Monday, 23 June 2008

The Berry Binge

I actually squealed with excitement this morning when I spotted a sign displaying my favorite bright red berry at my local roadside fruit stand. I quickly maneuvered the car off the road and happily handed over a crumpled wad of cash in order to obtain my much-anticipated first taste of this year’s local strawberry crop. The “Berry Lady” remembered me well from last year and greeted me with a warm hello. She offered to lend me a large crate to transport my load of berries home.

Today’s menu goes something like this:

Breakfast – strawberry smoothies
Snack – fresh strawberries
Lunch – strawberries with milk and brown sugar
Snack – fresh strawberries
Supper – strawberry salad, pork tenderloin and rice
Dessert – strawberry shortcake
Late night snack – fresh strawberries

I’ll admit, at first glance it appears my family may experience some form of strawberry overdose. I did offer the wee ones a few more options to ensure they ingested a wider range of nutrients. I, however, indulged in my passion for strawberries. Sadly, the season is so short so I simply must take full advantage of this opportunity to berry binge.

I actually believe I inherited some form of “strawberry gene”. I come from a long line of berry lovers. My great grandfather was a strawberry farmer. My Nanny also shared my passionate love of them. Family folklore states that my mother was actually born with a “strawberry rash” because Nanny consumed such large quantities while pregnant. Strawberry season always brings back a warm flood of fond childhood memories. I can still envision the look of shock and disbelief on Papa’s face when the cashier rang in the total of our harvest at the U-pick. Nanny would not have had it any other way. There were plenty of berries for everyone. She and mom would spend the afternoon making jam while my sister and I gobbled up berries by the bowlful.

So for the next few weeks, I’ll be participating in my own personal strawberry festival!  I'll be spending my days baking shortbread, whipping cream, making jam and of course, eating all the strawberries my body can handle.  Even the Wool Fairy is participating in the festivities, crocheting baskets full of berries for Chi-Chi and Muffy.  Let the berry binge begin!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Just Say No To Junk Mail

Today was recycling day in our community. As the boys and I emptied our blue box this morning, I was struck by the amount of junk mail heading to the curb. Recycling is great, but I realize it should be my last resort. Reducing our household waste, whether it is garbage or recycling, should be at the top of my list.

I’ll admit, I’ve been rather lazy in dealing with the junk mail dilemma. Our mail is delivered to a large Canada Post community mailbox and I wasn’t quite sure how to communicate my desire to pass on the junk mail. I decided to perform a “Junk Mail Audit” to assess the situation. Yes, in my former life I was an accountant and auditor so this seems to be my method for tackling a problem! Once an accounting geek, always an accounting geek.

There are three classifications of junk mail coming into our home:

• Unaddressed items in our mailbox. These do not have our names on them.
• Addressed advertising in our mailbox. These items have our names and addresses listed.
• Flyers and community newspapers dumped at the end of our driveway.

My web search on the matter lead me If you live in Canada, please take the time to review this site. It gives you all the information you need to take action to stop the flow of junk mail into your life. Visit the frequently asked questions section which explains the specific steps you need to take.

I decided to participate in the Red Dot Campaign and purchased a sticker to post in my mailbox. Just a note to anyone with a community or post office mailbox, you need to post your sign on the inside lip of your box and not on the inside our outside of the door. I’m also going to register with the Canadian Marketing Association's Do Not Contact registry. My personal “Junk Mail Audit” produced a list of catalogues I no longer wish to receive that may not be covered under the Canadian Marketing Association since they are US Companies. I’ve started contacting these companies directly to remove me from their mailing lists.

My biggest dilemma is the weekly dumping of flyers at the end of my driveway. In my view, this represents outright littering. Our strong coastal winds quickly send these flyers straight to the ditch. They are a pet peeve our mine!! I need to do a bit more digging on how to deal with this one. My short-term plan is to post a large visible sign at the end of my driveway. Somehow, I’m not convinced this will do the trick!

A quick look around my home reveals that my auditing work has just begun. I’ll be taking inventory of our garbage and compost over coming weeks. This could get messy!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Best Buddies

Chi-Chi’s doll Pedro has been feeling a little glum and lonely lately. After spending about twenty hours, seventy dollars and two tons of love on this little cutie, Chi-Chi has pretty much abandoned him. I have to admit, I’m not overly shocked. How can Pedro compete with the fleet of construction vehicles the Easter Bunny left behind? I concluded that Pedro needed a little buddy to keep him company. Besides, after spending so much time, money and energy on a doll for Chi-Chi, I figured little brother Muffy deserved one too.

His name is Casey and he’s pretty darn cute. Muffy has actually taken a liking to him, which helps heal my torn heart following Chi-Chi’s rejection of Pedro. Although Casey is my third attempt at a Waldorf doll, I still found this to be a very challenging, frustrating and fun project. The level of difficulty involved, particularly when trying to piece together the head, arms and body, makes me realize how skilled, talented and gifted real doll makers are. I have come to realize why these dolls are so expensive to purchase. The craftsmanship involved is amazing and the materials are of the highest quality. It’s likely no surprise that my favorite aspect of doll making is the hair styling. I love searching for the perfect mix of yarns to create a unique look. Casey’s locks were created with a wonderfully textured blend of mohair, angora, silk and merino wool.

I may be exaggerating just a tad about Chi-Chi’s rejection of Pedro. Pedro does remain untouched and alone most days, staring out the window longingly. Every now and then, about once a week, Chi-Chi will engage in an elaborate play scenario with Pedro. He is often Pedro’s father and he usually ends up cooking up a good greasy meal of fried eggs for his friend. The introduction of Casey into the family also increased the amount of playtime with Pedro. Witnessing little brother Muffy zoom through the house with Casey prompted Chi-Chi and Pedro to join in on the action.

I still believe that every little boy should have a doll at his disposal. Although males may not develop the strong bond that many females do with their dolls, there is still value in providing our sons dolls. Chi-Chi and Muffy undeniably both gravitate to more “action” themed toys. There are times, however, when the boys display a desire to demonstrate the nurturing sides of their personalities. Pedro and Casey are always there when they need them, ready and waiting to provide a warm soft hug and to happily gobble up a good old-fashioned greasy breakfast!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Confessions of a Neat Freak

At the end of each day, as the little ones finally drift off to dreamland, I’m usually feeling pretty fizzled out. The last thing I feel like doing is housework! Alas, with two active and energetic little boys in the house, it’s no surprise that our main living space looks like a hurricane hit it. The thought of greeting the day to this disastrous scene is not appealing to me. It seems to set me off on the wrong foot in the morning when I’m already struggling with the mind numbing effects of inadequate sleep!

I usually take the 15 to 20 minutes each evening to pick up and organize the kids’ toys. Most often my pick up routine happens while Daddy scrubs the boys in the tub. I’ve got it down to a fairly quick and easy system as everything has a place. Chi-Chi and Muffy have come to know this. When they descend on the living room each morning, the scene is bright, fresh, cheerful and yes, organized! They always know where to find their belongings and I’ve discovered they are better able to organize themselves and their play activities. The puzzle pieces are all in place instead of hiding under the couch. The blocks are ready and waiting for a construction project. My storage system makes use of attractive shelving and baskets as opposed to a traditional toy box. This allows the wee ones to quickly find what they are searching for, and also displays their items in a fun and appealing manner.

In my ideal world, Chi-Chi and Muffy would perform the clean up routine at the end of each day. I do try to engage them in the process. At 3, Chi-Chi’s efforts are improving. At 20 months, Muffy still has a way to go. He’s much more interested in dumping then loading it seems.

Am I a neat freak? It’s arguable. There are evenings I simply can’t muster the energy to lift a finger. I certainly don’t tidy, scrub and clean to perfection. It’s most often a very quick job. I will admit that at the age of 8 I vacuumed my bedroom every day before school. On the other hand, my housekeeping efforts during my university days were virtually non-existent. My dorm room was a disgrace of dirty dishes, crumpled clothes and scattered papers.

I guess these days I’m somewhere in the middle, looking for a balance. I do believe my children thrive in a setting that is beautiful, engaging and orderly. There is certainly no denying that Mommy thrives in a state of order and unravels in a state of chaos! Regardless, I do remind myself often that these are precious times with the little ones. The dirty dishes and laundry can certainly wait when there is a story to be read, a boo-boo to be kissed and a bum to wipe!!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Seeking Out Second-Hand

Being a bit of an antique nut, I’ve spent many years sifting through dusty shops, picking up treasures from the past. As a result, the vast majority of furnishings in our house are antiques. Not only are they more unique and interesting, but they are typically of superior quality and less costly than their new counterparts.   Admittedly, my past shopping habits were fueled simply by my love and appreciation of the antiques and my desire to collect and display them in my home. It wasn’t until the past year or so that I realized my antique fetish was a form of second-hand shopping that was good for the environment. Buying used instead of new, I was simply following one of the three 3’R’s – reusing!

I’m certainly not a committed second-hand shopper and I’m realizing this is an area I need to work on. In this world of ever-increasing instant-gratification, it seems anything and everything is available to us with the click of a button or a quick shopping trip to town. While I’ve always been very good at sourcing the little ones’ wardrobes at the thrift shops, there is room for improvement in my shopping habits.

Recently, my faithful little brown teapot broke and I quickly found myself in the market for a new one. Instead of trekking to the local mall, I headed to one of my favorite antique shops. In no time at all, I spotted a perfect “Brown Betty” pot. This made in England classic would add a touch of nostalgia to my daily tea rituals. My rummaging efforts also produced a simply adorable matching one-cup pot – absolutely perfect for little hands. Chi-Chi and Muffy will have a ball serving their peppermint tea in this cutie alongside Mommy.

I also picked up two sturdy cast-iron frying pans – perfect for our Saturday morning banana pancake feasts. I’ve been steering clear of non-stick coated pans so this was a welcome addition to our kitchen.

I've been taking stock of our household habits lately and devising a list of areas for improvement on the eco-friendly front.  Seeking out second-hand options is a small step in the right direction. 

Thursday, 5 June 2008


With two active little boys in the house, it’s not uncommon for one to feel that they are smack in the middle of a stampede of wild horses. Chi-Chi and Muffy are definitely a rambunctious duo and they keep me on my feet most of the day. Of course, I’ll admit I sometimes encourage this type of behaviour. My latest creations, Ranger and Silver, are definitely promoting a bit of “horse play” around here.

As a child, I was a devoted, passionate horse lover. I spent my summers at horse camp, dreaming of the day I’d have a pony to call my own. This dream never did become a reality (yet), though I do clearly remember the hand-made hobbyhorse my mother lovingly crafted for us as children. My childhood reminiscing provided the inspiration to try my hand at creating this traditional favorite for my wee ones.

I’ve become rather addicted to creating beautiful, natural, open-ended toys for my children. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. It’s incredibly rewarding from my perspective and they reap the benefits of some very cool toys! I’m simply fascinated by the magic that unfolds when my little ones are presented with my hand-made creations. I adore witnessing their imaginations take flight as they formulate an innocent, unbiased interpretation of the object. Chi-Chi immediately started showering Ranger with kisses and feeding him oats. Muffy, on the other hand, approached things in a more original and unique manner. He promptly turned Silver upside down and started mopping my floors. I can’t complain about his innate desire to clean house!

I drew on a couple of sources to create these two sweet ponies. I purchased a pattern on Etsy from Babymoon Boutique. I also followed this tutorial for a number of the techniques I used. These ponies were created from 100% wool fabric and were stuffed with raw wool fleece. I drew on my rapidly expanding wool stash to create their long, flowing manes. My dear husband picked up a couple of broomsticks from the local hardware store for me and sawed them off to the appropriate height. This was a weekend project that took surprisingly very little time.

Hi, Ho Silver…..Away!!