Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In search of...

Have you seen this dollhouse?

If so, please tell me where! I want it, I really, really want it and haven't been able to find it in stock anywhere in the US. Carey, the wonderful proprietor from my favorite online toy shop, Quiet Hours Toys, tempted me with it last Fall. I put myself on the waiting list for the first shipment and waited... and waited... and waited*. Turns out Drewart, the Polish maker of this dollhouse has shipping issues. They haven't shipped them to Quiet Hours Toys and while I did find a Waldorf toy store locally that carried Drewart, all the 2 story dollhouses they received were damaged in shipping and needed repairs (which I'm still waiting to hear from them if they ever got done). I contacted a site in the UK which had it and it would cost an additional 100 euros to ship it to me- that's sooo not happening.

My poor Evi dollhouse dolls sit homeless, living out of an RV that my mother in law had made for the boys (while the gorgeous Spiel und Holz furniture sits in storage waiting for a permanent home).

So, if you happen to come across this dollhouse in the US, please drop me a line... I'm having flashbacks to when I was seven and really, really wanted a Holly Hobby playhouse for Christmas and never got either :(.

*oh, and please let me add- Quiet Hours Toys truly has the best customer service. Carey has kept me updated on the status of the dollhouse this entire time. I'm surprised she hasn't made emails from me go straight to her spam folder by now, though she was probably thinking "I'm sure that woman has better things to worry about (
like having a baby!) than this dollhouse!" :).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sure Shot

Here is Matteo, taking pictures with his favorite camera :)

Ivan's big gift to the family this Christmas was a new digital SLR camera. For you photography buffs, specifically it's a Canon EOS 50D and it is one super bad mamma jamma of a camera :}. I've spent the past few days playing with it, taking a gazillion and one pictures of the kids in action. I'm not quite ready to show those works in progress (what is that aperture thing anyway?)~ but still life pictures of beloved wooden toys are a bit easier (they're usually not busy jumping off the couch).

Our new gnome friend and his house by Bill Bluhm at Heartwood Arts

Buntspechte deer, doe and double fir tree

Buntspechte shepherd boy, mountain dog, sheep family and birch tree

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from A Small Tribe!

Christmas Eve Flurries

Ivan and Matteo rolling marzipan

Not the snow kind of flurries, but an activity flurry. I have the amazing good fortune to be married to a man who is an incredible cook and baker. Ivan is a wonderful man, the kind of man who makes brownies as comfort food (an act much appreciated during my pregnancy). On Christmas Eve, he was busy making his family's linze torte recipe, chocolate almond toffee and marzipan.

The boys helped me make a few last minute gifts...

a playsilk for cousin Elodie

wool felted soaps for Aunt Karina and Grammie

and I finally finished the recycled sweater lap quilt I made for Grandpa Ed.

I don't think Santa's elves could have been any busier :)

Monday, December 22, 2008


On Solstice yesterday, Matteo and I decorated beeswax candles as gifts for his teachers at schoolThe material list was pretty simple, votive beeswax candles, colored modeling beeswax sticks and pattern cutters for the wax.
We heated the wax in the toaster oven for about a minute and a half to make it a little softer to work with. Then put it between two sheets of wax paper and rolled it to thin out the wax sheet.
Matteo used the pattern cutters to cut out shapes. Since it was a little cold indoors, we heated the shapes for a second above a tea candle before pressing them on the votives.

That evening we made Solstice soup and shared a meal with the wonderful Aunt Karina and the boys cousin, Elodie.

The view from the top of Indian Rock

This was also a special solstice for us as five years ago, Ivan proposed to me on the top of Indian Rock here in Berkeley. It's a little cloudy but when it's clear, there's a gorgeous view of San Francisco across the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. I love the fact that Ivan chose Winter Solstice, the date marking the entrance of light, as the starting point for our life together.

Thanks Ivan for an incredible and full (!!!) five years together. A house, minivan and 3 kids later, it's still even better than I imagined.

Your Loving Wife,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Scenes From Our Home

I love candlelight

The tree that sat undecorated for a week finally is dressed

Assembling granola and chocolate covered nuts for gifts

Matteo looks adoringly at a slightly uncomfortable Luca while Nico says "CHEESE!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Ivan teaching the boys how to skip rocks last weekend

We've been working at re-establishing our rhythms here at home. Understandably, the boys have been going through a transition of learning to live with another little one in the house. Both Matteo and Nico have been fantastic with Luca, but I know that they've had a few struggles. Ivan and I have been focusing mostly on just getting them a lot of outside time in the mornings before lunch and trying to get a second outing (a walk or playing in the yard) following naps. I've also been really working at giving the older boys my full attention while Luca naps. Luca Bean has been quite accommodating by sleeping happily on me while we're out in the mornings and in the early evenings he sleeps in his moses basket so I can concentrate on his big brothers bedtime routine.

It's been a lot of fun going out as a family of 5. A few days ago we went to the Berkeley waterfront where the temperature was mild enough for the boys to wade into the water. I love this picture of Nico below, it looks like he's dancing on stars.

Matteo was being coy and wanted to wear his hood up, which was fine because he reminds me of an adorable little elf.

The boys seem to be happy and thriving with our new schedule. Once we get this established, it'll be nice to work on our day to day rhythms.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Time of Preparation

This is the first year that we are formally celebrating the season of Advent. We lit our first candle on Sunday (with the birthday ring that doubles as an Advent Ring :) ) and I've started to decorate the house.

This is the holly that goes on our dining room chandelier every year

And the stockings that are hung on the stairwell with care (for lack of a fireplace). These were made by my very lovely and talented sister in law, Natasha.

On a deeper level, I was reading that Advent is a time of meditation to go into oneself and reflect upon the years end. Walking has always been meditative for me, so it was nice to go for a long walk with Luca wrapped on me just thinking about the season. Of course my thoughts began with the laundry list of things I need to do this holiday season, but they turned to thinking about all the blessings we've had this year... and there have been quite a few! With this feeling of gratitude, I feel like Advent is such a special time and all the things that need to be done for the holidays are infused now with a special joy.

Wishing a Joyful Advent Season to everyone!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Many Reasons to Give Thanks

In an embarrassment of riches, not only was I blessed with our little Luca Bean last week but today was also my birthday. Ivan made me a white cake with whipped Ganache frosting and the boys sang Happy Birthday to me all day long :). I wanted to celebrate Luca's birth day with mine so I put out our birthday ring (pictured above).

We're trying to find a new rhythmn for our family and honestly, it's been quite a challenge. Right now my favorite time of the day has been the afternoon when everyone naps. There's a quiet and stillness to the house as everyone rests. It feels so deliciously decadent to cuddle up with my boys and just watch their beautiful little faces sleep.

Thanks so much to everyone who left messages of blessings and well wishes! It's wonderful knowing that Luca came into this world with loving thoughts surrounding him. Every once in awhile when he's sleeping, I see a smile on his face and know that it's an angel whispering to him about all the people who were excitedly expecting his arrival.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Introducing My Newest Love, Luca

There you are...
Right in front of me
A Brand New Day
Sunrise Over Sea

- "Sunrise Over Sea", John Butler Trio

Lucien Gabriel
9 lbs, 1 oz
21 inches

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Winding down

Today my beloved friend Erin came over to do some Mehndi art on my enormous pregnant belly. Erin has two little boys who are the same age as Matteo and Nico and we've spent many a playdate chasing the boys while trying to finish sentences with each other. It was such a rare treat to have some quiet time to actually talk and have a conversation!

I made us a loaf of chocolate chip banana bread, Ivan brought us lattes and Erin got to work. Every once in awhile she would have to stop and we'd laugh as the bump made sure we knew he was there by showing us how he could move his foot all along my torso against my skin.

After the past few days of frantic cleaning, organizing and sewing, it was incredibly nice to have this still time today with my lovely friend talking about our boys, motherhood and just being women. I am so blessed to have her friendship.

Today was Ivan's last day of work before going on paternity leave. We are so fortunate that he'll be able to stay home until the New Year. I'm really starting to feel the change coming to our family. Our new little love will be joining us in a few days and we'll have this special time to adjust to our new tribe.

The Big Brother Bags

The past few days I have had the most incredible surge of nesting energy! I have been feeling frantic trying to get ready for the new baby- cleaning the house, washing baby clothes and trying to learn EVERYTHING one can know about cloth diapers... There has been a project that has been on my mind for a few months now and that has been to make "Big Brother" bags to give to Matteo and Nico from their new baby brother. Tonight I decided to sit down, relax and just enjoy making something for my little boys.

When I was making a baby quilt a few months ago, Matteo was standing next to me watching me sew.

"Mama, is that for the new baby?" he asked
"Why yes, honey- do you like it" I replied
"Oh yes...(long pause) can I have a blanket too?" he said in his very quiet, sweet voice

There was no way I wouldn't make my little guy a blanket too.

I found blue (his favorite color) batik fabric and backed it with some blue minky fabric to make a toddler size throw (that's whats wrapped in a roll with sisal twine around it).

I had some leftover denim fabric from hemming curtains a few years ago, so I put it to good use by making it into a tote bag with the batik accent and also a crayon roll (though the crayon roll is actually stuffed with twig crayons). Matteo is just starting to get into dinosaurs so I had ordered him this Pachycephalosaurus and included some trains that I had hidden away.

I didn't get to finish Nico's bag, but here is the fabric and goodies for him. His favorite color is green and he loves dogs so I thought these would be nice stuffers for his bag in addition to the blanket and crayon roll.

It's hard to believe that there's only 2 days left!

Little Pieces of Art

About a year ago, I had heard about some beautiful wooden figures made by a German company called Die Buntspechte. I never seemed to run across them in my meanderings through natural toy stores, nor did any of my usual on-line haunts seem to carry them. I had heard that the Rudolph Steiner College Bookstore in Sacramento carried them, but an 80 mile trip just to look at toys seemed a bit excessive... even for me.

A few weeks ago, while at the local Waldorf school's Harvest Faire, I was fortunate to meet Christine Shreier- an artisan whose work has been featured in Living Crafts magazine and proprietor of The Puppenstube. She was the first person in the US to sell Buntspechte figures ten years ago and had brought the most gorgeous selection of them! I was amazed by the simplicity and beauty of these figures. Each one is hand carved and painted in these incredible rich, yet subtle colors. There is an almost sensual feel to these toys when you hold the horses and can actually feel the muscles sculpted into the wood.

I really loved the reds and purples on the rooster, Madchen and little girl

There is something so special about these little figures. I was really touched by the beauty of each one of them and love having these little pieces of art for the boys and I to play with.

Friday, November 14, 2008

With our hands

Yesterday the boys and I decided to make homemade playdough. I've always been a little freaked out by the neon colors and smell of the stuff you buy in the store so when I came across a recipe at Tiny Bird Organics I decided to give it a try at home.

Home-made playdough recipe
1.5 cups flour
1/3 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1.5 cups water
1.5 tablespoon vegetable oil

Mix ingredients together in a stove-top pan (first the dry ingredients, then adding the water and oil, and food coloring if desired), and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens.

Cook for 4-6 minutes until it starts looking like 1 continuous globular mass (after 2-3 minutes it just has some smaller non-connected globs forming and lots of goo still, but it will start clumping all together soon if you keep stirring up the thickened parts off the bottom of the pan).

Then dump/scoop it on a plate, let cool for about 3 minutes, and then knead it into a ball. If it's still too sticky after forming into a ball, you can add a little flour to it, or next time just cook it a little longer.

There is something very visceral and comforting about kneading warm dough. The homemade dough ended up having a really nice smooth texture and natural smell. This recipe makes about a pound of dough. We ended up doing a pound a color and have a nice stash to keep us busy!

Matteo concentrating

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Anticipating Baby

10 more days until our littlest love will join us! I had an appt this morning with Dr A. and she said he's still pretty high up, but finally head down AND that I'm measuring to be about 2 weeks further than I am... so she thinks I'll have another enormously huge bruiser baby :)!

I'm getting more and more excited to meet our little boy! This morning, Matteo pulled up my shirt, kissed my tummy and said "good morning little baby, how are you?". Such a sweet, sweet boy... sigh

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, My Little Love Nico!

Oh Nicolao, my sweet boy. Today you turned 2! And like every day you've been on this earth, you've brought me smiles and so much joy. The first thing you said to me this morning was "I love you, mama" and you gave me a sweet kiss on the cheek. Thank you for giving me that lovely gift this morning!

Our tyrannical imp~ you're so fiercely loyal, woe to any kid who messes with Matteo at the playground! You're fearless and so incredibly funny. Thank you for choosing us to be your family, my darling Nico. I can't imagine my life or this family without your sweet, happy spirit.


Friday, November 7, 2008

The Smaller Tribe

I never have considered myself a super girlie girl, but the one thing that makes me go soft are dolls. Not just any dolls, but Waldorf dolls. I love these dolls hand-made out of natural materials, stuffed with wool, covered with organic cotton for skin and if they're super special- they have semi precious stones and crystals placed into their bellies for their special healing and comforting properties. Having boys, it's a bit off the beaten path to justify having dolls, but with the birth of Nico 2 years ago, it seemed the most natural thing for Matteo to receive his first doll, Felix, in anticipation of being a big brother. Matteo is pretty gentle in nature and spirit so he took right away to caring for Felix, carrying him in a baby sling made out of a playsilk and sometimes even holding him to his chest to "feed him".

When I learned I was pregnant this year, we got Pablo (all our doll names are based upon names we've thought about using for the "live" babies) a heavy baby doll, stuffed with millet and lavender. Pablo is so sweet to hold and smell, but he is truly a heavy baby. When Nico picks him up he holds him tight and yells "heavy! heavy!"

Kaisa is my doll. As a soon to be mother of 3 boys, I desperately wanted my own little girl to dress up (and Ivan was happy to oblige getting her as I think he feared I would put our boys in fairy princess dresses just to satisfy my small-but present- need for pink). I have a not-so-small stack of fabric just waiting to be made into doll dresses.

This is Nico with his new doll, Paolo. We gave him to Nico last weekend right before we went to the special sibling preparation class at the hospital where I am giving birth. He wouldn't let go of his new "little brother" the entire time.

In the new Mothering magazine, there was a great article about boys and dolls and how having dolls prepares boys to be good fathers by allowing their nurturing instincts develop. I love seeing how the boys play with these beautiful dolls and couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Brighter Day

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer"
- President- elect, Barack Obama

What an amazing, incredible night. I was glued to the TV watching election returns ... entranced, joyful as Pennsylvania came in... then Ohio... then the Western states and then "President- elect Barack Obama" images flooded the airwaves.

I feel like I go to bed tonight with a renewed sense of hope and belief in our country and I say a prayer of thanks that tomorrow I'll wake up in a brighter, happier world.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

That Mom

When I was growing up, there was always "that mom" at school who would always be driving the car pool, volunteering in class, baking the cupcakes... my mom was a different mom. She was the mom who sometimes worked 2 jobs, made sure there was frozen potpies in the freezer in case I was hungry after school and on weekends, would sit with me and watch old black and white movies while we had a formal tea party with our Japanese tea set. I love the mom that I have and wouldn't have traded my experiences growing up for anything, but since I am blessed to be able to stay at home with the boys, I do have those urges to be "that mom" at times.

Tomorrow Matteo's school is having a Halloween parade and party, which is why I found myself at 11 o'clock baking pumpkin cookies. I'm sure I could have gotten a pass since Nico has been sick all week and it's been a matter of survival at home, but part of me couldn't let "that mom" go. After the boys went to bed, I looked up egg and nut free recipes (I live in mortal fear that my baked goods will send some kid into allergic shock) and Ivan very gallantly ran to the market for the ingredients. I'm not much of a baker (or cook for that matter), but luckily found an easy recipe and managed to make cookies that will pass muster with the 3 and 4 year old set.

The Varialand game by Selecta that I've been coveting for a year arrived today. In the evening silence while the cookies cooled, I sat with my glass of milk and created my own little forest scene feeling that at least tonight, I was that mom.