Friday, 15 April 2011

Egg-xactly What I Needed

The Easter Bunny paid an early visit to our house today. In fact, two little bunnies have been sneaking around, giggling and hiding eggs in every nook and cranny imaginable.

All this bunny behaviour was inspired by today's craft activity. With Easter fast approaching, egg decorating is pretty much a given in this house, especially since I've got six dozen eggs stashed away, ready and waiting to be embellished! Most of these eggs are heading into school and preschool next week with the boys. It's always fun to share our blue and green Americauna eggs this time of year. I've been feeling pretty tired all week, so I just wasn't up for pulling out the paint, paint brushes and dye pot today (although this is definitely on the agenda for next week!)
I was looking for an egg-inspired craft that would be fun, simple and 99% mess free. My sister passed this idea along to me and it was exactly what we needed around here today - so easy for me, but so, so fun for Chi-Chi and Muffy. It was a win-win situation. I pulled out our stash of plasticine and a couple of styrofoam egg forms I picked up at the craft store. The boys pinched off bits of clay and molded them onto the forms, delighting in the rainbow of colors. When we first began, the clay was quite cold. Pinching was a bit tough for Muffy's little hands, so we used scissors to snip the clay into tiny pieces.

I'm thinking of trying a natural version of this with some colored modelling beeswax I have stashed away and some wooden egg forms. I'll let you know how it goes. Either way, these bright and cheery eggs are seeing lots of action. I whipped up some cardboard bunny ears, made myself a cup of tea and sat back for a good solid hour while my bunnies went to work. It was pure bliss (: Happy Weekend everyone!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

A Royally Good Time!

We are all coming back to earth after a wonderful birthday weekend. There is certainly a stillness that washes over the household after such an exciting event. With both boys deeply consumed in exploring some of the presents Chi-Chi received, Mommy actually had time to put her feet up and relax.
I think the party was a hit and everyone truly had a wonderful time. Blue skies and sunshine most certainly have that effect on people. The party was short and sweet and was wrapped up in about an hour and a half. Everyone had a chance to spend lots of time outdoors, running, laughing and just being boys. Good old Uncle P deserves a big thank you for playing the part of the evil dragon on the knight's quest. Allowing himself to be attacked by eleven little boys yielding swords was self-sacrificing and truly appreciated!

For anyone who might be interested, here is the link for the dragon cake instructions. I served it with sparklers flaming from the nostrils, which the children really enjoyed. It might look complicated and impressive, but when you break it down, it's super simple and easy. The key is freezing before frosting! I'm imagining major frustration trying to decorate the small crumbling parts otherwise. The only "roadblock" I encountered was trying to figure out how to create a cool set of wings. Thanks to my good friend Ms. M. for her fruit roll up suggestion. I simply cut the wing shapes out with scissors, wrapped them around skewers and...voila!

The knight costumes were also a bit hit with the littles one! My husband played The King, and knighted each child before setting off on the treasure hunt adventure. I imagine the costumes added a element of magic and fantasy to the event for the children. Once again, this was much simpler than a first glance might reveal. The tunics were made from cheap pillowcases. I snipped arm and head holes and they were done. This took about 15 minutes in total. The belts are just strips of read fabric cut on my rotary cutter. The helmets were the most complicated, but also very simple. I used a Spiderman hood that came with PJ's as a template, quickly sewing up the seems and leaving the rest unhemmed. The shimmery fabric gives them a pretty realistic chain mail look.

Well, back to lunch boxes and laundry with Monday rolling around. Hoping everyone had a great weekend!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Party Hardy or Party Pooper?

I'm in party prep mode today. Chi-Chi turned the big number 6 earlier this week, but the official celebration takes place tomorrow. We opted for a small intimate dinner with grandparents the evening of his actual birthday, but I think he's looking forward to getting together with his buddies for some fun.

Birthday parties are tricky business these days, especially for a mom who cringes at the waste and excess, yet finds herself unconsciously being a full participant in it. Now that my boy is getting older, it is getting harder to manage expectations as he is well aware of what a party can entail in this day and age. I'm hoping to strike a balance this year by attempting to stick to my guns on some issues, without being a party pooper! Hubby tells me I overthink everyhing, but that's my nature!

Food is an easy one for me! Cake and ice cream make a perfect treat and any junk food beyond that is really not necessary. I opted to have a morning party this year. I feel that children (and adults!) are at their best this time of day and is makes more sense to have everyone in good spirits when dealing with a large crowd of excited and energetic little boys. Snacks and nibbles will therefore be breakfast-like in nature as I'll be offering healthy options of fresh fruit, mini bagels and cream cheese and apple juice or milk to drink.

The cake is always my favorite part of party prep! I'm certainly no gourmet chef, but there are lots of fun things you can do while still keeping it simple. Since the theme this year is knights and dragons, I'm making a couple of basic dragon cakes from scratch. I find with parents often sticking around, one cake is simply not enough. Chi-Chi wanted banana and I did up another in chocolate zuchinni. I actually baked and assembled them lastnight and popped them in the freezer. Tomorrow morning I will frost them while they are frozen to limit the frustrations of crumb-filled frosting.

The "entertainment" offered these days at parties can be a bit intimidating for parents who want to keep it simple and host in their own homes. It seems that most parties involve a pool, bowling alley, magician, bouncy castle...the list goes on. My invitations advised parents that "His Royal Highness will be sending the knights on a secret quest. All noble knights are requested to come prepared for inclement weather (i.e. rubber boots and rain coats!)". Rain or shine, these boys will be heading outside to burn off that cake! King Hubby is in charge of this portion of the party. The boys will be lead on a treasure hunt through the woods which will result in the discovery of goodie bags. I did this last year, and it was a huge hit. The treasure in the previous year was a pinata filled mostly with candy. I was trying very hard not to be a party pooper when Chi-Chi requested that pinata - but I will never do another pinata. The candy was excessive and I hate the frantic scrambling that goes on. Muffy vomited twice afterwards - enough said! After the treasure hunt, they are free to play outside until the pick up time.

I've never been a fan of the traditional win/lose party games with prizes. I picked one quiet activity to get them settled at the table before snack. This is probably a bit over the top, but I decided it was something they would all love and it would have a use later instead of ending up in the garbage bin. Each child will get a bit of Lego for a "build your own dragon" activity. I designed a tiny dragon myself and purchased the invidivual pieces. I'm not giving instructions, maybe some samples to look at and they can do as they please.

The gifts are the trickiest business of all. I appreciate the generosity of people, but I feel like it is such an overload of stuff. Last year I put a lovely note in the invitations that gifts were not necessary, but if they wanted to bring one, a book would be perfect. Chi-Chi truly is a bookworm....but he was upset! I'm still getting flack about the fact that he didn't get any toys from his friends. He may be forgetting that we bought him a goalie helmet and both grandparents bought him Lego. I thought it was all appropriate, but this year I'm just letting go of things. I don't want to be a party pooper. Some people have asked for suggestions so I mentioned Lego and science-experiments. I read a great article once that stated we have 364 days a year to teach our children about limiting waste and giving to others, and that on that one day we should just let go and have some fun. So hard, but I'm doing it (:

The guest list is another tricky item. I really, really, wanted to keep it small and not too overwhelming for him. I'm at 11 right now, which I think is manageable, but still on the heavy side. So many people these days invite the whole class, which is sweet and generous, but I just couldn't do it.

I was doing great at keeping it sweet and simple. Here is where I went off the rails a bit and I always do! I love, love, love making things, so I could not help myself on this one. I wanted them to be "properly outfitted" for their adventure so I made little knight costumes for each of them. I'll show these in a later post, but they were very simple to make. I bought some pillow cases and cut out arm and head holes. I cut strips of red fabric for belts and sewed simple head pieces out of glittery fabric. I left the edges rough on everything, no hemming to save time and effort. Hubby told me there was no way we could have a knight party without swords. I tried making some out of foam and cardboard, but knew tears and injuries were inevitable. So......I bought some horribly junky blow up swords that don't hurt when you get accidently sliced in the head with them. It killed me to do it.....(still trying not to be a party pooper). I'm at least hoping the costumes will have some lasting value for imaginative play beyond the party.

So, now that I'm reading this over, it's looking way more complicated and excessive than I had dreamed of. See how it gets away on you, even when you are conscious of it? Is this all a sign that I'm getting old! Am I already of a generation that feels that times were simpler..."back when I was a kid"? My mom would host a handful of kids over to our house for a few simple games, a homemade cake and that would be it! I have a good friend who skipped the party, popped an ice cream cake in the trunk and invited a few families for an evening of skiing. I think she had the right idea! But I'm going to roll with it this year...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Sunshine and Sick Days

It's pretty quiet around here today. Chi-Chi is off to school and little Muffy is flaked out with the flu. The sun is shining, but it looks like we'll be spending most of the day indoors, snoozing, reading and sucking on popsicles! I'm not short on things to do around the house, with eleven little boys descending on me Saturday morning for Chi-Chi's 6th birthday.

It's been awhile since I've found myself in a crafting mood. It was a busy winter on many fronts and not feeling very well, I didn't have the energy, desire or inspiration for creative projects. I recently stumbled on these adorable toadstools and I could not resist giving this project a try. It was so incredibly simple I whipped it up between the supper dishes and bedtime stories! I think this was the quick hit I needed to get me back into a creative mode!

I only made one, though I'm tempted to complete the pair. I thought they would make a perfect nature-inspired addition to our science/tadpole observation area. I've got some super fun activities coming to this area over the next month, so I'm expecting the little ones to spend a lot of quiet time observing, studying and admiring in this space.

The project was a little pricier than I expected. The stool itself was about $24 at Michaels, but I was glad to see it was made in North America instead of overseas. It's actually a reasonable price I suppose. We get so used to paying dirt cheap prices for items made in China and I think it skews our sense of reality. I checked my wool stash, but I didn't have any red on hand. A quick note to Deanne Fitzpatrick and a few days later there was a yard of cheerful cherry red wool in my mailbox! I followed the directions on the tutorial, using my hubby's staple gun and raw wool I already had on hand as stuffing.

As Muffy looked longingly out the window this morning, he remarked with sadness that he would not be able to go on his nature walk today. I told him we can still appreciate and enjoy nature even though we are stuck inside with the flu. I opened the windows a crack to let the fresh air and birdsongs filter in. I also guided him over for a morning visit with the tadpoles. Immediately he smiled, delighted in the comfy feeling under his "bum" and settled in for some quiet observation. He was even treated to a morning rainbow as the sun reflected through the aquarium. I'm glad this new little seat added a bit of comfort, happiness and magic to Muffy's sick day!

I'm half expecting to see a Smurf crawl out from under that toadstool! So cute!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dogs' Tails...

I don't know what's gotten into me, but I'm on a bit of a science kick lately! It must surely have something to do with spring fever. As the world around us wakes up from a long winter snooze, there are so many interesting and exciting things going just outside the front door. Perhaps Chi-Chi and Muffy are the ones leading the charge on this one. As they spend more time outdoors, they are asking tons of questions and noticing tiny details such as the tulips poking up and the increased activity at the bird feeder.

I'm super excited about the latest "science project" we've undertaken. Friday was a day off from school so my sister came to visit with her two boys. She and my nephews brought us a few presents - tadpoles they collected from a pond near them home! It's hard to believe, but she's been raising her tadpoles all winter in an aquarium. Apparently, they are green frog tadpoles, which take about two years to develop into adult frogs. With four boys in the house, the tadpoles didn't get much attention. There was a serious amount of boyish action going on! Now that the house has quieted down, Chi-Chi and Muffy have had some time to get acquainted with these new friends. They really are fascinating to watch and study and I find myself drawn to them. Once they are grown and developed, we will release them back to nature, in the pond they originated from. Big sister also supplied me with some water plants for them to eat. Apparently our little friends feed on algae that grows on these plants. I'm relying on her expertise, since she's the one who studied marine biology and not accounting!

Thanks again Big Sis -for both the tadpoles and the visit! I was thinking today how lucky I am to have my sister and my parents so close by, despite the fact we grew up in Northern New Brunswick. In fact, my husband's parents and siblings also live very close...his brother just down the street. In this day and age, the stars don't align very often for this to occur. Our children are so fortunate to grow up truly knowing their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. So lucky indeed! Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Boning up on Bones!

I truly believed we were turning a corner weather wise this week....until I saw snow in the forecast for today! I made every effort to enjoy that lovely sunshine while it was around. Although we had a busy day of errands ahead of us, Muffy and I took a little detour to enjoy a tour of the boardwalk at Fisherman's Cove in Eastern Passage. We always seem to find some interesting treasure on the little beach. I do fairly well with beach glass, consistently finding three to five pieces with each visit. During our last beach combing excursion, I discovered a piece of worn pottery dated 1940. The boys enjoy the view up the Halifax Harbour where they can spot Daddy's office building. It always strikes me how close we are to the city, yet how far away I feel. Wrapping around to the other side gives a stunning view out into the Atlantic Ocean. I love the contrast.

Muffy was thrilled with his most recent find - a small lower jaw of a fish. He likes to keep up with big brother Chi-Chi who has done his fair share of bone hunting these last few weeks, inspired by the Sue the Dinosaur Exhibit at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History.

I've been doing a bit of minor rearranging around the house to allow for some new Spring science activities I've got up my sleeve. I felt we needed a better set up for displaying and studying some of our recent nature finds and artifacts. I set up a small table by the window to allow for good lighting and a quiet place to work. The display of bones jogged my memory of something I've had tucked up in the hall closet, waiting for the right time and opportunity to introduce. I purchased this awesome set of animal x-rays ages ago. They are made in Canada by a company called Roylco and I thought the price was pretty reasonable at $16 for 13 images. I intially saw them at the boys' Montessori school. In the classroom, they were displayed using a light table, something I could not justify around here. I came up with the idea to use self-adhesive velcro to attach them to the window for clear viewing. They seem to fit just perfectly in our new little space. The boys are super excited about them and are being careful and respectful of their fragility. I find myself holding back learning materials at times, waiting for the right opportunity to introduce them, when the interest is initiated by the children. It's usually worth the wait!

One of the most exciting aspects of bone hunting is the mystery behind them. I'm quite certain the teeth and jaws belong to a seal, as in that case, most of the skeleton was present. Chi-Chi's fish skeleton and large vertebrae are a bit tricker to identify. "Some kind of fish" is simply not cutting it for this detailed little guy. He actually toted them to the museum, but they weren't able to provide an exact answer. If anyone out there has any suggestions on how to identify our bone collection, please let me know! It's time for me to bone up on my bones!