Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Men Don't Listen....Or Do They?

Men don’t listen. Most women would definitely concur with this statement! My dear father has been practicing the art of “not listening” for a solid seventy years. He’s soon going to be outfitted with a shiny new set of hearing aids so we shall see if he gets away with it much longer! My husband is particularly skilled at fooling me into believing he is deeply absorbing my every word. He must have been exhibiting his fine acting skills when we agreed that we would not be exchanging gifts this Christmas. I certainly lived up to my end of the bargain! Ironically, I personally benefited from his poor listening skills this time around. Tucked under our tree was one very large and heavy box addressed to the “Wood Fairy”. I have to admit, I was pretty tickled to uncover a scroll saw beneath the wrapping paper. In no time, my mind began churning with ideas.

I’ve been admiring the original and beautiful creations of fellow Esty seller, Woodmouse for quite some time. In fact, Chi-Chi and Muffy each received one of her adorable wooden cell phones in their stockings. She is also the lady behind Make-Baby-Stuff, a wonderful website that is chock full of do-it-yourself projects for those interested in natural parenting. She offers an easy to follow tutorial on how to create adorable wooden animals at home. As a proud owner of a brand new scroll saw, I jumped right in and gave it a try. Wow! I feel a new addiction coming on. Chi-Chi and Muffy adore their new set of sweet animals. They are a perfect match to the farm play set the boys received from Santa. I’m particularly enjoying creating the forest friends that live in our backyard as the little ones can really relate to these characters.

Upon further reflection, I guess I feel a tad guilty for doing a bit of male bashing. I now vividly remember forcing Hubby to sit through the wooden toy tutorial on several occasions – my “subtle” way of telling him I “need” a scroll saw. I guess it turns out he was actually listening all along…. (:

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

With Heart and Hands

It seems like only yesterday… It is Christmas morning, 1978. I am one very excited and impatient four-year-old. It’s 6:28 a.m. and I am hovering over my sleeping parents, anxiously awaiting the “thumbs up” to descend upon the living room to discover what treasures Santa left for one very deserving little girl. At 6:30 a.m. sharp, I am given the go head. I remember this moment so vividly. Tucked under the tree was the most circled item in our tattered copy of the Sears Wish Book that year, Baby Patti, “the doll that peed her pants”. She was nestled comfortably in a beautiful wooden doll cradle made with care and love by my very own father. As I sit in my living room almost thirty years to the day, Baby Patti is nowhere to be seen. Sadly, she is no doubt buried deeply in a pile of rubbish in some landfill in Northern New Brunswick. That dear wooden cradle, on the other hand, sits across the room from me on this cold December evening in 2008. Cuddled up inside with a wool blankie are Pedro and Casey, the Waldorf dolls I handmade for the boys. Not a day goes by that the cradle is not played with by the grandchildren of the man who created it. As boys, they may be finding unique and interesting uses for it (i.e. boat, step stool, car), but they are interacting with it nonetheless!

My wooden cradle speaks volumes about the value of offering our children quality, handmade, solid toys. They will undoubtedly outlast their junky counterparts, being passed down from one generation to the next to enjoy. Inspired to offer our own children something from our hearts and hands, Hubby and I decided to combine our skills and efforts this year. With Chi-Chi’s wish list in mind we set to work: a tree, a river a bridge and a house. Sigh...the beauty and innocence of a three year old! His wish list almost brought a tear to my eye!

It’s quite possible that I am anticipating Christmas morning more than the little ones this year. I’m just itching to see the looks of awe on their soft little faces when they set their eyes upon Santa’s gifts. Chi-Chi and Muffy will be the lucky recipients of an adorable farm play set. The Wool Fairy created the landscape from scraps of rug hooking wool she retrieved from the cedar chest in the basement . She hand-dyed the wool fabric to create a mat of beautiful colors and interesting texture. Hubby was assigned to barn design and construction. We are low in the tool department, but he worked with what was available and produced a sweet maple barn, complete with the cutest chicken coop ever! I fell in love with the works of Jalu Toys of British Columbia so I treated the boys to a few special animals for the play set, 2 chickens, a family of ducks and a mama and baby deer. The detail and workmanship on these pieces are amazing!

Just two sleeps left and we finally get to unveil our finished product! Thirty years may have passed but no doubt, I'll still be the first in line at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning.....waiting for that thumbs up!

Merry Christmas to everyone!  Wishing you all a relaxing, warm and joyful holiday!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Having a Ball...

Though our family’s vacation this past summer was lovely, it was certainly a wet and wild one! With two active and curious boys, it didn’t take long for us to go a little stir crazy confined within the four cottage walls. The inclement weather opened the door to opportunities and activities we would likely never have signed up for, such as bowling! Every time I go bowling (once every ten years or so), I’m reminded of how much fun it can be. The kids loved it. At just two years old, Muffy in particular impressed us with his skills. And the shoes…..size 7 toddler bowling shoes are ADORABLE!

A couple of weeks ago I was picking up some thread at the local craft shop and I discovered a super deal on hardwood child-size bowling pins. Inspired by our vacation visit to the alley, I couldn’t resist them. They stand six inches tall and polished up quite nicely with a coat of beeswax. (I beeswax everything around here!) I also found a couple of wooden balls to complete the set. When I showed them to Hubby he just laughed. He reminded me that Muffy was recently caught pounding our windows with a wooden toy hammer. Hard wooden balls would not last long before a confiscation would be necessary! I considered using some of our woolen balls but figured they would be a tad light for the job. My best option seemed to incorporate both wood and wool. The result is a set of colorful felt balls with wooden cores. Hard and heavy on the inside, soft and forgiving on the outside! They are perfect!

I have to admit, my attempts to create felted balls in the past were less than successful. I was thrilled to discover a wonderful instructional video on creating felted balls at www.crunchyparent.com. Her step by step instructions were very clear and easy to follow with fool proof results.

I'm "having a ball" picking away at these last minute little Christmas projects this past week. It’s just plain fun being one of Santa's elves and I’m thrilled to be as far away as possible from the dreadful crowded malls. I have no doubt this classic game will be enjoyed by all members of our family for many years to come – not bad for $11 taxes in!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Seek and Destroy

Last Sunday morning I walked into the house to the sight of dear Hubby and the boys “jamming” to the sounds of Metallica’s Seek and Destroy. Hmmmm…. I will chalk it up to male bonding I suppose. In the end Hubby agreed that perhaps the lyrics weren’t exactly “age appropriate” for Chi-Chi and Muffy. Honestly, I doubt these two little guys could decipher one word that was said in the song. The message of “seek and destroy” is not exactly one I’d like to promote around here!

We spent the remainder of Sunday morning venturing on our annual “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Hunt”. Our 16 acres is primarily forested so there is no shortage of trees to choose from. Neighbour friends always join us on the hunt and once again this year, they loaded up their pick-up truck with a striking 12 foot beauty! Though not quite as perfect as a tree lot variety, our tree seems just right and was free to boot!

The children were each able to choose a small personal Christmas tree to call their own. We have a lot of thinning to do in our treed areas so I didn’t feel guilty snipping off a couple of spruce seedlings. Wow! What a treat for the little ones. They spent the rest of the day decorating, undecorating and redecorating their trees. I doubt very much these trees will have one needle left by the time Christmas roles around. I managed to convince Chi-Chi that his tree is meant to stay put in one special spot. I truly believe that Muffy thinks his tree is more of a pet, perhaps that puppy he is wishing for? He lugs it around the house, proudly dragging and displaying it to every visitor who should ring the door bell. Chi-Chi and Muffy are also having loads of fun creating ornaments for their special little seedlings!

In the back of my mind, I was secretly hoping that these kiddie trees would serve as decoys to keep my little monkeys’ interests away from the family tree. My master plan has failed. There has definitely been some “seek and destroy” action going on around here. Not one ornament remains on the bottom 5 feet of my tree! Most have been broken, moved to higher ground or eaten…yes eaten. A few years back I made a batch of “gingerbread” men ornaments. The recipe called for cinnamon, applesauce and glue. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but I was childless back in those days. They look exactly like cookies so who can blame them!

Friday, 12 December 2008

A Feast For Feathered Friends

It’s been a feeding frenzy this past week at our backyard feeders. Perhaps our feathered friends know something the rest of us don’t. I suspect they must be fuelling up for another wallop of snow and frigid temperatures that is inevitably on its way.

Last year our family assisted our avian crew in its fattening up efforts by dishing up a hearty helping of good old-fashioned home cooking. Our bird treats were a huge hit with the backyard birdies and were gobbled up in record time.

With my “Hand Made Christmas” goals in mind, I decided to enlist the services of two very eager little ones to help cross some items off my list. Nature lovers in my life will once again receive a package of homemade treats for their backyard friends. The recipe is extremely simple, but I will warn you that things got incredibly messy! I must be a sucker for punishment (: Chi-Chi and Muffy call it “bird seed play dough” and had loads of fun making cakes and cookies for the birdies. This year I added a little decorative twist by adorning some of the patties with dried seedpods from my flower garden. I picked up some red tulle at the local fabric store to make some festive pouches for the treats. Left over onion or orange bags would also do the trick.

With the final countdown to Christmas well underway, the excitement around our house is certainly building. I’m trying to involve Chi-Chi and Muffy in the preparations as much as possible. This feels like no small feat as I’m currently battling some back troubles that are definitely slowing me down. Our “holiday activities” sometimes feel like make-work projects for one sore and tired Mama! Despite my grumblings, I feel very strongly that Chi-Chi and Muffy need to fulfill their holiday “responsibilities”. My hope is that by hand-making gifts for their loved ones, they will appreciate the giving aspect of the season instead of completely obsessing over Santa’s upcoming visit. This might sound like a tall order for my little two and three year olds, but I do believe we are making progress around here! I guess my pain and MAJOR clean up efforts will be worth it in the end!

My only concern at this point is whether there will be anything left for the birds once Mr. Squirrel has finished his turn at the buffet. Based on my past dealings with this critter, I'm not holding my breath!

Resisting Temptations...

Before Hubby and I planted our roots and built a home on Seaside Farms, we lived in some very, VERY tiny one-bedroom apartments. As two newly married frugal accountants, we were penny pincher extraordinaires.

As any homeowner would tell you, spending habits go through the roof before you even sign the dotted line. The term money pit comes to mind. A completely rotten deck railing, a full septic tank, pealing paint, a broken washing machine - just a few general household maintenance items to hit the books in 2008. My review of the past twelve months reveals a number of unbudgeted temptations I could not seem to pass up during the year – my beloved chicken coop, a painting for that horrid blank spot on the wall and more wool than any human being (fairy or not) could possibly burn through in a year.

The temptations are always lurking behind a corner, waiting to pounce on me in a weak moment. One such temptations resides in my basement. The cold, dusty concrete floors and the bare dismal walls scream at me to be finished. I dream of a cozy, finished basement space. I’ve even got an antique store counter hanging in the rafters of an Annapolis Valley barn, waiting to be transformed into the most amazing craft counter/wrapping center. A finished basement is not even on my budget’s radar. It’s at the very bottom of my never-ending wish list.

We are currently in the midst of a very wet and windy weather system. As a result, our time outdoors has been limited. There are times I fear my Chi-Chi and Muffy will literally be swept off to sea in the fierce winds we are experiencing. When in need of a change of scenery, we head down to the basement. Though the space is dark and dismal in my eyes, the children see a place they can completely let loose. They can run, shout, ride their bikes, swing and get good and messy!!! Only in an unfinished basement can they paint the walls and floors (and themselves) without one cautionary word from mommy. My only rule is no eating paint!

So for the time being I'm able to witness the silver lining in my doomy unfinished basement. I will continue to battle off the temptations on this one! I better make it pretty clear to these two monkeys that the basement rules differ drastically from the upstairs rules. Otherwise I may end up with a new paint job in my living room. I'm not a big fan of black and hot pink!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

A Cozy Corner for the Critters

Hubby had a “work from home day”, which is always a treat for the whole family. It certainly gives him a nice break from his fast-paced office environment. Although he spends most of the day tucked away in the home office, Chi-Chi, Muffy and I always look forward to a few rounds of “Huggy Bug” during coffee breaks! Since he had a conference call scheduled this evening with a West Coast client, he took some time this afternoon to enjoy the snowy weather with the boys and I. A quick glance at tomorrow’s forecast revealed our winter wonderland would not be around much longer so it was best to take advantage!

Growing up in Northern New Brunswick, there was never a shortage of the white stuff during our winter months. Many would argue that we had more than our fair share, but as a child it opened the door to so many wonderful activities – both creative and physical. Bundled up in my puffy pink snowsuit, I spent countless hours digging elaborate snow fort and tunnel systems, losing myself in a world of make believe. Family activities included downhill skiing, skating at the outdoor rink down the street and snowshoeing in the quiet winter woods. Snowshoeing was perhaps my favorite of our recreational endeavors. This may have had something to do with the steaming hot chocolate my mother always packed for our journey.

Winter is a magical time of year to sit still in the woods and simply enjoy nature. The snowy blanket reveals the stories of forest friends who traveled the path before us. The boys love retracing the tracks of the little creatures that reside with us on Seaside Farms – pheasant, squirrel, mice, deer, bunnies and fox. I strongly believe Chi-Chi and Muffy need to get outside everyday, even if it is just for a short spell. These active little boys seem to have a physical need to stretch their legs, soak up some sunlight and breathe clean fresh air. The winter winds blow strong and cold on our hilltop location. What better place to hide away on a blustery day than “The Camp”? Tucked away under the branches of a patch of spruce trees , Hubby and the boys built a special hiding place. Luckily for me, they did not post a “No Girls Allowed” sign (yet!). This is a wonderful spot to snuggle up and absorb the magic of the winter woods.

It appears that Chi-Chi and Muffy are not the only critters seeking out a snuggly spot this winter. A little squirrel seems to have found a cozy corner in our BBQ. It looks like someone may have raided The Wool Fairy’s stash. Check out the bits of wool used to build this cozy nest. It looks to me like a lusciously soft merino wool –perfect to cuddle up with on a frigid winter day! At least the little guy has good taste!

Friday, 5 December 2008

The Urge to Purge

The calendar may say December but my mind is on spring today…spring cleaning to be more specific. Every year, as the holiday season approaches, I find myself feeling smothered by all the miscellaneous “stuff” in our lives. The urge to purge becomes overwhelming! I usually find myself on a de-cluttering rampage this time of year. One would think that with my regular purging routines our house would be bare. Amazingly, the “stuff” continues to creep and sneak its way into our lives. With the gift-giving season drawing near, I sense a desperate need to sort through our current belongings, removing unwanted, useless, dirty and broken items to make room for the new “stuff”. (Hubby, if you are reading this, you might want to hide away some of your precious possessions because nothing is sacred around here!) Hubby thinks I sometimes go overboard, but I can honestly only think of one or two things I ever regretted sending off to the goodwill shop.

Of course, avoiding the acquisition of “stuff” is truly the answer to all of my frustrations. This year, my husband and I are not exchanging Christmas gifts….nothing, zero, zip! We made a pact and I hope he lives up to his end of the bargain. I have absolutely nothing hiding in the back of my closet to pull out at the last minute! The little ones are getting a few special things, all of which are well thought out and made to last. I’ve been sorting through their current belongings, setting aside items they have outgrown or completely destroyed (!!) in order to make room for their gifts.

Last January, our family’s new year’s resolution was to question every purchase. Our plan was to achieve three goals: reduce spending, reduce clutter and limit environmentally damaging consumerism. I’m a pretty frugal and self-disciplined person, but it is so easy to fall prey to the limitless temptations. I have good months and bad months with this one! I have a weakness for wool, evidenced by my ever-growing yarn stash. The best defense against my consumer cravings is to steer clear of the stores. As soon as I walk into a shop, I inevitably discover all sorts of wonderful things I didn’t even know I desperately needed and wanted!!

With Chi-Chi and Muffy underfoot 99.99% of the time, my cleaning efforts are moving at a snail’s pace. The old me could conquer every nook and cranny of the house in a day. The new mommy me is approaching the task with baby steps. My goal is to declutter one cupboard a day! It may not sound very ambitious, but my little Tasmanian devil certainly makes the process a bit of a challenge.

“Question every purchase” will be back on the list for 2009. Yikes! There is certainly room for improvement!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

A Cure for Homesickness

I’m feeling a little sick on this damp, chilly December day. The heaviness in my heart seems to indicate that I’ve contracted a mild case of homesickness. The changing of the seasons inevitably stirs up memories of childhood. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I was hopping off the school bus, racing through the front door to give Mommy a big hug and kiss? Before running off to climb a tree or ride my bike, I’d plop down at the kitchen table and nibble on carrot sticks and apple juice, reciting the exciting events of my day to eager ears. How did the time zoom by at such lighting speed? How is it possible that I am now on the receiving end of after school kisses (ok, just preschool)? And my own dear mother, answering to the name Nanny? What’s going on here?

I decided to serve up a healthy dose of comfort food to cure my homesick blues. I enlisted the aid of Chi-Chi and Muffy and whipped up a batch of my all-time favorite after school snack – Michipicoten Sea Biscuits. They’ve been a favorite in my family for as long as I can remember. My parents used to pack them along on sailing trips in the family boat, The Michipicoten, named after a river in Northern Ontario where my father grew up. I have no idea where the recipe originated. A vague image of a tattered old copy of one of those “Ladies Auxiliary" cookbooks comes to mind. Anyway, they are certainly not low in fat or sugar, but they do include some yummy and healthy ingredients such as sunflower seeds and wheat germ.

Chi-Chi and Muffy had loads of fun baking cookies. The sight of Chi-Chi carefully and delicately cracking eggs is beautiful to watch. Muffy on the other hand, is a bit of a tasmanian devil in the kitchen! I can't help but laugh at his borderline "naughty" endeavors. I may be biased, but there isn’t anything much cuter than these two monkeys running around in their aprons. Chi-Chi’s cooking attire includes a chef’s hat but little Muffy is missing this essential element of the kitchen uniform. Chi-Chi declared that Santa will have to pack one in his sack for little brother. Of course, Santa’s got it covered. I purchased this adorable hat made by a Canadian mom in British Columbia – the lady behind SillyCon Designs. The child-size egg beater I picked up will also be a bit hit with Mommy’s little helper!

So I sat myself down this afternoon and munched on a bunch of carrot sticks, a tasty homemade sea biscuit and a tall glass of cold apple juice. I actually feel much better! I guess reminiscing about the past helped put me in touch with the present.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Santa Pulls Through...

I’ve had Christmas on the brain for so many months that it is hard to believe that December has finally arrived and we are in the final stretch. I’m certainly not one of those people doing their Christmas shopping in July! This year I decided I would be making as many gifts as possible. In order to achieve this goal, there was definitely some planning involved! Hand-making gifts can be a rather slow process so I needed to allow myself plenty of time. Last year on December 12th I came up with the bright idea that I would knit both my mother and sister a poncho for Christmas. Ha! It’s a year later and those ponchos remain a mere image in my mind.

When devising my gift lift, I also vowed to steer clear of all malls and big box stores. I hate, hate, hate the malls and during this rushed, busy time of year, they are more unbearable than ever. I had no problem sourcing beautiful, unique and handmade items for the little ones. I declared my shopping done and my goal achieved until Chi-Chi informed me that Santa was going to bring him a child-size wheelbarrow as his special gift. Yikes! How on earth was I going to stick to my guns on this one? The only one I could find in town was the John Deere brand child’s wheelbarrow made by RC2 Corporation. RC2 Corporation rang a fire alarm bell in my head of course ….being the makers of those lead tainted Thomas trains! No, I’m not worried about Chi-Chi and Muffy chewing the paint off the wheelbarrow, but something inside me (utter disgust) prevents me from wanting to support this company. What a dilemma! Which should suffer – my child’s faith in Santa or my personal ethical standards?

Well, it was my lucky day! In my frantic search for a wheelbarrow I did a scan through the local Kijiji classifieds. I could not believe my eyes!! A handmade child’s wheelbarrow made by a local woodworker popped up on my screen. The ad stated it was the very last one he had available. Due to the high cost of quality wood and the amount of labour involved, he felt it was no longer worth his effort to produce them. He felt people simply weren’t interested in or willing to pay a fair price. This saddened my heart even more when I read the family history behind this dear little LaHave Child's Wheelbarrow. The production of the LaHave Child’s Wheelbarrow began 50 years ago in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia by the man’s carpenter father. This soft-hearted man had the two very last ones produced on hand – one for sale and one to keep for himself. I did a bit of begging and pleading and convinced him to sell me both – one for Chi-Chi and one for Muffy! Santa pulled through for me!!

I do hope this friendly man has a change of heart and continues to make a few of these special wheelbarrows. I have no doubt I’m not the only one who values a solid, quality handcrafted item made with care and attention to detail. The story and history behind the design and the makers of the wheelbarrow makes it even more special and endearing. I have no doubt my grandchildren will one day enjoy these sweet and solid LaHave child wheelbarrows!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

A Beautiful Day in Beautiful Mahone Bay...

I’m a bit of a homebody so I usually stick pretty close to Seaside Farms on the weekends. I enjoy the simplicity and predictability of our weekend routines, which usually include banana pancakes, puttering in the yard, a few runs for myself and some surf sessions for hubby. Every now and then, however, I get a case of cabin fever and an itch for fresh surroundings.

Yesterday was one of those days! We packed up the family mobile and hit the road for the picture perfect town of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. This weekend was the kick off to their annual Father Christmas Festival so this quaint little town was buzzing with energy and activity. We met up with my good friend April and her family at the South Shore Waldorf School to take in some of the activities of their annual Christmas Festival. We had such a wonderful time at this event last year, we vowed to return! I appreciated an opportunity to pick up a few handmade toys for Chi-Chi and Muffy at the craft sale. Two sweet little knitted piglets are going to make great additions to the farmyard that is currently under construction by Santa and Mrs. Claus. The kids enjoyed an enchanting puppet show as well as the opportunity to do some of their own Christmas shopping at the “children’s store”. What a sweet idea for the little ones. I purchased three tickets for 50 cents each so that Chi-Chi could go shopping in the store. No adults were allowed behind the curtained off area. The little store contained a wide selection of sweet handmade treasures for the little ones to choose from. Poor Muffy missed out as he zonked out on Daddy’s lap during the puppet show. I guess he wasn’t that enchanted by the show after all!

We finished off our visit with some time in the school’s play ground area and then headed back to Mahone Bay. After a quick bite to eat we luckily got a chance to tour the town by horse and wagon. By far, this was the highlight of Chi-Chi and Muffy’s day.

Snuggled into their car seats with a generous supply of milk, the kiddies drifted off to sleep while Hubby and I enjoyed the relaxing, QUIET drive back home. What a perfect way for our family to get in the Christmas spirit and kick off the holiday season!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Currency Craziness!

Wow! Over the last few months we have certainly witnessed a drop in our Canadian dollar buying power when dealing with our neighbors to the south. Since The Wool Fairy's Etsy listings are all denominated in US dollars, I thought I should "get with the times" and update my prices to reflect the fluctuation in exchange rates. I'm still only able to sell and ship within Canada so these adjustments were certainly required. I guess this means The Wool Fairy is slashing her prices (:

Also, just wanted to post a little reminder that an adorable Fiesta Play Food Set is still up for grabs on the Nurtured blog. The contest closes at the end of the month so don't miss this chance to win these great little stocking stuffers. All you need to do is post a comment on the Nurtured Blog. Since the contest is only open to residents of Canada, your odds are pretty darn good!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Treasures in the Trees

The Wool Fairy took a brief hiatus from her yarn basket this past weekend in exchange for some time in the workshop. Wool may be #1 on her list of favorites, but wood runs a close second!

A year or so ago, I made Chi-Chi and Muffy a set of “tree blocks”. Our family’s set of tree blocks continues to grow in size as new pieces are added on a regular basis. Each time a take a walk in our woods, I’m on the lookout for unique and interesting branches to add to our collection. These blocks are incredibly easy to make and are a great project for the “beginner toymaker”. All you need is a couple of branches, a saw, some sandpaper and some beeswax. My kids absolutely love assisting with this woodworking project and take great pride in their little works of art. Obviously, Hubby and I use the power tools! Chi-Chi and Muffy delight in carefully sanding and polishing each piece.

What I love most about these blocks is the fact that each one is so very different from the next. Every block has its own unique “personality” and it is truly fascinating to observe the children interact and create with them. One day they may choose to build an elaborate structure for their farm animals. The next day you might find them playing with just one special block, which has been magically transformed into a hammer, a pancake or a telephone! I make a point of using different species of wood to add interest and texture to the collection. Chi-Chi is actually able identify the dogwood, maple and birch branches! My father, a retired forester, would be proud.

As an adult, I find myself picking up the blocks every once in a while and building my own fairy tale castle! They really are a delight to handle and they make you appreciate the beauty of wood. Each block also tells it’s own story. Some branches were salvaged from my parent’s yard following a windy autumn storm. Some I simply stumbled upon during one of my walks in the woods, such as our blocks made of burls. I’ve tinkered a bit with carving very simple figures from the branches as well. A near trip to the emergency department put a bit of a damper on my carving endeavors. Ouch!

The little ones are also learning about caring for and respecting their belongings by performing regular “maintenance” on their block set. Every now and then, we pull out the beeswax and set to work waxing and buffing the shine back into their blocks. They absolutely adore this exercise, though they tend to get a little over-zealous with the beeswax! They watch in amazement as the patina and sheen emerges from the newly waxed piece and they delight in the aromatic scent of the beeswax. I’m excited to be putting together a little set of these blocks for Chi-Chi’s Montessori preschool! I’ve got a nice little selection of branches drying out just for this purpose. I have no doubt these little polishing blocks will be a hit with Chi-Chi’s classmates.

Anyone playing Santa this year might want to take a walk in the woods. You never know what treasure might be hiding among the branches!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas...

With all this snow on the ground, I can’t help myself from feeling festive! The Christmas season is just around the corner and with two and three year old boys in the house, it’s sure to be an exciting event.

Hubby and I are making a conscious effort to keep the gift giving fairly simple this year.  Santa will most certainly be paying a visit to Seaside Farms! He will leave behind a few sweet and thoughtful gifts for Chi-Chi and Muffy. Going overboard on the gift giving is always sure to backfire. The little ones quickly become overwhelmed and lose interest amidst the chaos of Christmas morning.

As was the case last year, some of the items under our tree will be lovingly crafted by The Wool Fairy and Mr. Wool Fairy (he would cringe to hear me refer to him this way!) These two elves have been slaving away in the workshop, creating a few special items for the big day.

I thought it might be fun to share some of the goodies I’ve got tucked away in my sack. I’m always on the look out for safe and natural toys for our family so I assume others are as well. There are so many unique and beautiful alternatives out there, I simply don’t understand why most people flock to the malls in droves.

Muffy is going to love his new birch block stacking ring set. I thought it would be fun to put a little twist on this timeless classic. The blocks were created with wood from our property. I left the bark on to retain the interest and texture of each piece. Hubby drilled holes in each block and tapped in a dowel. A bit of sanding, a coat of beeswax and voila, an easy do-it-yourself toy.

Over the next couple of weeks I'll share a few more ideas, so stay tuned. I'm assuming Chi-Chi and Muffy won't be hacking into my computer! Those two little monkeys never cease to amaze me!!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

A Cup of Comfort

It’s a dreary, rainy, snowy November day in these parts. Perhaps my gray mood is a reflection of not only the weather, but my rather comatose/sleep deprived state this morning. Hubby was on a business trip last night and as luck would have it, Muffy came down with a nasty case of the tummy flu. It was a bit of a rough night with two little ones in my bed – one power puking to my right, the other screaming for attention on my left!

I was actually glad to see the light of day – an excuse to get us all cleaned up and to get myself a much-needed cup of tea! My morning tea ritual was actually a very special treat today because it was my first opportunity to use my new favorite cup! This warm, cheerful, earthy cup and saucer set just begs to be held. When filled with a steaming cup of brew, it’s the perfect size to wrap your hands around and warm up chilly fingers. Best of all, it was lovingly made by my artist cousin, the talented girl behind Branch Designs. My mom, sister and I attended a craft fair in the Annapolis Valley this weekend where my cousin was offering her wide array of creations and delights for sale. We went home with our shopping bags full. Mom treated me to this adorable little birdie cup and my sister went home with a beautiful bracelet and quilted headband. As a belated birthday gift, my sister had me pick out these ocean inspired buttons. I’m dreaming of the beautiful sweater these will adorn! Check out Branch Designs on Etsy!

As I sip my tea and admire my new teacup, my spirits can't help but be lifted. I’m thankful for this ho-hum, PJ kind of day. I’m so very lucky to have my two little ones safe and snug at home with me today. Muffy can recover from his bout of the flu in these warm, cozy and comforting surroundings. Of course, I’m still counting the hours down until Hubby returns! With a two year old vomiting around the house, one could always use an extra set of hands… (:

Friday, 31 October 2008

The Wool Fairy Plays Santa

Anyone who knows my little Chi-Chi is well aware of his fascination with dear old Santa. No matter the season, Christmas is a daily celebration in our household. My itunes “play count” for the somewhat irritating tune “Little St. Nick” by the Beach Boys is approaching 3000. The geeky accountant in me emerges once again as I calculate that we listen to this song an average of 9.09 times a day. As one would imagine, it is starting to get under my skin.

When seeking out Halloween costumes at the local thrift store, I was completely thrilled to stumble upon a Santa suit in size 3T. What are the chances? It must have been fate. While other trick-or-treaters were sporting Batman and Spiderman costumes, Chi-Chi was proudly disguised as his personal “super hero”. Muffy, of course, was one of Santa’s little helpers. His elf costume was the perfect match to his goofy little personality.

Inspired by these two festive little cuties, The Wool Fairy found herself in a bit of a giving mood. She has teamed up with April of Nurtured Products for Parenting and is giving away an adorable set of play food for one lucky person! Check out Nurtured's blog for a chance to win this adorable set of woolen fruits and veggies. Little budding chefs will have all the necessary ingredients on hand to host their very own fiesta. Perhaps they will whip up a bowl of fresh spicy salsa, or a creamy batch of yummy guacamole!

These wooly little creations would make perfect stocking stuffers so don’t lose out on your chance to call them your own! To enter, all you need to do is post a comment on April's blog. The contest runs from November 1 to 30th and is only open to residents of Canada. Good luck everyone and have fun! Ho! Ho! Ho!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Let The Magic Unfold...

For the past week, The Wool Fairy has been spending her evenings working diligently in the kitchen. Unfortunately for her family, all this time and effort at the kitchen stove did not result in new and exciting culinary creations. Her recipes were definitely not edible in nature - a pound of wool, a splash of rust, a dab of gold, a pinch of moss green…

I was over the moon when Deanne Fitzpatrick asked me to dye a collection of skeins for her rug hooking shop and studio! As a fellow rug hooker and an admirer of Deanne’s work for many years, I was confident I could fill her request. I chose a few beautifully textured yarns and drew on my inspiring surroundings to create vibrant and rich color combinations. This was an interesting exercise as my efforts ended in the dye pot. I would not be using these tempting reels of yarn for my personal creations. It’s actually rather exciting to think that my precious little skeins will find their way to the hands and hooks of others. These colorful strands of wool will be magically transformed into restless seas, soaring hills and windswept skies.

It’s interesting how our creative efforts evolve and shift over time. When I chose my slogan, “Let the magic unfold…” I was referring to the creative and imaginative play my wooly toys would evoke in a child. When I consider the beauty and mystery that exists within a hand dyed skein of wool, my “slogan” remains a perfect fit! It’s always so exciting to witness the unfolding of hand dyed wool, whether knitting a scarf or hooking a landscape. The hand-dyed aspect of the fiber offers a unique light, color and texture to a work that cannot be replicated.

So, now that my little project is complete, I guess it is time to pack up my skeins, kiss them goodbye and send them on their way. I hope they bring as much inspiration and joy to others as I experienced during their creation!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Reflections from the Woodpile

Although we tend to focus our attention on the glorious sights of autumn, there is something special about the scents of the season. The rich aromas that go hand-in-hand with fall have a tendency to bring out the nostalgic in me. The smell of decaying leaves blowing in the wind brings back fond memories of playing hide and seek in the piles of leaves in our backyard. Turkey and pumpkin pie baking in the oven stir up cozy thoughts of Mom. There is also something comforting about the earthy, woodsy scent of firewood. It brings me back to the cool fall days spent with my father, lugging and stacking firewood to heat our house during the frigid winters in Northern New Brunswick. How I loved hurling those logs down the wood chute with all my might!

After so many years, I’m thrilled to be spending my Sunday afternoons piling wood in my own garage! Like many homes in Nova Scotia, ours has always been heated solely with oil. We recently decided to install a wood stove in an effort to both save some dollars and draw on a more renewable energy source to heat our home. The wooded areas of Seaside Farms recently underwent a Hurricane Juan clean up effort. Although our forest is primarily comprised of spruce and fir soft woods, we were able to collect a fair number of hardwood logs, perfect for burning in our new stove! For the past couple of months, Hubby has been picking away at cutting and splitting the wood. The boys are always thrilled to observe Daddy’s efforts with chainsaw and axe. Chi-Chi and Muffy gladly offered their assistance in piling the logs. Both my husband and I were amazed at the amount of effort and sweat equity that goes into the harvesting and preparation of firewood. It’s been an eye-opening experience for the both of us and has given us a greater appreciation of the amount of energy our family consumes. I guess we had not given considerable thought to the amount of energy and money that goes into producing and transporting a tank of oil for our furnace to burn. It’s so easy to sit back and relax while the oil truck fills up ones tank. Of course, it’s not so easy to swallow those hefty heating bills…ouch! Just as growing a garden or shopping at a Farmer’s Market makes us more in touch with our food sources, being directly involved in our heating source makes us more aware of energy consumption.

Certainly, our family is just taking baby steps in all of these areas. Planting a few rows of beans, raising a couple of chickens and chopping a few cords of firewood are all a good start. Finicky little Muffy refused to touch a vegetable until he started gobbling up our own garden beans fresh from the vine. At the very least, being involved in the process might result in better eating habits for this little guy. He’s now hooked on apples and pumpkin muffins after our trip to the Annapolis Valley last weekend where we put him to work on the “harvest”. I’m hoping he’ll take a liking to farm fresh eggs in the near future. This kid could use some protein!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

My Search for Inspiration

The postman landed on my doorstep late yesterday afternoon with a much-anticipated shipment addressed to The Wool Fairy. With the wee ones enjoying a restful siesta, I lugged the box up to my studio and excitedly tore open the package. I may have actually squealed at the mere sight of the contents – pounds of gorgeous natural undyed yarns just screaming to be dressed in color!

Despite the fact I’ve got a fairly significant dyeing project on my plate, I decided to put the dye pot aside this morning and hit the trails. What better place to seek inspiration and immerse myself in color than the autumn woods in Nova Scotia? I knew Chi-Chi and Muffy would jump at the opportunity to stretch their little legs and investigate nature. With the sun shining brightly, I wanted to take advantage of this beautiful fall weather while it’s around.

Hubby and I packed up the kiddies and headed down the road to the Salt Marsh Trail. What a gorgeous morning on the trail! Our senses were given a jolt as we found ourselves immersed in a rich, earthy palette of colors. Chi-Chi and Muffy had a blast dancing in the leaves, splashing in the puddles and zooming up and down the trails. I enjoyed simply breathing in the clean cool air and soaking up the breathtaking beauty of the landscape. I left the trail with a myriad of color combinations swirling in my mind – reds, golds, browns….

I can’t resist making a small note about the adorable little hats Chi-Chi and Muffy are sporting in the photo. My friend April’s mother has been knitting this pattern for close to 30 years! April says she has not-so-fond memories of this little cap, but I fell in love with it at first sight and requested a copy of the pattern. It’s called the “Patons Ribbed Set for Boys”. They are the perfect fit on my little guys and the snuggly chin straps keep them in place nicely. These hats are perfect for the crisp fall weather. Hubby thought my rainbow dye job on Muffy’s hat was a little over the top, but I think it suits his colorful little personality.

I’ve got about 30 blank canvasses waiting to be transformed. A mere walk in the woods and the possibilities are endless!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

On The Road Again...

Nine years ago this weekend, my then boyfriend got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. I have a reputation in my family for being a bit of a snoop so I was very impressed that he managed to surprise me. He wisely chose the day I ran my first ½ marathon to pop the question, knowing that my mind and energy would be focused on the race ahead. As I crossed the finish line, exhausted and relieved, he presented me with a dozen roses, a beautiful ring and a promise to be my husband. It turned out to be a perfect day despite my exhausted, pain-ridden state.

During my pre-mommy years, I was an avid runner. I would enthusiastically leap out of bed each morning at 5:30 to complete a two -hour workout before heading to the office. I was 110% committed to my carefully planned training schedules, all meticulously laid out in a series of Excel spreadsheets. My training included long rungs, short runs, hill sprints, energy drinks and calorie intake charts. Looking back, I was definitely overly obsessed with running, but wow I was in good shape!
To commemorate the 9th anniversary of our engagement, I bravely decided to participate in the 2008 Valley Harvest ½ Marathon taking place this weekend in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. In reality, I think I signed up for the race in an attempt to prove to myself that I still “have it” even though I feel the exact opposite. Two pregnancies, lack of sleep and motherhood in general have taken a serious toll on my body. My running efforts these days have been half-hearted to say the least. The word pathetic comes to mind.

Interestingly, any significant race I entered in the past always ended in pain, frustration and desperation. Perhaps a change in approach is required….at least that’s what I’m banking on as race day looms ahead! This time around, my “training schedule” consists of nothing more than a few hasty scribblings on the family calendar. I’m now begrudgingly crawling out of bed in the morning as opposed to leaping and bounding. My pre-race meal will consist of my mother’s mouth-watering Thanksgiving dinner complete with a hefty serving of pumpkin pie and whipped cream. Despite all of this, I’m still planning on lacing up my running shoes this Sunday and giving it a go. I've convinced myself I'll be fine and this more "balanced" approach to life will ensure success. It will be very interesting to see how it all turns out. I’m hoping I will find motivation and inspiration in the two chubby little faces that will be waiting for me at the finish line. Wish me luck! I’m going to need it!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Hooked on Wool

How does a girl like me get so “hooked” on wool? It all started about 8 years ago, the day I set foot in the studio of Deanne Fitzpatrick, renowned Nova Scotia rug hooking artist. I was spellbound and speechless, completely mesmerized by her works of art. The truth, beauty and soul revealed in each piece touched me deeply. I left that day, my mind overflowing with inspiration and my shopping bag overflowing with wool!

Completely consumed by this newfound form of expression, I worked feverishly on my hooking that first year. I was simply unable to find enough hours in the day to flush out the ideas spilling from my mind. I used to rush home from the office during lunch hour so I could sneak in a few more precious minutes at the frame. Dressed in my dark navy business suit, I would drape myself in an apron and t-shirt to keep myself from looking like a lint monster upon my return to work. I spent countless hours sifting through bins at the local second-hand shops, seeking out inspiration in a has-been coat or a great old tweed blazer.

I created 31 works of art that first year. So deeply attached to the meaning behind each piece, I found myself unable to part with them. A large portion of the collection currently adorns the walls of my parents’ two hundred year-old farmhouse.

The years passed and my role and focus in life shifted. As a mommy, my number one priority and obsession these days is my family. My desire to create, however, still burns deep inside and it cannot be suppressed for long. Ideas soon start to surface and bubble over and there is no stopping me once that happens! The Wool Fairy evolved as a beautiful and natural combination of two passions in my life – my children and my love of wool (of course). Though not as time consuming and involved as a hooked rug, I consider each little carrot or strawberry a work of art on its own. It some ways the creations for Chi-Chi and Muffy provide greater satisfaction as I am able to witness first hand the innocent creativity and joy they evoke.

Not long ago, however, I did get an itch to get back to the rug hooking frame. I created this little rug, which depicts a landmark church in our community, as well as one of Hubby’s favorite surf breaks. I’ve decided to part with this creation and will be entering it in the upcoming Surf Show at the Laughleton Gallery in West Chezzetcook, NS. The show opens October 4th and runs until October 31st. You don’t have to be a surfer (believe me, I’m certainly not!!) to enjoy and appreciate the amazing works of art this show will display. It is a community affair that welcomes local artists, both professional and novice, to take part and celebrate surfing, the ocean, sea life and seaside people!

Although the hook in my hand may change from time to time, my love affair with wool burns as strong as ever!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

A New Life for an Old Tree

Hubby and I have been married for eight years, together for ten. Somehow, he still manages to surprise and amaze me with his vast array of hidden talents. Today we can add “chainsaw sculptor” to his list!

The boys and I enjoyed a very exciting afternoon observing Daddy chunk logs into firewood for the coming winter. The combination of power tools and little boys is always a sure hit! Hubby must have been struck by a creative whim. Before I knew it, he was magically churning out wooden works of art.

I’m known to have a bit of a fetish for child-sized chairs. I may have just two little ones under my roof, but I’ve got a plentiful selection of seating options for them. I can now add two more to my collection! Hubby sawed up an adorable pair of log chairs for Chi-Chi and Muffy. They create a perfect resting place for cute little bums to watch Daddy work magic with his saw. What a cozy picnic nook for the wee ones to enjoy a snack of cherry tomatoes picked fresh from the garden.

These rustic little chairs were made from a poor tree that fell victim to Hurricane Juan five years ago. It’s great to see this dear old tree find new life! They will surely outlive those plastic kiddie lawn chairs from Walmart that barely survive one season.

Best of all, these dear chairs were crafted with love by Daddy! As Chi-Chi and Muffy sat on their new thrones, the look of pride and admiration on those two sweet faces said it all. Thanks Daddy, we love you!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Too Late To Chicken Out

Sounds of pounding hammers and screeching saws have been echoing through the house for the past couple of weeks. Our two-car garage was recently converted into a construction zone! Hubby, Chi-Chi and Muffy are all proud members of the crew working on the latest building project.

A month or so ago, I casually mentioned to my husband that it would be “very cool” to raise chickens. I guess I was feeling a tad cocky and inspired by the overwhelming success of my bean patch. Before I had time to “chicken out”, the local hardware store was delivering a load of shingles and lumber to our doorstep. A man on a mission, my husband wasted no time diving into the chicken coop design and construction project. With the enthusiasm of a young boy, he set his sights on building a safe, practical and extremely cute home for our feathered friends. He spent many an evening pouring over chicken coop plans on the net and researching the ins and outs of successfully raising hens. I’m actually quite impressed with the progress thus far. The coop is really starting to take shape.

Chi-Chi and Muffy are enjoying their “preschool shop classes” with Daddy. I’m impressed with the knowledge they are absorbing during the process. My three year old is teaching ME about levels, building paper and cedar shakes! They may, however, be a bit over zealous about the tools. We recently had to confiscate their adorable wooden tool kit. One of mommy’s dearly loved antique tables was severely damaged during Chi-Chi’s re-enactment of coop construction.

So, with the coop nearing completion, all I need to figure out is what comes first….the chicken or the egg?