Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sedona - a 12 inch Mermaid Waldorf Style Doll


Sedona 2, originally uploaded by germandolls.

I just finished this doll yesterday. Not sure if I need to retake my pictures. It was in the late afternoon when took them and getting kind of dark. What do you think? Are they okay?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On Sleepovers or Slumber Parties

I am having a really hard time with the American institution of the Sleepover or Slumber party. I had never heard of the existence of such a thing until I moved to the US. What in the world is a sleepover?

photo by Julie from thiscosylife

When I was the kid growing up in Germany, the only reason one would spend the night at someone else's house would be because your parents were hospitalized or on a romantic getaway. The only place you would spend the night would be your grandma's or a relative's house. This rarely EVER happened. My parents were blessed with good health and did not take vacations often.

Let me ask you: Why would you want your child to spend the night at a perfect stranger's home? I remember the agony of my kids asking me once they started school, begging me to spend the night at so-and-so's house. After all, I already stick out like a sore thumb with my German accent. Then I also became known as that German lady who wrecks birthday parties.

I am sorry I am having such a hard time with this. I just don't see why children should be allowed to go to another kid's house and stay up all night eating candy, watching inappropriate movies, and do anything BUT sleep. I have seen the zombie-like victims of such parties at soccer games the next day...

Even better, one time this kid walks up to me, not knowing me from Adam, and says: "Can I sleep over at your house?" What in the Sam hill?

I feel bad for being the crusher of so many sleepover dreams but it took me a while to wrap my mind around this idea. I don't want to be mean or anything, I just want my kids to be safe and not worry about them getting in the middle of some bad scenario. I have actually had parents confess to me about their regrets letting a child sleepover at times. Looks like I am not alone with my fears.



Over the years I have tried to find a healthy middle ground where I can exist and my kids can still have fun. I developed some rules that make me feel better about letting my child participate in a sleepover. So hopefully all of us can >sleep like a baby< when they are away from home...

1. Knowing all members of the family and what the sleeping arrangements will be is a must for me! I don't let my child sleepover at anyone's house unless I have met both parents and the siblings. I have to be able to trust my instincts. If I have any doubts about my child's safety, I will say "No!" to the sleepover.

2. I talk to the parents about rules in their house and try to assess whether my child will get any sleep that night. If we have big event on the agenda for the next day, and I get the impression that this will be more of a "Awake-over" party, I may allow my child to go to part of the party. I pick them up after they had dinner at their friends house. They just don't do the sleep part of the party...

3. I make sure I have the parents' house and cellphone numbers and that they have mine in case of an emergency.

4. It's also a good idea to discuss what foods are being served, especially if your child has allergies or is a picky eater.

Points to consider from the child's perspective:

Is he/she emotionally ready to sleep away from home? Will my child be comfortable spending the night at another person's house?

Discuss with your child what happens in case they wake up before the family in that house does? Our kids are early risers. They are up early regardless of the time they went to bed the night before. Will they be comfortable upon waking up? What will they do when they are awake before everyone else?


I hope this little check list helps you and your kid stay safe and avoid any nightmares.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Candice - A sweet Natural Doll


candy closeup, originally uploaded by germandolls.

Just finished this cute doll. She loves the outdoors, can you tell? =)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back to School Blues...


Only last week we had so much fun collecting bugs in the yard. Now the house and garden are quiet every day. Except for the bugs who keep chirping on: Cicadas.
They have been making music all day this hot summer. How come they never run out of energy?
We collected their empty "shells" last week to see how many we could find around the house. They like to hang out on window sills, tree bark, the grape arbor, and the now empty playset.


I think we collected over 50 in all. Some shells where high up on trees and needed to be shot down with arrows. Some we could easily reach with the help of a chair.


The little kids tried them out as decorations on their shirts. How many can I put on my shirt and run around with without them falling off? I believe the record was 16. It was kind of creepy...

After all they are just empty shells. Life is gone from them - like it's gone from the house and our yard - with the kids back in school. I miss them running around the yard.


Soon the cicada's song will stop too, and everything will be completely quiet. I will miss you, Little Cicada!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Getting Ready for Holiday Season

Yay! They are finally here. I was running pretty low on business cards. I waited and waited because they are not exactly cheap. But I am sort of addicted to them:  Moo cards.

I love these little things. I finally got around to adding a couple of new designs to my business card selection. Each one of my orders inludes at least one or two of these cute cards. Start collecting!

Here is the old selection of cards:



Here is the new selection. I added two doll face closeups. What do you think?


I really liked that the new cards came in a pretty cassette type box with slots for each set of cards. Moo is cutting down on waste by sending only 1 little card board box, and you can refill your box when you run out of cards. I like that! Anybody who is into recycling and cutting down on waste is a good friend of mine. No more throwing away of the little boxes! Not that I ever did. They are such cute boxes. I will use the empties I collected and put my new cards in them. Oh no, what do I do with the new cassette box?



I love Moo! They are the coolest little business cards ever!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meine Schultüte - My School Bag




It's that time of year again. The summer is over and tomorrow my kids will head back to school. Each year I get kind of sad seeing them walk off. It's a reminder of the passage of time.

A couple of years ago I wrote this article on the NaturalKids blog about the German Tradition of the Schultuete. It just struck me I never published it here on my own blog.

What is a Schultüte? It's the curious object you see me holding in the picture above.  I present to you Ulla, aged six, on her first day of school. Even if you are a homeschooling parent you may find this little tidbit about German culture interesting.

Maybe you have spied this "object" in an up-scale toy catalogue. You may have wondered what that strange looking cone shaped thing was. Here is my explanation:

The tradition of the Schultüte (translated school bag) goes back to the early 19th Century. It started in the big cities of Jena, Dresden, and Leipzig in the states of Saxony and Thüringen. There, children were told of these wonderful bags growing on trees in teachers' houses. When the bags had grown to full size it meant that the children were ready to go to school to receive them.

This tradition eventually spread from the cities to the country side and all over Germany.

Nowadays every German child receives a Schultüte when he or she starts school. By starting school, I mean on their very first day of school in First Grade. The German school system is very different from the U.S. system. The German word Kindergarten is equivalent to what Americans call preschool. Between the ages of 3-6, most children attend Kindergarten. In my case that meant I went to a Catholic Kindergarten. It was nearly free of charge, funded by the state and church. I went there at 8 am and stayed for a few of hours every day. I never thought of it as school or daycare, though. Kindergarten was a place to socialize with other kids besides your siblings, learn how to write your name, and do crafts.


Kindergarten is then followed by Grundschule, our elementary school. To mark this very important rite of passage from Kindergarten to school, children receive the Schultüte. It is a colorful, decorated, cone shaped vessel, usually made of thick cardboard with an opening at the top. The bag is filled with school supplies, toys, and of course candy. But there is no limit to the imagination. The children receive it in the morning and carry it proudly to their school. A picture is taken in front of school. They meet the teacher and their new classmates. When the first day is over and the children get home they are allowed to open the Schultüte and see what treasures it holds.

I love this tradition and tried to recreate it for my children as best as I could. Since I could not find a Schultüte to buy in the U.S., except for the expensive Magic Cabin version, I made one myself. I found there are quite a few German websites that teach you how to make one.


My daughter absolutely loved it. I think this is such a fun way to get children excited about school and learning. Learning is like that mystery bag - you don't know what's in it until you open it!

If you have a child starting school you may want to think about giving them such a wonderful bag and tell them about this German tradition...


Happy Back to School Days!





What's in a Waldorf Salad?

Ever heard of Waldorf Salad? Since many people on my Etsy team, the NaturalKids team, make Waldorf style toys I thought it would be fun to look up the recipe and make it. The original Waldorf Salad was invented by a chef of Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. It has lots of things in it that kids love. It's pretty much a fruit salad. Just leave out the nuts if you have people in the family who have nut allergies.

"According to the American Century Cookbook, the first Waldorf Salad was created in New York City in 1893, by Oscar Tschirky, the maître d'hôtel of the Waldorf Astoria. The original recipe consisted only of diced red-skinned apples, celery, and mayonnaise. Chopped walnuts were added later to this now American classic."

Some people prefer their Waldorf salad made with yogurt, instead of mayo. I am definitely a great fan of the yogurt version. It's lighter and healthier!

Ingredients:


1 1/2 tart crisp apples (red and green mixed makes the salad look pretty)

2 stalks celery

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup fresh red grapes cut into halves

3-4 Tablespoons Greek fat free yogurt

1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

pepper and salt to taste

fresh lettuce or greens such as Romaine or Bib Lettuce


How to make it?
Chop Walnuts lightly and toast them in a pan. Whisk yogurt and lemon juice together. Add a tad of sugar. Core apples making sure to remove all the seeds. Cut apples into small bite sized pieces. Wash celery stalks and slice thinly; add walnuts and grapes. Serve on a bed of lettuce in a pretty bowl.

YIELDS: 5 to 6 servings









Saturday, August 13, 2011

International Orders


I am glad two of my international orders I shipped arrived safely this week! One traveled to Switzerland and one to Berlin. Wish I could have mailed myself in the package to Berlin! I miss it so much...


Custom mermaid outfits are always a bit tricky. You need really good measurements to make it work when the doll  can't fly in for a custom fitting...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Portofino, Italy...

I am sorry if I mislead you with my title! Unfortunately this post is not about going to Italy and having a fun family vacation...

Isn't it a bit early for the flu season? My daughter recently came down with one nasty flu bug. After 3 days of dealing with a very unhappy kid I remembered the puzzle. We had bought it for Christmas thinking it would entertain the kids over the break time, but then it ended up in a back corner in the basement.



Not sure why I got to remembering it. It certainly came in as a total blessing when reading wasn't an option and the TV meter had run out... It also brought back memories of when the kids were little and loved puzzles so much.



Now I have to say you are never too old or too young to enjoy a good puzzle. The one we got for Christmas had 750 pieces (according the box) and showed a three feet wide panorama view of Portofino, Italy. Of course, we had to look it up on the map. So we got in a little geography lesson at the same time!

At first the job was very daunting and near impossible. How to start? The patient was only remotely interested. Once our 12-year-old son and I picked out all the border pieces and the project started taking shape, everybody wanted to help finish this hard puzzle.

Isn't it beautiful? I definitely want to go there now!
Even my husband - who mumbled something about the Germans and the French never getting along and how I enjoyed fighting crazy battles (did I hear the word maniac somewhere along the lines) - couldn't keep his hands of the pieces when we got near the end. After two days the task was finished!

As a child I did a lot of puzzles with my family. I guess I forgot how much fun it was since my kids are older now. I think this experience was a great because it helped us pass a difficult time while our daughter was sick and take our mind of the sickness. At the same time it was a fun way to teach about patience and teamwork. I am already on the lookout for another big puzzle for the family to do.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Winner of my 400 Fan Facebook Giveaway

Drumroll...and the winner of my 400 FB Giveaway is Pauline Todd! Yay!
Pauline will receive one my cute fall 12" jumper dresses in orange or green. Her choice!

Congratulations, Pauline!


If you didn't win this time around don't be sad! There will be another when I hit 500 fans!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pink, Aqua, and Yellow


floral Pink PP 1, originally uploaded by germandolls.

Feeling soft and floral today...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Monster Zucchini

It always happens. This sneaky squash hiding in your garden growing in its hiding spot into a giant monster that your kid wants to try out as a baseball bat. Stop! Don't do that! Mom needs it for making dinner. Or rather 3 dinners plus desert...


Here is one delicious recipe you can use it for. I call it Zucchini Pesto Soup  (recipe has been adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks called The Book of Soups by Lorna Rhodes)

Ingredients:
1/3 of that large 3 pound out of control monster zucchini =)
1/2 onion
1/4 cup of olive oil plus a little bit more
1/2 cup of rissotto rice
5 cups of chicken stock
salt and pepper
two handfulls of basil leaves
pine nuts
1 garlic clove
more salt
grated parmesan cheese

Dice the Zucchini and onions very finely. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pot. Stir in the zucchini and onion and cook until they are soft. Add the rice and coat it with the olive oil. Pour in the hot chicken broth and bring everything to a boil.
Make pesto while the soup is simmering in the pot.
Wash and clean basil. Put basil leaves, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and a healthy dash of salt into an electric blender. If you feel ambitious you can do this with a mortar and pestle...Add about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese.

Add 1-2 Tablespoons of the pesto to soup.

You can serve the soup with crispy slices baguette that has the rest of the pesto spread on it or serve with bruschetta.

Our son who normally considers zucchini his mortal enemy will eat two bowls of this soup when I make it. Not bad for a scary green monster zucchini!