Wednesday, December 24, 2008

To All My Customers - Merry Christmas!

Do you remember when you were a child? And it was Christmas? And there was magic. And the absolute certainty that anything was possible.
May you rediscover the child inside you this Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Memories Feed The Imagination

"Memory feeds the imagination," says author Amy Tan. "The best thing we can give our children, next to good habits, are good memories," says author Sydney Harris. We gave our son a good memory over the weekend. He had the chance to sail on the Leeuwin Sail Training Ship for the weekend. These pics were taken after the voyage, when he returned today.He even steered the boat out of the harbour and in again, hauled sails and furled them again. He loved it and can't wait to go back on again.
He he is with his watchleader.One more quote; "The memories we collect, and give, brighten our lives as long as we live," (author unknown).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Crochet Christmas Pudding

I didn't use any sort of pattern for this; I simply crocheted a cap, like a doll's wig, starting off with the cream color wool "brandy sauce", then adding the brown speckled wool until I had almost a sphere. I added wool stuffing and a stone at the bottom, then sealed it by completing the crochet stitch. As for the holly, I just crocheted and knotted the wool until it resembled holly.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thy Light Is Glowing: Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia,
thy light is glowing
Through darkest winter night,
comfort bestowing.
Dreams float on dreams tonight,
Comes then the morning light,
Santa Lucia,
Santa Lucia.
Today is Santa Lucia Day. St Lucia was a girl who was killed by the Romans for being a Christian. Legend has it that her ghost used to lead Christians fleeing persecution through the catacombs under Rome with her eyes on a tray, and a wreath of candles, leading the way to safety. Read more here: here are some St Lucia dolls I made with silk dresses and silk-tops for hair.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Happy St Nicholas Day

The best children's party in Perth, if you have any Dutch heritage, is the annual Dutch Club's "St Nicholas Party". My husband's parents are Dutch, so I restarted this tradition in their family, and it's so much fun. St Nick is accompanied by "Black Peter", but at this party he has at least 4 of them. First St Nick goes around and greets everyone and asks if you've been good, while the Black Peters give out lollies and ginger bread biscuits to all the kids. Then he gets out this huge red book with a gold cross on it to check to see if any naughty children's names are written in there, and he then announces: "No children have been written in my book, so you will all get a present." The kids are called one by one to receive their present. Some kids have to have a further test to see if they've been good; Black Peter puts a sack over their heads and my husband thinks that the tradition with that is to see if a piece of black coal falls out. If it doesn't then the child gets a present. I had to have a quick word in Black Peter's ear not to put the sack over my son's head, or he would have probably freaked out! They usually have a magician but this one seemed to have vanished before we even saw him. But we had a good time anyway.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nativity Scene - Waldorf Style

Here is the Nativity Scene I made using 15cm wood and wire dolls:

Mary is wearing a red silk dress with a blue cloak and Joseph has a felt tunic and blue felt cloak. Baby Jesus is lying on a manger made from cinnamon sticks. The donkey and ox are made from felt. I put the LED lights inside the stable and around the scene. My son keeps switching it to flashing effects so itlooks like a disco! The "hay" is made from some silver-gold stuff I got from a Christmas shop that is supposed to go on the Christmas tree, but I thought it looked pretty cosmic in the stable (especially with disco lights!):

Here are my three Magi: Baltazar, Kaspar and Melchior. They are dressed in silk, and the camel is made from wool felt:

The shepherds' clothes are made from wool felt and I have knitted small waistcoats for two of them, and a crocheted cap for two of them.

The angel has a dress made from silk and her hair is made from silk tops. She has wings also made from silk:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Gnome

I got the idea for this little fella from the book: Gnomes .
He is made from the 15cm wood and wire doll and dressed in felt clothing. The ears are made from tiny pieces of tricot cut out and stuck to the side of his head.

Waldorf Story Books and Autism

Social impairments are universal with autism. This study looks at why some people's brains are more altruistic, or socially cooperative, than others. "Cooperation does not just mean going with the flow: It involves actively helping others and participating in the reciprocal relationships that make human society possible. People can and will go out of their way to help others, even those not related to them - which seems unremarkable until one realizes that most other animals do not." Researchers then applied the theory to the study of autism: "Maybe autism represents a deficiency in the social parts of the brain that allow altruism and cooperation".
The Little Troll tells the story of a troll, stuck in his biology, where he is doomed to a tribe of trolls that are uncooperative and mean to each other. But this little troll wants something more than this wretched life. He sees the humans and longs to be like them, but doesn't know how. One day, he overhears a man telling a boy that if he doesn't help others and put others before himself, he is nothing better than a troll. The little troll has found the key that will unlock his prison - altruism. He spends the next few years helping humans and animals at every chance. The narrator says: "The more he helped others, the better he became at helping". Slowly he begins to lose his troll-like features and grow more like a human. The ending has him walking into a church where the people all say: "welcome to the world of humans". This is my all time favorite children's book.
Will the practice of altruism and cooperation remediate autism? I believe it will! Since my son was five, we have kept a Book of Good Deeds, recording every good deed he has done. Plus we encourage "random acts of kindness" as a fun thing to do, if only to pull out a weed from a neighbour's lawn. I truly think this has challenged him out of his own little world.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Shire Spring Fair

The Shire council puts on a couple of really good parties each year for its rate-payer hobbits, like us. One is the Christmas party, and the other is the Spring Fair. This year, the helicopter ride was the highlight:

I love the colour of the ocean around Perth! Alex was more interested in the control panel.
Back on the ground again, and these flowers are created from used plastic drink bottles:Alex holding a snake - something I couldn't do!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tom Thumb

This is Tom Thumb, made from a kit and pattern I got from Bear Dance Crafts I've made a few dolls from these kits. They always challenge me to learn new skills.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Remediation Through The Arts

The following activities aren't done just to fix my son, I also enjoy them! Some researchers claim that autism is due to too much connectivity in the left side of the brain, and not enough on the right (or is it the other way around?), and with minimal connections between. I'd like to think what I do helps, but even if it doesn't we have fun anyway ...
Narrative: I'm still working on this with my son. I taught him how to start a story with a main character, a goal and some obstacles. I demonstrated how most stories have a first and second "turning point". He can't write, but he dictates stories to me, and I create little "books" out of them. He also likes to try to pick the turning points in movies and stories. What does this do for autism? I think it helps them understand patterns in social interactions and activities.
Art: This is definitely not my son's strength! But I bought some of those lovely Lyra colored pencils and we sit and draw a picture together sometimes. He will only draw trains, so often I'll turn the train into something else, or create something humorous about it, ie have it skiing down a mountain, or have flowers growing out of the window. I try to open his mind to new possibilites. Also, we play a game where I do a squiggle and he has to make it into something, and we swap over. Great for increasing non-linear thinking.
Literature: Good literature is my passion! I'm sure this also infects my son as well, as I love reading to him. Currently we're reading Story of the World by S Bauer. Stories enhance the imagination, which is lacking in autism.
Theatre: We love all the plays at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre: they are amazing quality production. Our favorite so far is The Arrivaland its coming again in November. See my previous post about The Arrival here
Time: I recently realised that my son has no ability to perceive "time". I've just started on trying to teach him visually, ie by drawing a plan of the day divided up into hours.
Drama: This would be good, but still haven't done much about it ... Great for "putting yourself in another's shoes".
Theology: I help in the Sunday School class each week. Great compass for kids with SNs who might find themselves disorientated in a world of moral relativism. Also teaches kids that it's good to be good, not for a reward.
Karate: Not "arts" per se, but exactly like the DORE program, except that it's super cheap, by comparison, and a lot more fun. Plus you interact and get different colored belts!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Size Doesn't Matter

... at least to the child it doesn't. Customers often ask me what is the correct size for a doll, and shouldn't baby dolls be in proportion to the size of the child? This dilemma is a purely adult one! Children don't think of proportion in the same way as we do. In fact, they often like extremes: teeny tiny dolls, or huge enormous ones. Here are some examples from my son's toys. This family has a mother half the size of her twin boys, and a pet dog bigger than all of them: In the book The Doll People(see my previous post on this book),the family of dolls had a baby three times the size of the parents. This is mama doll telling Annabelle doll about their doll family: "(Baby Betsy) was very big, bigger even than you, Annabelle. She must have come from a different doll set. We didn't mind, of course. We already loved Baby Betsy very much ... We knew Baby Besty was meant to be ours." There is a picture of mama and papa doll carrying a giant baby.
So, even though some waldorf books out there preach about "correct sizes" for dolls for children, I don't believe there are any rules, and neither do the children. The only rule I go by is "fun"!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Bear Who Lost His Song

More photos of crafts coming soon. In the meantime, here is a story my son dictated to me. I did edit it slightly for clarity, but didn't add anything to it:

"Once upon a time there was a gummy bear and he had a song that went like this: "oh I am a gummy bear". But one day he couldn't remember his song. So he looked all over the whole world for it. He went to a puppet theatre. He drove in a car. He checked inside a trumpet. But he still couldn't find it! So he thought and thought and thought. One day he saw a fairy, and she said with her beautiful voice I will give you your song back to you, IF you go conquer the wicked giant of the east who is conquering the trains of the railway musuem in Bassendean. So he walked all the way to Bassendean and he found it and there was the giant waiting for him; he was on the traintrack. But that wasn't good because he was conquering the whole Mandurah lines. The mandurah line trains were big. Then the gummy bear took over the train and put up its electric bar and ZAP!! the giant was dead, and the gummy bear got his song back again."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

5" Frodo

Here is a tiny 5" Frodo I made today. The patterns come from Winterwood's bendy doll pattern book: except for the cape, which was just guesswork. The wooden dolls also come from Winterwood. Next, hubby is going to make a wooden Hobbit house, which I'll post pics of when it's ready.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Power of 'No' Words

"(The) speech before words is the vernacular of all beings. It is the original mother tongue, the language of paradise ... that few adults care to re-enter," says Horst Kornberger in The Power of Stories: Nurturing Childrens Imagination and Consciousness Shaun Tan's The Arrival- without words - is a captivating picture book about an immigrant who leaves his old familiar home and goes to a new land across the sea where everything's strange, from the food, the language, the writing script, the symbols, the customs ... even the plants and animals are like nothing he's ever seen before. Trains are floating ships and taxis are hot-air balloons. He has to navigate this strange land, and the story is told through the man's facial expressions and body language. The Arrival is a perfect metaphor for Autism. The social world of the autistic is just like a stranger in a new land where he can't understand what's going on. We've been going through the book page by page each night. As there are no words, only pictures, they highlight the emotions and body language of the man as he tries to make sense of his world. We love this book its expressive pictures.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Baby Turtle

We found this baby turtle on the footpath and my son begged me to bring him home just for a couple of days. It's a Snake-necked turtle.Isn't he cute?!
We made a habitat for him and researched what they eat, which is apparently anything from insects to plants. My son named him Inka.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bread - The Easy Way

I've been making bread for over 20 years and I've found many shortcuts along the way! First the recipe: 8 1/2 cups of flour (I use half wm and half white), 2T of sugar, 1t salt, about 4T dry yeast, and 800mls of warm water. You don't have to mix the yeast and water separately: that's a myth. Mix all the dry ingredients together: Make a well in the centre and pour in the water and stir until thick, then mix with your hand until you have a ball of dough to play with:
Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough spings back quickly when you pinch it:
Have your child knead a small piece of dough and create a shape (my son made a snake):
push the dough into 2 or 3 containers like this, and cover with a warm wet teatowel:Leave for at least an hour, even 2 hours in cold weather. You do NOT need to punch it down half way through the rising: that's another big myth! The proof is in the pudding, and here my loaf has more than doubled in 1 hour 15 mins without re-kneading:
You will have already set your oven to 220C, so bake in the middle of the oven for 5 mins on 220C, then reduce the heat to 190C. Bake for 25-30 mins and "voila!"Your child will love home made bread they made themselves:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Hobbit Cape

This Hobbit Cape is made from a medium-weight grey cotton jersey fabric I found in Spotlight. It hangs really well. This pic is a bit blurry, but my son got a lot of compliments when he wore it to the school performance:

And here's the doll's version:

The cape
You will need some string, some chalk and your fabric opened out on the floor. Take the string and tie a knot in one end (we'll call this the neck knot). Hold the neck knot at the back of your child's or doll's neck and then measure down to see how long you want the cape to be. Tie another knot in the string at this point (we'll call this the heel knot). Fold the fabric once width wise. Take your string and place the neck knot a the corner of the folded side. With your other hand hold the heel knot and a piece of chalk along the fold of the fabric. Keeping the string taught, chalk a quarter circle onto the fabric. To make the neckline, measure about 2.5 inches from the neck knot and make another knot. Holding the neck knot at the folded corner and the chalk in your other hand with the new neckline knot, chalk a quarter circle neck line. Cut along these two lines and you will have your cape shape.

The Hood
For the hood, I cut out 2 diamond shapes, with one side of the diamond half the size of the opening I want for the head. I machined 2 sides together, opened it out and layed it along the neckline and machined along there.

The Leaf fastener
I sewed a hook and eye at the neck. Since I couldn't find anything like a large leaf button in Spotlight, I cut some doll angel wings in half and attached it to the neck fastener.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Spring Fair!

The wildflowers are just starting to bloom and today was the Waldorf Spring Fair. Between now and Christmas is the best time of the year in Perth, Australia.

Here is my doll stall: under the gum trees and out in the open sunshine:
Here is yours truly with the dolls awaiting adoption:

This is Fran Rosenthall: the Waldorf Kindy teacher who originally taught me how to make waldorf dolls. Here she is inspecting my latest batch:

That baby looks like me! I just love the looks on the kiddies' faces;

A spring flower children dance:

Someone was selling these wooden swords and sheilds and they were a hit! Here is a young page practising dragon slayingTwo more pages and some young damsels:

A happy customer: