with rice) as we worked. My boy put some bells in the tail. Today I embroidered it and sewed some snips of a fluffy white felted sweater around the face. We played catch with it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Will's Cowboy Doll

Will's Mama wants to give her boy a cowboy doll for Easter.

Will is a loving and sensitive four-year-old. His grandpa is a veterinarian in West Texas. Will loves to go along to the ranches when his grandpa has to treat cattle and horses.

Will has all the cowboy gear. He has taken riding lessons. His bedroom is decorated with cowboy stuff. I wish I could see this little boy. He sounds adorable.

I wanted to keep taking pictures of this little cowboy doll. I even took a picture of his cowlick. It makes sense for a cowboy to have a cowlick.

Good-bye, little cowboy doll! I have a feeling you are going to have some wonderful adventures with Will.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tree Fort

According to Stephen Caney, is his book "Kid's America," you should scavenge materials when you build a tree fort. We had some nails.

We had some lumber scraps leftover from a fencing project.

We had a boy who was eager to build.

It is very tempting for a skillful and well-meaning adult to take over this kind of project and create his or her own dream fort. Don't do it. Be an assistant. Let your child be the architect, the foreman, and the carpenter, as much as possible.

This is the first level. It's about a foot off the ground.

The second level is about 4 and a half feet off the ground. I showed him how to use a level. We discussed how to attach it securely. I helped hammer when he got tired, and hammered the high ladder steps for him.

A little ladder leads up, up, up...

all the way up to a special spot he found for relaxing, way up high.

A special place for being up in the dappled light, nestled in the trees, touching bark and warm limbs, breezes blowing about him.....way, way up high in a place he had never been able to reach before.

Some friends came over to join in the fun. They sawed and hammered, too. They helped make a sign. They helped celebrate by doing laps in the little yard with pennants.

Do you have a little spot where you could let your child create his own fort? I didn't think I did, until today.

If you would like to make some pennants, there is a link in the right-hand column.