Thursday, 29 September 2011

Thankful Thoughts

The week seems to be zooming by on me, and I am only finding the time today to collect my thoughts. I woke up very early Monday morning and reached out to find a warm, fluffy headed little boy in bed with me. We still play a game of musical beds each night, and it is not uncommon for me to wake up with no sense of where I am or who is snuggled up beside me. I long ago gave up on the notion of breaking any "bad habits". Sleep is a priority to me over many things in life!

During those dark, early hours, with my soon-to-be 5 year old cuddled up next to me, I felt truly content and thankful. I was thankful to have just spent a wonderful weekend with a most special girlfriend I've not seen in two years. I was thankful to have had some freedom and time away. I was thankful to be home again, close to my little ones. I was thankful to see my husband (and thankful he cleaned up the kitchen before I got home!).

All these feelings of gratitude, as well as the approach of Thanksgiving, got me eager to complete my "thankful" banner I started a couple of weeks ago. This is just one of a few banners I've made, inspired by Handmade Home. It was fun picking out the earthy, autumn inspired fabric from my scrap bin. I enjoy making these banners as they are quick, easy and fun. I think it actually helps tie this space of our home together, which I am constantly struggling with and rearranging!

My friend and I spent the weekend at my parents' house in the Annapolis Valley. I can't tell you how excited I was to find out they had a huge patch of these beautiful Chinese lanterns growing on the edge of their field! I helped myself to a hefty bouquet. They add such a festive fall touch to our dining table this week. The boys and I also made this pretty leaf lantern using an old jar, white glue and fall leaves. The hardest materials to source from this list were the leaves!!! This was a bit frustrating for me, as we don't have very many deciduous trees in our immediate area. The boys and I searched high and low for these leaves. We ended up using bits of fern, along with what I believe is wild choke cherry. We'll have to venture out a little farther for some maple and oak leaves later on this week. Those ubiquitous spruce trees will come in handy for Christmas crafts, so I'm not complaining!

So much to be thankful for this week as we look forward to a fun and happy birthday for Muffy! I can't believe that little monkey will be 5 tomorrow!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Party Prep - (Almost) Junk Free Loot Bags

I can't believe it, but Muffy turns 5 next week! He might think he's a big boy, but I still consider him my little bug. He's super excited about his upcoming bug party! I'm a planner by nature and I don't operate well when things are left to the last minute. I am trying to keep his party pretty simple, but I still had a few things to pull together this week. Early next week I will bake his cake and pop it in the freezer. That will leave cake decorating and snack preparation as my only "to do's" the day of the party. Being organized makes me feel relaxed about the affair and it also ensures I get to truly enjoy the day.

One of my biggest pet peeves about birthday parties is the excess and junk that seem to go hand in hand with such an affair. Most often, they come home with loot bags brimming with dollar store trinkets and loads of candy. In less than 24 hours, most of the items have been broken or forgotten and go straight to the trash can. It's such a waste!

Muffy's party is going to be fairly small and will be held at our home. In addition to three cousins, we've invited three friends. That makes a group of 8, which is pretty manageable. As is tradition at our house, the children will be sent on an outdoor treasure hunt to find their treat bags. With a bit of thought, I believe it is possible to come up with a relatively "junk free" loot bag, filled with a few special items the children will truly enjoy. Junk-free doesn't have to mean super expensive.

To get the kids in the "bug spirit" for their treasure hunt, I decided to make each child a set of bug antenna. I used my glue gun to attach pipecleaners and pom-poms to a headband. This is probably close to being "junk", but I'm at least hoping it will offer an opportunity for dress-up or imaginative play once they take it home. The treat bags will each contain a small bug/pond net that I picked up on sale at the pet store, along with a plastic bug home (a plastic container I poked holes in and stuck a bug sticker on). My own children use these types of nets almost daily - catching anything from frogs, to tadpoles to beetles. I'm hoping they inspire other children to get out and explore as well.

I also made each child a very simple bug journal, by sewing cardstock and printer paper together. I got this great idea from Mary Beth over at Salt and Chocolate. Not wanting to be a total "party pooper", I did include a small amount of candy - a bag of gummy worms and butterflies. I also threw in a "treat" of dried fruit bugs as well. Lastly, I picked up these interesting insect models from Lee Valley. They were just over $2 each and I think they will be fun to sand, assemble and paint - a great rainy day activity!

Muffy in pretty adament that he and his friends make rock bugs at the party. I'm keeping it simple. I pre-painted the rocks myself. Initially, I felt like I was robbing the creativity from the project. Birthday parties are so exciting and over-stimulating, I decided I just wasn't up for 8 kids painting with acrylic paint (the only kind that sticks to rocks) in my dining room. Instead, I'm giving them each some glue, glitter glue, eyes, antenna and markers to embellish the rocks. I think they will have lots of fun with it!

Add some cake, healthy snacks, balloons, and hopefully some sunshine.....and I'm good to go!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Al Fresco Crafting

I'm loving our newly implemented after school "schedule". I use the word schedule very loosely. I've mentally committed to pre-organizing a tiny art or craft activity for the boys on Tuesday afternoons. I'm focusing on keeping it all very light and simple, of course. Otherwise, it will become a burden and I will very quickly fall off the rails!

These sunny fall days are perfect for taking especially messy crafts outdoors. I often find myself avoiding certain activities if I'm too tired or cranky to deal with the inevitable mess. Alfresco crafting solves this dilemma!

The inspiration for yesterday's activity came to us at the bus stop. We've been passing the time waiting for the bus with some sidewalk chalk artwork. This is not something we've done much in the past, since our driveway is gravel and our community lacks sidewalks. We recently took notice of a very tiny patch of asphalt at the end of our driveway. The city paved this area while doing culvert and ditch maintenance a few years ago. Upon noticing our sticks of chalk were nearly worn out, the boys and I decided it might be fun to create our own chalk. A quick check in the art cupboard revealed all items were on hand. Yay! I find it incredibly frustrating to come up with an idea, only to discover I need to make a supply run in the car. We mixed Plaster Paris with a bit paint - it was that simple! I have a couple of flexible silicone molds that come in handy for these types of activities. I've used them in the past for recycled crayons and melt and pour soap. Since they are so flexible, it is very easy to remove the items.

It certainly wasn't hard to convince the boys to get ready for school this morning! They were out the door and running before I had a chance to put the finishing touches on their lunches. The fun bulky shapes were easy for little hands to grasp. This chalk was perhaps a bit harder than the store-bought version, but it seemed to work just fine! I should have given it at least a full 24 hours to dry out, as it was still a bit damp.

Charcoal drawing is another little art activity we performed in the great outdoors recently. A backyard campfire produced all we needed for this one. Chi-Chi grabbed some leftover coals (confirmed to be cooled by Mommy) and headed into his "home of the early people". He's quite fascinated with the life of the Neanderthals. I soon found him documenting his porcupine sighting! So funny. That porcupine ended up blindly lumbering into our garage! (You would think I would learn my lesson to keep that silly door shut)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Lunch for my Bunch

We are into our third week of school, and I have to admit, my heart still aches a bit each morning at the bus stop. This is the very first morning Muffy woke up saying he did not want to go to school. His reason? - "Because I can't eat when I want to!" I knew this was coming! Both my boys are very big eaters, and the school schedule doesn't seem to allow enough time to finish their lunches at a reasonable pace. I put a lot of thought and effort into their lunchboxes, hoping they have enough food to carry them through the day.

My own mother always packed great lunches! At the time, I did not appreciate all her efforts, but looking back, she invested a great deal of time and care to ensure my sister and I ate healthy meals. Thanks Mom!! This week I finally got around to stitching up a few more cloth snack bags for recess. The boys can easily nibble on these portable snacks on the playground. I have been stuffing them with a bit of nut-free "trail mix" that includes cereal, yogurt covered raisins, pumpkin seeds and Annie's organic bunnies. There is also enough room to tuck in a cheese stick, which ensures they get a bit of protein mid morning. I'm still working on eliminating plastic from the lunches. I use the odd plastic container, and I usually wrap the contents in wax paper. I've found it difficult to find small stainless options that the children can open, and glass would not go over well at school. The boys love their little bags, and it is my way of sending a bit of "Mommy's love" along with them. I think it provides more comfort to me than them.....but it makes me feel good anyway!

I spent yesterday making a batch of homemade "pizza pockets" for today's lunch. It is pizza day at the school. The cafeteria brings in fast food pizza on Tuesdays (I will refrain from ranting about this). This causes a tricky situation. I want the boys to feel like they fit in, but I don't want them eating the fast food option. Last year Chi-Chi REALLY wanted it, so I caved and allowed it as a treat twice a month. In the end, I found it coming home untouched. He soon learned it didn't taste that great and reverted back to my homemade version. The pizza pockets fit inside a little thermos and are a bit less messy than pizza slices. I really enjoyed this article in Sparrow Magazine. There are some great tips in there about achieving a balance between "healthy" and "normal" on the school lunchbox front!

I snuck in one more quick, crafty project lastnight. Chi-Chi came home with his first wiggly tooth yesterday. He is absolutely giddy about it. I made this simple tooth fairy pillow from some wool scraps. I contemplated embroidering the details, but decided it would be best not to put bad karma into the gift. There would have been some serious cursing and swearing if I had gone that route. I chose to needle felt the details instead, and I'm pretty happy with the results. I only had room for his initial, instead of his full name, but I think it still adds a personal touch. What's the Tooth Fairy's current going rate for a tooth these days???

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Adorable Acorns and Creepy Crawlers

This past weekend brought lots of sunshine our way. I saw it as the perfect opportunity to get out my felting basin and enjoy some fun soapy, wet activity with the boys. Muffy didn't show much interest in the project! Chi-Chi, however, was right there beside me as we worked on a set of felted acorns for our fall decorating efforts. I was so excited to finally get to this project, which has been on my wish list for quite some time. I wasn't really sure of the best way to approach it, until I found this excellent tutorial! I followed the steps outlined in the video with great success, including the use of both dry and wet felting methods. We even got a little creative as Chi-Chi wanted to create a planet earth. So much fun!

I'm really pleased with the results. In fact, I really need to get out and collect more acorn caps, as I have grand visions of these little beauties dangling from the limbs of my Christmas tree! I think they make such a nice addition to our fall nature table. It was time to pack away the seashore/summer themed decorations in favor of items inspired by autumn. I really enjoy the process of completely refreshing the seasonable table and digging through my tucked away stash of trinkets. It's nice to pull out something that we have not admired in almost a year. The children are always drawn to the new display, and it was not long before I found Muffy adding a touch of colored leaves he collected outdoors. I keep a child-sized chair pulled up to the table so both Chi-Chi and Muffy can spend time admiring and rearranging the items when they see fit.

Our sunny weekend also offered lots of opportunity for backyard exploring. Check out what Muffy carted home from our tiny pond! Ok, I have to admit, I was glad to see it was dead. In fact, I confirmed it was dead before I let it enter our home. Yikes! What is this thing? Big Sister, is this one of those predacious diving beetles???? My bug-lovin' boy was pretty proud of this discovery!

Hoping everyone had a wonderful weekend!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Studio Time

After a busy week of appointments, I carved out a bit of studio time for myself this morning. I'm gearing up for a full weekend with the family, so it was nice to spend some quiet time, picking away on a few little creative projects and puttering a bit.

I've been tinkering with a few ideas this week. I managed to get started on a fall-themed banner for our dining room. It is still a work in progress, but it will say "THANKFUL" when complete. Once again, I found myself digging through that rug hooking wool stash of mine. I'm pleased that I scrounged up enough scraps to create the project from existing materials. I like using bits of fabric that appear in other areas of our lives - the apple fabric from Chi-Chi and Muffy's aprons, the old yellow sheeting from a grocery bag project, the hens and chicks print from the boys' quilts. It seems to tie all aspects of our family life together.

I've had rainbows on my mind lately, thanks to Muffy's rainbow/hose science experiment this week. I dropped by The Loop on Barrington Street in Halifax yesterday. I was in the city for an appointment, and decided to treat myself to a bit of wool. I picked up a some lovely raw fleece in a rainbow of colors. I'm hoping to make some felted acorns very soon!

Last night I found my hands feeling restless, and in need of a quick, mindless little project. I've been wanting to make a set of rainbow gnomes for the boys for quite a long time. Once again, I was so happy to have all the necessary materials on hand. It was a great use of leftover yarn scraps. I was able to crochet the little suits quite quickly and easily. I love quick little projects like this and find them so satisfying. This morning I topped each gnome off with an acorn cap. My husband laughed when he saw them! He commented thatthey look like they're wearing French berets! I guess this is appropriate since the boys are learning French. They can practise their French colors with them! I may give them to Muffy for his birthday, or I may just pull them out as a fun surprise to brighten up a rainy day.

I also crocheted a cuddly rainbow ball for a friend's baby. I have not made one of these balls in a very long time. They are really ideal for toddlers as they are easy to grasp and so warm and soft. A great quick and easy project to satisfy a creative urge.

Anyone else feeling creative these days? Maybe there is something in that fall air (:

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Garden Treats and Family Eats!

Today I went to the dentist for a regular check-up and cleaning. Those of you who know me well know that this is the LAST place on earth I wanted to be on this sunny September morning. You would think that after giving birth to two babies, I'd be over my dental phobia. Apparently, I'm not! The sound and feel of that scraping chills me to the bone. I literally bolted out of the chair when the time was up.

My self-indulgant reward for being such a "brave little girl", and taking the initiative to actually book and attend that appointment, was the purchase of some delicious looking veggie and pork dumplings at a quaint little oriental lunch spot near my dentist's office. I felt I deserved a break from cooking supper least a bit of a break. I'm going to whip up some fried rice and some of our home grown edemame to go with it. I'm SO EXCITED about the edamame harvest that's been going on in our backyard this week! This is always a favorite treat when we go out for Japanese food, so imagine the excitement when I spotted the seeds at the gardening store this spring. Even more exciting, is the fact that they actually grew (unlike other things...). Chi-Chi in particular can't get enough of them. I've included them in lunch boxes this week and they've been a huge hit. I boil them in the pods for 4 minutes and then lightly salt them. We eat them straight from the pods.

I've been thinking a lot about family meals these days. Now that fall is here and our lives seem to follow more of a routine, I'm ramping up my efforts to make mealtimes a bit more of a formal affair. By formal, I don't mean I'm pulling out the silver! Summer meals tend to be quick and casual around here - lots of BBQ'ing, light salads...etc. Less time at the table means more time outside in the summer. I'm a strong believer in sitting down as a family to eat supper - coming together, sharing food, sharing conversation and reconnecting. This can be tricky with my husband's work schedule, which can get pretty hectic. We actually sat down together and discussed ways we can keep this as a priority in our lives. Here's what we came up with.

- He has committed to be home every night for supper at 6pm, unless he simply cannot because of a work engagement. He has enough work on his plate that he could work 24 hours a day. This means that he picks and chooses carefully the events and business meetings he attends in the evenings, accepting those that are necessary.

-On those nights he will be very late for supper, the boys and I will go ahead and eat. I organize a bit of a dessert, so that when Daddy comes home, we can all join him at the table while he eats his reheated supper and we eat dessert. This has worked well and, although it is not perfect, it still brings us together at the table.

-At five o'clock, I often start hearing a bit of whining, "When is supper? I am hungry! When is Daddy coming home?" This can mean a long hour for me! I have come up with a solution that is working. I keep a ready-made tray of veggies and dip in the fridge. Chi-Chi and Muffy are allowed to eat as much from this tray as they wish before supper begins. Honestly, if they "ruin" their supper on carrot sticks and cauliflower, I'm not too concerned.

-I'm very fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom, so I ensure that an activity such as swimming lessons is booked at 4pm. As for our hockey schedule, I think it is ridiculous that 5 and 6 year olds are expected to attend three ice times per week. It is excessive, in my opinion, and limits their ability to be involved in other activities. We skip the mid-week session (which just happens to be right at supper time) and opt for the weekend practices. Twice a week is plenty!

-On mornings Hubby is not working out at the gym, we at least sit down together for breakfast, although it is very informal in nature.

I'm making an effort to set a nice table this time of year, along with fresh flowers and a candle. The children REALLY enjoy the atmosphere the candle provides. They are quick to remind me if I forget to light it. It makes it all feel more special to them I think. We say a little verse, "Hands on your lap, just like that. Bon Appetit, now you may eat." This is from their days at preschool and the tradition has stuck. We also go around the table and each person offers one item from their day that they are thankful for.

So, this is what is working for our family, right now. Things change, of course, but I'm happy with our current situation. What are some of your mealtime rituals? What efforts do you make to ensure your family comes together for meals in your busy lives? I love good ideas!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Week In Review...

With school now in full swing, we are finding ourselves settling into a new routine. Today is the first day I did not follow the school bus to the school! I could not help myself! I think I finally feel comfortable that Muffy knows where he's going and can make his way around. It's a nerve wracking time for parents. The kids are the ones who seem to take it all in stride!

This empty nest of mine is taking some getting used to. On one hand, I'm finding my time very pleasant and productive. On the other hand, I have pangs of loneliness and the overwhelming feeling that my life is going by WAY TOO FAST! I'm no longer a mother of babies and wee ones, but that of school-aged children. I was at the library the other day and saw all the parents with their tots and I found myself teary-eyed and choked up. No more mid-morning skates, no more library dates, no more grocery cart's hard on the heart.

I've been busy finding my own new rhythm, making lists of priorities. I'm trying to make sure I fit in a bit of fun and creativity for myself between all the cooking, cleaning and errands. I'm finding that keeping myself and the house organized allows me to really focus on the children when they hop off the school bus. My goal is to clear my schedule and devote those afternoon hours to them. This means cooking supper in the morning and simply having to re-heat it at dinner time and throw together a salad or veggie plate. It also means I'm putting a bit more thought, effort and planning into our after school hours.

I'm so fortunate to be home with them in those afternoon hours. I want to make the most of our time together. I have intentionally left our schedule very relaxed and free, with just one activity during the week - swimming lessons. That leaves four days without plans. Monday is actually our CSA food box pick up day. The pick up takes a mere 5 minutes, but it is a drive from out home. I've decided to pick up the kids from school on that day and do something fun while we wait for the pick up time. This fun activity will vary from week to week. This week it was a walk on the boardwalk and beach, topped off with an ice cream. It could be a trip to the playground, a trip to a coffee shop...etc. I've committed to organizing some small activity each of the other days to add a sense of rhythm to our week:

Monday - Fun Outing/CSA Pick Up
Tuesday - Art or Crafts
Wednesday - Nature & Science
Thursday - Swimming
Friday - Cooking or Baking

I think it covers most of the areas that are important to me. My boys need lots of physical activity and outdoor play, and I also want to ensure they have the opportunity for ample creative time.

This might look overly structured, but trust me it's not! Nature day last week was a walk to the beach....but they pretty much spend hours outside exploring every day! It just means that on that particular day, I put at least some thought into what we might like to do. I ensures I have the materials on-hand and easily accessible for a project. Arts and crafts day today involved 30 seconds of prep time on my behalf - digging through the drawer for straws. We made straw rockets today. I showed the boys the idea and they spent the next hour making up their own versions - from space shuttles, to fighter jets to chickadees! Tomorrow is "science day". Chi-Chi wants to make a menthos/soda pop volcano and Muffy wants to try to make rainbows with the hose. I tell you, very simple! Some days, I will certainly put more preparation and effort into our activities, depending on my mood, energy level, the weather, and the level of desire. All in all, I want to make sure both boys have time to unwind and relax afterschool and focus on their personal interests. The first thing they do when they run through the door is put on their PJ's, then a snack, of course. From there, I follow their lead, but I do like to have some fun ideas in my back pocket.

I'm already enjoying organizing our week in this fashion. I'm interested in spending more time looking through Action Pack for ideas. Anyone have any suggestions for other great resources?

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A Wonderful Weekend

On this Sunday evening, I find myself gearing up for the busy week ahead. We are all still adjusting to "back to school", so my mind is on bus schedules, lunch boxes and clean school clothes. I thought I'd take a quick moment to share some photos from this past weekend. So many moments that make me smile here! We stuck fairly close to home, tinkering in the garden, the yard, the kitchen and a nearby beach.

Oh, those boys of mine made me laugh today. I found them dressed in full battle gear, up to no good in their "secret hideout". They had confiscated an entire box of spare blades from Daddy's new reciprocating saw and were preparing for a very secretive and dangerous mission. I am a lover of dress up clothes! They are a staple in our everyday play around these parts. I've been trying to convince Chi-Chi all week that his skeleton costume is simply not a suitable choice for school. Though interesting, and adorable I might add, it would be a bit distracting in class! I made these knight costumes over a year ago and finally pulled them out of my stash this morning. I guess I was waiting for the right mood and moment! I'm thinking they would be perfect for Halloween....but I have a feeling I might be whipping up some spider costumes this year. It is all about bugs, bugs, bugs with that Muffy of mine. (I realize a spider is not technically a bug, but it creeps and crawls so it fits the bill)

We took a short jaunt to a nearby beach for an afternoon family outing today. What a gorgeous place. Low tide always provides the most perfect opportunity for discovery. Chi-Chi and Muffy had so much fun mucking around the tide pools, marvelling at the thousands of periwinkles. We came home with more miscellaneous bones for that growing collection of ours!

Hockey season is fast approaching. I have to admit, it feels too much like summer to even contemplate sitting around an icy cold rink. I don't understand the Canadian obsession with playing hockey all year round (I'll save my rant for another day). Anyway, Muffy will be joining big brother on the ice this year, so we did an equipment inventory this weekend to see what pieces we need to pick up. I love this shot of my sweetie enjoying a quiet moment of reading with all that gear loaded on. It really demonstrates his many sides - rough and tumble, yet sweet, curious and contemplative.

Hoping everyone enjoyed a wonderful weekend as we did!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Just In Time

Fall is in the air today! It's the first morning I've noticed that distinct crispness in the air. It gets me in the mood for all sorts of autumn goodness - apple crisp, wood stove warmth, woodland hikes and knitting, of course!

Yesterday I finished up the Tea Leaves sweater I've been picking away at all summer. It's ready just in time for the chill in the air. I think I'm happy with the final results. It's a bit bigger than I would prefer, even after making some adjustments to the pattern. I also had some major problems blending in different skeins of yarn. Since I dyed the wool myself in different batches, it was impossible to achieve a perfect and seamless match. I do love those buttons and the color is exactly what I was going for.

Now that my sweater is complete, it's time to move on to some winter woollies for the boys. This week we pulled our Queen Anne's Lace blooms out of the freezer and picked a hearty batch of fresh goldenrod for the dye pot. For anyone interested in natural dyeing, there is a ton of information on the net. I'm no expert and I tend to just experiment and tinker with such things. I used alum as a mordant to help the dye "stick" to the wool. This simply involved simmering my skeins in a water/alum solution for approximately 45 minutes. I then placed my skeins in a roasting pan, along with the dye stuff and water. I wrapped the blooms loosely in cheesecloth in an effort to keep my wool free of leaves and other organic bits (bugs! spiders!). I also tucked in a bunch of tea bags here and there. I like the golden effect the tea adds. Plain goldenrod is just a bit too bright for my liking. I also prefer dyeing in a roasting pan as opposed to a pot. This allows the wool to have varying contact with the dyestuff and produces a mottled effect that I really like. I baked everything at 350 Celsius for about 40 minutes and allowed it to sit and cool overnight.

The skeins are currently drying in the morning sun. I think some cozy Saturday night knitting and a movie might be on the agenda this evening. The boys will each have a new hat and mittens for the fall and Muffy will likely be sporting a new sweater vest. Perhaps this color would not be my first choice had I been using my chemical dyes, but somehow it is perfect and I love it. The hues remind me of a November landscape, when the leaves are but a memory and the grasses have all turned golden and brown. For any fellow knitter who is frustrated with their kiddies turning up noses to those adorable hand-knits... involving them in the process REALLY does work. The boys are genuinely excited about their new hats and they will guaranteed be happy to wear them. The fact that they hand picked baskets of Queen Anne's Lace and goldenrod and helped me with the dye bath really gave them a sense of pride and ownership in the project.

Does any other crazy knitter out there use their wool as a decorative accent? I recently filled this antique wooden bowl with a selection of my natural dyeing experiment results. Natural dyes really do provide a more subtle, earthy effect that I'm drawn too! It's worth giving it a try!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Hip Happenings

I love the tangled array of hues of the September garden. While the summer blooms bid farewell with the rattling of their leaves and seedpods, others are just making their first appearance. My brown-eyed-susans and false sunflowers are offering the most brilliant splash of yellow to my landscape. I always keep a fresh bouquet of them on our dining table this time of year, keenly aware that before long, they too will be gone.

When Hubby and I built out home, one of our very first landscaping efforts involved the planting of rugosa roses. I have a long-standing love of beach roses. As a young girl, I used to gather their delicate petals and sprinkle them in my drawers in an effort to perfume my nightgowns. They were not planted solely for their beauty and charm. We wanted something that would actually grow and thrive in this harsh coastal environment. These tough plants were pretty much a sure hit. Little did I know that once they finished blooming, they would offer another treat, to both the eyes and tastebuds. I love the vibrant speckling of red the rosehips add to my fall garden. Not only are they pretty to look at, but edible and healthy as well. A couple of years ago I tinkered with making rose hip jelly. I have to admit, it wasn't the tastiest and had a hard time competing with my homemade raspberry jam. I've found that the cleaned and de-seeded rosehips are put to better use in our morning smoothies and baking. De-seeding is an important step as the fuzzy seeds can be hard on the digestive track. I cut the hips in half and scoop the seeds out with my finger under running water. I've found this works really well. I then pop them in the freezer and add them to smoothies as I would any other berry. I've also added them to muffins, apple crips and cake - usually using them as I would slice apples.

Last weekend I spent some time both gathering and cleaning my hips, as I had grand plans to make a yummy rosehip cake. Chi-Chi was off to a birthday party, so I enlisted Muffy's assistance in the kitchen. Well, my sweet boy was so excited to be assigned baking duties with some one-on-one time with Mommy. As head chef, he called all the shots! That yummy rose hip cake I was dreaming of turned out to be an incredibly delicious chocolate zuchinni cake instead! I have to admit, I didn't protest. I popped the rosehips in the freezer! Who is going to refuse chocolate cake? And yes, the boy does dishes too!