Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Official Opening

The holiday season was officially kicked off in our household today......although the Chrismtas activities began long ago. The boys were greeted this morning by the family Advent calendar, a much loved tradition in our home. I've tried to keep the Advent treats simple this year. In previous years, I gave a combination of treats, trinkets and treasures. This year, I'm giving teeny weeny little treats each day. More candy is certainly not something the boys need, but it kept things simple and easy for Mama. The treats are very, very small so I'm ok with it. (i.e a single gummy bear). I do so love Mary Beth's idea of the Buy Nothing New Advent Calendar. I may shift to this in future years as it is a nice alternative to the focus on receiving gifts!

I spent some time pulling out a few seasonal decorations today, including our nativity scene. I made this little set a couple of years ago with my scroll saw, inspired by the work of Woodmouse. I also pulled our collection of Christmas stories and books from storage. I keep these items tucked away during the rest of the year. They are much more appreciated and treasured as a result.

There is something comforting about reading these same stories each year....some of them dating back to my own childhood. My all-time favorite Christmas story collection is The Animals' Merry Christmas, written by Kathryn Jackson and illustrated by Richard Scarry. I'm a huge fan of Richard Scarry and his Busytown gang. Where is Christmas Jesse Bear? (along with all the other Jesse Bear books in the series) is also a family favorite!

My dear friend Michelle popped in for a quick visit today to pick up some alder branches to decorate her classroom. Now that the boys no longer attend her preschool, we don't see each other as often. It was nice to catch up and connect. She had requested some of my candycane yarn for classroom crafts. It makes me happy to send a bit of Wool Fairy goodness to the students at Maple Tree. I did up a bit of this yummy yarn for my own crew, as I'm sure there is a great deal of Christmas crafting in our near future. It's so easy to dye up! I just randomly dump a bit of red and green dye on a natural skein of yarn. It's fun and festive.

Happy December everyone!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Here Comes Santa Claus (two of them actually)

As much as I've tried to delay the appearance of the "Christmas Spirit" around here, it has arrived in full force! Don't get me wrong, I love the holiday season and all that goes with it. I actually enjoy the period leading up to Christmas more than the day itself. The baking, the decorating, the crafting, the visiting, the treats, the lights.......etc. I do, however, get burned out when it all begins a bit too early. I set a firm rule this year that Mommy would only tune into the Christmas songs when the calendar turned to December. Despite my resistance, Chi-Chi and Muffy are completely consumed with the holiday season ahead!

The majority of playtime in these parts centers around Santa and his elves. We have an extensive collection of "holiday attire" to aid the imaginative process, including two kiddie Santa suits, an elf costume and a Mrs. Claus costume. They have been playing this game for years (winter, summer, spring or fall), and I have to admit, it is so fun to sit back and quietly observe. This year they took their activities outdoors and converted our play-boat into Santa's sleigh. All was fine and dandy, until I found the little monkeys dumping my bucket of ashes and soot from the woodstove all over our yard! "Mommy, we are just delivering coal to all the naughty kids!!!". Sigh....thankfully there were no live sparks in that bucket!

A few years ago I knit them both a couple of warm and woolly Santa toques. These are dual-purpose hats - providing warmth from the bitter cold and adding a bit fun and magic to pretend play. Chi-Chi recently put in his request for a set of matching Santa mittens. Poor Santa's hands were cold! I love making fun little woollies for the boys! There is no doubt, these will get a lot of use.

Chi-Chi also placed his order for a new set of red pants, as he has outgrown those from the previous year. I popped into the fabric shop today to pick up some red fleece and came out with some silly fake fur in my shopping bag. Tonight I pulled out the scissors, some elastic and my glue gun. In no time, my two Santas were outfitted with fluffy new beards! They are hilarious! As I was settling Muffy down for the night, I found Chi-Chi tucked away in his bedroom, (aka workshop) decked out in full St. Nick attire. He was busily creating gifts for his loved ones. Although Santa is most often associated with the "receiving end" of the holiday, I'm witnessing the spirit of giving in my home. Both little ones are inspired by Santa's generosity. Chi-Chi's little handmade gifts truly melted my heart. He made Daddy "a set of French words to learn". I love that.

I caved in and played "Here Comes Santa Claus" for them tonight. Let the Christmas games begin (:

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Owls (and Elves) in the Family

Bedtime in our house is one of my favorite times of the day. When the clock strikes 7pm, Chi-Chi and Muffy are usually snuggled up under the covers with Mommy or Daddy and a good book. I'm loving the coziness that the darkness provides this time of year. Bedtime seems to run so much more smoothly during these darkest of months. My husband and I usually "divide and conquer" when it comes to getting the little ones settled down for the night. We alternate every night and it works out quite well. This gives us some quiet one-on-one time with each child. I do cherish this special time with each of them as it is often a time of connection between us.

Both boys share my love of children's books, so bedtime stories are very much cherished by all members of the family. I do believe even my husband truly enjoyed reading the Little House on the Prairie series. I think he was pleasantly surprised! We just finished reading Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat for the second time. This is such a great read for little boys! It is full of adventure, comedy and good old fashioned boyish fun. It has a nostalgic feel to it, which took me back to stories of my own father as a boy. It represents the classic boyhood adventures I want my own children to live and experience......tracking animals, building camps, riding bikes, being curious about nature. This sounds like a lot more fun than the video games of today!

The book that currently rests on the night stand is truly a treasure - something I found at the thrift shop last year. If anyone has any information on this book, I'd love to know more about it! I still can't believe I snatched it up for $1.99. Its called "The Wee Folk - About the Elves in Nova Scotia". It was written by Mary Alma Dillman in 1953! I have the 1964 edition. It is a collection of the sweetest, most enchanting tales and illustrations I have ever read. The children love the mention of Nova Scotia in the tales. I swear, those little elves just might be living in the woods out back, the text is so descriptive and rich with detail.

With owls on the brain, we got up to a little bit of crafting, inspired by materials we collected on a nature walk. We spotted a bobcat earlier this week - likely the culprit in the missing duck and rooster mystery. We've been out scouting for tracks in the mud, so it was easy to collect bits of nature as we explored. I got the idea here at Five Orange Potatoes. We used "down" from asters and goldenrod that had gone to seed for the fluff. Alder catkins made great beaks and talons for our little owlets.

This was the first time I let the boys use the glue gun. In no time, they had moved on to more festive inspired crafts! It looks like the Christmas crafting has officially begun around here! It's a bit earlier than I had hoped...but I'm going to roll with it.

Friday, 11 November 2011

November Beauty

Although we are wrapping up another week, I'm still savouring the memories of my birthday last weekend. I will admit, it all began on a rather sad and grim note. The first foreboding clue was the discovery of a HUGE patch of feathers on my way to the coop that morning. The absence of Muffy's pet rooster Coopie, and our male runner duck was immediately obvious and left a sick feeling in my stomach. It didn't look good. I was overcome with guilt as I had forgotten to lock the pen door the previous evening. When Hubby and the boys arrived home from the rink, we followed the trail of feathers into the woods and came upon the grim discovery of Ducky's remains ):

Despite this sad event, I still managed to enjoy a fun and relaxing day. More and more, I find myself being a homebody. Instead of a night out on the town, I opted for a leisurely day at home, topped off by homemade cake and pizza by the boys. I had time for a nice long run and lots of knitting on the couch with tea. Perfection in my eyes.

With lots of sunshine this past week, the boys and I did some after school exploring around the property. I find myself really appreciating the beauty of our November landscape. The larch trees are really stunning right now as they prepare to shed their golden needles. They actually seem to glow in the late afternoon light. We have quite a few of them around here, and I always enjoy paying them a visit this time of year. My latest knitting project reminds me of them. I might just name it my November sweater.

We spent some time at the pond, catching tadpoles and throwing rocks (of course). The stillness in the air allowed for a mirror effect on the pond. The boys were tempted to jump into "the sky" as they admired the reflection. Thankfully, they did not follow through on that urge (: It's one mucky spot!!

Despite the greyness of this month, we are managing to discover and enjoy lots of November beauty. What beauty are you finding in your neck of the woods?

Friday, 4 November 2011

Buried Treasure

November is certainly one of the more grey and dismal months, but it has always been a favorite of mine. This probably has something to do with the fact that I was a November baby (: A little birthday goodness always cheers a girl up. Today I was treated to lunch with my parents and my sister. It was kind of strange to be together as a foursome - no husbands, no kids. I can't even remember the last time the four of us did something together like this. It made me feel like a kid again, out on a family outing. It's always great to find yourself in those moments where you feel like you are 7 , instead of 37!!

The sun has been shining most of the week, so we've taken our after school play and work outdoors whenever possible. The clocks go back this weekend of course, cutting those precious late afternoon hours even further. My garden is still very much a work in progress. Last spring I vowed that I would make great efforts in the fall to enrich the soil. I've carted in loads of cow manure, seaweed and fall leaves. I'm hoping I'll see a bit of payback on my efforts next summer. I can't say my new garden bed was a huge success this year ): It was feeling like a bit of a bust, until this week, when the boys and I got busy harvesting our very last crop of the season.

We dug for "buried treasure" and ended with a pretty hefty quantity of jerusalem artichokes (also known as sun chokes). This tuber is fairly new to our diet. I was introduced to it a couple of years ago through our CSA. I'm looking forward to trying out some new recipes. So far, we've been enjoying them raw - sliced in sticks with dip. The boys really enjoyed searching for them in the earth and were eager to have them included in their school lunch boxes. I'm betting there were some strange looks from classmates this week!

Anyone have suggestions for my artichokes?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

No Regrets

I tacked a few additional kilometres on my morning runs the last couple of days. I will admit that the Green Pumpkin herself indulged in one too many Tootsie Rolls on Halloween night. It felt so good to bag up all that candy at the end of the evening. I will send it to work with my husband tomorrow and the temptations will be gone (:

The Great Green Pumpkin was a huge hit in our home. I was nervous the boys would be feeling some regret in relinquishing their entire booty. The truth is, I let them have their fill just following trick-or-treating and I think they may have realized they'd had enough sicky sweetness. The allure and mystery of the Green Pumpkin was more enticing to them then a few dozen chocolate bars! I keep a small suitcase of treasures and trinkets for last minute gifts...etc. My husband refers to it as my "stash". In exchange for all those treats, the Green Pumpkin left behind a very teeny weeny Lego set, a dinky toy and a few thrifted hockey cards. I was initially worried they had unrealistic expectations, but it turns out I underestimated the allure of a $2 dinky toy! There were no regrets and no mention of treats from either of them!

So with the month of November stretched out before us, I'm in the mood to snuggle up with a knitting project. We've got the wood stove running full force these days and I love to spend the evenings lounging on the couch reading or knitting. Since it looked so great on Soulemama, I've decided to tackle an Annabel cardigan for myself. I have all my skeins dyed, but I'm still waiting for them to dry out! I pulled the last of my goldrenrod blooms from the freezer for this dye project. I regret not collecting more in late August, as I've fallen in love with this beautiful shade of yellow. In fact, I just completed a little goldenrod sweater vest for Muffy. He proudly wore his "Mommy Love Vest" to school today....melt my heart (:

We are all enjoying the cleansing effect of this crisp fall air! Thanks to the Green Pumpkin, we are back to our healthy habits.

Monday, 31 October 2011

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

I'm just winding down after a fun-filled Halloween evening. Since trick-or-treaters rarely brave our 800 foot driveway, we usually take the boys out as a family. It's actually a great way to catch up on some visiting with neighbours. It's always a fun event in our little community.

What I love most about Halloween is the dressing up, of course! It's a great excuse to make some fun costumes that the boys can enjoy all year long in their imaginative play. Not surprisingly, my bug lover wanted to be a spider this year, and his brother enthusiastically joined in. This was a super fun costume to put together and was also quite easy and inexpensive. The sewing was pretty rough and basic and I didn't even bother hemming the fleece head piece.

I used glow in the dark paint left over from last year's skeleton costume to add some fun to the outfit. The spider legs are made from men's dress socks, stuffed with batting. The little "hood" was made using a Spiderman PJ hood as a template. I think I've used this template for just about everything as it is so versatile and easy (space helmet, knight helmet, skeleton head, Ironman hood, Buzz Lightyear helmet.....etc). I love the googly eyes! Most spiders have eight eyes, dear Muffy tells me. We have to be scientifically accurate around here!

It is always shocking to me how much candy two small boys can collect from visiting less than a dozen homes! As soon as Chi-Chi and Muffy walked in the door, the loot bags were emptied and the tally was taken. As a bit of a last minute decision, I actually decided to try out the "Green Pumpkin" on my boys. They were instructed to leave any unwanted treats on their bedroom doors for the Great Green Pumpkin who would be visiting tonight. The Green Pumpkin exchanges the candy for little surprises. Somewhere in there I mumbled the words, "The more you give, the more you get". Well, I regret that statement just a little! Before I knew it, both boys had decided to give every single piece of remaining candy to the Great Green Pumpkin. I didn't really expect them to give it ALL away. I was really hoping they would give up about two thirds while the remainder would be handed out as dessert treats this week. Now I'm feeling a bit pressured to come up with something slightly impressive from my "stash" of trinkets and goodies. I'm not sure what I will pull together...but I better figure out something very soon as the clock reads 11pm (: As Chi-Chi was falling asleep, he told me he really didn't want all that much candy anyway. I'm sure this might have something to do with the belly ache he most certainly went to bed with!

Have you ever had a visit from the Green Pumpkin or the Candy Fairy? How well did this go over in your house?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Fall Fun

Friday was a PD day at the boys' school, so we were happy to enjoy a bit of a long weekend. I really try take advantage of these free days and plan something fun for the wee ones. This time around, we hit the road for a sleep over at Nanny and Graga's house. My sister and her boys also tagged along. Although the combination of four boys ranging from 4 to 6 is very exhausting, I'm so happy they are able to spend quality time with their little cousins. There was lots of squealing, Halloween crafting, a few soggy science experiments and a vintage Scooby Doo movie. (a moment of peace for the mommies and Nanny).

Chi-Chi, Muffy and I enjoyed some quiet, peaceful time raking leaves in my parents' yard. This might sound silly, but I truly miss raking leaves and the simple act of doing so flooded me with childhood memories. The sounds and scent brought me back to my own experiences hiding under piles of leaves and just enjoying the quiet and peaceful space of the backyard where I grew up. I now live in the land of alders and spruce trees. These trees and shrubs seem to thrive in our harsh, coastal setting. Chi-Chi and Muffy had a great time building piles, and of course thrashing them to bits! When playtime ended, they helped me bag those leaves. I threw them in the trunk and brought them home to serve as mulch on my garden beds this winter.

The boys are super excited about Halloween this year. I'm looking at keeping things pretty simple. Tonight I made up a batch of silly spider whoopie pies for dessert, just to add some fun to Sunday night dinner. I did make a couple of cute spider costumes this year, but they were easy peasy. I'll share them once I get a chance to photograph my little creepy crawlers tomorrow night. Although I love the spooky fun of Halloween, the candy over load that goes hand in hand is tricky to manage! Because the houses are quite spaced apart in our community, we usually have to take the car trick or treating. We only visit a handful of neighbours, which helps limit the amount of candy the boys receive. I allow them to indulge in a handful of treats the evening of Halloween, but the rest are tucked away and served as dessert during the days that follow. I love some of Mary Beth's ideas over at Salt and Chocolate. The "Green Pumpkin" may be visiting my house this year to gobble up the excess candy in exchange for books! Great idea!

The boys have had loads of fun decorating our front door step with their various spooky creations. I gave up coming up with craft ideas, and just let them dream up their own creations. ( I did, however, intervene when I found Muffy drawing scary faces on my lovely wood siding with a permanent market.....ahhhh) I simply could not keep up with the enthusiasm. I pulled out these human skeleton xrays I've had tucked away for over a year! It was fun and educational to assemble the puzzle. Once complete, I posted it on our patio door with sticky tack to serve as a decoration.

Wishing everyone a happy, fun and safe Halloween!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Squirrelling Away

We've been graced with warm temperatures, sunshine and blue skies the last few days. We were even lucky enough to enjoy a late-season campfire on Saturday night. Despite the great weather, I still find my mind shifting inward lately. I've been tinkering away on a few little household projects and repairs I've had on my list for awhile. Perhaps my mind and body are subconsciously preparing for the cold season ahead. I seem to be shifting into a "bunker down" mood, looking for ways to clean up, cozy up and warm up the inside of our home!

Both boys' rooms are a bit of a work in progress. I'm not really into a "decorated look" when it comes to kid's rooms and prefer a more mismatched, homey feel. Hand making quilts takes time, as does shopping for deals at antique stores! I'm always looking for ways to add a little handmade touch to these special rooms in our homes. The walls are rather bare and stark, so I've made it my mission to add a bit of character in this department. I've intentionally tried to keep their rooms uncluttered in an effort to provide a soothing, relaxing atmosphere. I believe keeping the toys and clutter out gives the little ones room to breathe and think.

Some clutter, however, is inevitable. Chi-chi in particular is a bit of a pack rat. He likes to "squirrel away" the various trinkets, treasures and trash he collects on his adventures. I was recently flipping through my copy of The Children's Year, seeking out a bit of crafty inspiration. I came across the idea to create a set of wall pockets for the boys - a perfect storage solution for all those miscellaneous little bits and pieces. I'm in love with this sweet squirrel fabric! It's a nice heavy weight and provided a good, strong backing for the pockets. I love that the pockets are both decorative and functional! What a fun little space to hide treasures and various other important items. Unknowingly, I actually sized them perfectly for hockey cards! Another related idea I simply love are these pocket curtains. So fun! They make great hiding spots. I might have to try these as well.

I struggled a bit when determining how to hang the pockets. My husband suggested I use drywall screws as they would provide the necessary support. That sounded great...except that they are extremely ugly! I came up with a great little cover up trick that I'm pretty proud off! I glued a couple of acorn caps over the screws using my glue gun. Not only do they do the trick, they are super cute and even tie in with the squirrel theme. Loving my new idea, I used the same trick when hanging Muffy's little caterpillar he received for his birthday.

As tiny as this project was, it felt great to get something done from start to finish. I'm happy with the fun, warm touch they add to the bedrooms. Chi-Chi and Muffy love their new organizers and have been busy squirrelling away.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Oh Canada!

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with my camera. Lately the scale has definitely tilted to the "hate" end of the spectrum! Anyway, it seems to be back in working order so I find myself returning to this space. It is funny, but I don't seem inspired to write unless I can enhance my words with some snapshots.

Today was a perfect fall day! The boys and I grabbed a quick snack after school and hit the trail to enjoy the fleeting autumn beauty. Deciduous trees are pretty hard to come by on our property, so it was certainly a feast for the senses today. We absorbed it all - the sight of the rich hues, the sound of rustling leaves, the earthy scent of decay and the pleasant crunch beneath our shoes.

We all enjoyed gathering a variety of leaves for some fall-inspired art projects. I picked up some recycled clay at the Wolfville Farmer's Market a few weeks ago, and have been wanting to create leaf impressions with the boys. My plan was to work on this project later this afternoon....but plans change when little ones find their own source of inspiration. The boys were so excited to discover many bright red maple leaves..."just like on the Canada flag!!". Of course, as soon as we got home, I found them digging through their art supplies. In no time, flags were waving and little lungs were belting out the national anthem. I do so love their great ideas!

I am loving Muffy's new tote bag! It was a gift from my parents for his birthday. Mom picked it up from "Say it with Stitches" at the Wolfville market. It is simply adorable and quite perfect for my little bug lover. I actually purchased a matching pencil case and wall hanging for him as well. I'm thinking Chi-Chi's plastic bag needs to be replaced by something much cuter! Ok, I think I just added a quick little weekend project to my to do list (:

According to the forecast, we are in store for a wonderful weekend! Looking forward to yard work, another trip to the trails and perhaps a bit of crafty goodness. What are your plans?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Parlez Vous Francais?

We had such a lovely birthday weekend around here. Muffy was on cloud 9...or should I say cloud 5. Despite the rain, the outdoor treasure hunt took place, and was a hit! Now that the busy month of September is behind us, I feel like we are finally settling into a bit of a groove. The boys seem genuinely happy in school! I was expecting Muffy, in particular, to be tired out at the end of the day, but that is not the case! I'm finding them both bursting with energy and ideas when they hop off the bus.

After a busy and fairly focused day in the classroom, I want to offer a home environment that is relaxing and fun for the remainder of the afternoon. I do, however, think it is important for parents to remain connected and aware of what learning is taking place in the classroom, offering support at home that complements and enhances the curriculum. Since both boys are in French Immersion, I'm trying to help nurture the learning of a new language. The last thing they need right now is more time behind the desk. I'm therefore seeking out fun ways to sneak in learning opportunities.

Muffy is currently learning the names of the colors in French. One afternoon last week, while puttering around the yard, we decided to embark on a color scavenger hunt. In no time, I had them seeking out bits and pieces from nature - screaming out "rouge, jaune, vert!!". This turned out to be a lot of fun for everyone!

As painful as it is on my brain, Chi-Chi and I have decided to have "French Hour" each day. This involves us conversing in French for anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes every day. He gets giddy about it! I'm definitely dusting off the cobwebs inside this head of mine. I'm starting to volunteer in his Grade 1 classroom today and I really need to get up to speed on my conversational French. I was shocked at how much French the boy can speak!

We've also been up to some colorful fall crafts. I recently picked up a copy of the lastest Chirp magazine. The boys are really enjoying magazines lately and I love that this is a home-grown Canadian publication. We made a few of these rainbow spider webs, inspired by suggestions in Chirp.

Chi-Chi is in the process of making a "haunted closet" so I'm expecting lots of silly, scary and spooky crafts in our near future! Any other fun ideas?? Pass them along please (: