Keepin’ warm

Hope you all have been keeping warm what with that Polar Vortex and all.  Seriously?  Polar Vortex?  How is it I’ve lived in Canada my entire life and have never heard of such a thing. It sounds so glamorous and sexy…and maybe a bit terrifying.  To be honest having ice everywhere hasn’t been very fun and has made getting outside a bit of a challenge.  So the kids are stacking ice instead of making snowmen.  Our efforts to walk more and drive less are still being met at least partially since J has a pair of yaktrax.  I’m gonna need a pair if things don’t change soon.  The rest of the time you can find us in the backyard, away from the ice damaged tree branches doing things like this:playhousedrivethroughI think this means we can officially give the hideout a designation of a ‘drive-thru’.  Just ski up and get a cup of hot chocolate.  Devine!

IMG_2253The hideout kitchen is always hoping.  Apparently these kids are messy cooks though…oh well, not my house.  I should point out as well that the solar lights are working out really well in case anyone was considering them for their own outdoor sheds, playhouses and what-not.  In this picture we have one of these solar lights turned on and you can see how well the place is lit.

IMG_2254And of course the place looks so cute lit up on the outside as well.  The Missus has been using it as a home base when she skis around the yard.  She always checks in with “Coach” aka her dad regarding her form and speed.  It is just about as adorable as you can get.

IMG_2264See?  Adorable.  And warm and cozy.  Despite all this Polar Vortex nonsense.

What are you doing to stay warm and keep your winter spirits up?

10 things I’m in love with right now…

1. Needing to shut off the light in her microscope every night for the past 4 nights when checking in on Lil’S before I head to bed.

2.  Sipping hot chocolate rink-side with Mrs. Iverson and having her turn to me and say “mama,  I love everything!” (she is not one to limit her love to a mere 10 things).

3.  Listening to cousins play together, especially when the 11-year-old is just as into it as the 4 year olds.

4.  Meandering through vintage shops and architectural salvage haunts picking up needed bits to finish off the kitchen.

5.  Listening as my daughter composes a song on the piano that she is working hard to have sound like “morning, birds and joy”.

6.  Watching the Missus channel Robert Munch himself as she read “50 below zero” to her newest cousin during his visit.

7.  Surprise visits from metropolitan uncles.

8.  Walking to school in snowstorms.

9.  Skiing at night with a really great bunch of women.

10.  Joining in spontaneous singing of Ho! Hey! by the Lumineers ,with the rest of the patrons at the coffee shop while my children danced.

This moment

Joining Soulemama today for {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Hmmm, about that “no words” thing…I’m breaking the rules.  I love this picture.  I love living so near to a university that my children get to participate in research.  “Science is REAL mom!” they said when we left.  A great lesson.  Also a great lesson for Lil’S:  Science is a little bit boring.  Yes dear, it can be. 

Happy Canada Day weekend!

Such a lovely weekend!  It is easy to get excited when you have a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old absolutely thrilled with all of the festivities going on around town.  Friday, J had his last day of work while the girls and I picked raspberries and strawberries at Fruition Berry Farm north of the city and met up with friends at the splash pad and beach at Joel Stone Park in Gan.

Not one to miss an opportunity to dress up, Mrs. Iverson made a splash picking berries in a dress and crown.  “Princesses looove strawberries”.  It is true, they do!

Lil’S chose more practical attire but still turned heads in her vintage Kids CBC t-shirt.  Notice the bottom of the shirt cinched with a hair elastic of to the side!  I totally remember doing this as a kid but have no idea where she got this bit of flare from…

A headless “Venus of Willendorf” shaped strawberry.  She tasted pretty good too!

I am so glad the girls and I went.  They loved picking the raspberries and we devised a great team approach with Mrs. Iverson taking the low berries, Lil’S the medium height branches and me taking from the top.  Strawberries were a little harder to get at but we had a great time none the less.

Saturday morning we started working on this:

I could look at this sign all day it makes me so happy.  See the lemon and the pitcher down at the bottom?  Love, love, love!  Lil’S and her friend B were so very excited to have a lemonade stand.  We made two kinds of homemade lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade and Regular Lemonade.  Well, I suppose there were three types, strawberry, regular organic and regular regular.  The stuff made with organic lemons was hands down the best.  I couldn’t believe there was a difference!  Try it you’ll see.

See?  I told you they were excited!

Their first and best customer was Mrs. Iverson decked out in her Stepford wives dress.

Ah, refreshing.  Such a great idea this lemonade stand was.  S got to reconnect with her friend.  Both got a great lesson in business administration and the stand was so darn adorable (did you notice the fresh-cut flowers on the stand?) that we met even more of our neighbours.  The girls, anxious for customers did do a door to door campaign at one point and a “running down the street with their sign” campaign.  They yelled “Come and get your fresh, homemade lemonade!” over and over.  So cute.

We finished up the weekend by heading to Gan for the fireworks there.  It felt so special lying on the hill on a blanket snuggling my girls. The fire-flies did their part keeping the girls entertained while we were waiting for things to start.  A friendly stranger went around to all of the children and passed out sparklers.  It was so sweet!  It didn’t take long for the kids to start visiting other blankets in search of those people who might have brought a lighter or some matches.  By the time the show started we had interacted with all of the families on blankets around us – a great way to create instant community.

Lil’S decked out in red and white (I made her skirt out of an old ikea duvet cover using the twirly skirt pattern from Sew Liberated.  Mrs. Iverson went in her pjs.

Not a bad way to end a great weekend (excuse the poor quality blackberry shots).  The kids were asleep in seconds afterwards.

Did you have a good weekend?  How did you celebrate Canada’s birthday?

Happy Summer Solstice

I am not a born gardener.  I am a born flower appreciator but really that is where my skills end.  Before we moved into this house it had only been owned by one other family.  My 91-year-old neighbour Jean has told me a little bit about this family.  The mother, Flora was an exceptional gardener.  And so through no talents of my own, we enjoyed Lily of the Valley, tulips of all kinds, Irises, Hostas, Lillies this Spring.  And now for summer we walk out into the backyard to take in all of these…

This beauty started poking through the growing grasses overtaking the flower beds.  Thank goodness I waited until now to start pulling “weeds” or we might have missed it!

So many roses!

And climbing vines!

Oh and peonies…these don’t grow where I’m from…

And Mrs. Iverson’s favourite snowballs to remind us of what did grow in our forest home.  I’m loving summer already!

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!!

Lil’S woke up first thing this morning and scanned the yard for litter.  She somehow got it into her head that that was what we were supposed to do for Earth Day – pick up garbage.  It is not that that is a bad way to honour the earth, but I was imagining something more along the lines of THIS fine idea by the folks at Imagine Childhood.

There truly wasn’t much garbage to pick up so that activity was short-lived.  Next J and the girls then met up with some friends and walked down to Queen’s University to check out some flying squirrels as part of their earth day celebrations.  Lil’S tells me it looked like this:

And we went for a walk (how happy does a baby carrying, dog-walking kid make this mama?):

Lil’S stopped to practice drawing the flowers she saw:

Which she then used to make this (gotta love the studious approach to creating):

All in all a pretty nice day.  We are quite enjoying the activities that abound here in Kingston on days like these.  Speaking of, I didn’t have time to blog about the Earth Hour Celebrations put on by Kingston Unplugged a little while ago but I did want to share with you how wonderful it was…and suggest you definitely attend next year.  It was magnificent!

Country mouse, city mouse

We are really happy with our recent move to the city.  It does seem to be in opposition to what I see most of my online and blogging friends doing (and some real life ones as well).  Most people seem to be saving up for or buying country properties, procuring small farm animals, growing their own food etc.  I guess I need to search out more urban homesteading and living lightly in the city type sites to keep us on track and in good company : )

I do find myself a bit surprised by how smooth the transition was/is and by how easily we slid back into our urban pre-kid lifestyle.  The kids adjusted really well…so much so it was actually anticlimactic (no need for all those “moving day” and “making new friends” books from the library really). Even I’m doing okay…and I LOVED our old house.  That house was our dream house.  You know, the one you dream of but never get?  That was it.  The first month we moved in I kept pinching myself to make sure it was real.  Friends visited and felt like they were in a secluded cabin getaway forest paradise.  And of course, they were!  Our annual Solstice celebration had a winter wonderland setting.  So truly, my biggest worry was how I was going to react to moving.  Would I be in a funk over the move? A depression about loss of the forest and river and passive solar house and walk-in closets (so superficial I know!), and my soaker bathtub (so welcomed by my post-birth-attending body), and the birds and the wildlife and cross-country skiing straight out from our front door…and I do miss that.

I wasn’t kidding when I said we went skiing out the front door.

There was nothing better than drying the girls off in front of the fire after a bath…no woodstove or fireplace in the new house.

Can’t beat getting the kids up in the morning and putting them in front of…the window…

to watch squirrel TV or…

…watch birds.  Our yard was home to so many beautiful creatures, cardinals, blue jays, stick bugs, toads…Remember my post, “Salamanders, Frogs and Worms, OH MY!”?  Telling the kids to “go find some salamanders in the woodpile” was my go-to thing to get them out of my hair while making dinner etc.  Here’s is hoping for some urban creepy crawlies and feathered friends to keep us busy…

photo by Brandy Jackson of http://www.stonewallphotography.com

Did I mention I miss my tub.  Surely you can see why.  I choose this picture, well, because we are clothed in it and because you can see we loved it right from moment one…Eric is still hard at work on the rest of the plumbing while Ivy and I jumped in to try it out.  Heaven I tell you! My new bathroom with its apple green tiles and old school fixtures is vintage awesome…but when the water in your bath doesn’t go more than half-way up your hips…sigh…at least we are conserving water.

This time of year I miss the preparations for tapping our trees.  From our yard we were able to make huge amounts of maple syrup to keep and to give.  I’ll miss the time J and I would spend late at night tending the fire, drinking beer and keeping warm while we (he) painstakingly boiled the sap down…We might try tapping at Grammie and Grandpa’s but that means asking them to do a lot of the work of checking and emptying the buckets…we’ll see if we can hold on to this tradition…

Mostly I miss the view from the windows…snow falling was magical.  Fall was gorgeous.  In summer we were kept well shaded and cool and in spring we watched the beautiful tulips and daffodils pop up and the moss turn bright green…Of course I’ll miss the view from the windows especially because I stared out those windows my entire labour with Ivy.  I remember watching the nearest pine tree and thinking how long it had been standing there and how much wind and rain and snow it had endured and yet it stood strong.  After Ivy was born I sat on the couch and looked out onto the most gorgeous fall day.  I silently thanked the tree for being such a great reminder of my own strength.

Here is that tree in winter…

The incredible colours of our yard in the fall…

The perfect summer setting for our outdoor movie festival (we showed The Princess Bride/Wonder Pets double feature in 2011)

Photo by Brandy Jackson http://www.stonewallphotography.com

Picking flowers in the spring.  This yard was also an endless supply of sticks and acorns and leaves and rocks – we will need to find a new source for our craft supplies!

And finally I’ll miss walks down our road and down by the river…

I loved walking by this little creek just down the road.  It lead to the mill that is part of the LaRue House.  Mrs. LaRue was the area’s midwife back in the 1800’s.  As a midwife it was neat to live down the road from the old “Birth House”.

It is weird truthfully.  I don’t think about the old house much.  Writing that list just now does make me feel nostalgic but I’m not lamenting the move.  I think we were just ready.  The location was beautiful.  The house was more than I ever thought I’d have and environmentally friendly to boot.  But it doesn’t suit where we are as a family right now.  The drive to and from work was beautiful but the commute was killing Mother Earth.  Our yard and the girl’s play space was breathtaking and watching the girls run around and explore in the yard/forest was heart-warming but once both girls were in school or daycare we were in that space less and less.

Maybe you should replace the words ” I miss” in this post with “I remember fondly”?  This moves marks a major transition.  It is like we are entering a new era, a new stage in who we are as a family.  It is great fun to remember the old place but I don’t find myself looking back.

There is too much to look forward to!  This move has already allowed for a better work/life balance.  The girls and I are crafting more not less.  Incredibly we are more physically active than we were in that last year of living in the great outdoors!  We are eating better (living out of your car is horrible for that).  And although this new house is older and not as efficient, we are able to walk to everything we need and are using less fuel in our car (by an incredible amount…I can’t even tell you…).  Opportunities for greening our life abound in this city.  We are even able to have chickens in the city something we’ve always wanted to do (see the following “chicken-sitting” photo, thanks Teri for sharing your chickens with my chicken-loving girls).

The girls are fantastically happy to have friends nearby, to walk on sidewalks (seriously thrilling for them), and to have “neighbours we can see”.  Our new neighbourhood is incredible and one neighbour even came over to help us unload our van the day we moved in!  Most others have come by to introduce themselves and welcome us.  This was such a pleasant yet unexpected turn of events…aren’t country people supposed to be friendlier than city folk?  Not here apparently and we are so grateful.

For now we are enjoying a long sought after dose of winter.  The weatherman says it won’t last long.  As winter winds down and we’ve mostly settled in, we turn our thoughts to Spring and new things.  Such a wonderful reminder that things happen when they are supposed to, as they are supposed to.  Every end, a new beginning.  We can’t wait to have our first gathering of friends in our new home to celebrate the Spring Equinox.  Let the making, and preparing, and planning begin!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Winter!

Well, I wanted winter, I hoped for winter, I longed for winter, I demanded winter…and winter came.

It came with little snow and an inch of ice that encased our cars and coated the branches of trees.  Two friends had their windshields crack while trying to chip their way into their cars. The weight of the ice on the tree branches was too much for some trees to bear and whole limbs came down bringing power lines with them.  Really this kind of winter weather entreats us all to go back inside and cozy up with loved ones or a good book…but I couldn’t resist going out for a closer look.  The park was beautiful!

Poor trees!  Look how heavy those branches are!

I was glad for a chance to enjoy being outside in something akin to a winter wonderland finally but it was getting late.  It was so nice to head back inside and snuggle with the kiddies.  I’m crossing my fingers snow won’t be far behind.

Happy Winter!

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:  it is the time for home.  ~Edith Sitwell

Waiting for Santa…and snow!

Waiting for Santa

This year, as we have for the past four years, we gathered with friends to line the streets of Gananoque for the Annual Santa Claus Parade.  As I snapped pictures of the kids enjoying the free hot chocolate, candy canes and sweets, I was struck by how big they looked all of a sudden.  There is nothing like an annual event to mark the passing of time and to remind you how fast it all goes.  So I took a deep breath, a sip of hot chocolate and savoured the moment.

A sight never before seen in Canada

I also didn’t sweat the fact that my daughter was running around in a SHORT SLEEVED T-SHIRT!!!  Pinch me!  My usual bag stuffed with snowpants, hats, mitts and fleece blankets to cover the curb so that little bottoms can sit comfortably whilst they wait for Santa was totally unnecessary given the unseasonably warm weather.  Fortunately we still had the singing, the lights, the dancing and general merry-making to get us all into the celebration.

The theme of the war of 1812?!

I admit I don’t really understand having a war theme for a Santa Claus parade.  Sure the musket firing was neat and soldiers looked sharp in their uniforms but isn’t this season about peace?

Frosty!

This guy was hands down my favourite character in the parade.  He looks so cheery! I  nearly fell over when his stick arm waved!!  What a great costume.

The big guy himself.

When Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived the kids were beside themselves with happiness! I don’t mind the kids loving a man who brings presents to all and promotes goodwill and peace – that is the kind of celebrity culture I can get behind.

The season officially starts now.  All we need is some snow!

 

Harvest time!

Earlier this month we visited our favourite apple orchard, Waddell Apples.

Apparently we came right after a huge rush and the “pick your own” was almost picked over.  So we formed teams.  One adult + one child = ability to reach the highest apples.

Of course there was plenty of time for goofing around…and sampling.

Grandpa definitely put us all to shame…this is what 50 lbs of apples looks like!   We took home 30 lbs ourselves.  We may have added a few other varieties from the on-site store, like these Macouns and the most delicious apples I have ever tasted, the Honeycrisp.  You simply must try them!

I would love to have an apple cider press like this.  I think it would be the perfect addition to our Autumn Equinox celebrations.  I found this do-it-yourself blueprint in Mother Earth News.  Maybe we’ll work on it over the winter, spring and summer.  We should have it done by fall ; ).

For now I’ll settle on making some applesauce and apple jellies and fresh out the basket apples as well.