Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 is just about over

2011 is just about over; today is New Year's Eve - which you probably already know, I'm sure - and tomorrow starts our attempts at remembering to write "2012" instead of "2011" when we write the date. I don't know about you, but I only just get the hang of writing one year before we change to the next, LOL!

So, how was 2011 for you?

For me it was a busy year that seems to have flown by. A lot happened; the biggest thing being our move in October, which was basically from one side of the UK to the other.

Are you making any new year's resolutions?

I'm not; I don't make them.

My first year staying up for midnight my brother told me my choice of resolution was stupid, so I said I wouldn't make any if I couldn't make the ones I wanted to. I suppose, in a way, that's a resolution in itself; I suppose, in a way, I just promised myself I wouldn't make promises I couldn't keep. Either way, I've kept to it ever since. I'd just turned 9, so I've kept to it now for 18 years.

I do make lists of things I would like to achieve each year though. More than anything those lists are just "to do lists" that I hope to get to before the next year is out; mainly involving projects I want to get done that year.

Most of my projects didn't get done in 2011; I ended up not giving out handmade gifts to everyone as I'd planned, and I still haven't made myself the knitted items I keep promising to make for myself.

Maybe in 2012 I'll do a better job of getting through my list?

First I'm going to make those things I promised myself; starting with a hat, scarf and mittens set. Then I'll start on all those other projects on my list.

Anyway...

Happy New Year to you all; I hope you have a fun - and safe - time celebrating!

Kelly, Kero and I are having a quiet night in... Normal for us; we're not big on parties, and we don't drink, so a quiet night in suits us much better.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Astraea Sapphire's blog

For anyone who may be interested...

Astraea Sapphire's blog is moving from http://astraeasapphiresalmanac.blogspot.com to http://www.magicalmom.net.

Just thought I'd let anyone who may be interested know. :)

OK... It's back to catching up with blogs for me; have a good day!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Furkid thoughts: Santa Paws spotting plan

Hi there humans, this is Kero.

So, you've all been wondering about my plan to catch Santa Paws, right?

Well, this was my plan:

Where Mami moved my bed when the tree went up I can see the tree and the doorway clearly, plus - if he thinks he's clever enough to try it - I could also see if he came in through the fireplace. I also had a perfect view of the other door to the front room. In short, where my bed is, no matter how Santa Paws entered the living room (where the tree and stockings are) I would be able to see him. My plan was simple; I'd spend the night in the bed in the living room instead of sleeping with the humans. I do that sometimes anyway, so Santa Paws wouldn't have thought it was strange. The added bonus here is that when I sleep in there I tend to sleep lighter; listening harder for sounds made by my humans - especially Mami - in case she slips away in the night or something.

But somehow he still snuck in!

Mami put the stockings on the sofa. I checked them; they were empty. Then we started getting sorted for bed. I spent the night in my living room bed, but still when I got up in the morning the stockings were somehow full of presents.

I don't get it!

The only time I wasn't there was when I went for my before bed pee, but he couldn't have come in then, because my humans were still up, and they'd have said something if the stockings got filled then, wouldn't they?

Plus, how could he have gotten in the house without me hearing him?

This Santa Paws guy is very sneaky!

I'm not giving up though... I'll try again next year!

Licks and sniffs,
Kero

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Those Darn Squirrels

Iggy recently had an amusing little book brought for him. The book was "Those Darn Squirrels!" and it was written by Adam Rubin.

The book tells the story of Old Man Fookwire; he is a grump. The only thing he likes to do is paint pictures of the birds that visit his backyard. In an attempt to stop them flying South for the Winter he sets up bird feeders in his garden. But the squirrels like the bird feeders too. Except that Old Man Fookwire doesn't like the squirrels, and definately doesn't want them eating the things he put out to tempt the birds in to staying in his garden instead of flying South for the Winter.

I wont tell you what happens next, but I will tell you this:

When Iggy mentioned the book I thought it sounded like an amusing little book, and I wanted to read it. So when I recently found audio clips of Iggy reading the book waiting for me in my inbox I was really pleased. And now that I've read it I still think it's an amusing little book. I also think it's a cute story, and a great little book to put a smile on your face.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Killing Time

By Caleb Carr

"Meet Dr. Gideon Wolfe, expert criminologist of the new millennium. A professor at New York's John Jay University in the year 2023, he lives in an era that has seen plague, a global economic crash, and the 2018 assassination of President Emily Forrester. In this turbulent new world order, Wolfe's life and everything he knows are turned upside down when the widow of a murdered special-effects wizard enters his office.

The widow hands him a silver disc from her husband's safety deposit box, hoping that Wolfe's expertise in history and criminology will compel him to track down her husband's killers. The disc contains footage of President Forrester's assassination, the same video that has been broadcast countless times on TV and over the internet-with one crucial, shocking difference: This version shows that before the video was released, it was altered with sinister special effects.

This explosive discovery will lead Gideon Wolfe on an electrifying journey from a criminal underworld of New York to the jungles of Africa and on a quest to find the truth in an age when all information can be manipulated. With this novel, Carr has boldly established a new genre - future history - combining the best elements of mystery and thrillers with unique historical insight. Breathtakingly suspenseful, Killing Time unfolds as the work of a master novelist."

(Click here to see the page that the above text was taken from).

I thought that this was a really strange, but really good book; the ending was a little bit disappointing though, since I would have liked to know what - if anything - Malcolm actually did. I wont say more though, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who might be wanting to read it. After all, like I said, it is a good book, so it is worth a read if you like these kinds of books.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Why the Sea is Salt (LBE and FD)

The following story was taken from this site.

Long ago, there were two brothers, one rich and one poor. The Rich Brother was stingy. It was winter. The wind howled down the chimney, and the snow almost covered the hut in which the Poor Brother lived.

"We cannot starve," said the Poor Brother to his wife. "I will ask my brother to help us."

Now it annoyed the Rich Brother to have the Poor Brother ask for help. When the Poor Brother asked for bread, the Rich Brother said angrily, "Here, take this ham and go to the dwarfs. They will boil it for you."

So the Poor Brother started out, with the ham under his arm, to find the home of the dwarfs. He trudged on through the snow until he saw seven queer little dwarfs rolling a huge snowball, at the foot of a hill.

The dwarfs paid no attention to the Poor Brother, but kept on rolling the snowball, which grew larger and larger each moment, as they sang,

"Behind the door
The Mill you'll find,
But snow, the Mill
Will never grind.
We'll gather snow,
And still more snow,
Then roll it down
To cool Below."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the Chief Dwarf. "We have snow enough here to put out a dozen fires. Come, brothers, let us roll the snowball Below!"

"Heave ho! Heave ho!" cried the other six dwarfs.

In the twinkling of an eye, the seven little dwarfs had rolled the snowball through an entrance in the side of the hill.

Down, down, the snowball rolled, until it reached the place where the fires burned. Then sizzle, sizzle, came the hot steam pouring out of the entrance.

All this time the Poor Brother had stood watching the seven dwarfs, and saying not a word. But suddenly he thought, "If I do not go Below at once, there will be no fire left to boil my ham."

So the Poor Brother groped his way through the steam and the smoke, and at last he found his way into the home of the seven dwarfs.

It certainly was a very queer place! There were great fires burning on every side. Although the huge snowball had cooled the air, it had not quenched the fires.

The Chief Dwarf was stirring some fat that was boiling in a kettle. When he saw the Poor Brother standing before him with the ham under his arm, he cried, "Ho, ho! Who comes here?"

Before the Poor Brother could answer, the seven little dwarfs had crowded around him, teasing for the ham. It was many a day since they had tasted ham, and they were very fond of it.

"What will you give me for the ham?" asked the Poor Brother.

"We have neither silver nor gold," said the dwarfs, "but we will give you the Mill that stands behind the door."

"Of what use would the Mill be to me? I am hungry and have come to boil the ham," said the Poor Brother.

"It is a wonderful Mill," the Chief Dwarf replied. "It will grind anything in the world that you might wish, excepting snow and ham. I will show you how to use it."

The Poor Brother agreed to give the ham in exchange for the Mill, and the Chief Dwarf told him how to use it.

The dwarf said, "When you wish the Mill to grind, use these words: Grind, quickly grind, little Mill, Grind--with a right good will! When you wish the Mill to stop grinding, you must say, Halt, halt, little Mill!
The Mill will obey you."

Taking the little Mill under his arm, the Poor Brother climbed up and up, until he came to the entrance in the side of the hill. Then he trudged home again through the snow.

When he arrived in front of the hut, he put the little Mill down on the snow, and said at once, "Grind, quickly grind, little Mill, Grind a HOUSE--with a right good will!"

The little Mill ground and ground, until there stood, in place of the hut, the finest house in the world. It had fine large windows and broad stairways, and the house was furnished from garret to cellar.

By spring, the Mill had ground out the last article that was needed for the house, and the Poor Brother cried, "Halt, halt, little Mill!" The Mill obeyed him.

Then the Poor Brother placed the Mill in the barnyard and told it to grind horses, cows, woolly sheep, and fat little pigs.

When he told it to halt, the Mill stopped grinding.

The Poor Brother carried the Mill to the fields and commanded it to grind rich crops of wheat, oats, barley, and corn.

Then he took the Mill into the house and asked it to grind fine clothing for his wife and his daughters, and to keep all the cupboards filled with good things to eat.

At last the Poor Brother had everything that he wanted. He placed the Mill behind the kitchen door and sat down, with his wife and daughters, to eat the choicest food he had ever tasted.

The Rich Brother heard about all the strange things that had happened, and he went to visit the Poor Brother.

"How did you manage to become so rich?" he asked in astonishment.

The Poor Brother told about the Mill, and that he need only say,

"Grind, quickly grind, little Mill, Grind--with a right good will!" And the Mill would grind anything he might wish to have.

The Rich Brother did not wait to hear any more but said, "Lend the Mill to me for an hour."

Taking it under his arm, the stingy Rich Brother ran across the fields toward home.

His wife was in the hayfield, spreading the hay after the mowers. He passed her on the way home and told her that he would attend to breakfast that morning.

"I will call you when all is ready," said he.

When the Rich Brother reached home, he placed the Mill on the table, and told it to grind porridge and red herrings.

The Mill began at once to grind oatmeal porridge and fat red herrings.

All the dishes and pans were soon filled. Then the porridge and herrings began to flow over the kitchen floor into the yard.

The Rich Brother tried to stop the Mill. He turned and twisted and screwed the handle, but he could not stop it, for he did not know the magic words.

At last he waded through the porridge across the fields to the mowers, crying, "Help! Help!"

When he told the mowers about the Mill, they said, "Ask your brother to stop the Mill, or we shall be drowned in porridge."

Then the Rich Brother ran to the Poor Brother's house, crying and shouting for help.

The Poor Brother laughed when he found out what had happened. They rowed back to the kitchen in a boat, and the Poor Brother whispered the magic words. The Mill stopped grinding.

In the course of time, the porridge soaked into the ground, but after that nothing would grow there excepting oats, and afterwards the brooks and ponds were always filled with herrings.

The Rich Brother no longer wished to keep the Mill. The Poor Brother carried it home once more and placed it behind the door.

Years afterwards, a rich merchant sailed from a distant land and anchored his ship in the harbor. He visited the home of the Poor Brother and asked about the Mill, for he had heard how wonderful it was.

"Will it grind salt?" the merchant asked.

"Yes, indeed!" said the Poor Brother. "It will grind anything in the whole world excepting snow and ham."

"Let me borrow the Mill for a short time, and great will be your reward," said the merchant.

He thought it would be much easier to fill his ship with salt from the Mill, than to make a long voyage across the ocean to procure his cargo.

The Poor Brother consented gladly. The merchant went away with the Mill. He did not wait to find out how to stop the grinding.

When the merchant went aboard the ship, he said to the captain, "Here is a great treasure. Guard it carefully."

The captain thought that the little Mill did not appear very wonderful, but he placed it upon the deck of the ship. Then he ordered the sailors to their posts of duty, and the ship sailed away.

When they were out at sea, the merchant said, "Captain, we need not go any further upon our voyage. The Mill will grind out salt enough to fill the hold of the ship." So saying he cried, "Grind, quickly grind, little Mill, Grind SALT--with a right good will!" And the Mill ground salt, and more salt, and still more salt. When the hold of the ship was full of salt, the merchant cried, "Now you must stop, little Mill."

But the little Mill did not stop. It kept on grinding salt, and more salt, and still more salt.

The captain shouted, "We shall be lost! The ship will sink!"

One of the sailors called, "Ahoy, captain! Throw the Mill overboard."

So, heave ho! Heave ho! And overboard went the wonderful Mill, down to the bottom of the deep sea.

The captain and his crew sailed home with the merchant's cargo of salt.

But the Mill kept on grinding salt at the bottom of the sea.

AND THAT IS WHY THE SEA IS SALT.

At least, so some people say.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Just a little note from me to you (kinda FD)

It's the afternoon of Christmas Day; the presents are opened, the bulk of the phone calls made, and soon I'll start on the preporations for the things I can do today ready for the feast for tomorrow. But I just wanted to take a few minutes to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Chanuka, Blessed Yule... Or whatever it happens to be for you! Whatever you've done, are doing, or will be doing to celebrate the holidays this year, I hope your holidays are filled with love and laughter! :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Furkid thoughts: Kero's 2011 holiday photo shoot

Hi humans, it's Kero here.

My humans brought me a new bandana, and we did a photo shoot, since I'm sure you all want to see photos of me wearing it. I mean, how could you not want to see photos of me? It's a "reversable" one, which means it has a different picture on each side.

On one side it's red and green with holly and ivy:


And the other side is green with stars:


I love bandanas!

If you're wondering... I have my plan set for spotting Santa Paws; I don't want to post it thogh in case he reads it. I'll tell you about it - and about if it works - some other day. Mami says it's tonight he comes... I hope I can catch him this year!

I'll also tell you about all the presents I've had lately another day; I've been having a great time the last few days... Wait until you hear about all the great things I've gotten! And Mami says there's more after Santa Paws has been; this is great!

Licks and sniffs,
Kero

Friday, December 23, 2011

Glass angel

I thought I would show you a photo of the tree ornament we brought this year.



It's a little glass angel.

Isn't she pretty?

I hope you're enjoying your holiday celebrations; or, if they haven't started yet, that you enjoy your holiday celebrations... Stay safe and warm! :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Story: MEAGAN AND THE YULE SOLSTICE

By Kathryn Dyer

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Meagan. She lived in a house that had lots of woods behind it. She lived with her mommy and daddy, her big brother Corwin and her beautiful cat named Starweaver.

Meagan loved to watch Starweaver play with the snow in the winter. He would try to catch the flakes as they came down from the sky. Sometimes he would get mad when the flakes would melt and then his tail would start swishing from side to side. Meagan's parents told her not to mess with Starweaver when his tail was swishing like that.

"When Star swishes his tail back and forth it means that he is mad or frustrated," said her father Michael, "and playing with him would be like someone teasing you when you're mad or don't feel good." Meagan could sure understand that! "What does frustrated mean Daddy?" she asked. "Frustrated is how you feel when you are trying very hard to do something and it won't work right. Like when you were learning how to dress yourself and you couldn't get your head through the neck of a shirt." explained Michael. Meagan knew just how that felt and she promised never to bother the cat when his tail swished.

But today Starweaver wasn't swishing his tail. He was following Meagan and Corwin into the woods and chasing shadows. Meagan and Corwin had gone down the path into the woods to gather green fir branches, mistletoe and holly. It was Christmas time and they were helping to decorate the house. Later they would go with their parents to pick out a live tree to decorate and then plant in the Circle behind the house. Meagan's family were Pagans, but they also celebrated Christmas when Santa Claus came.

Meagan's mother Elizabeth told her that many people would celebrate a God's birthday at the middle of the winter or the Yule Solstice. Meagan knew that the Yule Solstice was the longest night of the year. Of course, many Christians celebrated the birthday of Jesus at Christmas. But before there were Christians some people would celebrate the birthday of Mithras, one of the old Gods, or some of the other Solar Gods. Solar means that the God is in charge of the Sun and Light. Meagan could see how the sun would be very important in the cold of Winter.

Meagan's family celebrated two holidays in the winter. They would celebrate Christmas, which her mother said was Santa Claus's birthday and they would celebrate the beginning of winter which they called the Yule Solstice. Meagan thought that Santa Claus must be a very nice person to give other people presents on his birthday so she and Corwin always left him a piece of cake and some eggnog to drink.

Meagan and Corwin picked lots of branches to decorate the house with. They tried to get fallen branches when they could but when they had to take them off a live plant they would ask the plant first and then thank it when they were done. Meagan had some crystals in her pocket to leave for the plants as a thank-you present. Corwin used the scissors when they had to cut something because he was older and Meagan's safety scissors might hurt the plant more. Corwin was always very careful not to cut more than they needed. They put all their branches into baskets that Elizabeth's mother Nana had made.

"Don't let Starweaver eat anything!" said Corwin, "Many plants can make cats and people sick." Meagan held her basket up higher. She didn't want Star to get sick! Corwin told her that soon she would get to go on walks with their father into the woods to learn about which plants were safe to eat and which were not. "Yes," said Meagan, "and then maybe Cindy's mom will show me how to make medicines!" Cindy was Meagan's best friend and her mother was an herbalist. Cindy's mother Anna made medicine, incense, make-up and lots of other things wit all kinds of plants and flowers. Sometimes Meagan would go with her mother when Elizabeth went to trade herbs with Anna. Then she and Cindy would have fun smelling all the herbs in Anna's workshop.

Soon Meagan's house was full of decorations. They made popcorn and cranberry strings to decorate the tree. Each year Meagan and Corwin would make a special ornament to put on the tree. This year Nana helped them make ornaments out of clay. Nana put the ornaments in her kiln, which is a kind of oven, so that they would get hard. Meagan loved her Nana very much. She always brought Meagan a surprise when she cam to visit. One time she had brought a little black kitten who grew up to be Starweaver!

One time Meagan asked Nana if she was a Pagan too. Nana said, "Oh, I'm half of one and a dozen of the other". Meagan couldn't talk about it to her other grandparents. Her daddy's parents Gramma Lee and Granpa Scott were very Christian and always asked where the children were going to Sunday school. Meagan had been to Sunday school a few times with Cindy because her parents wanted her to know about all religions. But she didn't tell Gramma Lee and Granpa Scott about the time she went to the Jewish temple or talked to her parents' Buddhist friend. She knew that they wouldn't understand and she didn't want to make them feel bad.

It seemed like no time at all before it was the night before Yule Solstice. Meagan's family had found a dead tree in the woods to use for a Yule log. They decorated it with greenery after Michael carved little suns onto it. When it was ready they put it in the fireplace and put the piece of Yule log they had saved from last year on top of it. This year Jeremy, the Coven's High Priest, had to work on the Solstice so the Coven had decided to hold their ritual on the next Saturday. Meagan was excited, they would celebrate three days this year!

That night, Meagan's family had a big dinner and Nana came to stay the night. Elizabeth had talked to Cindy's mother Anna and she let Cindy come to spend the night too! Sonn Elizabeth lit the Yule log and many candles around the room. Cindy and Meagan lay on the rug in front of the fire while Michael played his harp. They sang some songs that people in their Coven had written about the Yule. Cindy didn't know very many of the songs they sang but she tried to sing them anyway. This made Meagan giggle and so Cindy started to tickle her. They had a great tickle fight until Nana said that they were too close to the fire even if it had a screen.

Cindy and Meagan got to stay up past their bedtime and even got to have a cookie before they went to bed. They promised each other to meet after Santa came to play with their new toys. Meagan could hardly wait for Santa to get there! On Christmas Eve she and Corwin left out some coconut cake and eggnog for Santa. They left him a note wishing him a happy birthday and thanking him in advance for anything he might leave for them if he thought that they had been good. Meagan had tried to be good all year but it was very hard for her to go to sleep that night. She kept thinking that she heard raindeer on the roof.

The next morning Meagan got up and brushed her teeth. She could hardly wait to go downstairs but she had to wait until her parents and Nana were ready. Because Corwin was old enough he had gone down to the kitchen to heat water for tea and coffee. Meagan's mother and Nana would only drink herb tea but Michael said he had to jumpstart his mornings which always made Elizabeth laugh and tease him.

Once they got downstairs Corwin and Meagan rushed to see what Santa had left them while their parent's took pictures. After they were done, the whole family exhanged presents. Then it was time to visit Gramma Lee and Granpa Scott. It wasn't until the next day that Meagan had time to play with Cindy.

Since the Coven had chosen to meet on Saturday they decided to have a party all day. People began arriving early in the morning. Some of them had brought gifts for Meagan and her family who also had gifts for them. Meagan had made Jeremy a plate with a pentagram and runes around it spelling out his name with the clay her Nana had brought to make the Christmas decorations with.

"Thank you so much Meagan!" said Jeremy, "I will put this on my altar at home and everytime I see it I will think of you." Meagan felt very happy that Jeremy liked her present. Everyone had a good time. They all played games and sang songs. Michael played his harp. Corwin had gotten a new recorder for Christmas and played it for eveyone. Sometimes people would stop for a little bit and go for a walk in the woods. Not everyone had woods behind their house like Meagan's family did.

It was getting to be time for the Circle to gather. Everyone took turns taking quick showers and baths to purify themselves. Meagan and Corwin helped decorate the Circle with greens and candles before it was their turn. They took their baths and put on their robes. The Coven was starting to gather in the Circle. There was a bonfire ready to light and two unlit candles waiting on the Altar. They would light the bonfire and the candles to help light the Horned Lord's way through the dark months of winter.

Robert blew a Horn and the ceremony started. When it came time for Cakes and Ale they passed out some special cookies that Nana had made for them. "I may not come worship with you," Nana said, "but I respect what you do and I would like to share a little part of it with you."

All too soon the ritual was over. Meagan was going to help clean up the Circle but her mother saw her yawning and sent her to bed. "Don't worry Meagan," said Elizabeth, "the grown-ups are going to stay up until the bonfire goes out and we'll clean up then. Go brush your teeth and get ready for bed and one of us will come tuck you in in a minute, o.k.?" "O.k. momma," yawned Meagan, "it's all been so much fun this week, I just can't stay awake any longer."

When Michael came up to tuck Meagan in she was already sound asleep and dreaming about the wonderful week she had had.

(Click here to see the page that I got the story "Meagan And The Yule Solstice" from).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My gift to you: Alexis' Story (LBE)

"I'll see you after class," the teacher said, dropping something on to the desk in front of Alexis. A little confused, Alexis pulled it towards her to see what it was. Examining it carefully she discovered it was her recent essay on the origin of Christmas. She'd never had a teacher want to see her after class in her 12 years of life, why now? Squinting at the page in front of her she realized the front page of her work was covered in a large red F.
"Lexi," said a voice beside her. "That's your homework." It was her support assistant; the person who read things for her when she couldn't. Alexis hated having to have a support assistant, but she hated it more than ever at that moment. Not only was the woman talking to her as if she was an idiot - again - when she was far from an idiot, but having a support assistant made it obvious to everyone how different Alexis was. She didn't mind being different, but she wished it was for something good, not because she had poor eyesight. "Alexis," the woman repeated, breaking in to Alexis' thoughts. "I'm talking to you."
"Yes," Alexis muttered. "I know. It's my homework."
"You got an F," her support assistant told her, as if the large red F on the paper wasn't big enough for Alexis to have noticed it. "Lexi, how did you get an F? Did you not understand the essay? I wrote what she'd put on the board, if you couldn't read it..."
"I understood it just fine," Alexis snapped. "And I could read what you wrote just fine."
"Then..."
"Look, I don't know, OK. I guess I'll find out when I talk to her after class."
"Want me to stay with you?"
"No! I think I can manage to have a conversation without you."
She'd never had an F before in her life, and it bothered her. And she'd put a lot of work in to the Christmas piece; not that she'd minded, those books on Pagan celebrations had been fascinating. She wished she wouldn't have to return them to the library next week.
Soon class ended and the rest of the students filed out of the room. Giving them plenty of time to do so - and attempting to prolong what she was sure would be a far from enjoyable conversation - Alexis took her time gathering her things, and packing them in to her bag. By the time she was finally done, her teacher was sitting at her desk with her arms folded, glaring at her with disapproval.
"Miss?" Alexis said as she approached. "You wanted to speak to me?"
"I did," the teacher said. "What is the meaning of this?"
"Of what?" Alexis asked. "You mean... my essay?"
"What else?"
"I did what you said; I wrote about the origin of Christmas."
"Lies!" her teacher shouted.
Alexis took a step backwards, shaking her head. "But I got the information from several sources," she said. "I quoted them at the end like you're meant to."

"You can't believe everything you read in books child," her teacher announced, and then launched in to a speech in which Alexis only made out the words "devil worshipers" and "the bible says."
"But if I can't believe what I read in books," Alexis said bravely. "Then why should I believe the bible?"
Her teacher glared angrily at her, then quickly wrote a note and stuffed it in an envelope. She then thrust it in to Alexis' hands and told her to give it to her parents and get out.
Alexis ran from the room, fighting tears. She was meant to go to her next class, but she was already late. She wasn't going to walk in to a room full of people when the battle against the tears that was getting harder every second. Instead, she locked herself in a cubical of the girls' toilets and allowed the tears to fall. She was still there when the lunch bell rang, but she didn't care; she wasn't hungry.
After a while she heard voices and a group of girls came in. One of them tried the door to the cubical she was in.
"Someone's in here," Alexis said in a shaky voice. As soon as she said it she wished she hadn't. A moment later she heard the unmistakable sound of someone climbing on to the lid of the toilet in the next cubical, and a head popped over the wall.
"Hey," said a girl. "Alexis is crying, come and see."
The next thing Alexis knew, a head had popped up on the other side too. "She's right," said the second head. "It is Alexis, and she's crying."
The girls then fell about teasing her until she summoned up the courage to open the door and make a dash for it.
"You didn't wash your hands," one of the girls called after her, as she disappeared out of the door. The others laughed.
As she ran she stumbled over feet that were intentionally stuck out to trip her, and tried to ignore calls of, "watch where you're going. Oh, that's right, you can't."
It wasn't long though before one of the feet sent her sprawling. She landed heavily; pain shooting up the arm that had broken her fall, and the contents of her bag spilling over the floor. All the onlookers laughed as she scrambled to find and repack the contents of her bag.
"What's this?" said the boy who had tripped her. With a sinking feeling in her stomach Alexis looked up to see him holding up a book. That was when she remembered; she had the books she'd used for her Christmas essay in her bag still.
"Give it back," she demanded.

The boy examined the book then looked around at his friends. "It's a book about witches," he informed them all. "Are you a witch Alexis?"
"Give the book back to me," Alexis repeated, ignoring his question. Besides, what difference did it make if she was a witch? Witches weren't bad people, were they?

Alexis found her thoughts drifting back to when she was seven years old. In her hands was a bible, and she stood in front of her Sunday School teacher.
"Why though?" asked seven year old Alexis. "I thought God treated everyone the same."
"You're different," her Sunday School teacher replied.
"Why?" Alexis asked her.
"Because you're disabled," came the reply.
Anger burned in the child as she glared at the adult before her, and - without thinking - she began to flick through the pages of the bible she held in her hands.
"What are you looking for?" her Sunday School teacher had asked.
"The right spell," Alexis had replied.
Her Sunday School teacher had then launched in to a fit of ranting and raving in which she had called Alexis, "witch," and "Devil worshiper," and "evil."
Alexis remembered she had been confused. She liked witches, and what was wrong with playing witch anyway?

"I said, are you a witch, Alexis?" the boy asked, jolting her back to the present.
"And I said give me back the book," Alexis responded.
"She didn't deny it," one of the others that had surrounded her said. "She must be a witch."
She was spared what might have come next by the sound of a pair of high-heeled feet coming down the corridor. At the sound the boy thrust the book at Alexis, and all the children scattered; nobody wanted to be caught in the act by a teacher, after all.
By the time the teacher came around the corner Alexis was alone in the corridor. "Are you OK, Alexis?" the teacher asked.
"I..." Alexis hesitated; knowing that telling the teacher would only encourage the bullies. "I tripped, and I landed hard on my arm, and my stuff spilled everywhere," Alexis offered.
"You should be using your cane," the teacher pointed out as she began to help Alexis gather the rest of her things.
Alexis ignored the comment. She hated the thing, and she wasn't going to use it. Her sight wasn't bad enough to need the stupid stick, and she wasn't going to use it. She didn't need it. And, anyway, using the cane would only make them bully her more, and she needed that like a hole in the head.
"What's this?" the teacher said, spotting the book on witchcraft Alexis still held.
"Just a book," Alexis muttered, stuffing it quickly in to her bag.
"What kind of book?" the teacher insisted. But Alexis ignored her, making sure this time that the clasp on her bag was done up, before swinging it across her shoulder and starting to head off down the corridor, barely even remembering to stop and thank the teacher for helping her collect her things.
Alexis’ arm was throbbing, and her music teacher noticed her struggling to use it. The teacher sent her to the nurse, and told her not to bother coming back to class afterwards. She did go to the nurse to have it bandaged, but told the nurse she was meant to go back to class so as to escape from there. She hated to lie; and was rarely good at it, but she didn't want to be stuck in the nurse's room. She needed to think.
She found a spot near the entrance where the taxi that took her home stopped. She pulled the book from her bag. She hadn't planned to read it, but it seemed to call to her, inviting her to read it again and again; that's why she had it in her bag instead of leaving it at home.
She was confused; all she'd read about Pagans and witches seemed to answer the questions she had ever since she was a seven year old playing witches with the bible. The bible never gave her those answers, but this... this felt right.
A bird swooped low overhead, and she looked up, wishing she could see it clearly enough to tell what kind it was. The sky was a brilliant blue, with puffy white clouds in it, and she smiled - for the first time that day - as she looked at them. "If a Pagan or witch - or whatever you want to call it - worships nature," she announced to nobody in particular, "Then I'm one." She looked down at the book still in her hands. "And I'm not evil," she added, "Because witches aren't evil."

***

Today is the last of the three Yule blog parties I've signed up for, and the theme of today's blog party is based around gifts. I wasn't sure what kind of gift I could give at first, but with a little help from Magaly - who is a gift in herself - I was able to come up with a gift to share with you. Therefore, my gift to you this holiday season is the story of how a young witch found her path.

Alexis' story was based on my own story - which you can read here - I'll let you decide for yourself how much of Alexis' story is fact and how much of it is fiction though! ;)

Find out what other wonderful gifts are being shared this holiday season by visiting the other participents; you can do this by clicking on the button below:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Weather, laptops, mobility and daycare

It's been really cold here lately; Kero has the right idea...


...I've spent a lot of time curled up in blankets myself, LOL!

We had a little snow Friday, but between the fact the ground was so wet from rain and the day became warm, it didn't stick around even long enough for me to grab photos. It's a start, I guess... I want more though; anyone want to send me some? LOL!

We've had plenty of thick frost though, and - like I said - it's very cold!

***

My laptop has developed a dodgy connection to its power supply, and since the battery no longer holds any kind of charge this means that sometimes my laptop just suddenly turns off without warning; very annoying, since it usually happens when I'm in the middle of something. Avoiding moving it reduces the chances, but that's still no guarantee, since the position it needs seems to change from time to time, and sometimes the slightest movement makes it lose its connection, other times it can be moved just fine. Like I said, it's all very annoying!

***

Mobility lessons are going well; I did part of the walk "technically" by myself yesterday. There was a scary moment where a monster with twig-like arms grabbed me, but it all worked out OK in the end; once the tree was done getting its hug. My Mobility officer was sort of nearby, but acting like just a casual observer, since she knows I know the route already; we both know it's only my monsters that stop me doing it. Well, that and the slight problem of my not being able to find the gate very easily; but I'm even getting better at that... Doorway counting seems to be working reasonably well. Though, I have to admit that it's easier when Kero's at home, because as soon as I get near enough to the gate that he can see me he goes mental, so I just have to follow his barks, LOL!

***

Kero was meant to go to doggy daycare on Saturday; he's not going there again. To cut a long story short, there was nobody around, and when I called I was told we should have walked in the other gate (which we'd been told not to use) and looked for them in the workshop (which I didn't know they had). They also made it perfectly clear that they were too busy to spare me much time, and when I suggested it was easier to cancel then, the reply was a rather sharp, "fine," followed by, "bye," and the line going dead. To say I was annoyed is an understatement.

For one thing, if you make a commitment to a customer, you should keep to it; busy or not. For another, she knew I was blind, and iff I'd taken Kero by myself how could I have gone down there looking for her? For another, she knew we'd have a taxi waiting so no time to mess about. Not to mention the fact my confidence in her took a bit of a battering with how we had to reschedule what was meant to have been my birthday day out because she'd neglected to get someone in to have Kero while she walked her dogs, so she only had him for his grooming (so for a little over an hour) instead of for the whole day. Plus the fact it took us much longer than it should have to get his collar back (while he was trembling with fear and getting upset because he hates not having it on). I tried giving her the benifit of the doubt last time, but after this time... *Shakes head*... Kero's not going back there. I'll find him another groomer, and find someone else who does doggy daycare or something.

She seemed like a nice enough person, which is why I was giving her the benifit of the doubt last time; but you can't just go by if someone is "nice" sometimes. Sometimes you need them to also be professional, and she doesn't seem to be, which means I don't feel comfortable trusting her with Kero.

***

That will do for today; besides, I've already done a post earlier this morning about my actual plans for Yule this year, so you have enough to read for today, I think.

Stay safe and warm!

Plans for Yule 2011 (FD)

For those who are interested, here's the plan for our Yule celebrations:

We're kicking things off tonight with roasted chestnuts, mince pies and cocoa.

Tomorrow we'll exchange our first present from each other, we have a present for each other and something from Kero for each of us for each of the five days we're exchanging presents, so for each present exchange where I say "from each other" I mean the present from Kero too; so two presents each for Kelly and I, and a present for Kero. Anyway, we'll be doing some baking (mince pies, and three different types of cookies). I'll also be doing a ritual to banish negative energies from the home (which I'll tell you more about afterwards).

Thursday we'll exchange our second present from each other, and we have a day of crafting planned (that's when we'll make our holiday ornament(s); we'll also do any other crafts we feel like doing). Also, I have a meditation ritual planned for that evening.

Friday we'll exchange our third present from each other, then we have a day of gaming planned; I'll tell you what we play afterwards. We're thinking we'll have a roleplaying session though. In the evening I plan to read a book called "A Treasury Of Christmas Tales" which has a variety of short holiday stories such as "The Nutcracker" and "The Little Match Girl" and a short version of "A Christmas Carol" in it; I brought it a few years ago, and I love it, and think it's a perfect addition to the holidays. I got my brother a copy last year; he loves it too!

Saturday we'll exchange another present from each other, then we're spending the day watching holiday movies. And after the stockings are laid out for "Santa" to fill them, I'll be reading the two short Christmas stories I love to read Christmas Eve; "The Bear Father Christmas Forgot" and "A Candle In The Forest"

Sunday we'll have our stockings and present from "Santa" then exchange the final present we have for each other, plus we'll have any presents we have from family and friends that day. Then we'll be on the phone on and off all day talking to family members; I've scheduled times to call most of them so our phonecalls don't interrupt their holiday plans. Then, in the evening, we'll do the prep work for the holiday feast we'll be cooking the next day.

Monday we'll be cooking and enjoying our holiday feast. Since I'm a vegetarian and Kelly isn't, and we have different food preferences, we'll be making different things for each of us; chicken and vegetable pie and some glazed ham for Kelly, and a cranberry nut roast with roast potatoes, roast parsnips, sprouts, carrots and peas for me. Plus I'm making wassail, and we have some snacks (crisps - as in potato chips - and nuts and things) to pick at. Also, we'll have leftover cookies and mince pies from the baking I'm doing tomorrow, so it should be quite a feast!

Also, every night through the holidays we'll be lighting two holiday candles we have for a little while; one is a "mulled wine" scented one that my Mam got us last year, the other is a "cinnamon" scented one that was among the things I got from Susan recently.

And, of course, there will be lots of cocoa drinking and holiday music playing throughout all the above mentioned activities... Although, no holiday music playing while we watch the movies, of course; though I expect there will be plenty of cocoa drinking! ;)

So, there you go, that's what we'll be up to. What about you?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy birthday to my Mam!

It's my Mam's birthday today. I don't know if she'll come on here and see this; sometimes she reads the blogs, other times she goes ages and ages without even acknowledging they exist. But I wanted to post this message to wish her a very happy birthday anyway. So... Happy birthday Mam! :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's tradition (FD)

When I first learned of the blog party I'm writing this post for (see the bottom of this post for information on said blog party) I wasn't sure I'd be able to write anything for it. "My family doesn't have traditions," I said to myself. Then I thought about it for a moment, and that's when I realized; we do!

Each year the decorations go up on or as soon as possible after December 1st. I don't remember a time it was later than the end of the first week in December we put the decorations up, and most years it is actually December 1st that the decorations at least begin to be put up; even if it's the following day before they're finished. This year I was late for us, I didn't get our decorations up until December 5th, but it was still the first week; like it always was when I was growing up.

We still have Christmas stockings, which we still put out after bath time on Christmas Eve ready for "Santa" to fill them. The difference is that these days I know how they get filled, and I don't go to bed almost as soon as I lay out my stocking. We also still get a present under the tree from "Santa" which "somehow" gets muddled in with all the other presents under the tree (that always baffled me when I was a child, LOL!) And, yes, the stockings and "Santa pressie" apply to pets too!

We also have advent calenders, despite the fact we begin our holiday celebrations a couple of days early, and despite the fact that not only are we no longer children (the main audience for advent calenders) but Kelly and I are both Pagan. I've always had an advent calender, and I see no reason to stop now; adults like chocolate too, and so do Pagans! Also, it's fun counting the days with a little chocolate, and wondering each day when you open that little door what you'll find inside!

And, as of this year, we're starting a couple of new traditions.

For one thing, due to wanting to combine our Yule and Christmas celebrations, Kelly and I will be begining our celebrations on December 21st, and continuing them up to and including December 26th; we used to do something on the 21st to acknowledge Yule, but we want to combine the celebrations properly as of this year.

In doing this we're making a slight change in that we're having a "holiday feast" on December 26th instead of having Christmas dinner. For one thing this is because it's customary for Pagan celebrrations to end with feasting, for another this is because we have several people we'd like to call and talk to on Christmas Day - especially with us now living nowhere near any of either of our families - so we figured we'd free up most of the day to spend it talking to family members, leaving the cooking and eating of our holiday feast for the following day instead.

The other new things we're starting this year involve decorations.

I wanted us to start making a holiday decoration each year, so we'll be doing that; I thought it would be a nice activity to do together (even if we make seporate decorations but do it at the same time sat beside each other, if you know what I mean). Plus, it's always nice to take out handmade things and say, "remember when we made this?" And hopefully start remembering happy memories of the year we made it.

Also, on Thursday Kelly came home with a beautiful glass angel tree ornament (photos to come at a later date) and announced that starting this year he wants us to buy a new ornament for our tree as well as making something; which I agreed to.

***

Today I'm participating in another blog party - the second of three I'm participating in this holiday season. The theme of today's blog party is holiday traditions. Click on the button below to read about the traditions of other partiers:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Yuletide stories and carols

I posted these on my blog a couple of years ago, but for those who missed them - or those who want to read them again - here they are:

Yuletide stories
Yuletide carols

Enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yule Ritual ideas (LBE and FD)

I've gathered these ritual ideas together from a couple of sources, which will be linked to at the bottom of this post rather than being put among all the rituals.

Simple Yule Ritual for Beginners
Materials Needed:
Dirt from the land you live on (to represent the Earth)
A candle (bright yellow to represent fire, and the sun)
Water (to represent, of course water. From your tap is fine)
Incense (to represent air. Any scent you feel is appropriate will do)
An evergreen branch (small or large will do)
A small offering to the Reborn God (incense, something handmade by you, a string of beads, ect)
And most important, a quiet ritual space where you will not be disturbed.
Additional materials, such as pinecones, antlers, flowers, ect can be added to the ritual space as desired. I usual have many things around me, that have special meaning to me, but this is meant to be a very simple ritual for the newcomer, so I will forgo adding more than needed.

Place the Earth element in the North, the Air in the East, the Fire in the South, and the Water in the West. Try to place them so that you can reach each of them easily from one position. This can be on a small table, a tree stump, or the ground. If you wish, cover the area with a cloth that you will only use for ritual to help put you in the right frame of mind for it. Light the Fire candle, and meditate on what Yule means to you. If you are still learning, and are not quite sure of what it does mean to you, read this- http://www.angelfire.com/ca5/witchcraftstudies/yule.html. This was written by Mike Nichols, and should help you understand the day even more.

After meditating, pick up the bowl of Dirt, and say (or think), “I am of this Earth, forever linked to the Gods.” Draw a pentacle in the dirt. Replace.

Next pick up the Incense, drawing a pentacle in front of your with it say, “This is the breath of the Gods, which gives me life.” Replace.

Picking up the candle, say, “This is the Flame that warms our heart, just as the love of the Goddess and the God warms our souls.” Replace.

Last, pick the bowl of Water up, and say, “And this the ever-changing waters and nourishes life, without which we would not be.” Replace.

Think on the God’s rebirth, and the lengthening days that follow the Winter Solstice. Say what is in your heart at this time to the Goddess and the God. If you are in a situation that you are not comfortable to speak aloud, then think those words.

Next, take the offering you are giving to the Gods up in your hands, hold it to the sky and say, “This is my gift to you, for you have given many gifts to me. This symbolizes my pledge to you.” Replace. Add why to this why you chose this offering.

Now for the closing of your ritual. Take up the Earth again, saying, “Thank you for watching over my rite.” Pour the dirt back onto the ground if outside, if not, wait till you are completely finished then do it. Say the thank you for each of the elements. Pour the water out onto the ground as well. Take your offering to a favorite tree or plant of yours, and either place it on the branches where it won’t be disturbed, or bury it near the roots. Place the incense under/over the offering, and leave it to burn itself out. Take the candle inside, and place in a window. Let it burn all the way out. (Make sure there aren’t any curtains or other flammable materials nearby that could catch fire. Be safe.) Spend the rest of the day aware of the significance of the day.

If you have any changes that you would like to make for yourself in this ritual, go ahead. Paganism is a living religion, always growing and expanding. To the new person, I would suggest keeping it as simple as possible. This is why you will not see the usual tools, such as the knife or a circle used here. It is not needed. They have their purposes.

Go with the Gods, Blessed Be.

***

Peace for Family Spell
This spell is primarily when you are wanting to restore peace within your family (immediate and/or extended); however, you can alter the words to focus on friends, co-workers, etc. should you wish.

Items you will need:
Family picture of all people included in the focus of your spell (if not all in one picture, separate pictures is fine.)
4 White Candles
2 Blue Candles
Altar or work space for setting up your spell
Incense (use an incense that has properties relating to peace – (see attachment to this spel for list of scents that have peace inducing properties)
Chamomile Tea or Relaxing Blend Tea of some sort

Set Up: Steps:
1. Set up your altar ahead of time.
2. Make yourself a STRONG cup of your relaxing blend tea (whatever works best for you.)
3. You may cast your circle if you wish, according to your path, and invoke your God/Goddess as you choose.
4. Light all 4 candles starting with the candle at the East going clockwise around. As you light each candle, think of the purest white and brightest white light permeating the candle and your space – think of each family member as you are lighting the candles. NOTE: The purpose of the 4 candles is Not indicative of the elements per se, but primarily to infuse your space with white pure light – light that is healing and as pure as possible – basically – we wanted your family pics to be encircled by white light (physically and spiritually)!
5. Light the Blue Candles – There are 2 blue candles for this purpose: Blue is also a healing color. Having a blue candle at the top left and the top right, both, enables you, the spellworker to visually be able to see it covering both sides of the family (both sides of the situation, both sides of the story, of the argument, etc. – this is a psychological method that bypasses our conscious minds and permeates our subconscious where magick is derived. As you light both blue candles, see a flame blue as blue can be infusing with white light into your space.
6. Light your incense. Sit and breathe deeply for a moment or two.
7. Prepare yourself mentally for the work that is to be done, relax, ground, center, shield and enter a trance (as deep as you are able to do.)
8. Hold your hands over the pictures.
9. Gather energy from the ground and envision it surrounding the pictures of your family. Pull energy through your Crown Chakra from the Universe and see the white light infusing with the healing energy from the ground, extending through your hands and into the pictures of your family members (focusing on this energy truly encompassing each family member.) See this white, blue and grounding light forming a rope-like bond between you and each member of the family. See each family member’s face relax and smile and be at ease.
10. Say this prayer 7 times or until you “feel” it is done.

“Great Goddess, Great God, I send you my plea to heal my family. Please mend the bonds between us this day. Bring back love, peace and joy for your children, I pray.” (when you are done saying this and the spell feels complete, end with ~~~ “An harm it none, this spell is done.”

Bring yourself out of the trance, ground yourself by whatever means you have become accustomed to, or you can simply focus on roots growing from your feet into the ground. Touch the carpet, or grass, or ground beneath you and in your mind, describe the texture. These are excellent grounding techniques.

You may leave the candles to burn (please do not leave unattended) and the spell will be complete. Or, you can extinguish the candles when you are done with your spell, and then light each day until the candles burn down, at which time the spell will be complete.

Discard the candle remains off your property or you can bury in the ground on your property or off.

*Peace Inducing Incense that can be used:
Acacia, Althea, Basil, Bay, Benzoin, Calamus, Catnip, Chamomile, Cherry Blossom, enia, Lavender, Lilac, Marjoram, Passion Flower, Pennyroyal, Poppy, Rose,, Rosewood, Varnerian, Verbena, Violet, Yellow Rose, Ylang Ylang

*List of Scents taken from Magical Oils by Moonlight by Maya Heath, Page 193.

***

Yule Celebration Ideas:
Start your celebration well before dawn, so you can be a part of the Sun's birthing process. Kick off the ritual with an apple juice toast to the Holly King, saying: "Winter day of longest night, Step aside now for the light. Thank you for the things you've brought. That only darkness could have wrought."

Then name all the gifts of darkness that you can think of - regeneration, peace, dreams, organization, quietude, and so on - before drinking the juice.

To ensure good luck and prosperity in the coming year, anoint a bayberry candle with vegetable oil and roll it in dried chamomile. Light the candle and allow it to burn down completely.

Make a Yule log from a piece of oak and decorate it with evergreens. Light it, saying: "Old King, we thank You for all You've done. For lessons learned, and victories won, We must, however, bid You adieu. For Your reign is finished - it's over and through. Come forth, Young King of newest light. Be born with ease; grow strong and bright, Gain strength and stature in the sky. Shed you warmth on us now from on high."

Be sure to save an unburned piece to start next year's log. Save some of the ashes, too. They make terrific boosters for every type of magick. End the ritual with an orange juice toast to the Sun, saying: "O Newborn Sun of love and light, Rise quickly now, rise high and bright Gain power in the sky above, We grant you our support and love."

After ritual, collect all the evergreen decorations you used there and put them away. You'll need them at Imbolc.

~from Dorothy Morrison's book The Craft

***

Yule Solitary Ritual
Preparations:
If it's physically feasible, fast and pray for three days beforehand. This allows you to enter the New Year's cycle purified in body and spirit. Also consider a ritual bath with cinnamon, mint and rose petals to improve psychic awareness.

Decorate the sacred space with gold and silver spheres to represent the returning sun, and wreaths to symbolize the turning Wheel. Have oak shavings ready as a base for your incense. Add any other personally meaningful herbs to this mixture and start burning it before the invocation to help prepare the sacred space. Finally, put your sun candle from earlier in the year at the southern point of the circle.

The Altar:
Cover the altar with a pale green cloth - the color of early sprouts, which represents continuance. Add red berries for life's blood; holly; ivy; and pine branches as a symbol of longevity. The pine also welcomes sylvan spirits to your circle.

Have a Yule log at the center point, placing there your God and Goddess candles. Always keep a part of the candles or the log itself for future years; this brings good luck, life, health and providence.

Cast the Circle:
Take up the Athamé and Cast the Circle starting in the West, the region where several cultures believe the afterlife resides, the direction of the Dying Sun.

take a moment to center yourself and begin to cast the Circle. Visualize a white light coming from the tip of the athamé and with arms straight out, turn the blade point out, slowly turning clockwise the light following you.

When you return to the West bring the athamé back to you and say: “As above, so below.”

As you say this, visualize the light going above you and below you forming a perfect sphere.

Invocations:
Light the Goddess candle in the Yule log, then move to the Northern point in your Circle. This is the quarter traditionally ascribed to the season of winter.

North: "Ancient Mother, I look for your opulence, but tonight naught but barren trees decorate the land. In this restful moment, let my spirit find healing."

East: "Ancient Brother, I listen for your winds, but tonight they are still. In this quiet darkness, help me find inspiration."

South: "Ancient Father, I look for your fires, but tonight the embers only begin to glow more brightly. May this gentle warmth temper my spirit."

West: "Ancient Sister, I seek your glistening tears, but tonight they are frozen. Beneath this cool blanket, let my emotions find stability."

Center: "Ancient Ones, I seek Your face, but tonight darkness surrounds. Help me find Your spark within to guide my path."

Meditation and Visualization:
Winter Solstice is an excellent time to undergo a vision quest to find your magical name, a totem animal, a mantra, or other empowering insights. This meditation is meant to accent that quest by opening your awareness to the power within and without all things.

Begin in a standing position. Center yourself and breathe deeply. Slowly take off your mundane clothes, likewise removing the "world" with each. Wrap a blanket around yourself for warmth, but remain naked for the meditation. You need no trappings to discover personal power.

Sit and close your eyes. Let any remaining tension drain away, then begin listening to the sound of silence. Smell the aromas of oak and herb. Feel the latent energy of everything around you and the magic you've placed there. Know it as your own.

Listen to your breath and your heartbeat. Sense the pulse and ebb within as the same energy without. Listen closely; does it whisper a message to you? Does it whisper a name? Do you hear the cry of an animal? Do you hear words that fill you with energy? Linger in this place between Earth and stars until you receive a message. Then return to normal levels of awareness, and write of this experience in your journal.

The Ritual:
Turn toward the northern part of your circle. Think of things that you want to banish, such as bad habits. Say: "I call to the darkness. Come embrace my __________ (fill in with your negative characteristics). Take them to yourself. I release them. As the sun climbs in the sky, take these things with you in retreat, never to return to me again."

Turn to the south of the circle, light the sun candle, and repeat this chant. Let it naturally grow to fill the entire space with positive vibrations: "Strong sun, returning sun; the light burns as the Wheel turns. Strong sun, returning sun; the shadows fade; my magic bade. Strong sun, returning sun; the shadows flee, the magic is free!"

Return to the altar now and light the God candle, using the Goddess candle as a fire source (symbolic of the womb). "Sun Father, Your journey has left you weary. May this light give you strength to reach toward the heavens again with warmth and brilliance."

After saying so, go through your home and light all its candles, lamps, flashlights, or decorative lights to represent the sun's return.

Closing the Circle:
West: "Spirit of the West, thank you for cleansing body, mind, and spirit. As you go from this place, likewise purify Earth."

South: "Spirit of the South, thank you for this warmth of body, mind and spirit. As you go from this place, likewise generate love on Earth."

East: "Spirit of the East, thank you for this stillness of body, mind and spirit. As you go from this place, likewise bring peace to Earth."

North: "Spirit of the North, thank you for healing me in body, mind, and spirit. As you go from this place, likewise heal Earth."

Center: "Ancient Ones, thank you for turning the Wheel that enlightens body, mind, and spirit. As you go from this place, likewise edify Earth."

Release the Circle:
Release the Circle in whatever manner is most familiar to you.

Post-Ritual Foods:
Go with your traditional holiday foods, which for me include many that have solar symbolism. Cookies are round like the sun, eggnog is golden and fertile, gingerbread is hot and spicy, and fruitcake bears red and orange highlights. As a side, try a little flaming brandy to warm you up!

~from Patricia Telesco's book, The Wiccan Book of Ceremonies and Rituals.

***

Yule Chant Solstice Blessing
Brightly burns the Yule log tonight
Magic dances in firelight
Hold my hand and join the song
Raise the Sun King bright and strong
Dark is giving way to light
As brightly burns the Yule log tonight!

***

Create a ritual of re-birth. Let it begin with all in darkness, and, throughout the ritual, light candles until you are surrounded by warmth and brightness. Move from the womb to the full light of a summer's day!

***

Sources:
http://www.angelfire.com/ca5/witchcraftstudies/yuleritual.html
http://www.wiccaspirit.net/vol4is5/page9.html
http://www.wicca.com/celtic/akasha/yulechildren.htm
http://daughtersofearthwisdom.org/sabbats/yule/articles/ideas.html

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Activity and craft ideas for Yule/Christmas (LBE and FD)

Essentially it's the same holiday, though some of the activities will apply more to some people than others. Just take what you want to use, discard what you don't. Sources will be listed at the end of this post.

~~~

General Activities
*Sing pagan solstice carols
*Ring bells to greet the Solstice Morning
*String popcorn and cranberries and hang them on an outdoor tree for the birds.
*Donate food and clothing to others.
*Decorate the Solstice, or Yule, Tree.
*Perform magic for a peaceful planet
*Hang little bells on the Yule Tree to call the spirits and fairies.
*Gather up the Yule greens after Twelfth Night and save. At Imbolc, burn the greens to banish winter and usher in spring.
*Glue the caps onto acorns and attach red string to hang on the Yule Tree.
*Decorate an oak Yule Log with ribbons, fir, yew, ivy, birch and holly.
*Perform a "Mumming Play" with Traditional characters like the Hobby Horse, the Fool, King George, and the Black Knight to celebrate adversity.

Solitary Activities
*Go to a Church. Before you all kick me and hurt me, hear me out. Christians celebrate the birth of the Son of their god at Christmas. Most pagans celebrate the birth of their Son of God(dess) at Yule. It is mostly the same thing.
*Private Meditation on Traditional associtations of Yule. (ex. Birth, Rebirth and the Return of the Sun)
*Private ritual
*Volunteer at a Homeless Shelter or Soup Kitchen.

Group Activities
*Have a "Yule" Party and exchange gifts with people in your group. Try to keep the cost of things down though, so no one's feelings get hurt.
*Hold a Group Ritual or if your are active in the community host an Open Sabbat celebration.
*Donate things to Homeless shelters or Battered Women's shelters. Give to people who would otherwise have nothing in this season of giving.
*Volunteer at an Animal Shelter.
*Smile. It's free, and it is the best gift of all.

Activities for Kids!!
*Light Candles
*Read stories with a Christmas/Yule theme. Try Meagan and the Winter Solstice by Kat Dyer
*Talk about the history of Yule with your child(ren). Let your child be your guide. Don't just start offering them a lot of information that they may or may not need to know. If they ask questions, give them simple, but honest answers.

***

Pipecleaner Pentacles - Make a Pentacle Ornament
Use chenille stems in your favorite color to create one of these. They're easy, and your kids can do it once you show them how to bend the stems. You'll need three pipe cleaners, or chenille stems, for each pentacle.

Bend the first stem into a circle, and overlap the ends by about an inch, so you can twist them closed.

Take the second stem, and create three arms of the star inside the circle. Be sure to twist it around the circle as you make the points, because this will keep it from sliding apart.

Take the last stem and create the final two arms of the star. Use the remaining length of stem (don't snip it off) to twist into a loop so you can hang your ornament.

***

LIGHT A YULE CANDLE
The festival of Yule is based on the 12-day Roman mid-winter feast, Saturnalia. During these days, we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun Lord and the return of the light. Why not take a few moments each of those 12 days at sunset, or whenever you deem appropriate, to gather together as a family for prayers in observance of the holiday.

Get a pillar candle and decorate it by carving it with sun symbols, or using white craft glue and glitter to make it decorative. Set it on your altar or in a special place. Every evening as the sun goes down, join together for a special prayer and light the candle, saying a few words about the holiday, or singing a song. Do this for the 12 nights of Yule, beginning with the eve of the Solstice.

***

RE-WRITE A SONG
Children love to sing songs during the holiday, and songs can make a season so lively and festive, filling us with excitement and good cheer. However, most of the songs you will hear played during this season are Christmas oriented. In fact, unless you search very carefully, you probably will find few Pagan Yule songs, and fewer that are entertaining to children. Since Christmas is based on older Pagan traditions, why not adapt these lively elements of Christmas celebrations for your own use?

Create new family traditions for your own holiday by taking your favorite old Christmas songs and changing the words around to suit your own beliefs. Young children will probably delight on bellowing, "Hark, the Pagans come to sing, praises to the new Sun King!" or, "Have a holly, jolly Yuletide!"

(You could rewrite songs anyway, just for fun, even if you're not Pagan).

***

MAKE CITRUS POMANDERS
Pomanders are fragrant balls that perfume the air. Creating pomanders from oranges and lemons make a beautifully scented decoration. Citrus fruits are also symbolic of the sun, so they make a great mini-tribute to the Sun God.

To make a pomander, you will need oranges and/or lemons, a jar of cloves, some of your favorite scented spices, and a pair of latex or rubber gloves. The gloves are not necessary, but if the crafter has any minor cuts on their hands or cuticles, they will protect the wearer from stinging citrus juices accidentally running over the wound.

Take a piece of fruit and a bowl of cloves and begin to push the stem of the cloves into the skin of the fruit. Make spirals, stripes, or any kind of patterns you like to decorate the fruit. When you are done, roll the fruit in a bowl of ground spices with rich holiday aromas, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, which will stick to the sweet juices.

Pomanders can be tied with ribbon and hung from the tree, or suspended in a corner or closet to make it smell good. You can also place several in a bowl and leave them out on a table, turning them once or twice a day until they dry out. The fruits will begin to dehydrate, but will retain the wonderful scents.

***

MAKE A NATIVITY SCENE
You don't have to be Christian to have a nativity scene displayed as part of your holiday decor. Remember that long before the birth of Jesus was celebrated in December, Pagan cultures celebrated the birth of the Sun Lord at Solstice time.

You can make your nativity scene by scavenging for small dolls, molding them out of clay, or putting them together from a variety of craft materials (pipe cleaners, fabric scraps, styrofoam spheres, pop sticks, tissue papers, etc.). Of course, you'll probably want to adapt your nativity scene. Instead of a manger in a stable, how about a scene in a forest setting, under the full moon? Replace Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, with the triple Goddess- Maiden, Mother and Crone surrounding a small Sun God crowned with a golden glitter wreath of stars. Ditch the wise men and substitute fairies and elves, and don't forget to surround the scene with all the animals of the forest looking on at the new baby Sun King.

***

HAVE A BATTLE
Not a real battle, but a re-enactment of the old myth of the Oak King and the Holly King. Legend has it that these two brothers meet twice a year at the solstices for a battle. The Oak King emerges victorious at the Winter Solstice and reins for the waxing half of the year. Think of it as a Pagan Solstice pageant.

If you really want to get into it, let the participants dress up, draping them in gold and silver and rich greens and red fabrics. Crown them with wreaths of plastic oak leaves and holly leaves. Paint and decorate empty wrapping paper tubes for harmless swords. Let onlookers paint their faces like fairies or other forest inhabitants to cheer the Oak King on to victory.

***

Yule Log Hike
Materials: Warm Clothes, Sense of Adventure.

This is an activity that can be done the weekend before Yule. On a bright crisp morning, dress the family warmly and head for the park, mountains, or beach. As you hike along, looking for that special Yule log to place in your hearth, also be looking for decorations to make it personalized by each member of the family. Select a proportionally sized log that will fit easily into your fire place. Ash, oak, or cedar make great Yule logs. Try to find one that has already fallen and is on the ground. On the beach, driftwood can be found and obtained for your log. As you are looking, or on your way back home look for natural decorations to adorn your Yule log with. Traditional adornments are, pine cones, leaves, holly sprigs, mistletoe sprigs, rosebuds, winter flowers, wheat stalks, and corn husks. If you must cut anything from a living plant, remember to ask and thank the plant for its gift. If you don't have a fire place, select a smaller log, slightly flat on one side so that it doesn't roll. Adorning the logs will appear farther along in the activities. (Explain how the Yule log was set ablaze on Solstice night to help vanquish the dark and add strength to the returning sun.)

***

Sun Welcoming Center Pieces:
Materials:
Flat or bowled wicker basket, Evergreen Boughs, Oranges and Apples, Whole Cloves, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Wheat Stalks, Flour, Red, Green, and Gold Bows or String.

Children of all ages will delight in both making and giving these delightful center pieces. Place the basket in the center of the table. Lay a couple of evergreen boughs (can be found at most Christmas tree lots) in bottom of basket so that the tips flow out from all sides. Spike the oranges all the way around with several whole cloves. Arrange the oranges and apples on top of the boughs. Arrange in a couple of the walnuts and hazel nuts. Place a couple of the wheat stalks standing up amidst the fruit. Lightly dust with flour. Tie bows to the handle and outside the basket. ( Tell children about each special part of the centerpiece. Explain that the baskets were used during the harvests during the season before. The evergreen boughs are symbols of immortality, reminding us that the Sun King is not dead, but reappears at Yule each year to lengthen, brighten and warm the days ahead. The oranges and apples are symbols of the Sun King, The nuts symbolize the seeds as they lay sleeping and awaiting the Sun King's return. The wheat stalks symbolize the yearly harvests and the flour represents the triumph of the forces of light and life.)

***

Sun Bursting Ornaments
Materials:
Ruler or Compass, Scissors, Thin Cardboard, Gold Foil Paper, Glue Stick, Heavy Thread and Needle.

Help child cut out a 4" cardboard circle. With this template, the child can then trace and cut out 14 circles from the foil paper. One by one, fold a circle in half, half, and half again. Unfold the circle and cut along the fold lines, stopping about 1/2 inch from the center. Repeat until all the circles are cut. Form the points of the Sun Burst by wrapping each of the eight segments around the point of a sharpened pencil. Point of pencil should face away from the center of the circle. Secure each point with a dab of glue. Thread a needle with 18" length of thread. Insert the needle through all the centers of the circles from the foil side of the first seven and the plain side of the last seven. Gently pull the circles together, bunching them into a ball. Tie off with a knot, and use the excess thread to form a loop for hanging the ornament. ( Hang up in windows to reflect the sunlight or on tree for decoration, explain to children how the sun gets stronger, climbs higher, and last longer in the sky each day starting at Yule.)

***

Welcome Sunshine Bells
Materials:
Thin Cardboard, Pencil and Scissors, One Light yellow and One Bright Yellow Felt Square (10"x10"), 7 Small Jingle Bells, 12" Gold String or Cord, White Glue, Buttons, Glitter, Sequins.

Help child to draw a circle 7" in diameter, and another circle 7" in diameter with eight 1" triangle rays on the cardboard. Cut out for patterns. Place circle on the light yellow felt square, trace and cut out. Do the same with the "rayed" circle on the bright yellow felt. Using a drinking glass as a guide, trace a circle in the center, on the back side of both felt cut-outs. Carefully fold each circle in half, and make a cut from one side of center circle to the other. Repeat 3 times for a total of 4 cuts per piece. This is how you will get the decoration over the doorknob. Next, line up the circles and the cuts so that the rays extend 1" from behind the light yellow felt circle. Glue together. Allow the child to draw designs on the front of the ornament with glue. Sprinkle with glitter and glue on some sequins and buttons. Cut gold string or cord into three 4" strands. Tie jingle bells (spaced) onto the gold string or cord. Glue string/cord to the bottom of the Sun decoration on the back side. Allow to dry. Place on a doorknob that the bells will jingle as the door is opened and closed. ( Tell children that more than just the sun brightens our lives everyday. Explain the way to welcome the Yule sun back into their lives is to keep the brightness in their hearts all year long. Jingle bells make a warm and inviting sound, and therefore should jingle each time someone enters or leaves a room.)

***

You Are My Sunshine Garland
Materials:
Pencil, Scissors, "Rayed" Circle Pattern (above), Bright Yellow Poster Paper, Glue, Glitter, Gold Garland, Gold Thread and Needle, Photos.

For each frame, trace and cut out 2 rayed circles from the poster board. Cut a 2" circle in the center of one of the cutouts. This will be the front of the frame. Decorate the cutouts with gold glitter. Place photo between the cutouts, with the face peering through the center circle. Trim photo to fit frame, if necessary. Glue the frame together. Allow to dry. Thread needle with gold thread, and poke needle through the top ray of the frame. Pull some thread through and tie frame to gold garland. Make enough Sunshine picture frames for all family members, including pets. Tie each to the garland, and place garland on tree, over a door, on the wall, or other prominent place. (Explain to children that each family member is like a piece of sunshine. Smiles and laughter brighten our spirits and warm our hearts.)

***

Cup O' Sunshine
Materials:
Terra-Cotta Pot, Paints and Paintbrushes, Styrofoam Block, String, Scissors, 1 yd 2" wide Green Ribbon, Yellow, Red, and Orange Lollipops and Sugar Sticks, Jelly Beans.

Clean terra-cotta pot if necessary. Allow to dry. Paint outside and down to first lip of inside with a bright solid color. After this base coat dries, decorate with other colors. When completely dry, place a block of styrofoam in the bottom of the pot. Cut green leaves out of the ribbon and tie to lollipops with string. Push the lollipop sticks into the styrofoam block to anchor them. Add the sugar sticks and fill rest of pot with loose jellybeans. (Explain to children that during the dark part of the year, sometimes we need to make our own sunshine. Let them know that bright colored gardens and flowers will be back in the spring, and this little pot of sunshine will cheer up a sick friend or relative.)

***

Dough Art Decorations
Materials:
4 cups flour, 2 cups water, 1 cup salt, Cookie Cutters, Wire Ornament Hangers, Acrylic Paints.

Combine flour, salt, and water in a large bowl. Dough should kneed easily but not be sticky, if so, add more flour. On a flat surface, lay down some waxed paper. Take a handful of the dough and roll out with a rolling pin. Cut dough into shapes with the cookie cutters. Make a hole in top of "cookie" for wire hanger. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and put in oven at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until *slightly* brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Paint with acrylic paints. Allow to dry, place hanger in hole and adorn tree, packages, or hang in windows. (Allow children to make-up Yule stories to go along with each decoration they are making.)

***

Adorning the Yule Log
Materials:
Holly, Mistletoe, Rosebuds, Pine Cones, Evergreen Sprigs, Gold String/Cord, Gold Bows, Apple Cider, Flour.

After cleaning off the Yule log, let the children decorate it how ever they chose. Glue, wire, or small holes in the log will help to adhere the decorations. Once the log is decorated, "wassail" (toast and douse) it with a libation of apple cider. Finally, dust the log with white flour, set in grate in fireplace, and (parents only) set ablaze. (Explain to children how Yule logs used to smolder for 12 days before there was another ceremony to put the log out. Then apart of the log was strapped to the plow the next spring to spread the blessings over the land, and another piece was saved to light the next Yule's log, the next year.)

***

Sunny Disposition Wreath (For the older kids)
Materials:
1-2 Large Bundles Evergreen Boughs, 1 Bundle Holly, 1 Wreath Frame (Wire or Styrofoam), Garden Clippers, Spool of Fine Green Wire, 2 Yards Red Ribbon, Adornments.

Cut boughs into 6" to 8" pieces. Same with Holly. Cut about 20- 15" pieces of the wire. Gather a bundle of boughs together, thicker at the back and fanning out in the front. Wrap wire around the bundle about 2/3 from the top. Hold bundle in place and wrap wire around the bundle and the frame. Repeat this step, only adding a sprig of holly in front. Repeat steps 1 and 2, adding holly to bundle every other time. Make sure that all the bundles face the same direction. Where the last bundle meets the bottom of the first bundle is usually barer than the rest of the wreath, so that is where you can attach a large yellow, orange, red, or gold bow to symbolize the Sun King. Now you are ready to wire on all sorts of adornments, candies, pine cones, rosebuds, seashells, small bells, or anything to make it more personal. (Tell kids about how evergreen boughs and holly were hung both inside and outside of the homes to extend and invitation to the nature sprites to join in the Yule celebration.)

***

Miniature Yule Log Ornaments
These are super easy to make, and in addition to being cute ornaments for your holiday tree, they also make great favors to give to guests at a Yule celebration. You'll need the following:

A stick about an inch thick
Red yarn
Small feathers (you can find these in the craft store)
Small pieces of evergreen plants - pine, fir, spruce, etc.
Seed beads in your choice of colors
A hot glue gun

Cut the stick into 2 - 3" lengths. Decorate each small log with the feathers, evergreens and seed beads as you would a full-sized Yule log. Tie a piece of red yarn around the center and knot in a bow, like a ribbon. To hang as a tree ornament, use a bent paperclip or wire hanger. To give as a party favor, you may want to attach your miniature log to a piece of cardstock, on which you can write a note to friends, such as "Wishing you the blessings of Yule."

***

Pinecone Ornaments
If you want to keep an earth-friendly theme to your Yule decorating, one way to do so is to use the elements found in nature as part of your decor. This is a project that you may have made before if you have a Girl Scout -- simple things such as seeds, acorns, feathers, and other found items are easy to make into ornaments and other decorations.

For this simple project, you'll need the following:
Pinecones, of any shape or size
Equal amounts ginger, nutmeg and allspice, blended
A 1:1 mixture of water and craft glue
Glitter
Ribbon
A small paintbrush

To prepare the pinecones, rinse them under running water and then spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake at 250 for about 20 minutes -- this will make them open up, and also get rid of any trace amounts of bacteria that might remain on them. Don't worry if there's sap on them - it will harden into a shiny glaze and look pretty. If you bought your pinecones from a craft store, they're probably open already, so you can skip the rinsing altogether.

Once the pinecones have cooled, use the small paintbrush to apply the glue to the cones (I'd recommend spreading out some newspaper ahead of time). You can either cover the entire cone, or just the outer tips of the petals for a more "frosted" look.

Add the spices and glitter to a zip-loc bag. Drop the pine cones in, and shake until coated with spices and glitter. Allow to dry thoroughly, and then tie a ribbon around the end so you can hang it up. Add a few springs of greenery if you like. Use it on a holiday tree, or place them in a bowl to scent your room.

***

"Handmade" Art
Materials Needed:
Construction Paper or Craft Foam
Pencil
Scissors
Glue
Crayons, Markers, Glitter, Stickers, Etc.

Yule (Christmas) Trees
Steps to Take:
Trace hand 6 times on green construction paper.
Cut out the hand shapes and paste them onto another sheet according to the following instructions:

Start with the 3 on the bottom,
Paste the middle ones so that they overlap the bottom ones.
Have the top one overlap the middle ones.
Trim with stickers, glitter, paper cutouts, small snowflakes, etc

Angel or Fairy
Steps to Take:
From construction paper, cut a triangle about 4" wide and 5" tall for the dress, and then a circle about 2" across for the head.
Color eyes and mouth on the circle for the angel's face. Glue the circle to the top of the triangle. Glue cut paper or curly ribbons for the angel's hair onto the circle.
Make the angel's wings by tracing both hands on white or light blue construction paper and cut them out.
Decorate your angel by gluing stickers, pieces of lace or glitter on her wings and dress.

Reindeer
Steps to Take:
Trace your foot (inside your shoe!) on light brown or white construction paper. Cut out.
Trace around both hands on dark brown, green or red construction paper and cut out.
Use a pom-pom for the nose and wiggle eyes, or cut out a contrasting nose and make eyes from white paper with black pupils.
Punch a hole in the top of the head between the horns. Cut a piece of Christmas ribbon 12" long and form a hanging loop by tying an over-hand knot in the ends of the ribbon.
Hang on your Christmas tree. Make a new reindeer each year to see how much you've grown!

***

*Grains and seeds, and the feeding of creatures have been associated with Yuletide holidays for hundred of years in Europe. To continue this tradition why not feed our feathered friends as a family project? See who comes to visit your little sanctuary and identify them with a field guide. Try stringing peanuts in the shell and popcorn garlands for the trees.
*Hang popcorn balls made with honey on trees for wild birds or string a popcorn chain and drape it around the trees.
*Make a wreath out of pine boughs that the family collects on a family outing. Put the wreath in a visible location, such as on the front door, on an inside wall, or in the center of the dining table. When summer solstice arrives it may be burned in the bonfire.
*Make or decorate a special red candle to light on Yule
*Start making tree decorations for family as gifts
*Make an "Advent" calendar
*Make a Yule log. Drill three holes in it to hold three candles of white, red, and black. (Don't let the candles burn down *into* the wood!) Or go to our craft section where we give even more ideas for the Yule log including types of woods, herbs and flowers to decorate with all their correspondences.
*Bake Sugar Sun Cookies
*Make your very own Yule cards to send to friends and family
*Go out and find a special log to decorate and light on Yule night **see below
*Explain the concept of the holiday to your child. Using crayons or markers ask him or her to draw you a picture of the sun being born, or try other mediums like clay or finger paints
*Let your child stay up with you all night, and watch the Yule log burn. If your child (or you!) can't make it all night long, wake up extra early and plan a dawn picnic in a park, or on a hill, or somewhere where you can watch the sun rise.
*Keep a candle lit throughout the night to encourage the Sun to keep it company. Make sure the candle is in a safe place where it can't accidentally set your home ablaze.
*Volunteer at a soup kitchen, and make a commitment to be there at other times throughout the year; there are those less fortunate than you... share what you can with them.
*Donate to food-banks. Be an anonymous giver.

***

*trim a tree
*hang greenery around the home
*make or hang a wreath
*hang mistletoe
*light a log in the fireplace
*light candles around the house
*make ornaments involving stars, snowflakes, or Suns
*toast with apple cider
*bake cookies in the shapes of stars, Moons, Suns
*bake (or just serve, if time doesn't permit) a Yule Log cake

***

Santa Gift Holder or Ornament

Materials:
Tissue roll
Construction paper in red, white, green, pink (Pieces may be cut from felt or fun foam for a more permanent ornament)
Scissors
Pencil or crayons
Glue
Ruler
Small red pom-pom (optional)
String or ribbon

***** Note: On each step of your crafting, allow the glue to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.*****

If you want to use your Santa to hold a small gift or candy, cut a circle of paper about 3" in diameter and glue to the bottom of the paper roll before proceeding to the next step. Cut small wedge-shaped pieces out of the edges of the paper piece and glue the tabs up around the edges of the paper roll. (The raw edges will be covered in the next step.) If you want to use your Santa as an ornament, you can skip this step.
Cut a piece of white construction paper 6" x Roll it around the tissue roll to cover it and glue in place.
While the glue is drying, cut out a pink face, white mustache, white hat band and red hat from construction paper using the patterns provided.
Glue the face about ½ " down from the top of the paper roll.
Glue the mustaches to the bottom ½ of the face.
If using a pom-pom for a nose, glue it to the center of the mustache. If you are not making a pom-pom nose, color a red circle in the center of the mustache piece for the nose.
Make 2 small dots above mustache for eyes.
Make Santa's hat by rolling red construction paper piece into a cone. Glue edges together. Make sure that the open edge of the hat is slightly larger than the top of the toilet roll.
Glue the white hatband around the edge of Santa's hat
If you want to use your Santa as an ornament, poke 2 holes about ½ " down from the top edge of the toilet roll on either side of the face piece. Cut a piece of string or ribbon 12" long and run through the holes. Tie the ends together in an over-hand knot.
Glue the hat to the top of the roll.

***

Festive Felt Decorations

What You Need:
Felt
Buttons
Contrasting embroidery thread
Ric rac
Ribbon
Fabric glue
Fabric remnants
Stuffing
Directions:

Cut out two felt gingerbread shapes measuring approx 11cm tall x 8½ cm wide (arm to arm).
On one side only, add decorations using buttons and trims.
Stitch both pieces of felt together using a blanket stitch ¾ of the way round leaving a gap.
Fill the gap with stuffing then stitch together to finish.

***

Christmas Paper Stocking Decorations

What You Need:
Decorative papers
Ribbon selection
Embellishments of your choice (e.g. White stick-on felt, Appliqué letters, etc).

Directions:

Draw and cut 2 stocking shapes from your decorative papers.
Sew or glue the stockings together, leaving an opening at the top.
Stick some ribbon around the top of the stocking, and glue a small loop of thinner ribbon to the inside of one corner.
Decorate with embellishments of your choice eg. wooden beads, appliqué letters, red felt hearts.

***

Candy Canes

What You Need:
Chenille stems - 2 colours
Holly picks
Ribbon

Directions:

Twist the different coloured chenille stems together along their entire lengths.
Bind the two stripy chenille lengths together halfway down each to form a cross.
Then bend two arms of the cross into hooks.
Trim the stems off 2 holly picks and tie to the middle of the candy canes with ribbon.

***

Sources:
http://www.angelfire.com/wa3/angelline/yule_activities.htm
http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/yulecrafts/ss/PentacleOrnamnt.htm
http://www.essortment.com/pagan-parenting-winter-solstice-crafts-activities-children-55366.html
http://www.wicca.com/celtic/akasha/yulechildren.htm
http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/yulecrafts/qt/MiniYuleLogs.htm
http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/yulecrafts/ss/Pinecone_Orna.htm
http://www.angelfire.com/wa3/angelline/yule_activities_2.htm
http://daughtersofearthwisdom.org/sabbats/yule/articles/ideas.html
http://www.cauldronliving.com/other/3936-covert-yule-activities.html
http://www.fortunecity.com/millenium/sherwood/504/yulecrft2.html
http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/Pages/Ideas/Idea.aspx?id=1391
http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/Pages/Ideas/Idea.aspx?id=1371
http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/Pages/Ideas/Idea.aspx?id=1196