This year in particular, I'm noticing the intense activity of our backyard feathered friends. Each morning, the airwaves are filled a symphony of cheerful chirps and calls. As our family observes birds of all kinds gathering dried grasses and twigs, it's pretty obvious that nesting season has arrived. The boys have been keen observers, providing me with regular updates on their robin, starling and goldfinch sightings.
I thought it might be fun to get Chi-Chi and Muffy involved in a little nesting of their own. We pretended we were birds and ventured out to gather all the necessary supplies to construct a proper nest. In no time, we had a hefty pile of grass, twigs, moss and dandelion "fluff". I pulled out a package of recycled clay I picked up at the Wolfville Farmer's Market some time ago, and we all set to work. It didn't take long to realize that building a nest is both an art and science! I think it it gave us all an appreciation for the skill and detailed work involved in nest building. It's pretty amazing to think those tiny creatures make such beautiful creations.
We were happy with our little nests. They make a nice addition to our spring nature table, and will like last for years to come if handled carefully.
What spring-inspired crafts are keeping your little ones busy these days?
After making his rounds to most of the Primary and Grade 1 classes in our school, our dear friend the giant water bug (aka water scorpion) is stepping out of the spotlight. Chi-Chi's latest scientific discovery is now taking centre stage. Much to my surprise, the boy discovered yet another monstrous aquatic bug this week - a predaceous diving beetle. Though not as large as the Uhler's water bug, he's still pretty impressive, measuring in at almost 2 inches. As you'd expect, our new friend will also be spending a few nights in our home for further observation and study. I have to admit, I think all this "bug lovin'" in the house is starting to rub off on me a bit. They truly are fascinating and interesting to observe...from a safe distance of course! I'm not sure what the discovery from the pond will be....should I be scared?? (:
Because I can't help but find a way to sneak in a little crafting when an opportunity presents itself, I've been whipping up these journals for various uses around the home. They make great spaces for little ones to record their discoveries, while encouraging them to write. I use my sewing machine to put them together, with a simple stich down the middle. I think this finishing detail adds a nice touch, making them feel just a bit more special than if staples had been used.
I like to have a few blank ones on hand so the boys can grab them when inspiration strikes. I can't say I'm the biggest fan of Lego Ninjago in the world, but a certain boy is quite smitten with them lately. I do, however, love his homemade Ninjago book, complete with photos! He devised the story in his head and set up a series of scenes, which I photographed for him. This was a great rainy day project.
As the mother of two adventurous and outdoorsy little boys, I've grown accustomed to the non-stop parade of creatures and critters paying visits to our home. Since a very young age, Muffy in particular has been enamoured with anything that creeps and crawls. Although I don't share his deep passion for insects, I can "live with" the wide variety of pet bugs he likes to collect, adopt and study. Although I sometimes find myself creeped out, I try to push my foolish fears aside and embrace the boys' curiosity and enthusiam for nature
So.....what's a mother to do when my darling sons arrive home with a GIANT mammoth of a bug that they have "fallen in love with"? The mother grins and bears it I guess, and invites the creepy critter in for a sleep over. Check out this crazy bug we scooped up with our pond nets this afternoon. With some help from Amy Lynn over at Flandrum Hill, he's been identified as an Uhler's Water Bug. I'm not sure how well I'm going to sleep tonight, knowing this guy is under my roof. He may end up in the garage when my bed time rolls around......just in case is is an escape artist!
Onto a less frightening topic, I was finally able to get the greenhouse plastic installed on my mini-hoop tunnel this week. I spent Monday morning planting seeds and dreaming of fresh veggies. It is amazing how quickly the space heats up. Since we live in such a windy, often foggy location, this might just be the key to my success in the garden! Wish me luck!
Rain or shine these days, we've been spending so much time outside - the garden, the pond, the woods, the beach. It's obvious that both Chi-Chi and Muffy are feeling inspired by all that is going on this spring. Chi-Chi set to work building his own caddis fly case from sticks and dried grass last week. I think it gave him an appreciation for how amazing it is that an insect can fabricate something so accurate and symmetrical.
I love the contrast reprented by these photographs. As the seasons come and go, Chi-Chi and Muffy are consistently drawn to this corner of our property. We initially created this tiny body of water with visions of good old fashioned pond hockey in mind. As much as the boys might enjoy a practice or game at the "real rink", nothing quite compares to the hours they spent with their Daddy on this ice surface - racing back and forth on growing legs, perfecting their shots (and saves) and breathing in the crisp fresh air. Although we experienced a mild winter, we took advantage of any opportunity to lace up our skates and revel in the joy of our own backyard rink.
Now that spring has sprung, our tiny pond has become a treasure trove of opportunity for learning and discovery. When one takes the time to simply sit and quietly observe, the diversity of life in this "over sized mud puddle" is absolutely mind boggling.
This evening we ventured down to the pond to check for frog eggs. We were not disappointed and discovered three large gelatinous clumps. Each of us settled into our own thoughts and space as we absorbed all the sights and activities below the surface of the water. I overheard Chi-Chi beckoning me to come quickly as he had made a very, VERY interesting discovery that he described as a teeny-tiny bunch of woven grass. I was skeptical, but I meandered over. I was fascinated by what he had discovered, which looked to be a tiny "log cabin" fashioned out of twigs and grasses. Inside this cabin, a larva or nymph of sorts was poking in and out. Back in the house, a quick Internet search revealed that he had indeed found the larva of the caddis fly. The larva of the caddis fly builds this protective covering around it's body out of debris. It spends it's lifecyle inside the case, until it finally emerges as the adult caddis fly. How fascinating is that! Seriosuly, I'm not as much of a bug lover as these boys of mine, but this is very cool!
I'm expecting endless hours of exploration and discovery in our little pond over the coming months. Who knows what other discoveries await us beneath those murky waters.
They boys spent so much time down there last summer, Mama even had time to park herself down with a lawn chair and novel....which she actually got to finish! I may have been eaten alive by mosquitos and deer flies....but the quiet contentment of my children was worth the pain and suffering
A few friends recently commented on my absence from this space! All is well in our neck of the woods. I found myself in a bit of a hibernation mode this past winter, focusing more on the practical aspects of day to day life, rather than creative endeavours.
With Spring in full swing, I'm feeling inspired on many fronts - mainly my garden. My good friend Michelle introduced me to Niki Jabbour's fabulous new book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener. I'm not sure my poor husband is sharing in my enthusiasm for the book. It's the middle of tax season, and being an accountant, it goes without saying that he is one busy man. For the past few weeks I have been dropping "hints" that I really, REALLY need some help building a cold frame and mini hoop tunnel. He either really, REALLY loves me, or just wants me to stop talking about all my "plans" that involve his construction skills. He built me a lovely cold frame a couple of weeks ago and tonight we tackled the frame of the tunnel.
I've got very high hopes for this garden of mine in the coming months. I attended Seedy Saturday at the Wolfville Farmer's market last weekend and went a little nutty picking out seeds from both Annapolis Seeds and Hope Seeds. I'm actually giddy thinking about all the delicious veggies that will soon be coming our way. I keep reminding Hubby that once he tastes the first home-grown salad of the season, all his work (and all his listening to me talk, talk, talk) will be well worth it!
While I "patiently" wait for my tunnel to be ready for planting, I decided to finish up a project I've been picking away at for months. I dug out the knitting basket and in no time I had myself a new sweater. I actually sewed up the last of the loose ends this morning so I could wear it to my sister's birthday lunch! It is the Annabel Cardigan from Quince and Co. and I am IN LOVE with it. Although I've had great success knitting for the wee ones, I tend to find knitting for myself a bit more challenging in terms of fit and style. This sweater is a perfect fit. In fact, I've decided my wardrobe needs another one in green. What makes it so rewarding is that I dyed the yarn using goldenrod Chi-Chi and Muffy picked from our property. It's such a beautiful sunny hue.
What "spring fever" projects are you working on these days?? I'm always looking for new ideas!
It's looking like one very rainy/snowy weekend in our neck of the woods. Honestly, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a hefty load of snow! This has been one very strange winter with very little snow and oddly mild temperatures. I miss the winter days of my own childhood, living in Northern New Brunswick, where outdoor ice skating, sliding, skiing and snowshoeing were enjoyed all winter long. We've had a mere handful of days were our pond has been frozen enough for skating. Chi-Chi and Muffy have only built one snowman this season and the awesome snow tubes we received for Christmas sit idle in the barn. Sigh!
Enough about the weather! In anticipation of the dreary weekend ahead, I planned a few little fun crafts and activities for the boys. I've been meaning to try Mary Beth's recipe for celebration sugar cookies for quite some time. Valentine's Day seemed like the perfect occasion. I love how she uses these cookies to celebrate anything from holidays to birthday to seasons - mixing in lots of fun shapes. It's a nice sturdy sugar cookie recipe, which is great when little hands are getting in on the action.
The boys aren't the only one who have been playing cupid around here. I've been informed that I "better get to work" on filling up that Valentine mailbox sitting in the living room! I've been trying to think up some fun homemade ideas and treats for the boys. Since we are heavy into ukes, guitars and music these days, I came up with these funny little cards that include a few spare guitar picks. I swear, there is a black hole in this house that seems to be hungry for picks. I don't know where they disappear to, but it seems I can never have enough on hand.
On the 15th of February, the boys will be celebrating the 100th day of school. I found this great idea for a hilarious 100 eyed monster t-shirt to add some fun to the day. I picked up some old shirts at the thrift shop and had the boys draw their monster/alien head. They helped me count while I worked away on the task of gluing the googly eyes with my trusty glue gun. Surprisingly, it wasn't too tedious of a task and was actually a bit of fun. Chi-Chi is currently learning the numbers from 1 to 100 in French so it was a nice exercise to reinforce what's going on in the classroom.
The arrival of February inevitably brings a flurry of creative activity by my two little secret admirers. I know a lot of people lament Valentine's Day as yet another commercialized holiday, but I always enjoy the fun it brings. I think it adds a bit of much-needed love and light to the dreariest, coldest month of the year. While the boys were at school today, I pulled out the craft supplies and designated half of the dining table as "Valentine Central". Glitter glue, stickers, doilies, stamps, sequins, markers....Chi-Chi and Muffy have all the necessary supplies on hand to express their love!
On this very chilly day, they were both so happy and content to work quietly on their creations for the bulk of the afternoon. Our family's Valentine mailbox is already filled to the brim. They even completed all the cards for the upcoming class parties! It's always fun to give something sweet and simple with a handmade touch. I really wanted to avoid candy or sweets of any kind. I came up with some super easy friendship bracelets. A while back, I had dyed some chunky yarn in a rainbow color scheme. I dug this out of the wool stash and in no time, I had crocheted enough little bracelets for both classes. I simply chain stitched for 24 counts - easy peasy and super speedy to pull together. The pretty yarn makes them look more impressive than they are!
Wow! The holidays are certainly a busy time of year for all of us! This space fell to the wayside as I found myself immersed in a flurry of festive activities during the month of December.
I took a much-needed breather in January. With all the "creating" that goes hand in hand with the gift giving season, I'm usually feeling pretty fizzled when the new year rolls around. I've been spending my days focusing inward and re-evaluating goals and priorities. I seem to enjoy approaching the new year on a very practical foot - revamping my fitness routine, organizing, clearing clutter and assessing finances (the accountant in me).
That being said, I recently found both the time and inspiration to work on a fun sewing project for my aspiring musician, Chi-Chi. He's got big dreams of playing the electric guitar someday. We are taking baby steps, and he just recently started ukulele lessons. He's having loads of fun with this new interest of his. I have to admit, I'm even learning something, which is always a bonus!
As we headed out for Chi-Chi's very first uke lesson, it quickly became apparent that my boy needed a few "accessories" to help him safely transport his instrument and song books back and forth. After browsing through Etsy for some inspiration, I came up with a simple fabric sleeve that would do the trick, as well as a matching tote bag. Check out this link and this link for sources of my inspiration. It's always so enjoyable to go through one's stash and devise fun fabric combination. I selected a cozy, soft 100% wool for the main body of the uke case as I thought it would provide adequate protection without needing a liner (and therefore complicating the project!). I was pretty tickled with the final result, as was Chi-Chi! I even included a few secret "pick pockets" to store extra picks and other important treasures of a 6 year old boy.
As these two boys of mine grow older, I find myself making fewer items for them by hand. They do still play with so many of the handmade toys I made over the years, but their interests are changing and evolving. Music is certainly taking center stage in our home at the moment. It warms my heart to see both boys truly engaged and inspired. I'm noticing that music represents a form of expression and connection for Chi-Chi in particular, serving as a tool to overcome shyness and step outside his comfort zone.
Whether in tune or not, it's all music to this mama's ears!
The holiday season was officially kicked off in our household today......although the Chrismtas activities began long ago. The boys were greeted this morning by the family Advent calendar, a much loved tradition in our home. I've tried to keep the Advent treats simple this year. In previous years, I gave a combination of treats, trinkets and treasures. This year, I'm giving teeny weeny little treats each day. More candy is certainly not something the boys need, but it kept things simple and easy for Mama. The treats are very, very small so I'm ok with it. (i.e a single gummy bear). I do so love Mary Beth's idea of the Buy Nothing New Advent Calendar. I may shift to this in future years as it is a nice alternative to the focus on receiving gifts!
I spent some time pulling out a few seasonal decorations today, including our nativity scene. I made this little set a couple of years ago with my scroll saw, inspired by the work of Woodmouse. I also pulled our collection of Christmas stories and books from storage. I keep these items tucked away during the rest of the year. They are much more appreciated and treasured as a result.
There is something comforting about reading these same stories each year....some of them dating back to my own childhood. My all-time favorite Christmas story collection is The Animals' Merry Christmas, written by Kathryn Jackson and illustrated by Richard Scarry. I'm a huge fan of Richard Scarry and his Busytown gang. Where is Christmas Jesse Bear? (along with all the other Jesse Bear books in the series) is also a family favorite!
My dear friend Michelle popped in for a quick visit today to pick up some alder branches to decorate her classroom. Now that the boys no longer attend her preschool, we don't see each other as often. It was nice to catch up and connect. She had requested some of my candycane yarn for classroom crafts. It makes me happy to send a bit of Wool Fairy goodness to the students at Maple Tree. I did up a bit of this yummy yarn for my own crew, as I'm sure there is a great deal of Christmas crafting in our near future. It's so easy to dye up! I just randomly dump a bit of red and green dye on a natural skein of yarn. It's fun and festive.
As much as I've tried to delay the appearance of the "Christmas Spirit" around here, it has arrived in full force! Don't get me wrong, I love the holiday season and all that goes with it. I actually enjoy the period leading up to Christmas more than the day itself. The baking, the decorating, the crafting, the visiting, the treats, the lights.......etc. I do, however, get burned out when it all begins a bit too early. I set a firm rule this year that Mommy would only tune into the Christmas songs when the calendar turned to December. Despite my resistance, Chi-Chi and Muffy are completely consumed with the holiday season ahead!
The majority of playtime in these parts centers around Santa and his elves. We have an extensive collection of "holiday attire" to aid the imaginative process, including two kiddie Santa suits, an elf costume and a Mrs. Claus costume. They have been playing this game for years (winter, summer, spring or fall), and I have to admit, it is so fun to sit back and quietly observe. This year they took their activities outdoors and converted our play-boat into Santa's sleigh. All was fine and dandy, until I found the little monkeys dumping my bucket of ashes and soot from the woodstove all over our yard! "Mommy, we are just delivering coal to all the naughty kids!!!". Sigh....thankfully there were no live sparks in that bucket!
A few years ago I knit them both a couple of warm and woolly Santa toques. These are dual-purpose hats - providing warmth from the bitter cold and adding a bit fun and magic to pretend play. Chi-Chi recently put in his request for a set of matching Santa mittens. Poor Santa's hands were cold! I love making fun little woollies for the boys! There is no doubt, these will get a lot of use.
Chi-Chi also placed his order for a new set of red pants, as he has outgrown those from the previous year. I popped into the fabric shop today to pick up some red fleece and came out with some silly fake fur in my shopping bag. Tonight I pulled out the scissors, some elastic and my glue gun. In no time, my two Santas were outfitted with fluffy new beards! They are hilarious! As I was settling Muffy down for the night, I found Chi-Chi tucked away in his bedroom, (aka workshop) decked out in full St. Nick attire. He was busily creating gifts for his loved ones. Although Santa is most often associated with the "receiving end" of the holiday, I'm witnessing the spirit of giving in my home. Both little ones are inspired by Santa's generosity. Chi-Chi's little handmade gifts truly melted my heart. He made Daddy "a set of French words to learn". I love that.
I caved in and played "Here Comes Santa Claus" for them tonight. Let the Christmas games begin (:
Bedtime in our house is one of my favorite times of the day. When the clock strikes 7pm, Chi-Chi and Muffy are usually snuggled up under the covers with Mommy or Daddy and a good book. I'm loving the coziness that the darkness provides this time of year. Bedtime seems to run so much more smoothly during these darkest of months. My husband and I usually "divide and conquer" when it comes to getting the little ones settled down for the night. We alternate every night and it works out quite well. This gives us some quiet one-on-one time with each child. I do cherish this special time with each of them as it is often a time of connection between us.
Both boys share my love of children's books, so bedtime stories are very much cherished by all members of the family. I do believe even my husband truly enjoyed reading the Little House on the Prairie series. I think he was pleasantly surprised! We just finished reading Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat for the second time. This is such a great read for little boys! It is full of adventure, comedy and good old fashioned boyish fun. It has a nostalgic feel to it, which took me back to stories of my own father as a boy. It represents the classic boyhood adventures I want my own children to live and experience......tracking animals, building camps, riding bikes, being curious about nature. This sounds like a lot more fun than the video games of today!
The book that currently rests on the night stand is truly a treasure - something I found at the thrift shop last year. If anyone has any information on this book, I'd love to know more about it! I still can't believe I snatched it up for $1.99. Its called "The Wee Folk - About the Elves in Nova Scotia". It was written by Mary Alma Dillman in 1953! I have the 1964 edition. It is a collection of the sweetest, most enchanting tales and illustrations I have ever read. The children love the mention of Nova Scotia in the tales. I swear, those little elves just might be living in the woods out back, the text is so descriptive and rich with detail.
With owls on the brain, we got up to a little bit of crafting, inspired by materials we collected on a nature walk. We spotted a bobcat earlier this week - likely the culprit in the missing duck and rooster mystery. We've been out scouting for tracks in the mud, so it was easy to collect bits of nature as we explored. I got the idea here at Five Orange Potatoes. We used "down" from asters and goldenrod that had gone to seed for the fluff. Alder catkins made great beaks and talons for our little owlets.
This was the first time I let the boys use the glue gun. In no time, they had moved on to more festive inspired crafts! It looks like the Christmas crafting has officially begun around here! It's a bit earlier than I had hoped...but I'm going to roll with it.