Thursday, October 27, 2011

La Castanyera ( The Chestnut Lady)

In my country of origin we do not have Halloween, but we have la Castanyada, a festival with roasted chestnuts, baked sweet potatoes and panellets. It is also very special time of the year as the colors are still in the tress but fading on the ground, and the winter peeks its nose through the clouds. The day after is All Saints, and the families gather to remember the loved ones that passed away.

This is a story of that time of the year, situated in Barcelona, around 1960:

The Chestnut Lady (La Castanyera)

Once upon a time there was a boy that lived with his family in the older part of town, where old castles and turrets where seen through the more recent buildings, and where alleys and crooked streets made the walking every day a small adventure. Each Saturday morning him and his father went together to get the newspaper from the newstand, a dozen of blocks away from home, and they spent that time talking about the past week, and the week ahead.

It came to pass that the fall season was coming once again, (it was the ninth one for the boy), and the streets got darker in the morning, with leaves from the maples trees whirling all around and making deep carpets to walk through. At that time of the year, the Chestnut Lady (Castanyera) also made her appearance, she was an old lady with hooded cape and cloaks that would stand in the corner of Santa Maria Street and the Pi Square, with her small fire burning in front of her, with an iron low pot, roasting chestnuts and sweet potatoes for the passers-by. Here and there a person would come and she would prepare a little cone with old newspaper and rake some chestnuts from the grill on top of the pot, and slide them carefully inside the newspaper cone, then she would fold the upper part and hand the nice warm bundle of chestnuts to the client.

The boy and father had to pass her on their way to the newstand, and the boy, asked his father What is the name of the Chestnut Lady? I do not know, said his father, and they went along. The next Saturday, again in passing the Chestnut Lady, the boy asked his father: Where does she live? I do not know, answered his father. On the third Sunday approaching the end of October, again the boy asked: Does she have family? I do not know, said his father.

One block further, the father stopped to talk with an acquaintance of him for a few minutes, they were talking about some business and the weather for the week. After bidding farewell to each other, the father suddenly realized that the boy was not by his side. He looked and called around and around, turning to every corner, and looking into every spot where the boy may be lost. It lasted for one hour, and the father, in despair, turned his steps back home to look for help. But, when passing by the Chestnut Lady, he suddenly stopped, and for some reason, instead of asking about his lost boy, he asked about her name, the name of the Chestnut lady, which was Esperansa, and he still spared some time asking where did she live, even he inquired about her family and relatives in town. Immediately after that last question was answered, the face of the boy appeared through the corner of the Pi Square, and father run to embrace him and held him in his arms.

 After that day, they always stopped at the corner of Santa Maria street and Pi square, to talk with the Chestnut Lady and have some time with her.

(Soon we will do some drawings for the story, edit it and make a small book for children.)

Below there is a recipe for the "panellets". We usually put way less sugar in the mix, or substitute with honey, and we use almond flour instead of grinding the almonds ourselves. Also we do mix the same amount of coconut into the dough for the coconut type.

Prep Time: 8 hours, 45 minutes

Cook Time: 4 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours, 49 minutes


  • 1 lb. ground almonds
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 -1 cup water
  • 1 small potato
  • gtrated peel of 1 lemon
  • 3-4 drops lemon juice
  • Toppings:
  • pine nuts
  • sweetened cocoa powder
  • candied fruit
  • Flavorings:
  • instant coffee powder
  • coconut flakes


Makes approximately 32 cookies.
Blanch almonds, then grind in food processor until almonds are a fine dust.
Peel the potato and cut into quarters. Boil potato in a saucepan until cooked. Drain water and mash with a fork.
Place sugar in a medium saucepan. Pour 1/2 cup water into the pan and stir to dissolve sugar. Add more water to completely dissolve sugar if necessary. Place on medium heat on stovetop and bring to a boil, stirring often. Add 3-4 drops of lemon juice. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is a thick syrup.
Remove saucepan from heat. Using a large wooden spoon, gradually stir in ground almonds, potato and grated lemon peel. Allow to cool to room temperature. Then, refrigerate overnight.
Pre-heat oven to 380F degrees. Grease cookie sheets. Spoon out dough with a teaspoon. Roll dough into small balls in your palms. Then roll the balls in powdered cocoa or pine nuts. If using pine nuts, brush each with a bit of egg white. Place on greased cookie sheet.
If you want to flavor the cookies, separate a portion of the dough and with your hands, work in a bit of instant coffee flakes, candied fruit or cinnamon. Then make individual balls.
Bake cookies just long enough to brown the pine nuts - about 4 minutes. Remove immediately using a spatula before cookies cool.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


We have been having strong strange winds, coming from different directions, and a shift in temperatures, which has come in right timing for the "rosa dels vents" (wind wheel) in 3rd grade. We have an old drawing from Catalunya, where the various names of the winds are labeled, (I could not find the names in English), and we have been singing the songs of the fishermen, as their wisdom of fishing was weaved into the lyrics for generations to come.

Bufa ventet de garbi,
vent en popa i mar bonansa
anirem cap a llevant,
fins la frontera de Fransa.

The Christopherus Curriculum also has a poem for fishermen, which indicates the best wind for sailing and fishing, so as you can see, the trade has been present and lively during our week.

It is one of these things that happens with teaching, you set off to start the week with some things in mind, and then, all of a sudden, something comes up that makes you change the directions or add things from a different file, and something really magical comes about. The children are really listening to you, with a special attention, as if suddenly you were talking a new language that they could also understand, and joy fills the room and the hours as the theme or motive unfolds during the week.

That is one of the reasons why I do not prepare-structure too much my lessons, enough to know what to do, but also enough to forget about them when inspiration comes in and switch to the living material.

It is in doing the exercises each night, picturing the children in my mind, reflecting backwards through the day and lifting it all up for improvement that I found the answer to my questions, and it is waldorf pedagogy which supports this kind of unfolding of the material lessons, this kind of relationship with the world around us and in us, that makes work so much like play.

As much as the fishermen with their nets ready, the wind in favour, yet always ready to shift the sail, to turn the boat for the changing winds of life, for the calling of God.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Inch by Inch

This week we have been finishing the measurements block for the third grade, and autumn finally has settled in after a fortnight gift of Indian Summer weather.

As we gather inwardly again, we sing a song which has come up after this poem.

Inch by inch,
row by row,
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone keep them safe below,
'Til the rain comes tumbling down

(fa fa re mi bemol, mi bemol, do
fa fa re re mi bemol, mi bemol do do
fa fa re re mi bemol, mi bemol, do do
si bemol, re fa fa fa re re re.)

It goes well for the kindergarten and first grade to acompany with their fingers as if it were raining, clapping the rhythm firts with the index finger, then with two fingers, then with three, four, five and then coming down again...ending the song  with just the finger index clapping.

The third grade steps into singing one part for the first time, she keeps repeating the first verses Inch by inch, Row by row, for the whole song, while the others sing the remainding verses. As the song goes along it makes the impression that different weavers are working at the same time, yet the goal is unified and that little by little, "inch by inch", the path is trodden, if the work and reverence are kept alive within us.

It is also a good picture for the gardening project, planting garlic this week and putting the garden to sleep for the winter, as we wait for the rain of spring to come again and wake nature upwardly. The garlic also is ingested more often during this season, an attempt to purify the blood and strentghen the body for the battle.

Finally the verses for this week from "In the Light of the Child" also remind us of the help in our way.

Refreshed, renewed, replenished I am standing
Within this world of golden autumn light.
A wondrous, mighty sword the gods are handing
To those whose souls with fire of love burn bright.

This flashing sword like sunrays streaming, searing,
In darkness shines and makes me firm and sure.
No dragon on my path need I be fearing;
I'm armed with light-God-given, sun-forged, pure!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Soul Mood

And when the golden summer sun grows weaker in our skies,
I know it really does not die-it just goes through a change.
For it has given its very self to me, in me it lies
As seed within my deepest heart-a thing most rich and strange.

This sun-seed-I must guard it, precious in my heart as gold.
It will live on in me through nights of winter, dark and cold,
Till lo, in spring a radiant, beautous flower shall unfold!

Autumn, First October week, "In the Lights of a Child" (Michael Hedley Burton)

This is the verse that we have in our blackboard this week; as the 3rd old grader notes in her weather journal, the date and weather, we also read aloud these lines. It is for us a connection with the seasons and the earth, which eventually brings us closer to Christ, and to free morality, to be able to feel in our hearts the consequences of our actions, and to decide accordingly.

There are two rythms that I aspire to bring to our days, one is the awe-filling discovery of the world, the other is the inward peaceful nourishment of the soul. These two moods interweave in our lifes ( or so I hope), as we do lessons, or walks, cook or mend...

In the following drawings each of them is somehow portrayed:

With the D in the first grade as an open door through the mountain, that crossing of worlds, between the known and the unknown.

With the closing verse for the morning, in soft pastels, strenghtening spirits with food for the body and soul.