Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday for Kids: Godly Play Easter Playset

After reading Robin's Godly Play post a few weeks ago, I was inspired to make an Easter playset to teach my girls the story!  Here's how to make your own clothespin dolls if you want to make your own set.  All the supplies can be found at any craft store.  The supplies will cost you less than $10 and it took me about 2-3 hours to assemble.  (It went super quick because its so fun!)  You will need:  
  • Clothes pin & stander
  • Flesh-colored pipe cleaner
  • Felt
  • Hot glue gun & glue
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie marker/ black paint & paintbrush
  • Paper to make pattern

Cut pipe cleaner to 8 inch length.

Twist end to make a hand. 

Twist both sides. 

Hold arms a little off-center before you start wrapping it around the clothes pin. 


Arms secured with glue. 

Make a pattern out of paper by tracing the form and making the desired "dress" shape.  Fold the felt over so that the arms and neck are on the fold.

Cut around the pattern.

Fold in half so that the arms are touching to cut tiny...I mean TINY... hole. 

See?  Tiny.  You can easily force clothespin head through.  (You don't want the hole to be too big!) 

Glue the arms to the dress. 

Glue sides down. 

Cut accessory pieces. 

And glue on.

After some trial and error, this is the best shape to make a wig.  Boys' hair will be a little shorter, so you can make it out of a smaller semi-circle. 

Use glue to secure it down. 

The back can be tucked under.

Add a skinny rectangle for a head cloth.

Use sharpie or black paint to make the clothespin stand black. 

Use hot glue to secure stand.

Use an itty bitty brush or small sharpie to draw a face. 

All done!

Each character is a little different.  You can experiment with different beards, hair, clothes, and accessories to vary your characters. 






Here is the story that I've included with the set, including directions on how to move the pieces and reflection questions to ask your littles after you tell them the story.   

  The Resurrection Story   
                    adapted from Matthew 28:1- 20

Most people think that Easter is about candy, or the Easter bunny, or Easter egg hunts.  While these things are all fun, Easter is really about Jesus and the greatest thing that ever happened.  This story starts off really sad, but it has the best ending of any story EVER!
(Lay out green cloth like a field. Stand Jesus up in the middle.)
There was once a man named Jesus.  He was a good man and a good teacher.  But He wasn't just good.  He was the best man ever.  Because He wasn't just a man.  He was also the Son of God.  Many people loved Him and followed him and listened to His teachings.
(Place Mary and Peter in front of Jesus, listening to Him.)
But some people did not like Jesus.  They didn't believe that He was who He said He was.  So they put Him on a cross to die. After Jesus had died on the cross, friends of Jesus took his body and wrapped it up in linen clothes. 
(Wrap Jesus in cloths.  Place mason jar on its side.)
They placed his body in a tomb.  A tomb is a special place where people are buried.  The one that Jesus was placed in was carved out of a rock in the side of a hill.   
(Put the green felt on top of the jar, and place Jesus inside.)
Once Jesus’ body was inside, they placed a heavy rock to seal the tomb up.  It was so heavy, it took a few men to roll it. 
(Have child help you place the lid on the jar and seal it closed.  Put the green felt on top. )
There were some people that were afraid that someone would come and steal Jesus’ body, so they had a guard come to stand watch in front of the tomb. 
    (Place guard in front of tomb.)  
But the next part of the story is a big surprise.      
(Take jar and put in on your lap or under a table .  Remove Jesus, and place white felt back in the jar.  Seal up the tomb again and place back on the table.  )
When Jesus had been in the tomb for three days, a huge earthquake came and shook the ground.  An angel came and rolled the stone away and the guard was so surprised and scared, he fell over as though he was dead! 
(Open jar lid and move it slightly off to the side.  Lie soldier down on the table.  Place angel in front of the tomb.)
Before the sun came up on Easter morning, one of Jesus’ friends named Mary Magdalene came to visit Jesus’ tomb.  She was so sad that Jesus had died and she wanted to visit his grave.  While she was on her way, she saw that the tomb was open.  She looked inside and saw and that Jesus wasn’t in there any more!  She was afraid that someone had taken Jesus body!  The angel said to her, “Don't be afraid!  Jesus isn't here because He has risen from the dead, just like He said He would!  Go tell His disciples the good news!.”        

Mary Magdalene went from being really sad to really, really happy.  Then she got even happier because Jesus came to her! He said, “Do not be afraid.  Go tell my disciples to go to Galilee and I will see them there.” 
(Have Mary quickly run away from the tomb towards Peter.  Have Mary tell Peter, “Jesus is alive and he told me to tell you and the rest of the disciples to go to Galilee.”   
So Peter and the rest of the disciples went to a mountain top in Galilee.  It was a place that Jesus had told them about before he had died. 
(Turn the tomb around so that it looks like a mountain, and have Peter and Jesus stand on it. )
When Peter saw Jesus, he was so happy to see that he was alive!  And Jesus said to them, “God gave me power over everything in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, I want you to go tell other people about me.  Teach them all the things I taught you to do.  I am with you always and forever.” 

And that's what the disciples did.  They told everyone the good news that Jesus is alive!  And those people told other people.  And people kept sharing the good news because when you have great news like that, you just can't keep it to yourself!  So now, I'm telling you the good news: Jesus is alive!  He loves us and will never leave us.   

Questions to ask:

 What did Jesus’ friend do with Jesus’ body after he had died? (Wrapped it in linen and placed it in a tomb.)
 Why did the guard have to stand in front of the tomb? (They didn’t want anyone to steal Jesus’ body.)
 Who is one person that came to visit Jesus at the tomb? (Mary Magdalene)
 Instead of seeing Jesus, what did she see? (An angel standing in front of the tomb.)
 What did the angel tell her? (Jesus was alive!)
 When Mary Magdalene saw Jesus, what was the message he had her give to the disciples?  (He is alive and to go to Galilee.) 
 Where did the disciples see Jesus?  (On a mountain top in Galilee.) 
 What did Jesus tell the disciples to do?  (Tell other people about him.)

 Who is someone that you could tell this special story to? 
 What does Jesus want us to know when we are afraid?  (He alive and he is with us always.) 

If you're not up for making your own set, visit our Etsy site where you can order one.

We hope you've been inspired to enjoy telling your special little ones the Easter story!  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday for Kids...It's not easy being green

Let's be honest....Kermit is not just for kids.  Hope you enjoy a little green on your Friday...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

It's not easy being green....when you're too busy being thankful

For me, I know what triggers the ugly green jealousy monster in me.

Going on facebook and seeing photos of adorable children in matching outfits standing in front of Cinderella's castle.  

Seeing new mommies lose baby weight DAYS after giving birth to their little bundles of joy.  

Watching House Hunters on HGTV where everyone can't POSSIBLY live without granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, an on-suite bathroom with double vanities, a finished basement, and walk-in closets that are bigger than my bedroom.

And scouring in Pinterest for ideas and an hour later feeling like a terrible cook, awful mother, bad decorator, and general failure at life.

Why does it always seem like everyone else has it all?!?!  

Jealousy is one of those seemingly "acceptable" sins that appears small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  However, I think if envy is given a foothold, it can destroy relationships, self-esteem, and most importantly- become a stumbling block in our relationship with God.  After all, wasn't the first sin really all about being dissatisfied, claiming, "God, you have left me with less than what I really need?"  When we're too busy looking at others and what they have, we are completely missing out on the blessings that God has given to us.

When you feel jealousy rearing its ugly green head, the best way to combat feeling dissatisfied, is to concentrate on things you are thankful for.  Try keeping a gratitude journal!  For me, keeping an account on my daily blessing has made my life seem fuller, richer, and abounding with so many blessings that it is impossible for me to go moping about my house wishing for trivial things like double sinks and trips to sunny Florida to see Mickey.

God is good.  He gives us what we need because He loves us.  Let's encourage one another to be abounding in gratitude!

  "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."  Col 2:6-7

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's not easy being green - Inspirations

As my Mom stated in Monday's post, we are not a bit Irish.  And, as she also mentioned, not being Irish does not stop us one little bit from celebrating St. Patrick's Day.  Here are some inspirational ideas for your St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

From upper left to right...
1.  Paulette from Beedeebabee crafted this adorable felt shamrock.  So cute!!

2.  Since you can't have corned beef and cabbage without potatoes, check out this awesome way to grow your own potatoes (upwards of 25 lbs per potato tower!) using metal fencing.  (You know I can't write a post about "green" without adding some gardening!)

3.  Kristol has a TON of awesome crafty ideas on her site (The Magic of Ordinary Things) including this St. Patrick's Day rag wreath.

4.  OK....some more gardening....and an awesome cause!  Check out this self- watering and self-fertilizing "keyhole" garden.  Ingenious!  (Plus, the Valhalla Project is an amazing 200-acres in the Ozark Mountains providing a "safe, productive, living and working opportunity" to build, farm, and assist with energy projects for post 9-11 soldiers.)

5.  This is the cutest little shamrock barrette tutorial ever!  Wouldn't these also look cute strung together on some green and white baker's twine?

6.  We have a very strict "no sugary cereal for breakfast" rule around here, but I might actually let my boys eat Lucky Charms for St. Patrick's Day because of this.  The 36th Avenue put together this breakfast treat, with free "You are my lucky charm!" print-outs. 

7.  Jesse is convinced that leprechauns exist for the simple fact that there was "green pee" in the toilets at school after lunch last year on St. Patrick's Day.  (Per Jesse, "Ms. Gump does not pee green pee, Mom!  So leprechauns must be real."  I love that kid!!)  Check out some more great ways to liven up your work or living space.

8.  And if leprechauns do exist, I'm sure they'd live in a place that looks like this.  (This doll house is a gorgeous, intricate labor of love!  Please take a minute to check out how she made it....really incredible!)

9.  This chicken coop/garden idea is so smart!  Chickens help fertilize your garden and eat your garden pests.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's not easy being green....especially when it's snowing outside

I have been chomping at the bit to start planting my spring garden, but up until this weekend the weather here had not been cooperating.  (We're just getting over an unseasonably cold spell here in South Carolina and I know a lot of you have gotten some snow that you were not expecting.)  So, to tide myself over until spring, I've been working on a little indoor gardening. 


These little beauties are easy to find (at your local garden or hardware store for around $3.00 a piece) and are extremely hard to kill (which is good if you forget to water them like I do).  They are very low-maintenance, requiring only a bit of sun and infrequent watering.

This is what succulents should look like.  The plants are usually compact with smooth, swollen leaves.

Aren't they pretty?  This a great deal if you want a large assortment to start your own succulent garden.

And this is what your plant will look like if you forget to put it in a sunny window.  Plants will extend from the dirt and reach up towards the sun if they do not get enough light, especially in winter.
This guy sat in a shady corner of my kitchen for weeks.  Poor little guy!

But not to worry, you have not ruined your succulents if they send off shoots.  In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to start new succulent plants.

Just cut off a leaf at the base of the stalk.

The research I've done on these little guys says you should let them rest 3 days in a sunny spot for a scab to form over the end of the leaf.  I let this batch set out for 2 weeks, until they sprouted roots.  Although, I have also had luck propagating them by putting them directly from cutting into the ground.

Some even started to form new plants.

Micah found this single leaf on the front porch from last spring, where I used to keep my succulents.  A leaf must have fallen off and decided it wanted to live.  I'm telling you, these suckers are resilient!
Then, just press the leaf into a patch of unoccupied soil.  Soak with water, and let it sit in a sunny spot.  In a couple of days a new, compact set of leaves will form on the end of the leaf and eventually blossom into a new, perfect succulent plant.

These plants are approximately 3 months old.  They started as 2 single leaves, and sent off a stalk, that eventually produced a flower.

I planted my succulents in vintage tin molds and a copper bowl I found while thrifting, but any container will do.  I hope this inspires you to start a succulent garden of your own!!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's Not Easy Being Green- Traditions

As I have been contemplating what this topic should encompass, I assume it was picked to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  I am about as far from Irish as can be, but being one who likes to celebrate just about anything, our St Patrick's Day Tradition is always to have corned beef and cabbage.  Recently I have realized that not everyone knows how to make this very simple dish.
1.  Buy a corned beef in the grocery store.
2.  Remove wrapper (very important) and place beef with all the juices in the package into a large pot.
3.  Add water to cover meat.
4.  Follow instructions on package which usually tells you to simmer the meat for a few hours.
5.  The last hour throw in some potatoes, cut up (with or without peels), carrots, and onion chunks.
6.  The last 20 minutes put in cut up cabbage on top of meat and vegetables.  The cabbage does not have to be covered by water, it can steam on top.
Here is a recipe for buttermilk biscuits that goes great with this meal:

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 Cups Flour
2 TBS Sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425.  Mix all dry ingredients together.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture is crumbly.  Add the buttermilk.  Stir gently with a fork until all flour is absorbed.  Do not knead.  Using an ice cream scoop, drop biscuits onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 12- 14 minutes or until golden brown.   Serve warm.

The blog would not be complete without the mention of leprechauns, which until recently I knew very little about.  These legendary creatures from Ireland, are cobblers (shoemakers) they sport at creating havoc on the unsuspecting human world.
     Spotting a leprechaun does bring good luck, according to legend, but it is not easy, as they are known to vanish before a human can spot one.  The leprechaun's job is to guard the treasure believed to have been buried by the Danes who once conquered Ireland.  When they are not making shoes or guarding treasure, these tiny men, dressed in green, are known to be merry-makers who drink, dance and play music.  If you do catch one you may be granted 3 wishes, or you may be taken to the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.    Personally I have never seen one, but I do have stories of spotting gnomes....saved for another blog post.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday for the Kids: Godly Play

I was a Christian Education major in college.  The program was a combination of ministry and educational theory with some developmental psychology thrown in.  So I took classes like Discipleship,  History and Philosophy of Christian Education, Human Development and Ministry, and Dynamics of Spiritual Growth.  The program has since been renamed Christian Formation and Ministry, which is a much more apt description.  It focuses on how people are formed spiritually and how to effectively minister to people in a variety of settings.  My absolute favorite class was Transformational Education, taught by the amazing Scottie May.  I learned all sorts of things in that class that changed the way I think about...pretty much everything.  But what I want to share with you today is a method of teaching called Godly Play.  (I promise this is going to get hands-on, kid-focused, and sheep-related really soon.  Hang in there.)

Godly Play is a Protestant adaptation of a Catholic practice called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.  There is a slew of interesting history, theology, and child development theory behind the methods.  (I'll provide some resource links at the bottom of the post if you want to learn more.)  But I mainly want to show you how it's done so that you can do it with your own children because at its heart, it's quite simple and adaptable to your child's interests and the things you have on hand.

Here is a short video that offers a good introduction to what Godly Play is:

Step One: The Materials
Godly Play is centered around story-telling.  A story-teller uses simple 3-D materials to relate a parable, Bible story, or something about the church (i.e. church calendar, sacraments, etc.).  One of the primary stories used is the Parable of the Good Shepherd.  In order to share this story, you will need the following:
  • A box (preferably a gold box, but any box will do in a pinch)
  • A large green something (fabric, felt, paper, etc.)
  • A medium blue patch
  • Several small black patches
  • 4-8 brown strips or popsicle sticks
  • Something to represent sheep (I used wool felted balls, but you could use cotton balls, wooden figurines, or little sheep from our shop.)
  • Something to represent the Shepherd (I used a wooden figure from a nativity set.)
Step Two: The Story
The method of story-telling in Godly Play is very distinct.  It is designed to invite children to engage their imaginations while maintaining a very calm and receptive atmosphere.  Please forgive me for including another video (and one of not very high quality at that), but the easiest way to explain it is just to show you.  Here is a video I found of a woman telling the Parable of the Good Shepherd.  Notice that she keeps her eyes and her full focus on the materials throughout the story and uses a lot of "I wonder" statements, such as "I wonder what this could be...I wonder what that feels like...etc."  Notice how she isn't at all rushed or overly animated.  She just slowly relates the narrative as she moves the pieces through the story.

Step Three: The Response
Once the story is told, children are then given the opportunity to interact with the story in some creative way.  They could draw or paint a picture based on a part of the story.  They could write a poem or a story about what it's like to be a sheep in the Good Shepherd's flock.  They can use the story materials to tell each other the story.  They can reenact the story moving around the room, deciding where the green pastures and rocky places are.  Generally, the child is allowed to choose how he or she wants to respond to the story.  The response portion is meant to help the child remember and internalize the story and also to take ownership of his or her relationship with God.  It gives them the tools and the language to be worshipers.

Make It Your Own
The practice of Godly Play is easily adaptable for the home.  Here is a catalog of the "official" Godly Play story materials and resources, but you really can use whatever you have on hand to share the stories of the Bible with your children...fabric, yarn, needle-felted or clay-sculpted figures, wooden figurines from your local craft supply store, household objects...  You know how you can spend a bunch of money on toys for your children, and they prefer the box?  That's because children LOVE to use their imaginations.  So you really can keep it simple and invite your children to imagine that those cotton balls are sheep.  That paper is a cool lake of the freshest water.  This empty spool is a person.  You get the idea.  So pick a story, and gather materials.

When you share the story with your children, you can adapt your style to fit your children's personalities.  You can be more interactive than the video I included if you'd like.  The main point is to communicate the truth of the story in a way that invites your child to enter into it.

As far as response activities go, you really can do whatever sparks your child's interest.  Does your child respond to music?  Teach them a song that goes with the story.  Is your child really active?  Turn the story into an adventure that you take together through your backyard.  Does your child love to draw?  Give them a paper and crayons and ask them to tell you what they're drawing and how the different characters feel.  Maybe your child's preferences change day-to-day or moment-to-moment.  That's the beauty of Godly Play.  You don't need to assemble materials for a craft project or a structured activity that your child may or may not be interested in.  Just tell a story and let their imaginations do the rest.  It will teach them Biblical truths and also give you insight into their relationship with their Creator.  It's really a win-win-win all around!

Here are just a few links to get you started if you'd really like to dig in:
Godly Play Homepage
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Homepage

Young Children and Worship
This is a very helpful Godly Play book written by Sonja Stewart and Jerome Berryman.  There are other "curriculum" books that break down the lessons more, but this book gives you patterns for all the story materials and the basic rundown of everything.  So it's really all you need if you're interested in doing Godly Play at home.

For further information on the theories behind these practices, see the works of its founders, or a simple google search of any of the following would do:
Godly Play: Jerome Berryman
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd: Sofia Cavalletti
Montessori: Maria Montessori

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lamb Reflections

A little while ago, I was illustrating my way through the Psalms.  It was an excellent way for me to relate to God's word helped me remember what I was reading, and let me respond in a way that was new and fresh and exciting, and kept me coming back for more.  Since we're on sheep this week, I thought I would share what I wrote in my journal when I encountered the 23rd Psalm.
"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  
He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
he leads me beside still waters, 
he restores my soul.  
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  
Even though I walk through the valley of shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me.  
Your rod and your staff they comfort me."  v. 1-4

I learned this Psalm when I was in my pre-school Sunday school class.  In unison, my class and I would chant this and the Lord's prayer every Sunday.  I had no idea what it meant, but I could repeat all of the words back to you if you asked- King James Version.  (My Sunday School teacher, Aunt Sis, as everyone called her, was THE matriarch of our church.  You did what she told you to do. She was hard-core and awesome.)  So because I can quote it from rote memory, its not a Psalm I read often, or even think about much because it seems like such a "cliche" Bible verse.

But this time when I read it, I really took my time to digest and ponder all that it means.  It is so rich in symbolism and imagery that it is not difficult to illustrate.   I always have loved Biblical imagery about shepherds and sheep because I grew up on a 30 acre sheep farm.  (Yes, I was a 4-H nerd.)  I feel like I can vividly imagine what a shepherd looks like as he gazes over his flock.  I can smell the smells of sheep- wet wool and dewy grass, and straw, and yes, all the smells that come from sheep. I know how stupid sheep are and how dependent they are on their owner.  They are defenseless- they don't even have top teeth to bite their enemies.  All they can do is eat, walk, and produce wooly fleeces.  

I love the idea that God is my shepherd.  I love that He calls me a sheep.  It puts our relationship in perspective.  I can see how much he loves me.  I can see how much I should depend on him.  

I was a sponge when I read Psalm 23 this time. This is what I felt God was telling me through these verses.  

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  

As in, "I'm in control of you.  When you accept all that I have and all that I AM, you're not going to feel like you need anything else but me."    

He makes me lie down in green pastures.  

 "Here you go, here are all the rich blessings I want you to enjoy.  I'll take you exactly to the places where I know you can grow the most.  We're going to sit down in this place and just rest here together for a while."

He leads me beside still waters.

 "Stay right behind me, I know where I'm going.  I know this place where we can go together and you'll feel refreshed."

He restores my soul.  

 "Remember how you felt before you were so weary?  You're going to feel that way again, because it's going to be ME that does the healing, not you."  

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  

 "Follow me, and I'm going to show you the path that others before you have taken to heal.  The others that took this path remained righteous and upright because they trusted me.  They did this not for themselves, but because they wanted to honor me through their journey."

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.   

 "It didn't catch me by surprise that we're in this place together.  You were following me.  I know it is scary.  I know you can't imagine what we are doing here.  I know that shadows are cold and you miss the pastures and water.  But look what we are doing.  We aren't lying down and resting here. We're not stopping to drink.  We are WALKING.  We are moving.  Don't fear the shadows.  I placed them there so you'd stay close to me while we walk here together."

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.    

 "And if you don't believe me, look what I have in my hand.  See?  It's my staff.  I know there are going to be times when you're not going to want to listen to my voice.  I know there will be times when you question why we're here.  That's when I'll gently prod you and remind you that we have better places to go together.  This rod and staff are proof of that.  I wouldn't need it if this was the place I intended on staying forever with you."

I think it's funny how God puts images in your mind and uses them to prod you where you need to go.  For me, it was the staff- a curly swirl that I kept seeing over and over- in the wrought iron of my clock, in the branches of a tree, in the cream of my tea when I stirred it into my cup.  I just love how the gentle Shepherd prods, directs, comforts, guides, heals, and speaks in a way that each of us can relate to Him, even when we do act like stubborn sheep.      

If you are interested is delving a little deeper into the 23rd Psalm, I recommend this little gem of a book:  A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.  (It's $3.99.  Who can pass that up?)


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Inspiration - Out Like a Lamb

I LOVE inspiration days!  I have scoured the internet searching for some inspiring tutorials, crafts, patterns, and art for this lamb-y post.  

1.  ADORABLE!  Make your own little lamb pull-toy using this tutorial.
2.  Did you purchase a lamb ornament at our Lamb Celebration Day?  Add her to a mossy terrarium.  (There are lots of tutorials out there on how to make these low-maintenance moss-covereed lovelies.  Here's a great one to check out.  Also, if you need more lambs, you can purchase one from our shop.)
3.  I was so sad when I pinned this awesome sock lamb, and it didn't have a link!  I looked everywhere for the original post, but couldn't find it anywhere.  I kept it in the group since it's so cute, and if you've ever made a sock monkey, you could probably figure out how to make a lamb from the picture.
4.  Here's a free pattern for knitting this cute sheep!
5.  I cannot get enough of this illustration!  Mary's perfect in her 1920's attire, and the colors and art deco trees just make my heart happy. This illustration is the work of Jennie Harbour (1920), and can be purchased printed on paper or canvas from the link above.
6.  Sweet, itty-bitty (3.5 inch tall) lamb pattern available for purchase here.  GAH!  I love her!
7.  Vintage embroidery pattern with a chick on it's head!  Sheepy vintage love!
8.  Exceptionally talented, Elsa Mora, created this adorable papercut of Mary and her little lamb.
9.  The Purl Bee is my go-to place for free craft ideas and sewing, crochet, and knitting patterns online.  They did not disappoint with this soft knit bauble lamb tutorial.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lamb How To Tuesday and an Announcement

     It has been a three year tradition at Swan Bay Farm to celebrate the birth of our lambs.  People seem to be surprised that lambs are born in the winter, but if you are going to sell them at Easter that is the way it has to be.  Also the ewes  (mom sheep) come into season when the nights start getting cooler at the end of August.  Sheep have a 5 month gestation period, so it is not unusual to have sheep born on the coldest, most stormy days of the year.  It is a pristine time to be born, no bugs, just cool crisp air.    Best case scenario, I go outside to feed the sheep in the morning and one, two, or sometimes even three little lambs are up following their mama, looking for a little snack of sheep milk.  Sometimes I have to put on my sheep midwife hat (and gloves) and deliver lambs.  Most of the time it works out fine.  
     The first time I had to deliver a lamb, I could see that the mom sheep was laying on her side having a rough time.  I knew that lambs come out front feet first, which makes the lamb as narrow as possible in the shoulders, but what I saw was a foot and a nose.  I quickly called up the woman I had bought the sheep from and asked her what to do and she told me that I knew what to do, now go do it.  I was not so sure she was right, but somehow, when she gave me permission I got the courage that I needed to deliver my first lamb.  
     This is not the "How-to" you were expecting.  I had to reach inside of the mom and find another foot, and gently start coaxing the lamb out, front feet first, head and shoulders, the belly and back legs.  I put this GIGANTIC lamb next to his mom who immediately started to make quiet little baa-ing noises to him and started to lick him.  I named him Heffer.  It looked like he would be ok.  As I was watching this tender bonding moment, the mom sheep made a funny noise and squeezed out another little tiny black girl lamb, half the size of Heffer.  Her name would be Midget.   I never imagined in my life that the title of sheep midwife would be added to the things I could list in my obituary, but it is.

     The first year we had Lamb Celebration Day, I decided that since it is always cold when the lambs are born we should serve hot chocolate and (since I love people with food) lamb cookies.  Here is the recipe:

Lamb Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup butter           1 cup sugar
2 eggs                       1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour        1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
     Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Blend in flour, baking powder, and salt.  Put into a zip lock bag and chill at least 1 hour.  Roll dough 1/8" thick and cut into a sheep using a cookie cutter.  (of course if you don't have a sheep cookie cutter you will have to change the name of the cookie).  Place onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 6-8 minutes or until very light brown.  (Makes about 4 dozen 3" cookies)
Let cookies cool then frost and decorate however you like.

This recipe is for a quadruple batch of sugar cookies.  You can do the math if you are making less cookies or save the rest of the frosting for a cake or more cookies later.
   Mix together:
1 stick butter flavored Crisco
1tsp salt
1Tbs vanilla
2 Tbs Clear Karo Syrup
1/2 cup water
2 pounds confectioner's sugar

You can also take this frosting recipe, divide it into some bowls,  and add food coloring mixing until evenly distributed.   Hand your child a little paint brush for each color and let them paint the cookies with the colored frosting.

Now for the Announcement: something for you to look forward to.... On Sunday, May 5th we will be having Sheep Shearing Day.  Our very special sheep shearer, Hoyt Emmons, will be arriving about 2:00 to remove all of the sheep's wooly fleece.  He is a wonderful teacher and will explain to everyone everything you might want to know about this yearly event.  The wool will be used to make yarn, clothing, and felted items for a whole year, until it is time to shear again.  There will be more details as the time gets closer.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Traditions: Lambs!

As March marches on, we are cashing in its annual promise and moving from lions to lambs.  It may be a little early to start celebrating the transition to milder weather, but looking ahead is what gets me through these final days leading up to the season of Spring (or to those of us in New England, Muck Season: the soppy thaw between snow and sun).  Nevertheless, there are still things to celebrate.  For one, this time of year brings new lambs to Swan Bay Farm!
Growing up on the farm, lambing season is always an exciting time.  You never know what you're going to get.  Now, when I am pregnant, I want to know everything about the baby as soon as it is growing inside of me: gender, name, eye color, personality, favorite song, future vocational path, how often they'll call me when they go off to know...the basics.  Because I like to be mentally prepared.  But when it comes to lambing, I'm much more comfortable with the anticipation of not knowing.  Boys or girls?  Black or white?  Singles or twins...or triplets?  We don't exactly ultrasound the sheep.  So we never know.  We don't know how many we'll get, how many we'll keep, who will be the strongest, who will have the best wool, if we'll lose any of the moms or the babies in the process...  It is all a big mystery.

I suppose there's something mysterious in all the seasons--the open adventure and limitless possibilities of summer days, the emerging brilliant colors of fall, the stillness of winter as if the world is holding its breath--but as spring emerges, mysteries are carried on every breeze and held in every budding tree.  New life bursts into bloom.  It's a fresh start for the whole of creation.  It is completely beyond our control, and yet it happens every year.  The earth begins again.  It's a reminder to me that no matter how long winter was, no matter how loudly it roared, the One who is both the Lion of Judah and the Lamb who was slain is seated on the throne, doing His work of making all things new.

At Swan Bay, our annual tradition is to celebrate the coming of spring by welcoming lambs into the flock.  We recognize that it may not be feasible for you to imitate that particular tradition (although, if you would like to start your own lambing tradition, I know a shepherdess who could get you started with a flock.)  :o)  But there are plenty of other ways to celebrate the annual emergence of new life.  You could plant a garden.  You could plan a trip to a national park or forest preserve.  You could take a "mental health day" on the first day of nice spring weather.  (Alright, maybe that's not a very "responsible" idea.) You could get a pet or raise a butterfly from a caterpillar or go to the zoo.  Whatever you do as March turns from lion to lamb, I invite you to embrace life in all its mysterious beauty.

Yes, that is probably where this post should wrap up.  But all this talk of lions and lambs...I just can't resist introducing you to my favorite lion-lamb-related story.  Meet Lambert the Sheepish Lion.  You're welcome.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday for the kids...In like a lion.....

Every day (when it's not raining or too cold) we head to the playground for some after school energy release.  The boys run around and play with their friends, inventing new games like Star Wars tag,  ninja Spiderman, or chasing witches to destroy them with water-shooting magic wands.  The parents try to catch up, having abbreviated conversations between chasing the littles (who are trying to escape the mulched area, desperately trying to reach the enticing parking lot) or assisting a kid up the rock wall.  We often bring snacks to share.  Usually I grab a bag of goldfish before running out the door, or if I'm really motivated, I'll bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  But, since we're celebrating March this week, I decided to bring a snack that the kids could make and eat together.  Here is our recipe for Cheesy lions.

* Babybel cheese for each kid
* Pretzel sticks
* Raisins
* Carrots cut into triangles (see directions below)
* Food coloring marker (I had orange and black.)

Before you go to the the playground, wash, peel, and slice a carrot like so.
Trim the rounded edges off to make a triangle.  You need one triangle per lion.
When I got to the playground, all of the kids washed their hands, gathered around the picnic table, and received a plate.

Unwrap the Babybel cheese and remove the red wax layer as well.

Press carrot "nose" into the center of the cheese.

Press pretzel sticks into the sides all around the cheese to form the mane.  Some kids broke the pretzels in half to make a shorter mane, others decided to leave the pretzels whole.

Jesse, showing off his lion so far.

Use a pretzel stick to make holes for the eyes.  Press in raisins into the prepared "sockets."  Use food coloring markers to make the mouth and whiskers.
The finished products....  The kids really enjoyed making and eating their own little lions!

Happy first day of March!!!!