Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Share Your Advent Traditions - A Giveaway!

Advent is already on it's way.  Sunday, November 30th, begins the first Sunday of Advent and whether or not Advent fits within your family customs, the time leading up to the Winter Solstice and Christmas is a good time for contemplation, going within and working through unresolved issues in your heart.

In the Waldorf tradition, the weeks leading up to Advent are celebrated by creating reverence for each of the four different kingdoms: stones (earth), plants, animals and mankind.  There is something about this holistic look at this time of year that speaks to me so deeply and I do my best to use this time to dig deeper spiritually.


There are many traditions and customs during this season that families, schools and churches recognize.  Advent wreaths are often used with candles that are lit each Sunday leading up to Christmas time.  Baking Advent bread or adding an ornament to a Jesse Tree each day are other traditions that come to mind.


My family has begun our own unique traditions that I've shared in the Advent and St. Nicholas Festival E-Book such as our Advent Kindness Clock which includes a little act of kindness that can be done each day leading up to Christmas.


We also created a beautiful Advent Wall Spiral where my daughters place a special star each day of Advent time.


I would love to hear about the traditions and customs in your family this time of year.

In the comments section below, share with us your family traditions leading up to the Winter Solstice and Christmas.  On the very first day of Advent (Sunday, November 30th), in the evening, we will randomly choose a winner to receive a FREE copy of our Advent and St. Nicholas Day Festival E-Book!  Be sure to check back here to see if you won.

In the meantime, we have a wonderful Buy One, Get One Free sale going on at Little Acorn Learning for only 2 more days!  For the price of one e-book, until Thanksgiving Day, get both the Martinmas and Thanksgiving Festival and the Advent and St. Nicholas Day Festival E-Books for only $24.99. Both books combined provide hundreds and hundreds of pages of celebrating that will last you for many years to come!



Good luck!
xoox

Monday, November 24, 2014

Adventures in Letterboxing


This weekend I took my Junior Girl Scouts to a Letterboxing event at one of the Girl Scout camps in Connecticut.  I've always been interested in finding out more about letterboxing and it was such a fun day.



First we each thought of a symbol to represent us along with a name and we created handmade stamps.  Maia chose The Bookworm and I chose Little Acorn, of course.  Then we were provided with clues leading to four letterboxes hidden in the woods.


We didn't realize how challenging some of the clues would be.  There were so many leaves and it made going up and down inclines really difficult.  We were so excited when we did find the letterboxes!  Inside each one was a special stamp that we could stamp into our homemade log book.



Unfortunately we were unable to find one of the letterboxes.  By the time we realized we went too far, we had struggled getting down a huge hill by holding onto one another and we were unwilling to go back up.  

Letterboxing is a really fun hobby and I love to be outdoors and hike as it is so this will really add some fun to it for my family.  The woman who ran the program told me to check out www.atlasquest.com to find Letterboxes near us and I was really surprised to see there were some in our own town and close by.  

If we weren't preparing for a huge snow storm on Thanksgiving, we would go Letterboxing again this weekend but I think the snow will really make it a bit too difficult.  We are expected to get 6-10".  We just got a new shipment of wood to prepare for the winter.  Initially we got 2 cords of wood but we realized the source was not good.  The wood we received was not well seasoned and is burning way too fast.  Hopefully this will get us through the winter.  The girls may have to take off school tomorrow to stack it :)






Sunday, November 23, 2014

An Outdoor Thanksgiving



This event is put on by friends (family, really) of ours each year.  It is such a cool way to celebrate Thanksgiving in the true sense of the way it was celebrated between the Pilgrims and the Native American Indians.  We feel so lucky to be included in this amazing tradition.  








The event is held potluck style and turkey and all the fixings are served.  It's usually very cold outside and this year was no exception.  I have to admit that even though I consider myself an outdoors person, I was silently dreading the bitter cold we may face.  I'm glad I didn't let that concern take over enough for us to cancel our participation.  As long as you dress the right way, have warmth by the fire and (for adults) something to drink to keep you toasty - it's really such a fun fun day.








I was thinking that it is something that individual families could even do in their own backyards.  Maybe not the actual day of Thanksgiving but close to... invite a few friends and family over and start a huge fire outside.  Have everyone bring something special and enjoy an Outdoor Thanksgiving yourself just like the First Thanksgiving.  Just a thought.  If you do it - please share it with us.  We'd love to see photos!  xoxo


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Leaf Garland

Thanksgiving Leaf Garland
Supplies Needed:

Leaves from Nature Walks
Thread and needle or sewing machine or yarn

Take the time to bring your children on daily nature walks this week.  As you walk along, gather any leaves that catch your eye to create this Thanksgiving Leaf Garland to decorate your home or nature place with.  You may even wish to drape the garland over your mantle, doorway or use it as a centerpiece at your table. 

Tell the children that you are collecting Mother Nature's leaves to make a pretty garland and show her how thankful you are for the earth's blessings.

There are a few ways you can do this: 
  • You can use a thread and needle and carefully create the garland.
  • You can poke holes in the center of the leaves and string the leaves with yarn.
  • You can use a sewing machine to stitch over the leaves and create garland.  


Have fun and be sure to send us photos of any creations (info@littleacornlearning.com) 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brewing Up Kombucha

Found in many health food stores, as well as in the kitchens of hippies alike, Kombucha is a tea which is made by fermenting sweet tea and healthy bacteria.  The bacteria and yeast (aka scoby) is the good kind that can aid in health.  Much like the probiotics in some yogurts are known to improve health by aiding in digestion and fighting "bad" bacteria, Kombucha is claimed by many to strengthen the immune system.

I've bought a good over-the-counter kind called Synergy Raspberry Chia on and off for a few years.  It's pretty good but very expensive.  When my friend (who is health conscious like I try to be and also battling cancer) asked if I wanted to come and help her make a homemade batch of it I was intrigued, happy to help and of course thought it would make an excellent blog post ;)

There are many critics who indicate the health benefits cannot be proved and the dangers of brewing the tea at home outweigh the potential good stuff.  The tea must be brewed in very sterile conditions as to make sure that only good bacteria ferments and none of the bad stuff.  However, after doing some careful research of my own, I found that REALLY bad bacteria like E.Coli and and other scary crap does not survive in Kombucha.

Luckily my friend doesn't play around and knows what she is doing.  We sterilized every single bottle, cap and made sure to wear gloves when working directly with the tea.




The SUPER gross part is of course when you see the Kombucha "Mother".  This is the mushroom-like structure that the bacteria and yeast form.  My friend already had a batch of the tea brewing from a culture given to her from a nutritionist we know so we basically bottle up the fermented tea and put the mother in a new batch to ferment.




Yes it's THAT nasty!

Enough to make you run home?  Luckily I've seen worse in my life so I was in it for the long haul.


I'm not going to give you the instructions on how to make Kombucha as I don't want to be responsible for any contaminated blog followers but it was a fun experience and now I've been sucked into the Kombucha cycle.  

How many friends do you know who will share their Scoby with you?  

So now we are sharing the Kombucha mother and taking turns brewing.  Every 10-15 days you repeat the process to keep a constant demand of Kombucha in your fridge.  
The Traveling Scoby
Sadly, I think I'll be the only one in my family brave enough to consume it but I added organic chia seeds and pomegranate juice and it tastes even better than the stuff I get at the grocery store and I didn't pay a dime (thanks, friend) :) My family is used to me bringing weird shit home like this.  They didn't even flinch.


Bottom's up.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Little Light of Mine - November's Photo Contest from Little Acorn Learning


This Month's  Facebook Photo Contest theme is...

*Little Light of Mine*
*November Photo Contest from Little Acorn Learning*

This month's theme is ** Little Light of Mine ** Show us photos of your littles ones embracing light and love. 

Our winners will receive a free e-book of their choice from Little AcornLearning http://www.littleacornlearning.com/

How to enter to win:

-Send no more than 3 photos per family or school correlating to our theme(s) to info@littleacornlearning.com

-Include your name and written permission for Little Acorn Learning to use your photo in future publications or marketing.

-Once your photo is posted on our Facebook Page, ask family and friends to LIKE it by sharing the link.

-The photos with the most LIKES win a FREE ebook of their choice from Little Acorn Learning - we will end our contest on November 20th 2014

**Photography by Alex Hopkins

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Weaving Goodness, Community and Home

Today is Martinmas and also Veteran's Day in America.  I love the way that Waldorf schools celebrate this special day with lantern walks, songs, crafts and community.  I'm not sure I ever really got over the fact that my girls could not attend our local Waldorf school but one thing I have worked hard to do is to weave the beautiful things I love about Waldorf Education into our home life and our community the best way that I can.  

There are a lot of ways that I have tried to do this.  Filling our home with a lot of art, singing, baking and natural materials has always been important to me.  I also did my best to limit a ton of mainstream media, especially when the girls were very young.  I will admit this gets harder as they grow up into teens but we really do not watch much TV even still.  My hope was that by doing this, they would be free to develop into their own beings without all the crazy images of what they should wear, buy or talk like in order to be "cool".  I've tried to remember to celebrate the special festivals and seasons.  I've also put an emphasis on plenty of outdoor play, the importance of protecting our earth and being comfortable in nature.  

In my community, I've done things like hold a Forest Preschool program outdoors for little ones.  I had a Nature Club that met once per week for older children and I do my best to work with my Girl Scouts in a way that brings these values I hold dear further into the world.  My nature club actually came up in conversation with friends last night and I may consider doing it again in the Spring.  It took a lot of time to plan and organize but it was so awesome spending that time with the kids outdoors and helping them to pull them away from their IPhones for a few hours per week and be a part of the natural world.

As part of earning our Journey Award, my 5th grade Girl Scout troop has decided to put together a Community Coat Drive.  This is such perfect timing around Martinmas as many Waldorf schools do the same thing as a way to honor the old tale of St. Martin ripping his cloak in half to give to a beggar on the street.  


One area that I am really striving to improve is with our food at home.  We eat dinner together every evening and eat good meals but I want to focus on eliminating the processed stuff I sometimes turned to in a hurry and really get myself and the rest of the family to eat clean.  Not only the granola bars and things like that but even many of the condiments that I used to make gravies or add flavor to our dinners.  Have you ever read the ingredients of even things like English Muffins?  It's really crazy all the crap they put into things.


The good thing is that I truly love to cook and I have a nice vegetable garden during the summer that we can enjoy.  The hard thing is that cooking fresh each day is very time consuming. I assume that years and years ago while it was difficult, it was likely more attainable because many mothers were home and did not need to also provide an income.  For us modern moms, it's not easy.  I have to make sure I find time to still write, blog, process orders, package crayon holders, manage my daughter's school schedules, keep up with emails, do necessary work for my volunteer responsibilities, take care of our pets and SO much more.  

The truth of it is that if I want us to eat healthier, I need to make it a priority over some of the other things that are on my list.  If you look in my laundry room, it is always a mess and the house isn't ever ready for drop by company.  If I focus more on cooking, it will only be worse but in the grand scheme of things I think it will be worth it.  So that's what I've been trying my best to do and also to cook in larger quantities so I can freeze and use leftovers more often.  

We've also been trying to be more mindful of wasting.  Wasting electricity, food, leftovers, paper and so many other things.  Again, it's often a matter of time.  Feeling rushed and having to go quick.  It is sometimes easier to throw out the leftover food than to figure out a way to reuse it.  It's easier to turn the heat up higher than keep the fire going.  It's easier to throw the towel in the hamper then hang it up to dry.  But we are trying.

I made my first batch of Sweet Potato Chips this week and they were a HUGE hit with the girls.  But OMG do they take a long time to make and they disappear in a matter of seconds.

A few people asked for the recipe.  There really wasn't much of one but here you go:
Peel, wash and cut sweet potatoes into thin slices.  (thinner the better)
I actually ran out of olive oil so I used organic melted butter and coated them all in a bowl.  I think this really helped with the flavor and I'm not afraid of using butter.  I think it can be a healthy fat as long as it is whole and organic.
Then I just added salt, pepper and rosemary and laid all slices on a cooking tray to bake.  I think I had the oven on around 350.  It did take a long time and I flipped them all individually every 20 minutes or so.  Like I said, it was time consuming.  Maybe about an hour in a half of baking time before they were ready.  But they were yummy.

I'd love to hear time saving tips any of you have come across while trying to eat clean and healthy.  Having a big family also makes it a challenge because we need LOTS of food on a daily basis.  My older girls have began helping to prepare things which helps but it's still a lot of work.

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