Taco bell bean burritos are not healthy; iPads and Poptropica are not educational

  I know this blog might upset some of my readers, or make them think I am being judgemental. But I am not trying to be! This is meant only as self reflection, and as a springboard for discussion! Also, please try not to judge me!
 This weekend I am home alone with the children for a while while Christopher is off being famous at Paganicon. At the same time, I am caring for a friends’ child for a few days. She (let’s call her Wendy) is an intelligent and articulate 9 year old.
  Yesterday, three things happened that all got me thinking. It started in the morning. We had a very busy day ahead; homeschool art classes, a meeting with our lobbyist, shopping, and errands. As I was rushing around getting everyone clean and ready, Wendy asks for a computer turn. I open the laptop and set the timer for 30 minutes, letting her and the other middle school age children play Poptropica while I feed and clean the baby. When the timer goes off, I ask them to turn it off and get ready too. “Ahhh”, they say, ” But it’s Poptropica! It’s educational. I learn so much!” “No it’s not!” I fume. Anyway, time to go.
  As we are driving to art class I become lost. The drive lasts an unexpected hour. On the edge of town we drive past Taco Bell. ” Mom, pppllllleeeeaaassssse can we have bean burritos? Please?” I tell them no, we’ve just had lunch and you only think your hungry because you’re bored. “They’re healthy!” they exclaim. I don’t respond. We stop at Taco Bell maybe once a month for 69 cent bean burritos, usually when we are running errands in town and I have forgotten to pack lunches. And because they are vegetarian (?), cheap, and right by art class. There is a McDonald’s across from Taco Bell. Wendy chimes in that she likes snack wraps. And they are healthy. Now I argue, no way. What are they? Wheat tortilla, meat, lettuce. I ask how she knows it’s a “wheat” tortilla. Well, the tortilla has brown speckles. I am about to argue when my 10 year old compares it to the bean burritos tortilla. Hmmmm.
  We make it to class without snacks. It’s a great quilling class (more tomorrow…) that lasts 2 hours. (No one is hungry, by the way.)
  Then it is time to meet with our homeschool lobbyist. What a fantastic woman! We discuss the obnoxious changes our homeschool assistance program has suffered this year. Instead of field trips, curriculum and science classes, some students (meaning not mine) got to borrow NEW iPads! Fancy schmancy! But NOT educational I exclaim!
  WHOAAAA!!! the moms cry out. These iPads ARE super educational.

Are you fracking kidding me?

  These are women I respect. Don’t tell me they believe these are good for kids. One mom says “My daughter goes in her room and plays educational spelling games.” No she doesn’t. She logs onto her secret facebook account. Duh! Another mom tells me that computer skills are necessary for today’s modern world. I agree in principle, but you need to supervise all computer use in your home. And computers are NOT difficult to use. I recently attended a conference with Eugene Schwartz, who says using a computer is about as difficult as using a microwave. My 18 month old can turn on a computer and control a mouse. Macintosh works diligently to make it so!  All an iPad is is a fancy toy that your pre-teen plays with in her room and gives you a chance to clean the kitchen in a quiet atmosphere.

 You and I KNOW that iPads, Poptropica, and Taco Bell are NOT healthy for our children. We could say ” Well, I need a break, so I will let you play this computer game so I can take a shower. It’s not good for you, but it’s ok in moderation.” But we don’t. We say otherwise because telling them the truth would mean telling them that we let them do unhealthy things! Ouch! What a disservice we do our children! How will they learn to make healthy choices if we can’t be honest with them?

  We MUST teach our children what is healthy! Fresh air, water, vegetables, watercolor paints, books, mothers, outdoor adventures……

  Here‘s a study about screen time that finds that children who spend longer than two hours in front of a computer or television screen are more likely to suffer psychological difficulties, regardless of how physically active they are. And the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees.

 And Wendy, if you’re reading this, a Taco bell bean burrito and a McDonald’s snack wrap are equally UN-healthy.

Baby Chickens, Organics and Wine!

What a morning!

  Chris is off being famous this weekend at Paganicon. And we have been so busy here. At 6 am, Wolfie curls up in bed with me and Méabh, asking me to read Children of the Forest. He asks where we are going today, and I say, smiling, “No where. It’s a ‘do nothing day’! No sooner are the words out of my mouth than the phone rings. “Hi, this is the Milan, IL post office, and we have 25 baby chicks waiting for you.” I can hear them peeping in the background. Wrong post office, wrong delivery week.  

  Ok, everyone in the car. An hour later we gets our sweet little chicks. Here is what we ordered from Murray McMurray Hatchery:

8 Buff Orpingtons

7 Barred Rocks

4 Black Australorps

2 White Polish

Salmon Favorelles

2 Araucanas



and one FREE rare exotic chick. 



That exotic chick sure is mysterious. I totally identify with her, so she lives in my bra. They are all adorable. All our residual grumpiness lifts away. 


On the way home, Rhiannon reminds me she needs dropped off at her friends house. And I remember that the organic section at nearby Jeff’s Market is 75% off. So I buy $220.00 worth of groceries for for $61.43 (and some cheap Barefoot Shiraz). Now, how do we stop ourselves from gorging on it?



And then, as I am carrying out my massive cereal cache, I see a table of wine. “What is this?” I turn and ask the check out girl. “A wine tasting.” “Is it after noon?” I ask? No- oh well. A wine tasting at Wilton, Iowa’s Jeff’s Market? At 11 AM?  I don’t even care of it’s noon, I’m in! 


I get suckered in by a cute older man with clothes far cleaner than mine. He grows the grapes himself about twenty miles south of here in Muscatine. The sweet blackberry wine tastes to me like cough syrup (think Amana) but the dry red is dark and mysterious. I buy a bottle of “Commission Man in Red” from Ardon Creek for $17.00.


I go back to the van. 7 children, 25 chickens, and two bottles of wine. Saturday, you are mine.

Maybe I’ll post a drunken blog rant tonight. Check back and see.


How to Make Ukrainian Eggs

Each egg is a little universe, an Orphic egg, and everything contained within it is arrived at through the use of Sacred Geometry. The practice of making an egg reminds us of who we are, and how our actions relate to the universe around us. Certain rules are followed: what is above, so it is below; always complete a section (or action) before beginning the next. You will have less confusion, and therefore fewer mistakes. Perfect yourself before you try to perfect an egg – the rest will follow. Project every line, and know that your thoughts are projected in the same way. Do not keep your eyes on the kistka as you draw a line. When you set the kistka down, look forward and push the tool to that spot. The results will always be better. Likewise, we should always look forward in our lives, trying to determine the outcome of our actions. ”   –Deirdre LeBlanc

  I always enjoyed dying Easter eggs with my German grandmother. It was a yearly tradition. When I was 18 I enrolled in a Pysanky class at the local community college. Interestingly, that was the same year I took a basket weaving and bellydancing class. As if I knew what life had in store for me.
  To make Pysanky, or Ukrainian eggs as they are sometimes called, you need some basic tools and household supplies. Every March I set up a work table.

kistkas (kistka means “little bone” because they were originally made out of bones – over three thousand years ago!)



I initially bought a basic kit.

Mix your dyes: Follow the directions for making your dye baths, written on the powdered dye packages. Mine needed 1 1/4 cup water and some vinegar added. I used dye ordered from Magic Cabin Dolls; you can also use RIT in a pinch, but it totally pales in comparison.
Apply wax: Start with an egg, and let it get to room temperature. If it is too cold, the wax won’t stick. You then light your candle and warm your kistka in its flame. Then scoop a bit of wax and hold it near the candle until the wax is melted. Begin to draw your design. You can draw something as simple as a spiral, or your name. Or you can make something complex and colorful. Covering everything you want white in wax. My wax draws on black because, I think, I use an old kistka and the wax has been scorched like a campfire roasted marshmallow. Your wax might go on clear or yellow.

Dye Bath: Put the waxed egg into the next color needed, most often yellow. After a while (15 minutes to overnight), remove the egg from its dye bath and repeat the wax process, color by color.
Green isn’t applied as a bath, rather it is applied only to the areas desired with a Q-tip. Green is the only color this is done with. My green sucked this year, as I used old RIT dye instead of pysanky dye.

Now more wax. Then orange.


Then blue, purple, black.

By now your egg is a black waxy mess.

Remove wax: Take your waxed and dyed egg and hold it near the flame. Do not put it directly in the flame because it will get scorched and ruined! As the wax melts, carefully use a rag or tissue to wipe of the melted wax, revealing its colorful brilliance! And be careful! Flames are dangerous! AND this is the point at which many eggs break. I pay my children one dollar if I break an egg they’ve been working on.

You can also melt the wax off in an oven. (Instructions below)  But you’ll need to blow it out first if you want to hang it.

 Blowing out your egg: This is another risky egg breaking endeavor. We rarely blow our eggs, rather choosing the traditional method of leaving them intact. Give them away as gifts as soon as possible. You’ll feel good about it, and won’t be responsible for their destruction.

But if you blow them out, you can thread them and hang them on your Ostara branch. Here’s my method. Be careful!

Use a straight pin and carefully poke a hole in the top of the egg. Then turn the egg over and poke a few tiny hole in the bottom of the egg, essentially scoring out a small circle. Turn the egg back to small side up and blow, gently but firmly, the egg contents into  bowl. The technique takes some practice, so you might want to try this on a few less dear eggs.

Imagine me above the egg making a face like a trumpet player.

Then you can string your eggs. This year I used a doll making needle and some Malabrigo wool, but ribbon is lovely, and bead work would be beautiful!

You can also melt the wax off in an oven. I have been making pysanky for over 20 years, and have never before tried this method. Use a regular oven @ 250 deg F. I balanced the eggs on beer caps on an old pizza sheet. It worked great, but you need to blow out your eggs BEFORE you bake them. Also, I found some of the magic of slowly revealing your design was lost.

Watch for the wax to soften, then remove carefully and wipe off with a soft cloth or paper towel.

Varnish: Whether or not you’ve blown your egg, the final step is to apply varnish. It makes the eggs very shiny and fancy! Spray several thin layers of an oil based varnish.

Christopher got home from Paganicon late last night, and look what he brought me. A shiny new kistka and natural dyed eggs from Steven Posch!

Here are some websites you might enjoy for further study:

And more photos of our pysanky week:

How are you celebrating Spring?

spring omnipotent goddess Thou -e. e. cummings

spring omnipotent goddess Thou

dost stuff parks

with overgrown pimply

chevaliers and gumchewing giggly

damosels Thou dost

persuade to serenade

his lady the musical tom-cat

Thou dost inveigle

into crossing sidewalks the

unwary june-bug and the frivolous


Thou dost hang canary birds in parlour windows

Spring slattern of seasons

you have soggy legs

and a muddy petticoat


is your hair your

eyes are sticky with

dream and you have a sloppy body from

being brought to bed of crocuses

when you sing in your whisky voice

the grass rises on the head of the earth

and all the trees are put on edge


of the excellent jostle of

thy hips

and the superior

slobber of your breasts i

am so very fond that my

soul inside of me hollers

for thou comest

and your hands are the snow and thy

fingers are the rain

and your

feet O your feet


feet feet incorrigible

ragging the world

Vegan Mediterranean Wheat Berry Salad

Do you have a bucket of soaked wheat berries on your counter, left over from your equinox activities? I do!

 I adapted this Mediterranean salad from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian “Salad of Whole Wheatberries”. It is a beautiful cookbook. I do not use it often, but I use it when I want something special. And it has my all time favorite recipe for Mulligatawny soup.

(While I’m on the topic of Madhur Jaffrey, her book Seasons of Splendour is beautiful and I use it for teaching the 5th grade Waldorf homeschool curriculum.)

Mediterranean Wheat Berry Salad

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
3 cups chopped tomato
1 sweet pepper, chopped ( I used a yellow one from Aldi)
3 cups whole wheat berries, boiled and drained
3/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. salt
black pepper
3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Put the oil in a non stick skillet and set over medium heat. When hot put in the onion and garlic.Stir and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion has browned a little. Now put in the tomato and sweet pepper. Stir and fry another 3 minutes. Add the drained wheat berries and stir. Add the spices, adjusting to taste. Stir again and remove from heat. Add the lemon juice and stir.

This salad can be served hot, cold or room temperature. It can be used to stuff peppers, squash or tomatoes then baked.

I want to add some thing green to this. So I tossed in some greens from the fridge. But if I could choose…. Arugula? Zucchini? Cilantro? What would you add?

Look what I found in the yard yesterday…

Happy Ostara everyone!

Wheat Grass Ostara Basket

  For our March Waldorf Inspired Homeschool Day, we made wheat grass baskets.
First, I lit a beeswax candle the children made last month and read The Story of the Root Children by Sibylle Olfers.  I have loved this book for over 20 years, and it was delightful to see so many children enjoy it for the first time!

Then the work began. Each child lined the bottom of their basket with plastic, then a layer of dirt. Then we spread a good layer of wheat berries (the same wheat you grind to make flour, available in bulk at health food stores, or ask a friend who bakes…). We watered the seeds and covered it all with some plastic wrap to keep it moist.

Even the babies participated!

Voila! I am very excited for Spring!

Check back tomorrow for a few recipes for left over soaked wheat berries……..

And until then, check out Living Crafts Blog Grass Grow Along!

And a big THANK YOU to my friend and teacher Michelle for these photos!

What Spring/Easter/Equinox/Ostara activities are you doing?

What I’m Reading This Week

So many books, so little time!

Today I am cleaning in preparation for tomorrow’s Waldorf Homeschool Day. As I came to the coffee table, I looked lovingly at my knitting (tomorrow…) and stack of books. And since they’ll all be put away tomorrow when you get here  🙂 I thought I’d share. Maybe some of you could read along with me!

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

  I really LOVED the sequel to this book, The Year of the Flood, which I accidentally read first. Apparently I wasn’t alone in this love seeing as the book has a website and musical. It reminded me a bit of The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk. I am having a rougher time on Oryx and Crake. I think it’s because the main character is a man and the beginning is very bleak. But I’m holding out.

Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Shafira Oppenheimer


Christian-y name, but actually a nice book about applying Waldorf principles to your home. This book is lovely. I don’t agree with all of her ideas, especially her stance on gun play. It also makes me think I should write a book , I have so many opinions on everything! Here is the description from Amazon.com:

As we witness the shifting of old forms that once stood as the foundation of our daily lives, parents—who must prepare the next generation to meet this changing world—have more questions now than ever before. Although our culture and the nature of the family may be changing, the atmosphere in the home continues to create the foundation of a child’s life. In Heaven on Earth, parent and educator Sharifa Oppenheimer reveals how to make the home environment warm, lively, loving, and consistent with your highest ideals. 

Heaven on Earth balances theoretical understanding of child development with practical ideas, resources, and tips that can transform family life. Readers will learn how to establish the life rhythms that lay the foundation for all learning; how to design indoor play environments that allow children the broadest skills development; and how to create backyard play spaces that encourage vigorous movement and a wide sensory palette. Through art, storytelling, and the festival celebrations, this book is a guide to build a “family culture” based on the guiding principle of love. Such a culture supports children and allows the free development of each unique soul. 


Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin 


Why ever put this away? It is breathtaking of course, because it’s by Anaïs Nin, my favorite author ever. (Okay, okay, Tolstoy is pretty awesome too. But WAY different.) I was gifted this book on Sunday by new friend and bellydance student Angela Chenus. She looks EXACTLY like Anaïs. 

Some of the stories are really “out there”, and a few even I take issue with. But some of them are, well, delicious

Here is a description from Wikipedia:

“Faced with a desperate need for money, Nin, Miller and some of their friends began in the 1940s to write erotic and pornographic narratives for an anonymous “collector” for a dollar a page, somewhat as a joke.  Nin considered the characters in her erotica to be extreme caricatures and never intended the work to be published, but changed her mind in the early 1970s and allowed them to be published as Delta of Venus and Little Birds”


 The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

I haven’t even started it yet. But I can’t wait. I love Stephen Hawking so much. I really want a full back piece tattoo of him, but Chris says he won’t like it.


From Magical Child to Magical Teen by Joseph Chilton Pearce


This is a re-read for me, sometimes I just need a reason to keep the teens out of the kennel. My favorite book by Pearce is Evolution’s End.

Success With Houseplants by Reader’s Digest

I have owned this book since my childhood. I am reviewing the section on cyclamen. I cannot keep these beauties alive, yet insist on buying them every year. I am open to suggestions.

Living Cafts, Spring 2011

The beautiful bellydancer Rhea introduced me to this magazine when my baby Méabh was sick in the hospital. I have subscribed ever since. This Spring issue has articles on silk dying (April’s Waldorf day activity) and a daughter’s wedding!

Midwifery Today, Spring 2011, Number 97

I have subscribed to this magazine for 15 years. Just got the new issue today. Can’t wait. Especially the article by the very sexy Gail Tully!

Oh, and I can’t forget, Chris has a book on the table too!:

A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism by John Michael Greer

I’ll have Chris write a review. I know it’s led to lots of discussion here, and that Chris is looking forward to meeting the author at Paganicon next weekend.

Here is the description off amazon.com:

In this book John Michael Greer turns his attention to the intellectual underpinnings and superstructures of the Pagan and magical movements. Pagan religions have tended to be more concerned with practice that with theory and in a system that has no dogma – no legislated doctrine – that is as it should be. Yet as out movement grows and matures, it is inevitable that we will begin to think in a more abstract way about our models and systems. John Michael Greer has provided a primer on the kinds of ideas and themes that must be included in any discussion of the theology and philosophy of Neo-pagan religions.

There you have it, with links even! Read along with me!

What are you reading?