With Spring only three weeks away (wahoo!) it might seem a little silly to be sharing some of the things I made for Winter but, well, here they are anyway. This is a mélange of images from various times throughout the Winter season. This season I tried adding arms and hands to my peg doll gnomes, and it was a big hit with certain small persons who live in this house. The little felted mouse in a basket was made by my friend Tarah and no children are allowed to touch it (j/k…maybe).
Today is the Feast of St. Brigid, the patron saint of Ireland. My mom’s side of the family has a great deal of Irish ancestry and I’m always looking for ways to incorporate the celebrations of the Christian year into our lives, so I thought we might do a little something to celebrate the St. Brigid’s day. St. Brigid was born in Ireland about 450 A.D. She and her parents were baptized by St. Patrick, with whom Brigid maintained a close friendship. In her adult life she started many convents and became the first Abbess of Ireland. She also founded a school of art at which many famous illuminated manuscripts were created, including the Book of Kildare. Many miracles are attributed to St. Brigid.
For our celebration we made St. Brigid’s Sweet Bannock (see recipe below), and we also made some St. Brigid’s Crosses out of pipe cleaners. This is such an easy craft — even a three year old can do it! I used this tutorial. We also read a lovely book called Brigid’s Cloak , written by Bryce Milligan with watercolor pictures by Helen Cann. This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Brigid’s overwhelming generosity toward those in need, and the origins of her miraculous cloak. The bannock took virtually no time to prepare, and the crosses were a nice afternoon craft for the kids. Feasts and festivals don’t have to involve an overwhelming amount of work — little celebrations can be just as meaningful as big ones.
St. Brigid’s Sweet Bannock, adapted from a recipe by Tressabelle
½ cup salted butter (1 stick)
¼ cup honey
2 cups white or wheat flour (I used whole wheat which made a very dense bannock)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup rolled oats
¼ – ½ cup buttermilk (you can make this using regular milk with a bit of vinegar)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and honey together. Mix the dry ingredients together and stir into the butter-honey mixture. Add buttermilk until a dough forms (I need a little over ¼ cup). Roll into a ball and flatten onto a greased cookie sheet. Cut a cross into the top with a knife. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
Brave little fighters, go on with your battle–
Here is a friend who will welcome you all!
Fly to my window–I’ll feed every comer–
Hail to the comrades that constancy show
Loving and loyal, in winter and summer–
With us, alike, in the heat and the snow!
— From “Winter Birds” by Andrew Downing
I’ve always wanted to have bird feeders at my house, but winter after winter went by and I never got around to doing anything about it. But, this year I was determined to have them, and I really wanted Zane to be involved in making the feeders because that’s right up his alley — wood, tools, birds? — sign him up! Papa (my dad) graciously cut out all of the pieces for us and helped Zane to put them together. Now we have bird feeders! We already had some hooks outside several of the windows in the house so we put our feeders there — it’s so neat to be able to see the birds up close. It’s been thrilling for everyone (especially the cat). I’ve taken some “portraits” of a few of our feathered visitors; I love that they all seem to have their own personalities and, my goodness, they are adorable! Thank you, Papa, for making our bird-loving dreams come true! xoxo[Most of these were taken with my 50mm lens, but the close-up was done with my 70-200mm, which is really the right lens for the job.] If I’ve identified them correctly — thank you, Roger Tory Peterson — then I believe these birds are, in order of appearance: Common Redpoll, Acanthis flammea; Pine Siskin, Spinus pinus; Tufted Titmouse, Baeolophus atricristatus; Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura.
A few months ago I decided that this year I wanted my children to have a nativity that was artistic and beautiful, but also durable enough to be touched and played with. I looked around online and found many lovely nativity sets, but they were all upwards of $200-$300! Around the same time I started experimenting with making peg dolls for Zane’s nature table. I thought to myself, wouldn’t these peg dolls make an interesting nativity? One thing I don’t have is tons of cash, but I do have some free time (occasionally) and I love to make things, so I gave it a shot. I didn’t use any patterns; I just created their faces and clothes as I worked on each one. I’m so happy with the finished product, and I hope my children enjoy looking at it and playing with it for years to come. Right now we just have out the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and the animals because, of course, baby Jesus has not been born yet. The wise men will come on Epiphany (January 6).[Just a note: I did not make the wooden animals; the peg doll bodies came from ArtDexi.]