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Honour the Child

Blog Archive

BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

Thursday, 28 August 2014
Making your own sweet and yummy rock candy from scratch is pretty simple, once you learn to respect the sugar!  After a few rookie mistakes, we got the hang of it and made such pretty pretty candy for my daughter's 9th birthday party.

I make my daughter a cake for her birthday each year.
I am not what you would call a 'baker', so the cake comes from a box and the icing from a can (oh, the humanity!)~ you can read about the Great Rainbow Cake Disaster here.
One cake a year is about all I can handle.

This year, dragon-crazy Rowan requested: "a dragon's treasure chest full of jewels OR a cake in the shape of the carcass of an animal a dragon killed."
I know, right?
How to choose?!
Treasure chest it is.

Sifting through Pinterest I spotted rock candy~ perfect for jewels!
And all I needed was water, white sugar and white corn syrup to make it.
{{at this point Ro's holistic nutrition Aunties are crying kale flavoured tears, I know... but this is a kid's birthday party! }}

At this point I should note that I am also not what you might call a 'scientist' (dyeing aside) and making candy and working with boiling sugar is totally a science!  But the good thing is that you can learn from my mistakes!
So here is what you need:
+ white sugar
+ white corn syrup
+ water
+ measuring cups and spoons
+ metal utensils (spoon)
+ medium pot
+ candy thermometer is a big help but not required
+ cookie sheet
+ parchment paper or aluminum foil
+ candy flavouring (if desired)
+ food colouring (liquid or gel), if desired
+ powdered/ icing sugar , if desired

One Batch = 2 cups of sugar + 2/3 c. corn Syrup + 3/4 c. water
(one tsp. of flavouring and a teeny bit of colouring if desired)

A Few Basics:

+ this may seem obvious, but boiling sugar is incredibly HOT and it STICKS, young children and pets underfoot should be at a safe distance.
+ sugar wants to crystallize (this is a sciency-bit), even while extremely hot, the addition of any unmelted crystals will cause the whole pot to re-crystallize and spoil... so be sure to get all the sugar crystals off of the side of your pot when you begin to heat (a lid placed on it for a few minutes at first will allow the steam to melt any crystals clinging to the sides), and never use a spoon with sugar on it to stir (best bet = do not stir).
+you want to bring your sugar to the 'hard crack stage' (300 F), any further and it begins to caramelize.
+be sure your sugar mixture comes up to about 1/2 way on the sides of your pot, any less and your pot may be too large, which will cause the sugar to burn (read on, brave reader!)

Set Up Your Space:
+ gather all your ingredients and utensils
+ lay a sheet of parchment or aluminum on your cookie sheet and set this by the stove.
+ lay a piece of aluminum foil beside the cookie sheet and measure out your colour and flavour and set aside
+lay a piece of foil on your stovetop in case you need to quickly drop the thermometer or a spoon (easier to clean up!)
+ if using a candy thermometer (non-digital) be sure to calibrate it

Mix Your Ingredients & Begin to Cook:
Combine sugar, corn syrup and water.
No need to stir, see above if you have sugar on the sides of the pot.
Attach your candy thermometer.
Turn stove burner to high and be prepared to watch your pot throughout.
At first your mixture will give off steam as the water boils and evaporates out~ hitting boiling at 212F. And then the sugar has to boil until it reaches the correct stage at 300F.  This part (212-300) can take a little while (10-15 minutes for us on our 40 year old stove).

++If you are not using a candy thermometer, this would be a good time to familiarizing yourself with the candy stages and the ball test (I flipped to it in our old Betty Crocker to demonstrate the progression to Rowan.. yay science + sugar!). ++

Here is where things can go terribly wrong...
I started our first batch with a pot that was much too large.
I decided to write down the progression of the boiling (sciencey me!).
It went something like this:
1:20 First batch started, lots of steam.Rowan observes that there is no smell of candy.
1:28 boiling at 220F, steam pretty much exhausted. Smells a little like candy/ caramel.
(no time) 250F very strong smell and colour changing (not clear as it should be!)
(no time) 265F Burnt.
And it looked like this:

Our whole house was full of acrid smoke that stung the throat and nose. I dropped the pot in the sink and ran water into it (NO!)~ and a series of small explosions began, little geysers of bursting boiling burnt sugar and steam. Rowan was fanning the smoke detector and crying until I threw her outside and waded back in, mouth and nose covered with a damp towel like a pioneer battling a prairie fire.
Well. That was fun.

Even funner? I scraped up and threw out the burnt stuff and our baby puppy raided the garbage bag, getting his whole head covered in insanely sticky burnt sugar. 

Cleaned up. Started again.
This time with a smaller pot and much more research!
Also~ don't stir the hot candy with a plastic spoon, don't add too much colouring (our blue comes off on everything!) and a little flavour goes a long way.

Next batch... much better progression. So much so that I sat down to answer emails, trusting our digital thermometer to let me know when it hit 300F.  Which it did, except that I didn't recognize the beeping, vaguely wondered why someone had set the egg timer, and ignored it. Yep.
Decided a few minutes later to check the pot... 330F and a lovely light caramel on the boil.
{Truthfully this batch actually tastes the best!}
And, we tried again!

Back on Track:
Once your sugar reaches hard crack/ 300F you need to move quickly.
Drop the thermometer on the foil you laid out, and remove the pot from the heat to stop the cooking.
Add your food colouring and flavour oil, stir and pour onto your waiting cookie sheet.
Allow the mixture to spread out and after a few minutes, you can place the pan in your fridge to cool.
(Place it on a tea towel on the shelf).
The boiling takes 30 minutes or so, the cooling another hour.

Crack it!
Once your candy has chilled, take it out and CRACK it!
This is super fun... I used the end of a butter knife (it was on hand).
If you make blue like we did, you will feel like you are in the lab on an episode of Breaking Bad, so crack away with your bad self, yo!

Storage: {{You can decide if your candy is too sticky to bag up and store on its own.  It shouldn't be terribly sticky, done right, but humidity etc. will affect this quality. As we were storing our for a few days, I coated it (toss it is n a plastic bag and shake up with icing sugar) with powdered sugar which was a big help in keeping it in smaller pieces).}}

We ended up with a pale yellow/ root beer flavoured (no colour added, just cooked too long), sapphire blue (licorice), emerald green (key lime) and amethyst purple (grape) to be the dragon's jewels on the birthday cake. Yay!

It really was amazing to see the changes and the beauty of the sugar, and to learn a few valuable science bits as well.  We will definitely try again~ maybe using some candy molds at Christmas time and some favourite holiday flavours.

Now go play with sugar! Enjoy! ♥♥

Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter our Wonder Full Giveaway Event!
So nice to 'meet' so many new people through the various social media and your comments on the blog.
And now it is time to announce the winners as chosen using via Rafflecopter.
Drum roll...
$100 Gift Certificate: Twila O.
$50 Gift Certificate: Michelle F.
Fairy Silkie Rainbow Set of 6: Irene T., Tracy E. Samantha S.
Winners have been notified by email.

Thanks again to everyone who participated~ we look forward to continuing to bring beautiful, natural toys to your family from ours! ♥♥
Thursday, 21 August 2014

Wooden stackers are a staple in any natural playroom!
From infancy, well into childhood, a single stacking toy can provide so much quality, child-lead, imaginative play.

Wooden stacking toys come in a staggering variety or sizes, shapes, colours, woods and finishes.

A wooden stacker is often one of the first natural toy purchases a family makes (along with playsilks, because, well, everyone needs playsilks..  but I may be biased?!).
Or a family with an infant or toddler is trying to encourage family members to consider giving their little one a single open ended toy instead of a bunch of plastic buzzing, beeping, age-restrictive toys... but how to direct them when there are SO many great options?!

I'm not a woodworker, although I have made and finished my share of wooden toys ~ but I have purchased, gifted, stocked in shop, collaborated etc. with many wonderful artisans who do work in wood. A lot of wooden toys have passed through my hands, and this information may help you in choosing just the right toy for your little ones (or at least in clearing up some basics!).

Waldorf and Waldorf-style/ inspired toys connect to the Steiner education pedagogy and will be made simply, with natural materials and nature/ fairy tales/ mythological themes. Many traditional Waldorf toys are faceless, allowing the child to imagine the expression while playing. Waldorf toys generally span a wide age range~ the toddler will play with the rainbow stacker differently than the 7 year old will play... but both will use the same toy. Many are seasonal, helping to build rhythm in daily life and all will easily support story-telling and teaching. Stackers are often natural items like rainbows, mountains, caves and trees.
1. Fox Guardian Tree Dryad, by Rjabinnik
2. Sunshine Stacker, by Simple Gifts Toys
3. Happy Rainbow Stacker, by the MolHole.
4. Bremen Town Musicians, by Ventry Toy
5. Abstract Nesting Blocks, by Freja Toys

Montessori toys certainly share many features with Waldorf toys and are easily crossed over.  They tend to be more focused on promoting specific skills or tasks, and may be more 'puzzle-like' and have less emphasis on natural materials/ simplicity. Stackers may focus on shape discrimination, ordering by size and other developmental tasks.
1. Pyramid Stacker, by Wooden Toy Studio
2. Hungry Caterpillar Puzzle/ Stacker, by Manzanita Kids 
3. Little People Peek-A-Boo, by Kat and Company
4. Shape Stacker, by A Summer Afternoon 
5. Baby's First Stacking Toy, by House Mountain Natural

Not all wooden toys belong to these educational philosophies... there are lots of developmental toys made of wood that can easily substitute for the classics like the Fisher Price Ring Stacker.  In this case, you will want to be particularly mindful if the safety/ durability of the wood finish is important to you.
1. Wooden Ring Stacker, HC Woodcraft.
2. Springtime Blocks, by Fidoodle

Personally, when looking at wooden toys I prefer to see local wood species being used, and some reference to sustainable harvest.  This means that no one wood is the 'best'. Pine is very popular and a great affordable choice, but keep in mind its light weight makes it a little easier to damage and with stackers featuring long curves or thinner pieces, these tend to snap under much less pressure than a hardwood. I like pine best for smaller, more compact toys (animals etc.) that are a solid 'chunk'. Whichever wood you choose, keep in mind that wider bases and thicker pieces will be heavier (which is not always preferable with wildly swinging toddlers!), but more durable.
BTRT Wooden Stacker c. 2010
There is a dazzling array of colourings and finishes for wooden stackers and toys.

Soy. Milk paint. Watercolour (be sure they are AP certified). Food colouring. Natural dyes.
All of these and more will show up on natural toys. Each has its merits. All may come off under extensive baby chewing (on baby and on clothing and furniture). So a safe colouring method is a good place to start, and one within your own comfort level. Honestly, I prefer watercolours over food colouring as they are intended for surface finishing and food colouring can be pretty nasty stuff! Of course, natural wood is gorgeous and if colour safety or transfer is a concern for you, natural is a wonderful way to go!
BTRT Castle Blocks c. 2009 w/ Beeswax Polish
An acrylic painted stacker with an acrylic clear coat finish will stand up to tons of play. Nothing wrong with that! But if you are determined to have natural, or more-natural-than-not toys, probably skip the latex and acrylic treatments.

If your chosen stacker is unpainted, you could opt for no finish.
But there is nothing quite like the warm gleam of beeswax polished wooded toys (and that lovely smell!). We have a beeswax polish recipe right here so you can re-apply your own over time!
Beeswax, linseed oil and flax oil (or a combo) are common finishes~ safe and each has its merits. Shellac is actually bug-derived and it lasts forever as a finish!  The wax and oil finishes are absorbed into the wood, but do not provide a 'seal' closing in colours, so these are more likely to bleed a little, but truly they are so lovely, safe and worth it!
Loch Ness Monster, BTRT (makes me hanker to make some wooden toys again!)
All of the wooden toys pictured and linked here are freely chosen by me (these are not paid spots, promos or other sponsor type ads) and in most cases, I am featuring them based on information provided by the artisan about their product in their listing. If you are shopping, please let them know how you found out about them, and be sure to ask your own questions!

Enjoy! ♥♥
Tuesday, 19 August 2014
Blessed are those magical moments that allow us to slow down and be truly in the moment.
{{ and blessed are we when we recognize them for what they are!}}

This summer hasn't been much of the summer we envisioned~ long afternoons at the beach, evening campfires with family and friends. It has been rain, cold rain, gray rain, heavy rain.... and with our move and lots and lots of work to do at the house, and my husband changing jobs...

Part of the challenge right now is figuring out how to 'be' as a stay-at-home-mom and full time artisan.  Nearly 20 years in ministry has shaped my life in particular ways and with specific rhythms (and expectations). And my daughter is figuring out how things work when we don't live in the heart of town and every day no longer involves outings and errands.  She is struggling with "what are we doing today?" being "this. being here.".

Yesterday had the crystal clear blue skies of early autumn.
The sun was lower, earlier.
The bugs (oh heavens, the hideous horrible bugs) were absent in the afternoon breeze.
And we chose (because we *could* ~that is still a thrill!) to just hang out under the trees, under the laundry on the line, and play with fiber for a while.

I can't describe the simple joy of just being in that moment.
*This* is why we have made such big changes in our lives.

We were joined by Ghost and Longclaw, the kitties.
{I have no idea why my daughter is wearing her velvet holiday dress!}
And our newest little friend, Bandit. (*cutest puppy EVER* <--- official title!)
Can't you just hear the kitten's evil laughter as the pup searches for her?!

For a number of reasons, we re-homed our teeny Papillon, Murray, this summer, and he has landed in high cotton.  But Rowan was desperately missing having a dog of her own (our Bouvier is utterly mine, as I often find with rescued dogs, they attach to their perceived rescuer!) and honestly, it serves therapeutic purposes for her anxiety and OCD to have a calming and constant companion. 

Bandit is a little mutt (Poodle x Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, but I utterly refuse to apply a 'designer dog' label.) with just the right blend of size, smarts, confidence and breed background to fit the bill, and he bonded instantly with Rowan.

Mountains of fiber, kittens stealing all of our works-in-progress, a puppy exhausted from chasing kittens... what more did we need for a perfect afternoon?
Baby goats, of course.
Huckleberry and Hickory soon came to crash the party, toppling the fiber boxes and bringing their unabashed good cheer {and a heaping helping of 'baby goats are jerks'!}.
What a lovely afternoon.
Kind of makes the rest of the summer feel a little brighter, having lead to this happy time. ♥♥

Thursday, 14 August 2014

As crazy as it sounds, I sometimes miss the whole 'Back to School' vibe!
Today's collection of handmade items are perfect for the homeschoolers out there.

Each piece would be at home in a Waldorf  style home classroom and I would love to have them in mine! We *do* have an antique bell in our school space, donated to our house many years ago, so I am told, as our house was once the community one room schoolhouseAnd I know my daughter would love to have her morning herbal tea from a frog mug (really, who wouldn't?!).

1. Field Sketch Set, by Cake in the Morn
2. Custom Paint Board, by Little Acorn Learning
3. Color Wheel Wreath, Painted Petal Shoppe
4. Pencil Holder, Place Card Holder Shop
5. Antique School Bell, by Nonnie's Porch
6. Autumn Gnome, by Sep and August
7. Beeswax Crayons and Holder, by Old Mill Candles
8. Frog Surprise Mug, Spademan Pottery

These items are drawn from various Etsy shops (my choice, no payment or other exchange!).
If you have enjoyed them, please do check out the shops and let them know that BTRT sent you! ♥♥
Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Here is a simple do-it-yourself tutorial for creating your own triangle pennant banner with scrap fabrics and basic sewing skills. Oh, and a little math (sorry!).

The bunting trend seems to be holding...
(bunting? banner? flags? I like 'bunting', it makes me feel oh-so-Victorian).
I made one for Rowan's cake three years ago~ that was the 'rainbow tiger' year (also known as the colossal rainbow cake wreck year).
And I am still a fan.
So a bunting seemed the perfect accessory for one of my mud room walls.
Someone has suggested that it is a little too, well, too not mud-roomish to be called a mud room any more.  But really,  it is~ it is where we kick off our muddy shoes, drop the groceries and kick the garbage that needs to head out to the dump. It is a pretty practical room, even if it is pretty.

And it is only pretty because it is one small space I have claimed that I have a single hope of 'finishing' in the midst of unpacking, renos, dogs, kids, homeschool, life and the fact that we are just not that tidy.  My mud room makes me feel like 'at least I got THAT done'.  
Know what I mean?

Actually, it isn't done~ I need to replace a door, paint the floor...
but given that I accidentally dropped some gorgeous Sarah Jane Studios / Heather Bailey fabrics into my online shopping cart last week, when I was mistakenly looking at fabrics, that just coincidentally matched my mud room... this happened. And if I write it up as a tutorial, then I can totally live with myself and my unbroken no-more-craft-supplies pledge and hold my head up high.
Right? Right.

After trial and error with various methods of creating a banner, this is what I did.

Here's what you need:
* fabric(s) of your choice (scraps, brand new just released gorgeous fat quarters, you know, whatever you have on hand...)
* backing fabric (scraps, or plain broadcloth etc.)
* pinking shears and/or regular scissors
* cutting mat, rotary cutter (if desired, scissors work fine, too)
* ruler
* pencil and paper
* bias tape (double fold, length needed for hanging)
* thread
Do your math.
Figure out how long you need your banner to be when finished (mine was 90").
Figure out how large you want your triangles to be, accounting for losing a little off the edges if you pink them (I cut mine 6" x 9" for my high/ large space).
I divided 90" by 6" flags (no space between them), which meant I needed 15 flags (30 pieces when you count the backing!) ~ this left me with no extra space at the ends, I would have a flag right to the edge on each side.

(If you look on Pinterest, you will find actual templates that make the next steps obsolete, but is that really sporting? Just kidding... templates rock, but I went old school ~ also known as 'my printer isn't working')
1. Draw a line the length of the TOP of your flags.
2. Mark the center of this line.
3. Use your ruler to measure from the center line, down to the length desired, mark this point.
4. Connect the triangle bits and take a moment to bask in the glow of your geometric prowess.
Cut out the triangle, this will be your template for making your flags and backing pieces.
Cut out the number of flags you need AND the same number of backing pieces.
There are lots of neat tricks for making the most of your fabric when cutting triangles... if you know them, use them! If not, don't worry too much about grainline etc you can be pretty random and thrifty, just make sure any directional prints go the way you want them.

Sew each flag to its backing using a 1/4" seam allowance.
If you plan to pink the edges, do it now.
No need to pink the tops.
Cut your double fold bias tape to the length needed for the finished banner, plus a couple of inches on each end for hanging.
Place each flag into the middle of the bias tape (open it), tucking it into the fold and pin in place.
Repeat for each flag, making sure they are evenly spaced as you go.
Sew along the bias tape in the center.
Using a wide zig-zag stitch will ensure you catch each flag securely.
Press it all for a neat, smooth finish (and because my Grandmother taught me that everything is better when freshly pressed!).
You did it!
Hang your banner however you choose~ I folded over the bias tape at each end of the banner and made a loop with a couple of stitches, which I then hooked on a picture hanging hook in each corner of the room.
My next mud room project is to make a quilted cushion for the bench.  
I have the top finished and will share the whole project with you along with the simple pattern I worked out for the top!  It has been nearly 10 years since I did any free hand quilting, so we'll see how it goes...
Thanks for taking the time to read and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments (and anything you might be inspired to create!) ♥♥

{{Fabrics used are from Sarah Jane Studios 'Wee Wander' 
and Heather Bailey's 'Up, Parasol' collections}}

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