Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Blueberry Binge

Anyone who knows me personally is well aware of my love affair with strawberries. I am certain I inherited the "strawberry gene", handed down for at least four generations. I am always the first and last customer at the local berry stand. This year alone, I froze a whopping forty eight boxes, not to mention the thirty six I ate. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating!

When the beloved strawberry season draws to a close, I always feel a bit of sadness, which is quickly replaced by excitement and anticipation. While I can thank my mother's side of the family for the "strawberry gene", my passion for blueberries comes from my father's blood lines. Many moons ago, my father and his mother spent their August days picking wild blueberries in the bush of Northern Ontario. In the company of black bears and swarms of black flies, they picked in order to preserve a supply of this summer treat for the cold Northern winters. For those who have read Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal ...there is a lot of truth to the story of the bear!

So, with blueberry season in full swing, I packed up the kids, hit the road and headed for Blueberry Acres in the Annapolis Valley. Joining forces with Nanny and Graga, our crew was able to accumulate thirty pounds of berries in about an hour. Chi-Chi picked with great intensity and contributed half a bucket to the cause. Muffy picked with great intensity and contributed not a single berry. He did, however, fill his big growing belly to the very top! Have you ever read Peter in Blueberry Land? Honestly, I felt as though I had shrunk into a gnome as the berries were almost the size of small apples and so delightfully tasty!

Remembering those childhood summers in the bush, my father wondered aloud what his mother would have thought of our modern day blueberry adventure - a ride in a cushy air-conditioned bus to the field, berries the size of small apples and not a single fly in sight. Ok, I have to admit, I feel like a bit of a sell-out picking cultivated berries (though it was great fun). I do plan on taking the wee ones on an excursion to pick the wild variety. There is something to be said for "real" blueberry picking and the act of foraging the forest for nature's candy. I certainly want Chi-Chi and Muffy to grow up knowing how to seek, identify and enjoy the real deal.

Our bowls and bellies are not the only things filled to the brim with blueberries lately. Our reading list has also taken on a blue tinge. In addition to the previously mentioned titles, a favorite at story hour these days is A Whole Day of Surprises in the Adventures of Broughton Bear series written by Nova Scotia author, Susan Atkinson-Keen. I'm always on the lookout for local children's books and this series in particular is both engaging, interesting and informative.

Our schedule for next week includes yet another trip to Blueberry Acres. Let the berry binge go on I say. Milk it while it lasts!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Blossoming Beautifully

While we might associate learning with school days, I've witnessed first-hand the growth and development that naturally unfold during the so-called lazy days of summer. Our short Nova Scotia summers force all of us to take advantage of any opportunity to enjoy these warmer months of the year. Chi-Chi and Muffy are most often out the door before I even have a chance to brush my teeth or take a sip of my morning tea. These little guys are living life to the fullest this summer - drinking up the sun, getting up close and personal with nature and stretching and challenging their young growing bodies.

With a schedule free of set plans, both little guys have spent the last two months following their hearts' desires. We may have spent our winter playing hockey, but the true passion this summer is cycling. Chi-Chi and Muffy have approached cycling with an incredible amount of focus and tenacity. They have spent untold hours cycling around our meager two-car garage! As a result of their passionate efforts, both boys have crossed some significant milestones this summer. Sweet little Muffy, determined to keep up the pace with older brother, learned to pedal his two-wheel bike. Chi-Chi recently shed his training wheels. This is a memorable milestone in any child's development and I remember this specific childhood moment in my own life quite vividly. The pride and sense of accomplishment beams from their grubby little faces as they explore their new-found freedom and independence. As a bystander to all the action, I most often sit quietly and knit, marveling at their inner-drive and self-taught accomplishments. How wonderful to witness the positives resulting from stubborn and strong-willed tendencies that often challenge me as a parent.

Despite the "damp" weather this season, we've also clocked a fair number of hours in the water. Chi-Chi approached his aquatic endeavors with the same focus he took to the bike track. Equipped with a mask and snorkel, he can certainly out swim Mommy with her pathetic dog paddle stroke!

Witnessing the immense amount of self-taught learning both Chi-Chi and Muffy experienced this summer, reinforces my belief that children need unscheduled time. They need time to fiddle and tinker and experiment with the world around them. They need time to discover what they love and do what they love. As a mother, I realize I need to follow their lead at times, allowing them the time they need to pursue their passions.

As the days grow shorter and the mornings cooler, I feel a tad sentimental. We will all hang on tightly to these fleeting summer days. Little Muffy attended his first day of preschool orientation this morning. I jumped at the opportunity to give Chi-Chi some quality one-on-one time, doing something I was certain would fill his heart with joy. After picking up a much needed and coveted kickstand for his set of wheels, I took him down to Point Pleasant Park in the city. He tore up and down the trails like a speed demon. He had Mommy eating dust as she struggled to jog along in her ridiculous flip flops in the thirty degree heat!

So it seems, the flowers in my garden are not the only things blossoming beautifully around here!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Highly Infectious!

I love a good idea! When I heard about this particular one, I just had to get in on all the crafty, thrifty goodness going on. Chi-Chi and Muffy's Montessori teacher set an ambitious goal of stitching up cloth napkins and tablecloths for the classroom. In an effort to reduce her time spent in the laundry room (who can blame her!?) , she wanted enough to cover the five days a week the school is open. I'll let you do the math... 24 students multiplied by 5 days equals some serious time at the sewing machine! I agreed to lend a hand on the project. When she informed me of her brilliant plan to use men's dress shirts for the napkins and thrifted sheets for the tablecloths....well let's just say my level of excitement went up a notch. Brilliant! I wasted no time raiding Hubby's closet for shirts destined for goodwill. Somehow, the notion of finding a new, meaningful purpose for these old shirts breathed new life into the project for me. Chi-Chi and Muffy think it's a hoot that they will be wiping spaghetti sauce off their chins with pieces of Daddy's shirts! These napkins are providing more than just a lesson in table manners. They are giving us all a lesson in being resourceful, frugal and creative.

Ironically, a few days into the napkin project, the post man delivered my much anticipated copy of Amanda Soule's Handmade Home. Soooooooo lovely and inspiring! The combination of the napkin project and the ideas in this book put my mind into creative overdrive. I spent the weekend fitting in bits of stitching wherever and whenever possible. A vintage thrifted sheet was fashioned into a set of long-overdue curtains for the bathroom. Gee, we've only been in the house for five years! Don't worry, the only neighbours with a view of this room are the squirrels and deer.

I created this pared down version of Amanda's Cozy Wall Pockets from an old wool blanket gathering dust in the linen closet. It's a much-needed storage solution for the boys' bathroom reading material. Another quick crafty hit was this set of matching boy/doll felted sweater hats, straight out of Handmade Home. Even Hubby got in on the action and created all the wooden buttons for me from alder branches.

"Ms. M's" napkin project and Handmade Home have inspired me to more thoughtfully consider "repurposing" in my crafty endeavours. I have been doing this for years in my rug hooking, but I'm looking forward to taking it to a new level. Good ideas...they are truly infectious! Any of you out there with a few to spread...this is one bug I don't mind catching!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Colorful Creativity

This morning I pulled out a brand new set of crayons from my art supply stash to add a little excitement to the morning drawing ritual. The metallic shimmering shades of this particular set intrigued the wee ones instantly. Chi-Chi snatched up the gold and silver and immediately set to work scribbling and experimenting with the colors. Before too long, his lines began to take shape and form. Soon he was drawing a family of golden slugs with silvery trails shimmering in the moonlight. (One look at my raggedy garden and it’s not hard to tell where he sought his inspiration for this masterpiece). I always find it fascinating to sit back and quietly observe my little artists at work. Sometimes the color of paint or pencil they choose is irrelevant as they set out with a specific idea or image in their minds. Other times, the color itself initiates the creative process, as was the case with the slugs.

I’ve been busy playing with color myself these last few days, dyeing up a set of rich and vivid skeins that will soon be on its way to Deanne Fitzpatrick's rug hooking studio and shop. My hope is that, just like the brand new box of crayons, the vibrant hues of my skeins will serve as inspiration to others. I’d be curious to see how different people interpret the colors and incorporate my textured yarns into their creations!

My skeins destined for the hooks and hands of rug hookers are most often inspired by the nature that surrounds me – stormy skeins, churning oceans, sunlit fields, autumn leaves. When it comes to dye jobs for little ones, I tend to turn things up a notch in the color department. Rainbows yarn is just plain fun to create and work with. This colorful little pouch resulted from my latest rainbow skein. I couldn’t resist the playful colors as I grabbed my crochet hook and set to work. It stitched up quite quickly and easily. I was careful not to refer to it as a “purse” around dear Hubby, though it would certainly make an adorable purse for a little girl! In our house it serves as a market tote in the play kitchen/store area, as well as a treasure pouch to store bits of nature on our outdoor walks.

Digging through my wool stash, I stumbled on a bland old scratchy skein that was screaming for a makeover. These little rainbow balls of yarn are headed for the sewing basket at Chi-Chi and Muffy’s preschool. I’m assuming the children will find them as attractive and inviting as I do!

You cant' blame this poor girl for craving a little color around here. Being tightly wrapped in a big blanket of coastal fog just might have something to do with it!