Thursday, 30 April 2009

Special Deliveries

I remember a time, not so long ago, when a trip to the mailbox offered an element of surprise and anticipation. Back before the days of instant electronic messaging, one might look forward to an amicable note or newsy letter tucked inside their box. As a young girl, I enjoyed the writing relationships I developed with pens pals and friends and family from afar. My bedroom desk stored a rather extensive collection of interesting writing paper, note cards, fun stickers and personalized envelopes. Even during my university years, my mom sent me regular letters and thoughtful cards. I’ve saved most of the cards and letters from those times and enjoy re-reading them to reminisce, remember and have a good laugh!

These days, my trips to the mailbox are quite boring and uneventful. From an environmental perspective, that’s not a bad thing I suppose. I’ve managed to eliminate most mail by signing up for e-bills and posting a “No Junk Mail” sign. While I am a huge fan of email and value its convenience, I do miss the days of receiving lovingly handwritten notes. One can shoot off a quick email in an instant, but a written letter involves an investment of time and thoughtfulness on the part of the sender. A hand written letter is so much more personal and intimate. On a recent two-month vacation, my parents sent the boys a number of postcards. What a treat for my sweeties. They are quite proud of their “mail” and have these interesting cards proudly posted next to their globe. As a bonus, the postcards offered an opportunity for a lesson in geography!

So, last week my postman did deliver some exciting goodies to my box. The Wool Fairy recently participated in some super fun trading action with a couple of very talented fellow mamas and Etsy sellers. I did a little swapping with the friendly and talented Sherrie at Birch Bark Soaps in Nova Scotia. Her hand-made soaps are just plain yummy! She sent along some lovely unscented cakes for Chi-Chi and Muffy and treated me to a few other delicious combinations including peppermint poppy seed and carrot. They are divine! I cut up the unscented ones into “kiddie sized” bars. The kids LOVE their new personal bars of soap and have been washing their hands enthusiastically ever since (not a bad thing to promote these days!)

I also received some amazing clay creations from my favorite potter and cousin, Sarah at Branch Designs. I’m in love with these pottery charms! The jellyfish is “ridiculously cute” to quote my husband. I plan to make a driftwood mobile with them. So fun!

I'm starting to realize it has been eons since I last put pen to paper and wrote a personal note. It's probably time to dust off that old box of stationery! What's that saying....."What goes around, comes around"...

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Chi-Chi's New Job

All the happy spring weather we’ve been having gave me an itch to pull out my dye pot this week. Not that I’m in the mood to be stuck inside over a hot stove! I do, however, enjoy the mere act of hanging a freshly dyed skein out to dry in the bright sunshine and crisp sea breeze. With the world around me illuminated in sunlight, the vivid colors just outside my kitchen window are inspiring. From the rich browns of our garden earth to the fresh green of tender plant shoots, I’m surrounded by color, texture and natural beauty. The ever-changing pallet of blues, greens and greys of the moody Atlantic Ocean offers a limitless selection of dye pot variations! I have a good system that allows me to get a batch in the oven to set while I head outdoors with Chi-Chi and Muffy.

I recently signed up to be a vendor at the Zonta Fibre Arts Bazaar. The bazaar will be held in conjunction with the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival taking place in Amherst this October. Though it feels like eons away, I know the time will fly by. I want to enjoy the process of creating for this event. Last minute preparations always leave me stressed and frazzled. The fun gets zapped pretty quickly! I’m also toying with the idea of offering my hand-dyed skeins in my Etsy shop. Though I create the skeins with rug hookers in mind, no doubt there are many creative uses for these nature-inspired skeins.

I will have to build up a decent amount of inventory for the bazaar. I decided it was time to hire an assistant to ease the “work load”. Chi-Chi recently became an employee of The Wool Fairy. He’s in charge of rinsing the dyed skeins. He’s really quite tickled about his new responsibilities. No doubt his free and unlimited access to the garden hose has something to do with the enthusiasm!

Yes, Chi-Chi’s skills are in high demand around here. He’s Daddy’s right hand man on the chicken coop construction site. The little guy takes his work very seriously and ensures he is well dressed for the job. Check out this thrifted work suit I picked up for $2 at Value Village. It’s my definition of cuteness. I snatched it up in October hidden among the Halloween costumes. Now that the weather is warming up a bit, he’s able to put it to proper use in the yard.

Ah yes, that’s my Chi-Chi! Always making things easier around here for Mommy and Daddy (:

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Adverse Effects of Excessive Crafting?

A couple of weeks ago I sat down and had a “chicken chat” with Dear Old Dad. Our family has been busy putting the final touches on our chicken coop in anticipation of the upcoming arrival of our feathered friends! I enjoyed his reminiscing about his first two hens, Blondie and Speck. He was even able to dig out an old photograph of his dear little hens dating back about 66 years ago. When I first set eyes on the photo, I was struck by the simplicity of the life he lived in the bush of Northern Ontario. The chicken coop is that tiny little dog house structure in front of the garage doors. Though he grew up in a remote area with few of the luxuries we consider necessities (like running water!), his childhood tales are filled with joy, boyhood adventure and enthusiasm.

Our chicken chat got me thinking about the degree of excess in our own lives. A simple comparison of Blondie and Speck’s first home and our own chickens’ accommodations says it all. My goodness! I came to the realization that our hens will be residing in a luxury suite compared to their “ancestors”.

Though I make a conscious effort to control the clutter, commercialism and excess of toys in our home, who am I kidding? The contrast between Chi-Chi’s and Muffy’s childhoods and that of their grandfather is really quite striking. It seems my children are always receiving something “new” and I fear they will grow to expect it. I admit that a lot of this relates to the fact that I’m a craft-obsessed mom who continues to churn out toys and other playthings on a weekly basis. Whether it is a little wooden birdie or a woolly green asparagus, I’m always working on some sort of project and Chi-Chi and Muffy are most often the benefactors.

I’m confused about the message I’m relaying. On one hand, I feel the boys are constantly on the receiving end of more stuff. Even though these items are handmade by The Wool Fairy herself, they still classify as stuff! On the other hand, I’m of the opinion the little ones are learning the value of a “do it yourself” mindset. I often make the toys in collaboration with Chi-Chi and Muffy, so they are involved in the process. Sometimes they help me sand the wooden creations. Other times they just sit and snuggle with a ball of wool in hand while I knit. I rarely hear the phrase, “Buy me this”. The attitude seems to be, “Make me this mommy!” I would appreciate a "please" in there! Sometimes the orders are a little out of my league, but we do the best we can. Their ideas are quite often the inspiration for my crafting projects.

So the jury is out on this one. I’d love to hear from other crafty mamas struggling with the same dilemma. Are we instilling an appreciation and love for handmade items and laying the foundation for the acquisition of skills, or are we feeding the expectation that the ‘mommy toy factory” will keep producing at such a high yield?!

What would Blondie and Speck think of all this? Likely not something to get one's feathers too ruffled over (:

Friday, 17 April 2009

The Sound of Music

I’m slowly making my way through my current favorite book on the nightstand, The Creative Family by Amanda Soule. I have a natural tendency to burn through a book at lightning speed. Once I’m immersed in the pages of a great read, I find it nearly impossible to tear myself away. I decided to approach things a little differently this time around. I’ve slowed down my pace and am reading this book in tidbits as I take the time to absorb, ponder and simply enjoy the words. She has such a amicable and pleasant writing style! I’m taking little notes as I think of ways to incorporate some of the projects, ideas and concepts into our family life. The truth is, I will be sad to read the last page. I look forward to this little treat to savor at the end of each day.

I do admit to jumping ahead to a later chapter to check out some of the photos. One idea in particular caught my attention. There was no absorbing or pondering required. I simply HAD to make a banging wall! I knew Chi-Chi and Muffy would love it! Though I have nothing against those popular preschool music classes, my own children were less than enthusiastic about them. (Personally I thought they were lovely) Our new banging wall is a fun way to incorporate a little music and rhythm into their lives. It’s also a great outlet for all members of the family to release built up stress and frustration! Luckily, we don’t have any neighbors close by who might complain (:

This may sound odd, but most of the materials were sourced from our nearby forest. When we purchased our property, it was home to about forty junker cars and other objects from the past. Although we did a heavy duty clean up effort before breaking ground, a few relics still remain in a couple of obscure and hard to reach corners of our land. I took an hour or so to poke around and retrieved a couple of old hubcaps, a cooking pan and a Pepsi crate! How exciting to find a use for this old junk!

As one might expect, the outdoor percussion set has been a huge “hit” with the boys. I’m looking forward to the upcoming alfresco concert series this summer! Yes my friends, our hill is alive with the sound of music!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Spring Gathering

As children, my sister and I were always gathering and collecting interesting items and objects from the amazing world around us. During the summer months in particular, you could most often find us scouring the shoreline or the meadows near our cottage. We sought out delicate flowers for our dried floral arrangements and other crafting purposes. We were always on the lookout for the perfect addition to our shell or fossil collection. Even during my teen years, when my mind was perhaps on “other things”, I used to walk the woods and fields behind our home, searching for natural materials to decorate Christmas presents.

At the age of thirty four, I’m still adding pieces to my nature collection on a regular basis. (By the way Sis, I’ve got a molted snakeskin sitting in a box in the basement that I believe in yours! I have to admit, it’s a bit disgusting!) Birds nests, seedpods, sea shells, feathers, tree cones, driftwood, rocks- all of these items adorn the various shelves, table tops, nooks and crannies in our home.

The children are encouraged to assist in collecting, interacting, observing and playing with the family’s collection. These various objects often serve as the initial spark to lead us on a learning activity. Up until today, the wee ones have not had their own designated and special place to display their nature discoveries. Because of Muffy’s young age, nature treasures that were small or fragile often had to be kept out of reach when unsupervised. Last night I decided it was time to “trust” the boys to respect their delicate treasures and to refrain from ingesting them! I finally set up a family nature table with easy access for the wee ones. We chose a few spring themed items and will add to the display as we make new discoveries. Just this morning we planted some pots of grass seed as well as a few bean seeds to sprout. We added a few of our hand painted Easter eggs and some sprigs of spring pussy willows from the back yard.

It’s only been eight hours, but so far so good. Muffy has been very gentle and respectful of our seasonal table and has not attempted to eat anything! Some of you may be questioning my high degree of caution. Those of you who know Chi-Chi and Muffy personally are likely not! My little monkeys do have a certain fascination with projecting objects and climbing on any structure that will support their energetic little bodies. Our new nature table will be an interesting exercise on more than one level!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Waiting for Santa...

I feel like a kid eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival this afternoon. In just a few short hours, a package filled with wonderful goodies will arrive on my doorstep. What’s so great about my surprise package is that it is a weekly occurrence! Tuesdays are like Christmas around here.

Last week’s basket was filled to the brim with a wide selection of tasty and mouth watering treats. I’m not talking fudge and fruitcake my friends! I’m talking organic sprouts, fresh spring arugula, sweet organic carrots and plump little tomatoes.

Like so many others, our family has been making an effort to supply our diet with local and organic foods. I have to admit, it can often be a struggle. Sadly, our handy and convenient large chain grocery store is most certainly not a place to seek local foods. Because Hubby works in the city five days a week, the last thing we feel like doing on a Saturday morning is packing up the car and driving back to the downtown area Farmer’s Markets.

I recently discovered the perfect solution to assist us in obtaining fresh local produce and supporting Nova Scotia farmers. Our family signed up for a weekly food box delivery program with TapRoot Farms, based out of Port Williams, Nova Scotia. This program is referred to as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Though the concept of weekly food boxes is not necessarily new to our area, this seemed to be good timing for our family to participate in such a program. They deliver the weekly baskets to a central location not far from our home. We alternate the pick up of the goodies with a handful of neighbours who also signed up. It’s turned into a convenient and exciting way to shop fresh and local.

It’s also a great way to get the whole family excited and enthusiastic about eating a healthy diet. Both Chi-Chi and Muffy were very intrigued by the contents of last week's basket. They enjoyed munching on “leaves”, just like their deer and bunny friends. Between the two of us, Muffy and I devoured a two pound bag of carrots in just three days! It’s also forcing me to spice things up a bit with my menu planning. Last week Taproot supplied a recipe for squash apple soup, which was simply delicious. This afternoon I tried out a batch of very tasty squash muffins. Teamed with a glass of cold milk, they made a yummy and healthy snack for the wee ones.

I find myself looking ahead to the upcoming seasons, getting excited about nature's offerings that will grace our dinner plates. I'll take garden greens over fruitcake any day!

Good Times

There was an unusual state of calm and quiet in our home yesterday afternoon. Perhaps we were all just coming back to earth after an exciting and eventful weekend. Chi-Chi turned four years old on Sunday so our home was brimming with anticipation, celebration, excitement, cake, family, balloons, love and just plain old fun.

Despite the grand significance of the affair, it was kept pretty low key and simple. The invitation list was limited to family. The menu was limited to cake and ice cream. I will admit that the mastodon cake certainly added an element of complexity to my adventures in the kitchen. It was worth the effort to see the look of awe and satisfaction on Chi-Chi’s face when he first set sight on his cake. The expectations were high on this one so I’m happy Mommy delivered!

The party was topped off with an action-packed game of basement floor hockey. The sight of the six little cousins decked out in their “gear” was my definition of “cuteness”. With sticks and pucks flying in all directions, it was perhaps not as safe as more traditional birthday games, but a good time was had by all.

No doubt the element of serenity present yesterday had something to do with the new stash of books, art supplies and hockey gear to delve into! Whatever the reason, I enjoyed it while it lasted. It gave me a quiet moment to sit, observe and reflect about my sweet little boy. Just four short years ago, he entered our lives and changed us like no other event. As a mother, I have discovered that my children's birthdays seem to evoke more emotion and hold more significance than my own.

Happy Birthday Chi-Chi! We love you!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

My Little Treehugger

Like so many others out there, I’ve been a faithful reader of the Soulemama blog for quite some time. Her first book, The Creative Family, has been on my wish list for what seems like an eternity. I finally treated myself to a copy this week and I’ve had my nose between its pages ever since. My friend April opened the doors to her beautiful new Nurtured retail store this past week. I dropped in to say hello, check things out and drop off a few goodies fromThe Wool Fairy. I was so thrilled to see several copies of The Creative Family lining her shelves. I immediately snatched up one for myself! Wanting to support April in her new and exciting endeavor, my purchase was completely justified (:

A few of the projects in the book caught my eye right away. Luckily, I had the required supplies on hand so the boys and I dove right in. We pulled out some unbleached cotton cloth and our fabric markers and set to work on her “Art Placemats” project. Over the last few months, Chi-Chi’s drawings have started to take on much more recognizable forms and shapes. I was awestruck by the seriousness and concentration he put into his placemat drawing. I was also happy to hear that my dear boy is actually listening to me when I’m rambling on about nature and how the world works. It’s always interesting to witness their interpretation of topics we’ve discussed. He loves to draw trees. His drawing actually depicts the water traveling up the roots all the way to the leaves. He also incorporated the sunrays shining on the leaves to provide food to the tree. My favorite part of all is the large burl pictured on the far right tree. We’ve been spending a lot of time in the forest, admiring and discussing burls in particular. His little loving heart decided to give this particular work of art to his Graga as a birthday gift. My Dad is a retired forester so it’s ironically appropriate! The man also likes to eat (who doesn't) so it's a perfect fit!

What’s so great about this project is that it is super simple, but very rewarding for the children. Both Chi-Chi and Muffy were beaming with pride as I took their canvasses and stitched up the placemats on my sewing machine. They were really quite delighted with the transformation. We only had one minor incident where Muffy snuck under the table and stomped down on my sewing machine pedal with his lead food. I escaped the incident without injury so it was all good!

We’ve had trees on the brain the last couple of days it seems. The boys were fascinated with a simple little science experiment we did this week. We took a stalk of celery and placed it in a cup of water and food coloring. I was actually amazed to see the dye travel all the way up to the very tips of the leaves. It was a great little exercise to provide the boys with a tangible example of a plant drinking water.

No doubt I’ll be burning my way through Amanda Soule’s beautiful book all weekend! More fun to come I’m certain!