Saturday, February 27, 2016

His Second

I'm sure I say this every time one of my children has a birthday but I can't believe it's been a year already. Little F is two! Seems like it was not that long since I was curling up in the very bed he was born in, snuggling his sweet, rosy, tiny newborn body and inhaling that intoxicating new baby scent. There are still days when he in lying in my arms, quietly nursing and gazing into my eyes, that I can only see that little baby. Other days, he is such a big boy. He loves to be my helper, climb and run. He loves cats, trucks and being in water. He is A's biggest fan and loves his grandma to bits. I don't think I could possibly love him more.

Since he really loves his family most of all, we kept his birthday low-key. A, F and I went to the store and got him his favorite snacks for lunch (seaweed chips and cantaloupe) and got him a couple birthday balloons. He's been really struggling with an inflamed airway so stayed home in the afternoon. Grandma came to visit and F got to open his few, special presents. Mom and Dad got him a running bike! Grandma got him a special chair of his very own for camping and a sweet little toy. I think he loved the cards more though. A made him a very special card. She used almost all of her favorite stickers she had been saving. Little gestures of love like that fill my heart with so much happiness.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


The weather is getting warmer by the day. We are having more sunny days and are going with out jackets more often. The buds are on the trees and bulbs are blooming. It's time to begin the garden. We have major changes in the works so I can't dive right in yet but I can do starts. After many an incident with our starts inside our house I made plans to raise my transplants in the garage. We have a south facing window that would work for seedlings but I decided this year to give the seeds a boost with a warming mat and a grow light. I started four tomato varieties, asparagus and echinacea. None have sprouted yet so I can't say yet if the warming mat and light has made a difference.

I have a confession to make. We lost our bees. Our hives were lost to American Foulbrood. It was crushing. It still breaks my heart. We worked so hard to protect them from pesticide poisoning and wasp predation that when it took hold I couldn't stand the idea that we couldn't help them. It was fast and bad. I've missed my many winged friends. I found a complete hive in our garage that we had been saving for a swarm. Foulbrood is so deadly to bees that the hive needs to be burned. Luckily this single hive was completely unaffected by the disease. It did however fall victim to wax moth so the frames need to be replaced. I gave the hive a new coat of paint and we are going to assemble frames in preparation for a new colony. I'm so excited, it's been too long without the buzz of bees.

I have so many ideas and plans that I've decided to start a planner to keep them all together. Sketches of the garden, grow charts, seed lists, other notes all in one place. I hope that when planning the garden in future years that I can look back at these notes and use them to make the best garden possible.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Best Kind of Bubbles

It all started with kombucha. I love kombucha and I was drinking a couple bottles a week. Well, at $5 per bottle it was really adding to our grocery bill. I had researched kombucha making before but it made me nervous. To be honest, all fermentation made me nervous. I made a few batches of sauerkraut a couple summers ago and they all developed mold. I felt like fermenting was not something to be done in my home.

Before venturing into fermentation any further I decided I needed to know more. I ordered The Art of Fermentation. It has just about anything you could want to know about fermenting in it.  Kombucha seemed like a really good place to start. I didn't need a fancy jar, weights or any special equipment, just tea, sugar and SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). I was lucky to find a local pal willing to share a SCOBY so I jumped right in.

Kombucha making has been so easy and delicious. I've been experimenting with second ferments with my booch. So far, I'm head over heals for ginger lemon. Once I felt good about my kombucha I needed to explore this fermentation thing further. I got kefir grains from another local pal and started trying my hand at water kefir. I don't like it as much as kombucha but it's much faster. Again, second ferments are where I'm focusing right now. Pineapple water kefir was really tasty.

I had read in an issue of Taproot that many people ferment their condiments such as mustard and ketchup. I recently started sprouting seeds and with my starter kit I got a package of yellow mustard seeds. I decided to give grainy mustard a try. It's still not quite ready though I did add a couple tablespoons to our Sloppeh Joe mix the other night for some kick! I'm definitely making ketchup next. My kids love ketchup with everything so if they get a dose of probiotics with their ketchup all the better.

Early in my fermentation journey I started a sourdough starter. It seemed so simple; water and flour left out for several days to collect wild yeast. Needless to say, it was not nearly as simple as I imagined. It needed to be fed twice daily and mine just never seemed to have enough yeast for a good loaf of bread. Finally, I reached out for support and someone suggested using some kombucha in my start. That was exactly what it needed! Only two days later I was ready to make bread. I played around with the recipe a bit and found a long rising time made a lovely, light loaf. Oh boy it was tasty! Even the kids were reaching for more.

Next in my plan to add more probiotics to our diets is to ferment veggies. I think I will wait until summer though so I can use the vegetables from our garden. Fresh is key with pickling vegetables like cabbage, cucumbers and carrots. I tried pickling beets last month when they were on sale at the store but they did not turn out well. It's a learning process but it's fascinating and fun. I find myself very motivated to keep trying new things when I'm sitting sipping lemon water kefir and munching fresh sourdough.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Lot of Love

I love Valentine's Day. For us it is a day to focus on filling the love cup of those we love the most. Valentine's Day isn't about the romance or even the commercialism but it's about love. In our home, it's actually Love Day. Just days after A's birthday she was asking to get ready for Valentine's Day so we had plenty of time to do lots of little fun things.

The first thing we did was make some special mailboxes for little love notes. I found a kit that had everything we needed. A did the decorating for both her and her brother. In the spirit of the day, A had wanted to make treats to share with her friends at school. I didn't want to do any food type treats so we did felt butterflies that held a Valentine pencil. She had so much fun she made enough for each of her classmates to have two, plus her teachers and her friend next door! F wouldn't be excluded though, he joined us at the table and made some very sweet heart pictures. Finally, A had asked for something sparkly to decorate her room with. Instead of indulging in glitter, we made Borax crystal hearts then hung them above her bed. They were easy and fun. We stuck the hearts in the borax solution before bed and when she woke, A found they were covered with glistening crystals.

The night before Valentine's Day, I filled each child's mailbox with little love notes. I used fun stickers, wrote notes like "I love your laugh" and "I love your hugs", left little poems on paper hearts "I loved you before, I love you still, I always have, I always will".  They each got a Valentine's pencil for writing their own love notes and a Valentine's straw for a special treat (hot chocolate!). I found some organic dark chocolate hearts at the grocery store so they each got one and I whipped up two little love mice from some Kisses.  My sweet friend dropped off a book for each of them. It was a wonderful morning of reading love notes, sharing sweets, giving hugs, doing favors and spreading joy and love.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

In the Playroom

In our home we only have 3 bedrooms. When we learned we were expecting our second child I thought we would have the perfect number of rooms. However once we added another small person into our lives I found the bedrooms became cluttered with playthings. So about a year ago I decided I'd rather have my children share a room for sleep and have a room devoted just to play. It has worked out very well for us. Not only do we have almost no toys in the rooms we sleep in but they have space to play that they didn't before.

Play is so essential to child development. I will be the very first to admit my house is a mess. I work part-time, I have two high energy children, I have little closet space in the my house. However, I always make time to clean the playroom. I just feel that if that room is messy it limits how they can play. I want them to play as much as they can. They are building essential skills and that's important to me.

I have a preference for open-ended toys. You won't find battery operated toys here. I prefer no plastic but A has a small basket of My Little Ponies that I don't protest. We also allow lego blocks. Though we also have plain wooden blocks that get used often. We have a large basket of dress-up as well as our colorful playsilks. The playsilks get used almost more than the dress-up!

Even before F was born, I had a child-size table set up in our home. It's where my children do their artwork, crafts and practice writing. I've strung a line up for A to display her favorite finished pieces. Her art shelf is stocked with several paper types, paints, block crayons, pencil crayons, stickers, playdough and their supplies, flower press, a bead box and her craft basket. In that basket I've added some yarn for finger knitting, wool roving, buttons, washi tape, lacing cards and any other craft bits I find.

I have a book addiction. It's true. I'm a sucker for books. I've been really striving to limit how many books we own. We live so close to a good library that there isn't much reason to store the books in our home. The books for the children that I've felt are special enough to keep are housed in the playroom. Along with puzzles and small hand games, most books are found on the lower shelves.

Finally, my favorite part of the room. Their wooden kitchen was made by their dad. We have a shopping cart from Plan Toys and a child sized broom. Most of what is in their kitchen though I've found second-hand. We did get a few ceramic tea cups from Ikea but the rest I've found at thrift stores or consignment shops. One of the things I love about the wood kitchen is that once a month we give the kids rags with a bit of beeswax polish and they help us polish and care for the kitchen.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Starfish Buddies :: A Tutorial

When I was planning A's birthday party I knew I wanted to give her friends something small for joining us that day. I looked around in several stores but I wasn't at all impressed with all the plastic, made in China bits I found. So I decided to make something. I thought of making little mermaids or little whales but then this idea came to me and it seemed just right.

You will need:
At least one sheet of felt (one sheet makes 2 buddies)
Embroidery thread
An embroidery needle
A starfish template
Straight pins
A peg doll
Optional: wool or cotton stuffing or pipecleaner

Start by folding your sheet of felt in half. Using straight pins, pin the template to your felt (I drew my own but you can find lots of templates online). Cut out and remove template. Then cut out a 1.5in by 3-3.5in rectangle.

Thread your embroidery needle then stitch a small star in the middle of the rectangle. Pin the rectangle to the front of one piece of your starfish. I like to stick the peg doll in to make sure I've got enough space. Then I just did two rows of straight stitch on each side to hold it snug.

Using the straight pins again, pin the two starfish pieces together. Anchor your thread inside the starfish then begin stitching together using a blanket stitch. If you haven't done blanket stitch yet check out a video tutorial. Stitch all the way around, removing pins as you go, until only one arm remains open.

At this point you can decide if you want to stuff it so it's all puffy or add a pipecleaner skeleton so it's poseable or leave it flat. You might even consider gluing small magnets on the inside so your starfish buddy can stick to your fridge. It's really up to you how you'd like to finish it. I decided to stuff them since these were intended for small hands. I used a pencil to stuff the wool down into arm. Once all four arms were stuffed and the main body was firm, I stitched up one side of the remaining arm. I then stuffed the final arm and stitched it close.

Finish by tying a small knot at the back of your buddy and snipping the thread. Lastly decide if you want your peg buddy plain or decorated. I painted simple hair, drew on some sleepy eyes and decorated the body with washi tape. Stick your peg buddy in his little pouch and your starfish buddy is complete!

The Fifth

My girl is five! This week we celebrated her fifth trip around the sun. Birthday's are always bittersweet. When decorating or planning I like to look back over the past year. I always forget how quickly they change and grow. I'm proud of who she is becoming though, she's got a wonderful heart.

A was lucky. She got two parties this year. We celebrated on her birthday with the people who love her most; her family. We had her favorite dinner and a cake of her choosing. We also gave her her few special gifts. For her birthday this year I knit her a horse friend. She's been telling me that horses are her favorite so I knew this was the perfect pattern. I'm so glad she loves it.

For her party with her friends she requested a swim party. She told me she wanted to be a mermaid. So we planned a party at the local recreation centre. I tried to do an under the sea theme for my little mermaid. My talented friend made starfish cupcakes and I made little starfish buddies for her friends. She had so much fun. Two hours didn't seem long enough. I guess we can say that birthday weekend has been a big success!

The beautiful letters hanging over A's birthday display were printed from here.