Thursday, April 30, 2009

May Day Preparations

The May-pole is up,
Now give me the cup;
I'll drink to the garlands around it;
But first unto those
Whose hands did compose
The glory of flowers that crown'd it.

~ Robert Herrick, The Maypole, 1660

Here is a collection of what we did during the week in preparation to celebrate May Day. First, we made a few May Day cards with butterflies that "spring" up when you open the card...

We made May Day breads...

And had fun making snails and butterflies for the girls - of course they had to play with them extensively before digging in to eat them :)

We also wanted to make flower wands to dance around the yard and "wake up" the flowers. We used wooden dowel rods and left over ribbons and silk flowers.

Here are our ankle bracelets with jingle bells and silk flowers to tie onto the girls ankles to help wake up Mother Earth...

The girls had to try them on and couldn't resist dancing around the yard yesterday.

Today, we are making head wreaths out of felt and beads. I hope to post pictures later of the finished products, along with our make-shift pole :)

Until then, happy planning and enjoy the celebrations!

'But I must gather knots of flowers,
And buds and garlands gay,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother,
I'm to be Queen o' the May.'

~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Family Hike and Slowing Down

We set off on a 4 hour family hike behind our house, using the fire roads so we could push the girls in the jog stroller when they needed a break. It was really, really hot and sunny. Here I am with the girls about 15 minutes into it.

I kept stopping to take pictures. There were lots of beautiful and expressive oak trees which were badly burned during the fires here last year. As always, they come back amazingly fast and with such uniqueness. I had to capture this cluster below...

We have mostly cloudless days and I recently read about "Sylphs" - so now I'm constantly looking for them in the skies :)

Tony and the girls ran up one of the hills and left me huffing and puffing! It is really steep and man does that higher elevation make a difference.

OK, so I confess, I had to use my picture taking as an excuse to stop and catch my breath. To be honest, my breath was taken more by the incredible views. I hadn't been up these fire roads before and it was such a treat to see up close what is in our backyard!

I am on the look out for a local guide to the native plants, bugs and wildlife, so I apologize that I don't have details of exactly what these gorgeous native are called, but enjoy them visually!

Another stunning view from the other side...

There were lots of lizards running about. I took this shot of this little guy and when I looked at it afterwards, realized this poor baby lost his tail! It looks painful, but he moved just as well as the others. It made me think of the "The Seven-Year-Old Wonder Book" by Isabel Wyatt where the little wood-maiden helps the 7 others who have been injured, including the tiny green lizard who lost his tail. My girls are in love with that book - another blog another day :)

I thought this rock was just beautiful and so expressive...

And here's a shot of my sweetheart and the girls down a ways on the wide fire road. So many layers of colors!

Another breath-taking view...

Stopping to rest for a picture...

Looking down into one of the many canyons - nice and green after our winter rains...

Pushing the girls uphill - don't know how he does that!

A LA County fire helicopter checking the Angels National Forest...

My first born at the summit just before we ran out of gas and had to turn around and go all the way back down (no looping here)! I kept thinking of the book "Heidi" and Grandfather living in the mountains.

You can see the housing developments in the valley behind us - to give you an idea of how high up we were at this point.

A flying grasshopper - loved his eyes and the girls got a kick out of how well these guys blend into the dirt fire road and then suddenly spring into the air and take flight.

"E" coming down around the bend...

And back on lower ground, loving the yellow hues...yes, after seeing these pictures, we finally got the girls new sunglasses - they had really outgrown the ones in these pictures!
Some other beautiful natives...

And yet another native, who lives around our house and we see quite a bit scurrying around here and there. Here he is above our garage door on the stucco. So cute!

Overall, though I hemmed and hawed about hiking, with so much else needing my attention, I was really glad we went; glad to slow down and take in those moments that are so fleeting, yet create those deep memories and nourish the was a wonderful day!

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
~Mohandas Gandhi

Thursday, April 23, 2009

St. George's Day Celebration

The True Dragon

St George was out walking
He met a dragon on a hill,
It was wise and wonderful
Too glorious to kill

It slept amongst the wild thyme
Where the oxlips and violets grow
Its skin was a luminous fire
That made the English landscape glow

Its tears were England’s crystal rivers
Its breath the mist on England’s moors
Its larder was England’s orchards,
Its house was without doors

St George was in awe of it
It was a thing apart
He hid the sleeping dragon
Inside every English heart

So on this day let’s celebrate
England’s valleys full of light,
The green fire of the landscape
Lakes shivering with delight

Let’s celebrate St George’s Day,
The dragon in repose;
The brilliant lark ascending,
The yew, the oak, the rose

~Brian Patten

Today, we celebrate St. George and the legend of the dragon he slew to save the fair princess who was ill-fated to end her life in the fierce clutches of the beast.
At least that's one version of it...

St. George was named as the Protector of England around the time of King Edward III. Legend claims that centuries earlier, when Christians were being persecuted, St. George vowed to fight for the cause. He sold all he had, freed his slaves and set out on his quest. Along the way, he discovered a princess and a fierce dragon. He subdued the monster and slew the winged creature.

In reality, though he had fought bravely as a Roman soldier, the Roman Emperor Diocletian did not accept his plea to end the persecution of the Christians. He was subsequently captured and tortured before being beheaded by the Emperor on April 23, 303 A.D. To the end, St. George never renounced his religious beliefs.

He is now remembered and celebrated for his brilliant courage, his quest for truth and justice as a champion of the oppressed. He is associated with the rose, England's national flower. So on this day, in memory of his death, the English who celebrate him place a rose on the table to honour this brave soldier...

The girls and I wanted to do a bit more to mark this day. I had found the book, "Saint George and the Dragon" retold by Margaret Hodges at the library and bought it for 25 cents. We have been reading it all this week and thought it would be fun to felt the dragon and Saint George for our nature table.

I began with the dragon's head, going off of illustrations in the book...

And then sculpted the body around a pipe cleaner to give it strength and some flexibility in holding the desired shape.

The wings were fun - just a pipe cleaner with green wool wrapped around the edges.

Here's a top shot of the dragon's head. I added "fire" coming from his nostrils and mouth. He didn't look as angry as the illustrations in the book, which was good :)

I used two shades of green wool and then on his underbelly, I used a little yellow to represent his scales.

And finally - VOILA! Here is his basic body without his claws...

He ended up being pretty darn big!

Here's a side-view to see the fire coming from his nostrils and mouth.

I kind of liked him better without the claws, but the girls really wanted him to have them, so we added them - looks a little godzilla-like now, but I did like his nails and now he stood unsupported...

The flower-fairies huddled together at the arrival of the Dragon...

But never fear - Saint George is here!

Take that, Dragon!

Oops - forgot George's famous shield...he needs that to fend off the flames!

Finally, our scene was ready. The candle was lit, the book was read and we could stand back and admire the scene on the nature table and imagine a time of dragons and magic and princesses!

And let us not forget...
Our Rose...

Happy St. George's Day!