Saturday, January 29, 2011

Skating on the pond

This was, truly, one of the best birthday parties that we have ever been invited to. Playing on a huge snow pile in the yard of our friends farm, a hay wagon ride back to a beaver pond in the woods, hockey on the pond, s'mores by the camp fire, and then back to the house for cake and ice cream. Pardon me if this post is a little heavy on the pictures, but it was too beautiful to pass up....

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Muffin Tin Bird Feeders

Our little feathered friends have been away from out back yard for a few days (perhaps because we have been too scattered to go buy more sunflower seeds?!?!) so the boys and I decided to make a little treat to lure them back.

I found this recipe written on a scrap of paper in my idea file, so unfortunately I am not exactly sure where it originally came from, but here it is anyway:

Mix together 3/4 cups of flour and 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup water and 3 tbsp corn syrup. Add water and syrup to flour mixture and stir well. Stir in 4 cups of birdseed.

Spoon the mixture into greased muffin tins about 3/4 full.

Use a small measuring cup or spoon to press the seed mixture firmly into the tins. Use a bamboo skewer or straw to make a hole in centre of each filled muffin tin.

Let the seed cakes set / dry for 3 hours, and then gently remove them from the tins. Put them onto a cooling rack and let dry for another 8 hours or overnight. String them onto ribbons and hang out for the birds!!

Now all we can do is wait...please come back birdies - we miss you!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On the ice...

We are a in a little bit of a panic around here these days, owing to the 2 (!!!) invitations to skating birthdy parties that arrived in the past few days. We are not what you would call avbid skaters in this house, and the boys were feelign a bit self conscious about getting on the ice with their hockey-playing friends.

I thoguht taht I woud share a bit of teh encouragement that the boys sent my way as we hit the rink this week to get in some practice begore the parties....

Way to go Mama - good trying!!!
You can do it, butt-girl!! (as in falls on her ...)
You have to let go of the side if you really want to skate!
Don't worry Mama. I will show you where all of the slippery parts are....

Bad, bad Canadian Mama who can't skate.....

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Good Indignation

A good indignation brings out all one's powers.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dear Diary...

I have to share with you all my favorite 'writing' exercise. This falls into the homeschooling part of things, but it is really so much more than that. I have always loved journalling. I have diaries that I began keeping while in public school, and that have carried me through high school (when I wrote a lot!!) and into early adulthood. Since having kids it has been harder and harder to find the time, and I have really missed getting my thoughts and feelings down on paper. I lamented not having the time to do this one little thing that used to be such a big part of who I am.

Until Grammy came for a visit, that is. Sometimes it takes someone a little outside of the situation to point out the obvious, doesn't it?

Anyway, upon Grammy's advice, the boys now each have a diary for themselves. They are beautiful hardcover books, the kind of journal that I would be thrilled to write in. And they do write!!

Several times a week the boys and I all search out our diaries from their respective hiding spots and settle in for some journalling - me at the desk, William under the desk, and Charlie behind the futon. There are only 2 rules for this time of day - we must respect other people's privacy and look at their pages only if invited, and it is a quiet time for us to be alone with our thoughts and words (they are still working on that one!!). It is truly lovely. There is never a word of protest when I ask if they want to get their diaries.

William is writing up a storm, knowing that no one will be checking his spelling or grammar. I get some time to take up again the writing that I have sorely missed, and Charlie feels so grown up with a beautiful book just like Mama.

Happy kids, happy Mama.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Junior Archeologists

For Christmas, both boys received some sort of archeology dig set - Charlie's dig was for dinosaur bones, and William's was for gems. They loved getting them out this morning and getting cracking.

We have a bit of a stash of tools from past kits, and they had a blast getting themselves (and the whole kitchen!) covered in dust. The process of digging out their treasures was fun, but we all admit to being somewhat disappointed by the results. The dino bones were very thin, and made of brittle plastic that broke as Charlie was getting them out. Williams gems, which looked to be the size of walnuts on the package, were more like peas, and were all clustered in the middle of the block at that.

I got to thinking that really it can't be that hard to make these 'treasure blocks', so I did a bit of digging myself and I came across this post for a make-it-yourself recipe. I have yet to try it at home, but it is certainly on the to-do list. Not only can we make them for a lot cheaper than we can buy them, but I can add all sorts of 'treasures' inside that won't disappoint.

I will let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sugar Cystals

Not that any of us needed any more sugar these days, but after several weeks (months?) these sugar crystal lollys that the boys have been making were ready to taste. This was part of one of those impromptu science lessons that seemed to come up out of nowhere. I think it actually started with a close look at the table salt, followed by an exploration of some snow flakes, then a peek at the pepper shaker (nope - not a crystal!) and then, delight of delights, the sugar. When the kids learned that not only was sugar already a crystal, but that we could make it into even bigger crystals, well, the 'scientist' in them just took over.

Our crystals took a very long time to grow, but here is the basic recipe in case you want to try:

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Pour into a class jar, and very slowly stir in 3 cups of sugar one teaspoon at a time. Don't rush this step or it will slow the process down in the long run. Keep adding the sugar until it no longer dissolves and gathers at the bottom of the jar. You can add a few drops of food coloring at this point if you like. The put a bamboo sticks into he jar, and wait...and wait....and wait.

Just when you are about to toss the whole thing, you will see crystals forming on the stick. Keep it growing until it reaches a yummy size, and then enjoy!

2 Important Notes:Firstly, if you have a microscope, or even magnifying glass, make sure to take a good look at the crystals before they are eaten. They are absolutely beautiful!

Secondly, if you have more than one child, make sure to make a crystal lolly for each of them, in separate jars. Trying to make more than one in each jar may end up with all stuck together, and not so easy to share.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Litle More Birthday...

William had a wonderful birthday party today with both sides fo the family and a few close friends.


And Lego...

What more could an eight-year-old ask for?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What we are reading today...

I confess that I am not much of a winter person. The boys are eager to get all decked out in 12 layers of clothing and plow through the snow, whereas I hate to be all bundled up, and tend to bring a coat only in case I end up in a ditch somewhere. In my mind, snow is lovely to look at from the warmth of the fireside, curled up with a cup of tea and a good book....I know, it is shameful for a Canadian Woman to feel such things, but there you have it.

Anyway, the snow keeps the kid outside during the day, but the early sunsets draw them inside to my lair for some snuggles and reading before it gets too late. Here is what we are enjoying right now....

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel (1970). Will loves the Frog and Toad books - perfect for beginning readers. There are enough words on each page, and enough of a story that it feels like a 'real book', but it is easy enough that he doesn't get discouraged. We both get incredibly frustrated with the leveled readers you find in book stores and the local library, for the most part - they are either too complicated for his level right now, or the stories are dull and excruciating for us both to read and listen to.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S.Lewis I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be reading this series (the Narnia books) with the boys. We both felt a bit of a let down after finishing Harry Potter and wanted another series that we could dive into and know that we wouldn't have to come up for air for quite a while. As an added draw, these were the favorite books of my sister and I when we were young. Mom would read through the series with us, and as soon as we finished The Last Battle we would be begging her to start at the beginning again.

Stranger in the Woods by: Carl R. Sams and Jean Stoick. If you have never come across this book, it is worth searching out - especially if you have nature / animal lovers in the family. It is a lovely story about woodland animals discovering a snowman in their forest. It is full of photographs rather than illustrations, and they are breathtaking. Deer, chickadees, porcupines and owls fill the pages in beautiful photos that really make the story come alive.

Mummies in the Morning by: Mary Pope Osbourne. Do you have any of these books in the house? Twaddle (isn't that the word that Charlotte Mason uses?)that somehow snuck into the house without your notice, and now the kids don't want to get rid of them? Thank goodness the kids don't ask for these books all that often but Charlie seems to be on a bit of a binge these days. These books are not what I would call stimulating, but at least they are short....

Changing Heaven by Jane Urquhart. I came across this book on my shelf a few days ago, in my pile of 'to read' books that I have picked up at used book stores, garage sales,etc. The authors other book Away is one of my favorites of all time, and although I am just getting started in this one, I am loving it too. Her language is beautiful and is as much of a feast for the senses as you can get from a book. Changing Heaven also floats back and forth between different times and places, which is a trait that I love in books, when it is done well.

Possum Living - How to Live Well Without a Job and With (Almost) No Money by Dolly Freed. This gem was on my Christmas list, and I am so thankful to have family members who went to the trouble of tracking it down. It was written in 1978 by an 18 year old girl with a 7th grade education, and tells how she and her father, "The Old Fool" live outside of normal economic society. You need to, of course, take this tale with a grain of salt, but it paints a wonderful picture of an alternative way of life. This is not one of the back-to-the-land books typical of the time, but definitely the musings of a younger writer whose approach to things is less than completely thought out. None-the-less, a fun read if you are into this sort of thing.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Quote of the Day

If we have not been helped to see how our life can be useful to the world beyond ourselves, we fail to harvest the full return on our labour.
~William Coperthwaite

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Science Co-op - floating structures

The boys enjoyed science co-op again this week, although I had to miss it because of work (sigh). Hubby Jim took them, and our friends Henri and his dad Tristan graciously took some pics for us. The boys worked together to build a structure that could not only float, but support a 2lb weight as well. They always love the building part of these days, but the 'testing' to see if their creations can do what they intended is always a time of great tension, excitement, and pride. I think that we have some engineers in the making...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rock Climbing

I have had these pics around for a few weeks (months?) now, and wanted to get them up here. Our local rock climbing gym has a great drop-in program for kids on Saturday mornings - 2 hours of climbing and games for $5. You just can't beat that. I especially love the way the boys test themselves - pushing themselves to climb farther up each time. William is all about heights (and therefore the ride down, which I think he enjoys most of all) and Charlie is like a little monkey, staying fairly close to the ground but holding on with what seem to be precious few fingertips. It amazed me how much the kids enjoy being physical - seeing what their bodies can do, how far / fast / high they can go. And yet there is such a problem with childhood obesity these day. I could go on, but won't - I feel another rant about 'time' coming on.....

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Birthday William!!

8 years ago, my very first little baby was born. Sigh - he is very far from being a baby anymore. I do miss those early days, but he is also so great now. We can share a conversation, read together, and still (always, I hope!) cuddle.

To celebrate his special day today, William took the reins. We started off with chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and then headed into Toronto to the ROM together.

William was thrilled with his gift - a real camera to replace the very old and ridiculously unreliable one that he has been using. I anticipate many William photo posts to come!

And of course, the day ended with his favorite dinner - fish and chips, and birthday cake.

Now we are off to bed early to enjoy cuddles and an extra few chapters of reading The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis, the book of the week.

Happy Birthday, William!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


No day is so bad it can't be fixed with a nap.
~ Carrie Snow