Pretending

baby knits wee liesl

The weather has really shifted this week and I woke up really chilly for the first time.  I also have my first cold of the season.  I’m pretending that I am going to spend the winter cozy under blankets knitting lots of fabulous projects while drinking hot tea.

Wee Liesl is finished and ready to go in the mail.  Larkspur sighed when I showed it to her, wishing desperately that it was for her own new baby sister.  Sorry!  I still have a baby, and while I thought he was going to be walking by now based on the few steps he’s been taking, he isn’t.  He’s sticking to crawling:  onto chairs, onto tables, into trouble.  Those little blue shoes were Seth’s.  I’ve never been able to part with them, though I think Job is the first baby to wear them since Keats.

I like the way that making plans and winding yarn gives a sense of accomplishment, as if all those projects will just fly off my needles.  Yes, I’m good at pretending.

The Original Mud Pie Kitchen

In the spring of 2010, after creating what I called a “mud pie kitchen” on our back porch for Larkspur, I wrote a tutorial describing our creative process for a website called Rhythm of the Home.  I wasn’t sure that the editors would even find it worthy of publishing.  But I guess I am far from being the only grown woman with fond memories of making mud pies as a child, because that piece ended up being the most popular ever in the history of Rhythm of the Home!  Mud pie kitchens began springing up all over the internet, and I could hardly believe it!  Over four years later, Larkspur’s enthusiasm for her mud pie kitchen is still strong.  She recently gave her first oral presentation at our homeschool co op and chose to speak about her mud pie kitchen.  I printed the photos from my original piece for her to share with her friends.  After revisiting those photos with Larkspur, I thought it might be a good time to post my original tutorial here.  And while these photos were taken in the spring, Larkspur’s favorite time of year in the mud pie kitchen is fall!

How to make a mud pie kitchen:

The original "How to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
When I was a child, my favorite activities involved being outdoors immersed in nature. Rather than spend my time playing with an indoor play kitchen, I preferred to make “real” pies from mud. Some of my dearest memories are of afternoons spent sitting on my grandparents’ back porch with a spoon and a couple of small pie tins packed with mud.
Without my prompting, my oldest daughter recently began creating mud pies of her own.

mud pie kitchen setup small things blog
In keeping with this new favorite activity, I set out to create an outdoor mud pie kitchen for all my children. My goal was to keep things simple; leaving plenty of room for imagination. I also wanted to use materials we already had on hand or could obtain secondhand. An old crate turned upside down serves as the base of our kitchen; while a couple of old ammo boxes sitting on top provide a “stove” and a little cupboard. You can be creative with what you have or can obtain easily. I chose to place our little kitchen on our small back porch because my youngest is under two and I like to keep her close. However, it would be equally nice under a shady tree or on a small patio.

mud pie kitchen tree stump small things blog
Every kitchen needs a table and chairs, and for that purpose we used pieces of wood that never made it to the woodpile last winter. These won’t last forever, but they are working well right now as both little seats and additional workspace.

mud pie kitchen tree stumps and water small things blog
Our dishes, pots, and pans have come from a variety of sources: thrift stores, our own cast offs, and a few little pots and pans that have been received as gifts. Stainless steel and galvanized metal are best because they won’t rust, but we do use old rusty pans as well, namely muffin tins. I have thrifted both full sized and miniature pots and pans. My favorites are the small ones of course. Another good addition is a mortar and pestle. We found ours at an international foods market.

mud pie kitchen table cloth small things blog
Even my older boys like to join in the fun. This is one of my children’s favorite activities to do together despite the fact that they range in age from one all the way up to almost ten. In fact, even I like making mud pies. Seriously, it’s fun.

mud pie kitchen utensils small things blog
My four year old daughter adds special touches like a tablecloth (just a fabric scrap cut out with pinking shears) and fresh flowers.

mud pie kitchen sink small things blog
A little galvanized tub makes a great sink for washing dishes, hands, and providing water for the mud batter. This being the only item I purchased new, was obtained at our local feed store for around five bucks.

mud pie kitchen dirt small things blog
Plenty of dirt is essential. Even if you live in a city apartment without your own patch of soil, a bag of topsoil can be purchased and kept in a bucket on the smallest of patios. Every now and then I provide rice or dry beans as well.

mud pie kitchen mud small things blog
While dirt is definitely the main ingredient in most of the dishes created,

mud pie kitchen fried onions small things blog
sometimes “fried” wild onions make an appearance as well.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
The possibilities are endless.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
Armed with a pot, some soil, water, and an old wooden spoon, some fabulous dishes can be created. My daughter likes to have me smell her mud to make sure it smells “just right.”

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
Flower petals and other bits of nature make nice additions to mud pies, and gathering them is half the fun!

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
I have found that my children spend quite a bit of time decorating their pies and cakes until they are little works of art.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
Pies are placed in the “brick oven” to bake. To create your own, simply line up a row of bricks in a sunny spot and there you have it! If you don’t have any bricks, you can draw bricks inside a cardboard box.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
Keeping a tidy kitchen is also part of the fun.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
But more often than not, tins full of mud and water are left lying about, as the little cooks run off to build another outdoor home, store, or restaurant; inspired by their imaginations and the little place you’ve created for them.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
And that’s the beauty of it: a few simple props, some old pots and pans, and a generous dose of the outdoors and children can create hours of beautiful imaginative play.

The original "how to make a mud pie kitchen" from Ginny Sheller
Now it’s your turn to create a mud pie kitchen for your favorite little ones!

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-This is our favorite mud pie kitchen cookbook. We are on our second copy, and could use a new one because it is so well loved.

-You can find more mud pie kitchen inspiration here, here, here, and here.