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Flowers are one of my favorite ways to infuse life and beauty into our home. While I hope to grow a picking garden of my own some day, more practically in this part of life, I set aside a bit of our grocery budget each week and pick up a few simple blooms for our table or nightstands or kitchen sink. Flowers make my heart hum and help cultivate my sense of home and emotional well-being, but when it comes to arranging flowers, it always feels a bit more like trial and error. My arrangements often appear hopelessly amateur. In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend in the US, I asked my talented friend Jessica Jill of Ivy Florals to share some of her secrets for creating a beautiful bouquet with market blooms. You can also find her gorgeous work on Instagram.


This weekend, I put together a quick bouquet for Mother’s Day, something simple, yet lovely, like my mother herself. As a wedding/event florist, I often use wholesalers for flowers, but to create small or single arrangements, I often run to the nearby grocery store. Luxe brand grocers will often have a larger variety, but markets of every sort have started carrying more and more varieties of flowers to meet the growing demand, such as those little pale pink, nodding heads shown above, Scabiosa. Grocers are also beginning to put together little bouquets called “designer bunches” that have everything you need to make a dynamic arrangement on your own. But don’t be afraid to use a mixture of market flowers and foliage straight from your own yard! 

When purchasing flowers from the grocery store, there are five vital things to consider for your design to have structure & character. I learned these from The Flower Recipe Book by Studio Choo.

Base Foliage | Greenery, get something that fills space easily & something else that adds form. In my arrangement, I used Cherry Laurel (snipped from a tree by my house) and a Grapevine (also snipped by my house)!

Base Flowers | Hydrangeas, Roses, something that fills spaces with color!

Focal Flowers | Lilies, or something that draws the eye, has interesting form, and is just nice to look at. 

Secondary Flowers | Carnations, Scabiosa, usually a flower with longer stems that can encourage shape in the arrangement

Bits| Fern, smaller flowers or greenery that fill space with a softer texture

As far as picking the color of your flowers goes, get what makes you smile. You’ll be surprised how well your eye naturally picks colors that look good together.

Once you get home from the store, processing the flowers is very important! For processing, you will need some snips or floral scissors. Once you have your stems, snip snip snip those stems at a 45 degree angle, remove any foliage that might end up in the water when you begin to arrange & get them in some warm water ASAP. Also make sure to pull off any decaying leaves/petals to help the flowers last longer & look their best!

An outlier is roses, I usually dehydrate my roses for a couple hours before I start designing. This makes their petals more apt to open up to a big bloom with a little help from you. This helps turn the roses from tight, traditional-looking blooms, to fresh from the garden-looking blooms with gorgeous heads.

Having good floral product is only the start of how to DIY your own arrangements. In this post, I’m going to run you through some design tips on how to turn a bag full of flowers into something like you see above!

Find a beautiful vase | To start yourself off well, find a super cool vase. Be creative. My vase is really a dessert bowl I transformed by adding my little frog.

Place a floral pin frog | Honestly, with a little  help from floral pin frogs, you can turn any watertight object into a home for your blooms. You can get floral pin frogs online or from a craft store. They’re reusable and invaluable for arrangements. I usually just place my frog in the vase without any sort of adhesive but if you have heavier blooms, it might be a good idea to use some floral clay to stick it to the inside of the vase.

Add warm water | After you add your frog, add a little warm water to the mix & you’re got a solid base for your arrangement! When adding flowers to the arrangement, a pin frog is easy to use. You simply press the stem into the pins until the flower or greenery stands the way you want it to. Next, you get to start the fun part! DESIGNING!

Start with Your Greens | And don’t be afraid to add a lot. You want to use your greens to both establish a shape for your design but also cover your mechanics ie your pin frog. I usually evaluate the form of the greens & place more upright greens on one end of the design & more “droopy” greens on the other. This “S” shape helps draws the eye through your entire design. Keep this thought in mind during your entire time designing, even when you start adding your flowers. Upright on one side, droopier on the other. After you add your greens & get an established shape, you can start adding in flowers.

Add focal flowers | Focal flowers first because their placement is very important. You want them front & center. The lily in my arrangement is my focal flower. Note how it is the first thing your eye is drawn to when you look at the photo. When adding in focal flowers, I usually take three nice, open blooms and place them strategically in the arrangement. I usually keep some closed blooms off to the side to add in later. This adds a story to your design where you can include more than one life cycle of the flower in the arrangement. Also – in a couple days, those closed blooms will open & add some second day zest to your gift! I place one in the very front close to the rim of the vase, facing me, almost looking me in the face. I then place another focal flower, one that is a little droopier on one side of the arrangement. If you don’t have a droopy bloom, you can angle the flower to where it looks droopy by pinning it at an angle in the pin frog. Lastly, I place the third focal flower upright on the other side of the arrangement.

Add base flowers | Once you have your 3 focal flowers added, you can move on to adding your base flowers. I usually mimic the placement of base flowers, close to or behind the focal flowers to keep with the shape of the arrangement. I used the roses & hydrangeas as my base flowers in this design. Base flowers are also used to cover mechanics that you can still see even after foliage & focal flowers have been added. They’re very helpful in filling out the inside center of the arrangement so that when the design is looked at from above, It is not empty-looking.

Dehydrate Roses | This step is where rose processing I wrote about above, comes in. In my arrangement, I dehydrated my roses for 2 hours, then began to pull back the petals, softly bending them until I felt a soft pop from the center of the rose and the petal stayed splayed out.

Add in secondary flowers | After that, add in your secondary flowers. I used Scabiosa & Carnation as mine. Use these to enhance the shape that you’ve created. Again, droopier ones on one side, upright on the other!

Finish with bits | Lastly, add your bits. Use intuition & your eye to know where to place these. Areas that seem empty or boring to your eye are ideal places for these. I used fern as my bits. The soft texture of ferns is ideal for bits! Other things that could be bits or “fillers” as some grocery stores call them are chamomile, baby’s breath, daisy mums etc. Be mindful when caring for bits, that their stems need to be fully submerged in water. They’re delicate & usually need good water intake so that they don’t wilt.

Finishing touchesNow, you’re done! Take a look at your design. If you see any holes or places where your eye stops, use those leftover closed or less open blooms to fill in that space. You can also add leftover base flowers if you think you need it. Remember to trust your eyes. If you like the way something is looking, go with it! Something I love about being a florist is the freedom that comes with working with beautiful product. The flowers speak for themselves, so no matter what you create, it will hold beauty. Your design is there to enhance what already makes the heart soar.

Maintain freshness | To keep your arrangement fresh for longer, check the water daily to make sure all stems are submerged & the water is clean. If flowers start to decay, remove them. Some flowers will stay fresh longer than others so it is important to check on your design, making sure shorter vase-life flowers are not causing other flowers with longer vase-life to die quickly as well. If you leave decaying flowers in the vase with fresh ones, a hormone is release from the decaying flowers that causes decay to speed up in the rest of the flowers as well! Best of luck to you in your designing endeavors. 

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It may sound silly, but gift wrapping is one of my favorite parts of gift giving. It is the icing on the cake, the thoughtful finishing detail to what I always hope is a thoughtful gift. That said, like many other areas in our life, I have paired down this process over the years, opting for more economical and ecological options to create less waste. As it turns out, simplicity and economy can be just as beautiful as all the glittery frills. Today, I’m partnering with Mpix to share a few ways I am using nature and photographs this season to beautifully and economically wrap our gifts.Holiday Gift Wrap, three WaysHoliday Gift Wrap

WRAPPING BASICS

sturdy craft paper and natural twine / For starters, I keep a large roll of sturdy craft paper (found at most hardware stores) and natural twine on hand at all times. Having a natural colored base allows for versatile, seasonal details based on the holiday or celebration at any point in the year. Plus, with craft paper, there’s the opportunity to transform it to kindling, coloring paper, or a craft project after the gift has been unveiled. Another option might be to use small swaths of cloth or cloth bags for wrapping.

washi tape / It’s easy to find washi tape anywhere these days, the dollar store to high end paper stores. I like to keep a couple around for my children’s artwork and crafts, but they come in handy for taping branches or photos to gift wrap, too. Wink.

twigs with colorful leaves or berries / This is an excellent way to include children in gift wrapping. They can help search for fallen leaves or twigs, or even learn how to prune a few on their own. In the past, I have also snipped stems from our Christmas tree for wrapping, but this year, we gathered a few bits from our nature walk earlier this week––colorful cedar branches and assorted tree berries.

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PHOTOS, THREE WAYS

photo prints / For friends and family who might who might appreciate an updated family picture for a frame or even a landscape from a favorite trip during the year, try taping an image to the wrapping or tucking it in the twine. I used double-sided tape on some and washi tape on others. Double-check the washi tape first to make sure it won’t ruin the photo paper. Pair smaller natural accents with larger images and vice versa for images that take up less space. Use natural pieces that complement the colors in your photo. I loved how the orange cedar complimented the sunrise in one of my images.

photo magnets / A medium sized photo magnet can be ideal for minimalist family members or those who love to keep images on their fridge. They’re strong enough to hold a piece of paper, too. So if you have littles, this might couple well with a handmade card or Christmas drawing. I used washi tape for the photo magnets, accompanied with purplish leaves that complemented the images.

mini-photo gift tags / You know those little scraps of paper leftover during the wrapping process? Tape a mini-photo to a piece of torn scrap paper and use it as a gift tag! I hole-punched the paper and used twine to tie with a small branch. Write a small message on the back and presto! It’s something special for the recipient to keep and more economical than purchasing pre-made gift tags.

Happy wrapping, friends!

 


This post is sponsored by Mpix, a photo lab based in Kansas, committed to quality printing services. All images and thoughts are my own. 

In the Kitchen with Sarah Hart

“In the Kitchen” is a series celebrating the family table––the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we share it all. Each edition welcomes a new voice to this conversation on kitchen life and food, and today, I welcome Sarah Hart, the talented every-woman behind the Home is Where the Hart Is  Instagram and blog. Sarah is the mother of four boys in the suburbs of New York City, who appreciates the kitchen for the solitude it offers as much as the family togetherness. Her kitchen is a touchpoint to the past and also a place to enjoy holiday crafts, which she’s sharing with us today. Welcome, Sarah!


Spending time in the kitchen during the holidays is one of my most favorite things, especially when the kids are involved. The smells, the twinkly lights, the greens and holiday tunes playing in the background make for a cozy spot to create wonderful holiday memories and traditions.  Because I love the holidays so much, I don’t stop at the Christmas tree when decorating our home.  Instead, I like to add little touches throughout our entire home, especially in the kitchen since it’s where I spend the majority of my time.  Little touches like old Santa mugs that belonged to my grandmother and our elf Chippy really add some cheer to the space.

One of my favorite simple ways to decorate is by drying orange slices in the oven and using them for garland or ornaments.  I usually hang the oranges somewhere in the kitchen, but this year I decided to add them to the garland that surrounds our front door and used the leftovers for ornaments on the tree.  The great thing about these dried oranges is that they will usually last you more than one year if you store them in an air-tight container.

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I have a confession to make before I share this “recipe” with you: as much as I enjoying spending time in the kitchen with my boys, sometimes that time isn’t always the most relaxing. There’s often bickering about who gets to crack the egg or who’s turn it is to stir.  There’s also often a lot of mess, which is totally fine, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nice to have a kitchen activity we can ALL participate in without fighting or tears, and that won’t end with me cleaning flour off the ceiling.  Just make some hot chocolate for back up in case anyone is feeling a little Scrooge-y.

In the Kitchen with Sarah HartIn the Kitchen with Sarah Hart

OVEN-DRIED ORANGE SLICES

I found this recipe from Martha Stewart (who else) years ago that I use as a guideline:

1 navel orange

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat.  Top with orange slices in a single layer, and generously dust with sugar.  Bake until the peels are dry and the flesh is translucent, about 2 1/2 hours.

Just a few notes here:  I use whatever oranges I have sitting on my counter leftover from my Thanksgiving turkey prep.  Sometimes I line my baking sheets, sometimes I don’t.  I have never dusted them with sugar, but they still look beautiful to me when they come out of the oven.  Also, I find I need to bake them for closer to 4 hours to get them the way I really like them.  But like I said, you can use this recipe as a guideline.  A helpful tip though: let the oranges sit out on the counter for a day or two after they come out of the oven so they can harden up a bit, then you can simply string them up with some twine or ribbon, or insert ornament hooks directly through the flesh for hanging.

Whether hanging from your kitchen window or on your tree, strung up around your front door or displayed in a pretty jar, these oranges are just so festive and cheerful to me.  As pretty as they are though, it’s the tradition behind them and the process of making them with my family that really makes them so special.  Happy Holidays!
In the Kitchen with Sarah HartIn the Kitchen with Sarah Hart


All images and words by Sarah Hart for Cloistered Away. You can find more from Sarah on Instagram @homeiswherethehartis and her blog Home is Where the Hart Is. Thank you, Sarah!

handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-5handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-6 handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-2handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-4Although I love sharing and receiving gifts for special occasions, my favorite gifts are the ones shared for no reason at all. Don’t you love receiving random gifts from others? Maybe a stranger in line before you purchases your coffee or maybe a friend drops by a new candle or a neighbor leaves you a baked good. While small, these thoughtful acts can shift the course of our day. They gently remind us we’re seen.

This last weekend, my sister and I arranged bare branches, succulents, and candles across our backyard tables for Liam’s birthday, when she had the lovely idea to wrap some grasses I had purchased for our yard and use them, too. I tend to always keep some craft paper and twine around the house for these sort of ideas, and with several hands to help, we had added just the right mixture of textures to the table for early fall. These hand-wrapped plants would also be the perfect way to surprise a friend or a neighbor with a little gift for their own table this season.

The project is simple enough for the smallest of hands and the materials needed are quite simple, too: craft paper, twine, scissors, and a small plant or cutting flowers from a garden. You might also consider drafting a brief note to attach or adding a drawing/painting from your child. Discuss together with your children who might like a new plant for their table, or who might simply need a gift from a friend? These small gifts can remind us all to pay attention to those around us, especially to those around us who may need a reminder that they’re seen.

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Rolling beeswax candles is perhaps one of my children’s favorite activities for the home, a task that needs tending more often in the autumn and winter seasons here. Most days, rolled candles array our mantle or tabletop, ready to light whenever the mood of our home needs a little twinkle––whether a family meal or a hum-drum school day. And every Friday night, when the kids set the table for our family Sabbath meal, the candles neatly wedge between our food and plates and flowers. I keep spare sheets in our bureau near the dining table, to quickly roll in a pinch, as they also make the perfect handmade gift for a loved one, a new neighbor, or a seasonal celebration of any sort.

With a little guidance, even preschool children can help with this activity. I’ve purchased this set several times and have never had any trouble with broken sheets or brittle-ness. And of course they always smell divine. It’s a nice starter set, as it includes everything you need, but I do recommend you also purchase an extra spool of wick, as we tend to run out of the pre-packaged wick before the wax sheets. I’ve considered contacting the same company to see if they offer an option to purchase only the wax sheets, but I haven’t done so yet. It seems silly to keep purchasing the same set when we have wick already.

We usually half the large wax sheets into smaller squares, which I recommend unless you’re looking to create particularly long or wide candles. I also encourage my children to keep their fingers straight and to roll slowly like dough––gentle, but tight rolls––as they initially want to use their finger tips to push and sometimes fold the wax instead of rolling it. This has happened a couple of times, and we’ve simply massaged the wax back together into a roll.

Sometimes I prefer the tidy, smooth lines of a tapered beeswax candle, which you can purchase nearly anywhere now. If you prefer the same, especially for special holiday meals later in the season, I’ve purchased and loved these. This fall, I hope to melt and dip our own candles with the kids, a more occasional activity as it requires more time and clean-up. I would love to hear if you have any favorite beeswax sources, for sheets or lumps of wax? I’m sure other readers would like to hear, too.

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Last weekend, Olive and I built a couple of small vintage-styled poster frames together for their room. We’ve had a few Cavallini posters around our home, tightly rolled up, waiting to be hung for a while, and I finally decided to do something with them. It was such a quick and easy project, I thought I’d share it here with you, as it would be a perfect way to add some pretty visuals and freshen up your your school or play space for the new school year. Either way this project is easy enough to do with your children or during a nap time.

The supply list is minimal and inexpensive. We used pieces of scrap wood leftover from the girls’ loft bed project, but you could easily use small wood dowels, too. And although we only used one piece at the top, opting to let the poster hang freely, it’s possible for you to attach a wood piece to the bottom of the poster for a more tidy finish. I found this spool of the thin rope at the dollar store, although a sturdy baking or jute twine will work well, too. We used regular transparent tape this time which worked well-enough, but I’d recommend double-sided tape for a firmer finish, to keep the poster from dangling off of the wood.

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SUPPLIES WE USED:

  • 1 -2 wood pieces/dowels cut to the length of the poster (2, if you plan to use one at the top and bottom)
  • thin rope, jute, or sturdy baking twine for hanging
  • double-sided transparent tape
  • a drill
  • measuring tape (optional)
  • poster
  • pencil
  • scissors

STEPS:

  1. Measure and cut the wood to match the length of the poster. Decide whether you want the wood to overhang or to be flush with the poster edge.
  2. Mark a dot on each end of the wood piece, approximately 3/4″ from the edge.
  3. Drill a hole through each dot.
  4. Cut two feet of rope, threading each end of the rope through each hole in the wood.
  5. Before tying off the rope, use your finger to create a triangle with the rope, estimating how long you want the poster to hang from the nail.
  6. Double-tie the rope and trim off the excess.
  7. Using the double-sided tape, adhere the poster to the wood, so that the front of the poster meets with the back of the wood piece. Repeat for the bottom part of the poster, if doing so.
  8. Hang it on the wall!

 

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We didn’t plant a spring garden this year, minus a few yukon gold potato plants (which we’ve already harvested) and a handful of herbs. The spring felt heavy with projects around our home, and I felt the need to let the soil and my management of it rest for a season. In reality, I’m a novice gardener, learning most often though trial and error (more of the latter, I’m afraid), tons of internet research, and the simple practice again and again. I hope bringing my children into the learning process will teach them something practical about botany and science. More abstractly, I want them to learn how to patiently wait and tend small beginnings, and also to cultivate life.

After opting to rest our garden space this season, my sister mentioned letting our autumn garden go to seed, a new process for our home. The children are generally familiar with the work of seeds at this point and the assortment of sizes we find at our local farm store, but we’ve never seen them grow from the vegetable plant itself. This was the perfect year to try.

Our broccoli plants were hearty this year and produced well, so we opted to begin there. For weeks the stalks extended, shooting a stray broccoli floret that if left untouched would flower with the gentlest yellow blooms. Sometimes we would eat them anyway and find them just as tender. Nibbling vegetables straight from the garden is a simple life pleasure. After a while, the plant began to make slim bean pods, like a miniature sugar snap pea or green bean. We left them on the stem to dry out right on the plant. This process took a few weeks. When we noticed the pods turn a golden straw color, it was time to collect the seeds. The boys were away that afternoon, so the girls and I enjoyed the easy task of plucking pods and emptying seeds into a bowl on our own. It was a simple task for a child of any age to enjoy. The dried pods easily pried open to release the minuscule black seeds. For simplicity, we used a bowl, and afterward I funneled the seeds into a small, air-tight glass jar which I’ll store in our pantry until the autumn planting season. Although it’s still early in the summer growing season for running to seed, I thought I’d share a few tips for any of you wanting to save your seeds later.

Collect heirloom seeds only. / Apparently, hybrid plants are often genetically programmed to be sterile after one season, so the harvested seeds may not sprout next season. If you generally plant hybrid seeds, consider trying one heirloom plant to collect seeds from next season.

Allow seeds to dry on the plant. / It can take longer for seeds to dry out after plucking, so allow the sun and air to do the work for you. Let them dry before you pick them.

Plan ahead for seed saving. / Not all plants produce seeds the first growing season. Also if I had planted a spring garden, the broccoli wouldn’t have gone to seed quick enough for us to collect. According to this article, beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers are the best plants for beginning seed savers. Since tomatoes are commonly grown in this season, here’s a helpful page on saving tomato seeds.

Be patient. / This part of the process takes just as much patience as waiting for the first fruits. I will note: it didn’t require quite as much work in the waiting.

 

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When children are very young, they have natural curiosities about the world and explore them, trying diligently to figure out what is real. As they become “producers ” they fall away from exploration and start fishing for the right answers with little thought. They believe they must always be right, so they quickly forget mistakes and how these mistakes were made. They believe that the only good response from the teacher is “yes,” and that a “no” is defeat. ― John Holt, How Children Fail

I often receive questions from parents, wondering if we will homeschool our children in high school, or how I will teach them more complex maths or sciences. I truly don’t know the answer to either of those questions right now. Yet my years of experience thus far have taught me this: teaching my children from home doesn’t require that I know everything or even be everything for them; it simply requires a willing heart, one that will learn with them, try new things, and adapt when something isn’t working. Generally speaking, I must live in a way that models I am learning, and mistakes and struggle are a part of my process, too.

Still, this can be the most uncomfortable part of this journey for me, as I learned very young how to be what Holt refers to as an academic “producer.” I learned unconsciously how to diminish the value of process and uphold the end result instead. Right? Good. Wrong? Bad. Yes? Good. No? Bad. Inwardly and almost intuitively, I labeled mistakes as failures and naturally leaned toward the successes, often avoiding the embarrassing words “I don’t know” or “I can’t do that.” I simply wouldn’t. I like knowing. Maybe it’s due to being a first-born. Maybe it’s tied to temperament. Maybe it’s more deeply tied to my humanity, to that fruit Adam and Eve tasted so long ago. I don’t know. What I do know is the slow work of parenting and homeschooling are teaching me about the beauty of process. There are no short-cuts to the end result on this journey. There are adaptations and amendments. There are different styles and ideas to share and learn. There are endless amounts of resources and tools. Yet regardless of one’s personal family ethos or pedagogy, there is no way around the slow, unfolding work of raising and educating a child. It is the hardest, most beautiful process, but it is still a process. In a very practical way, I must choose to step forward without knowing where exactly this road ends.

For our children, these lessons begin with small, concrete experiences. How to crack an egg. How to draw a line. How to form a stitch. By introducing them to specific tools, whether a needle, a loom, a pottery wheel, or a knife, we also introduce them to the value of process. They have eyes and ears, moving bodies and strong voices, busy hands, imaginative minds and curious spirits. This, I have decided, is enough to begin any endeavor if given the right tools. The same is still true for myself. We try new things. We practice. We make mistakes. We learn something new. We meet a goal. We repeat. In a concrete way we are learning a skill. In an abstract way we are accepting a process.

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Although quite un-fancy, here are some of the ways this practice in hand and work has evolved in our own home. I imagine it will look different in your own, as it should, but sharing these little journeys somehow makes me feel less alone. Be comforted, dear reader, you are not alone.

HOW TO BEGIN

begin with a specific period of daily time | We generally have a block of time in the late morning or early afternoon, depending on the day. In the morning, my younger children work on a handcraft while I work through a Latin lesson with my oldest. In the afternoon, I set aside time to work through a new skill together. I admit, this is hard to practice. My children might carve or weave at the end of the day or during rest, a way to release the tension of the pencil work. It’s important to find when it will work best for you.

begin where you are | In our early years, we explored color beginning with primaries and blending to form secondaries and so on. Color, like numbers, is infinite. We have explored different artists and mediums of wax, various paints, chalk, charcoal, oil pastels, and so on. We used scissors and made collages or 3-D paper structures, like houses or barns for paper animals. Many of these activities I began with a book or art supplies; the children created the project.

begin with something familiar | It is most innate to begin first with what you know. If like me, it simply providing a time of playing with popsicle sticks and paper and color, begin there. If you are a seamstress or a woodworker or a painter or a ceramicist, begin there. The goal in the beginning is to form a habit of practice.

begin with a natural gift or interest  |When in doubt, begin with something small that you might enjoy and can learn alongside them. Enthusiasm is contagious. Watch how your children play or learn. Observation is the best way to begin gently leading your children in any endeavor. Offering them tools that might compliment their natural gifts can open a whole new world for them. For instance, if your child loves building play dough, try a child’s pottery wheel. If your child enjoys clothing or textiles, introduce a weaving loom or how to sew. I have listed many hand-resources we love or plan to use here.

begin with a gentle guide | Handwork is a major component of Waldorf (Rudolph Steiner) pedagogy. Although we are not strictly a Waldorf family, there’s so much to learn from their gentle rhythms of head, heart, and hands. Also, if you have the budget, consider tutors/teachers who can introduce a new skill to your children.

homeschool_handwork_waldorf-14homeschool_handwork_waldorf-5HOW TO PRACTICE

understand your child’s thresholds | Watch your children. If they seem frustrated, pause and see if there’s a way to adjust the work. When my children and I were learning basic sewing stitches last fall, my youngest was frustrated. When I watched her, I realized the details of thread and needle were too small for her yet, so I moved her to a large needle and yarn so she could control it better. I cut paperboard from a cereal box and poked holes in shapes with a large needle. And she loved it.

participate with them | This is hard. I love releasing my children to independent work, but the truth is it takes a bit of practice to learn something independently. Plus, children love working on projects or handwork with their parents. Consider this a different point of connection in your day.

choose quality tools | Choosing a quality knife or loom or paper, let’s your child know you take their work seriously. If it is a tool that belongs to them alone, and not the family, make a big deal of it. Reinforce that the tool is important to their work, and you trust them with it. (This happened when we gave our children knives.)

introduce slowly | When introducing a new skill, I like to take it in a 4-6 week block to allow practice. It also allows space for weeks we’re off routine for any reason. It also also allow enough time for them to learn to enjoy it (at the earliest stages).

discuss the larger picture | I find it helpful, especially when enthusiasm wanes, to talk with my children about the value of handwork, or a specific craft. How does one fold into another? What might be possible to do after much time practicing? How does this teach them about patience? About themselves? About community? About God? I love showing my children photos or videos of woodworkers, musicians, dancers, painters, designers, and so on. It helps them connect what small things they are learning now to a potential practice down the road.

structured independent work | Now that my children can do a few things on their own. I might assign them to choose their own handwork to do 30-60 minutes on their own. Some days, if the kids are bickering or nagging, I might send them outdoors to work with their hands, whittling or sculpting or painting. It builds structure for them to work through their emotions, but also time for them to work alone. What they produce (if anything at all) may not be useful or perfect, but again that’s not entirely the point.

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I love fresh eucalyptus, and it’s quite possible to find a bundle in a vase or drying on a wall somewhere around our home often. My children tease me that I’m trying to allure koalas, but truthfully, they’re an inexpensive way to add muted green tones and gentle fragrance to our spaces. They tend to last longer than fresh blooms and are just as lovely and fragrant when dried, which makes them as much an economical choice as an aesthetic one. That combo wins big points in our home.

The scents of a home have always felt equally as intrinsic to me as the visuals. There’s something comforting about a good, natural home scent, whether the food on the stove, the glowing winter candle, or the diffuser on the shelf. With no surprise, Mark and I have a soft spot for old homes and have always chosen the quirky charm of an old fixer-upper over the swanky new ones, but they can easily smell musty or forgotten if left alone too long, especially our closets.

Closets and drawers feel especially important in the winter home when they’re stocked with cozy knits. I imagine no one truly likes pulling a sweater over their head that smells like dust and neglect, even though many do. This season I decided to make some natural, gentle scents for our family’s closets and drawers using the dried eucalyptus leaves, dried lavender (another favorite bloom that I wish we had enough sun in our yard to grow), and essential oils.

They were quick and easy to make and easy enough for children to help, although I recommend gloves in case they are at all sensitive. I purchased the little cotton pouches at our local craft store. You can find something similar here or here, or simply sew them yourself. (I’m not quite skilled enough for that yet.) I opted for the drawstrings so I could empty and refill as needed. While more expensive or difficult to make on the front end, they seemed like a wiser choice for the long run. If you don’t have lavender growing in your yard, I usually purchase mine in bulk at our local grocer. Below I jotted down the loose measurements and process I used. I’ve placed them in bureau drawers or simply hung a few on hangers in the closets. (Parents: please read the note below.)

5 dried eucalyptus stems

2 cups of dried lavender

lavender and eucalyptus essential oils

small cotton drawstring pouch

bowl and spoon for mixing

hand blender or food processor to chop the eucalyptus leaves more finely

Lightly hand wash and air out purchased pouches ahead of time. Strip the eucalyptus branches and crush the leaves to release a bit of scent. Mix together with the lavender. Add 5 drops of each essential oil and mix again with a spoon. Fill the pouches to your liking. I folded the top of the pouches over to make them a bit smaller. It should make 6-8 pouches.

A SPECIAL NOTE: If you’re adding these sachets to a child’s closet or bureau, make sure they are out of reach or that children who are old enough know not to open, touch, or eat the contents. With babies, simply hang in their closet or wardrobe to more gentle diffuse the scents. Their skin may be too sensitive for the sachets to rub directly on their clothing.