Saturday, May 29, 2010

Treasure, revisited

What happens to all our treasure once it comes back from the beach?

Mama sorts it on the ledge of the cottage's front porch.

And re-sorts, and re-organizes, every night.

(It's kind of like therapy.)

Lucy un-sorts it all each day. And dumps. And pours. And throws, and drops, and scatters. And delivers some to us as gifts.

And re-sorts.

And examines.

And shares the joy with Mama all over again.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday's Flowers: lupines in Maine

We're on vacation on Mount Desert Island, Maine this week, and the lupines are blooming! We come each year at this time, but haven't seen them yet; I heard on the radio this morning that the flowers are three weeks ahead here this year. (Bad news for bees and blueberries, though good news for early tourists.) One thing that fascinates us about this area is how all the flowers seem to bloom at once--things that each have their own season at home bloom here all together. Right now, there are:
lupines, everywhere!
beach roses
day lillies
and so many others!

This bunch of lupines has graced our table in the cottage all week. I'll be sad to leave them behind; the roadsides are full of them here, and it's such a glorious sight.

Check out all the other Friday's Flowers here at FIMBY.

(p.s. It's my birthday today. 41! It just doesn't sound right!)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hiking with toddlers 101

Choose a beautiful place with intriguing terrain (thanks, Julie, for the recommendation!)

If you come to a bridge, be sure to trip-trap over it both ways, again and again, before moving on.

Go slowly. Very slowly. Have no expectations in mind other than having fun.

Take a rest whenever you need one. Maybe a nap on a rock step.

Stop to admire the view (remember that the toddler's view is smaller and lower than your own).

Be prepared to give a boost when needed.

(We hiked some portion of the Emery Path in Acadia this morning. It was perfect for Lucy right now--almost all stairs!)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Treasure pocket

(Lucy and I looking for treasure at the pier in Bar Harbor, Maine.)

I finally made something crafty again...and I've been dying to show you! But we're on vacation with a lousy internet connection so it had to wait until today.

Lucy takes after me when it comes to picking up "treasures" on her journeys. Both of us stop frequently to pick up a special stone, an acorn, a feather, a stick... And just recently, Lucy discovered pockets. What a wonderful thing--a place to keep your treasures! But most of her clothes don't have any pockets. So I wanted to sew her a "pocket" she could wear at the beach (I knew we'd be doing lots of beach combing!)

Two days before we left--when I should have been packing or cleaning before our trip--I quickly sewed her a pocket. I used recycled linens for the bag (pinky-red ticking for the outside; orange and pink paisley for the lining) and a scrap of lace from an old pillowcase for the edging. The luckiest accident was the strap; I'd wanted something wide so the weight wouldn't dig into her shoulder, and when I sewed on this wide twill tape to this tiny bag, it made the bag stay open when hanging on her shoulder--perfect for a little hand to reach in easily.

Lucy loves it! Now if I ask her "do you want to look for treasures on the beach?" She says "Yeah. Poc" (pocket) and puts her hand down where her pocket should be.

(The best picture I got of the inside, as she's always on the go!)

(Looking for the perfect rock.)

(Tucking something into her pocket for safekeeping.)

(A collection of her treasures.)

I really can't imagine anything quite so wonderful as sharing this passion of mine with my equally passionate daughter. Now...what am I doing writing?? There's beachcombing to be done!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Independence Days Challenge: planning ahead

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

(Lucy checks out the lavender, Meyer lemon tree, and beach roses)

1. Plant something:
I haven't planted anything, but I dug out lots of compost and used it to prepare a square-foot-gardening-type potting mix for an old feeding trough (?) I'm going to use as a raised bed atop our driveway. Will plant after vacation. Also, I've been pacing the gardens every day, checking for progress, and realized that I'd given up on my "dead" thimbleberry, salmonberry, and elderberry bushes too soon. Most of them are showing signs of growth. Yay!

2. Harvest something:
Eggs. Lettuce, lovage, thyme, parsley, sorrel, chive blossoms.

3. Preserve something:
We've begun drying the greens of carrots and radishes from the farmer's market, which will be added to the chicken's winter feed.

4. Waste not:
Please help us out here. This time of year, our freezer is nearly bare. But it's still got bags and bags of frozen peppers (green, red, yellow). I guess those winter stews and chillis we thought they'd go into just never happened. What should I do with all of them? I need a good idea that doesn't involve cheese, and I haven't got a clue.

I prepared a lot of food ahead for our vacation, to help us cut back on driving, purchasing, and packaging while there.

5. Preparation and storage:
We store a lot of dried beans. Yep, store them. Never eat them, because that takes forethought. Soaking. Long cooking. We never do it. We've got to be the least-bean-eating vegetarians around. So I'm proud to say that I soaked, cooked, and froze 4 pints of black beans this week, so maybe we'll actually eat some! We brought some on vacation with us, because they're such an easy, happy meal for Lucy.

6. Build community food systems:

7. Eat the food:
Salad with fresh herb dressing (mayo, lemon juice, lovage, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper). Maple-parsnip soup from this cookbook (so good!). Amazing roasted carrots from the farmer's market (didn't realize how much I'd missed carrots, and these were especially sweet...). Pumpkin bread with the last of the frozen pumpkin puree.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday's Flowers: a child's bouquet

Renee, at FIMBY, is hosting Friday's Flowers, a gathering of the summer's bouquets. I love the idea, as a reminder to keep refreshing those bouquets that I love to have but sometimes forget to gather, and as a challenge to improve my photography (is that even possible with the falling-apart piece of garbage camera I'm using?).

Earlier this week, we took a walk past some farm fields that are bordered by long grass and wildflowers along the road. It was a very slow walk, as you can imagine, as the children had to keep stopping to add to their bouquets (does anyone else sing "kum kwa kee wa, kum kwa kee wa" as they pick? Or is that just me? It's from a story my mother told us when we were little...The Gunnywulf.)

Back in the studio, some of the kids decided to draw their bouquets...

To see the other participants, or to join in yourself, go here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What's in your beach basket?: great beach reads for toddlers

Whenever I've had a moment this week, I've added something to the growing pile of stuff-we're-taking-to-Maine. Most exciting, for me, is the pile of books I've gathered to share with Lucy while we're there. I've been collecting picture books for about 17 years now, as a teacher, but always with the thought that some day, I'd be able to share them with my child. It is such a thrill to finally be pulling out these treasures to share with her. I love thinking about how these books that have little meaning to her at the moment will take on such richness next week when she's spent days on the beach, played in the ocean, held a shell, collected beach rocks... My selections are not (all) necessarily "toddler" books, because while I love a good board book and simple story line, I don't think that's all a toddler will read and appreciate. I choose books for their gorgeous illustrations or language, and at the toddler stage, look for concrete subjects that we'll encounter on our trip.

Here's what I'm packing for us to read together this time:

The Seashore Noisy Book by Margaret Wise Brown
Lucy loves books about sounds so much; she's going to adore this one. And these books about Muffin the dog are special favorites of hers. I love knowing, too, that they were favorites of my mother's when she was a girl.

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown and Leonard Weisgard
Because Margaret Wise Brown has a rhythm of language that toddlers really respond to, and because these illustrations are gorgeous. I can just see Lucy's little finger reaching out to point out all the animals and flowers and that black cat...

One Sun by Bruce McMillan
For word play and simple photographs of a beach day.

On My Beach there are Many Pebbles by Leo Lionni
I am a beachcomber. I love to walk the beach, gathering perfect stones and smooth beach glass and interesting shells. Lucy takes after me here, for sure! She gathers sticks and rocks wherever we go. I can't wait to gather beach treasures with her, and this book is a gorgeous one we'll read surrounded by our loot!

One White Wishing Stone by Doris Gayzagian
A quiet book, perfect for settling in at bedtime.

What's in the Tide Pool? by Anne Hunter
Just the right size for tiny toddler hands, with simple illustrations of just one thing per page. Good for older kids, too, but I think she'll love it.

Wave by Suzy Lee
Oh, this wordless book is beautiful! It reminds me of me as a child, daring the waves of Lake Michigan to come and get me; threatening them with thrown handfuls of sand. The last time we went to the beach, Lucy was so excited by the approaching waves. This time, she'll be so much more able to run from them (or into them!). Can't wait to share this book with her afterwards. (I buy most of my books used, but this one was so incredibly beautiful, I had to buy it new on one of our previous Maine trips.)

Little Star by Antonin Louchard
Another wordless book (I love wordless books). This one is much less concrete than the last, and will be understood differently by her as she grows. For now, I think she'll love finding the star on each page as it travels through the ocean, onto a beach, and into the sky.

Beach Ball by Peter Sis
Oh, how I love Peter Sis. Once upon a time, I didn't appreciate his style, but I've come to recognize his genius. This book, too, is one she'll find more and more in as she grows, but for now, I know she'll love finding the lost ball on each page.

Counting Our Way to Maine by Maggie Smith
Kind of cheesy, but had to get it, since it seems we travel to Maine every year.

The Sea Shore by M. E. Eldridge
Because I love the detailed, large drawings of things we'll see at the beach, and know Lucy will, too.

Golden Guides:
Oh, how I love the little Golden Guides. (They have to be the ones from the 60s, of course, because those were the ones in my house when I was a child.) Just enough information without being overwhelming; great illustrations (I like it when nature guides are illustrated rather than photographed); the perfect size to tuck in your pocket or purse or field bag. Lucy's discovered where I keep them on our library shelf, and pulls them out frequently to flip through them (they're also the perfect size for little hands). This year, I'm bringing:

Acadia and the Coast of Maine
A great find at a used bookstore when we were up there last year.
For obvious reasons.
Because Lucy's passionate about birds and loves pointing them out and hearing all their names.

(Wow. Some of those Amazon prices are insane! Clearly, I shouldn't be letting my toddler touch these $100 books. But guess what? For us, the value is in the reading and savoring, not in the collecting, so they're hers to love. Some prices are insane in the other direction, too. When I looked, that Seashores guide was 25 cents. Someone buy it quick! Those little Golden Guides books are awesome!)

Some fine print...I generally link to IndieBound because I hope you'll support your local bookstore. When I can't find a link there, I go to Amazon. If you buy a book after clicking over to IndieBound (you can order one from your local bookstore), I'll get some tiny commission (theoretically--it hasn't happened yet). But that's not really why I do these book lists; it's because I am passionate about children's books and love to share the great ones!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making a home away from home

There hasn't been a lot of crafting going on here this week. But there's been a lot of "making" of another kind; we're getting ready to go on vacation next week (halleluiah!), and I've been preparing...stocking up for our home away from home. Partly out of a desire to save money, and partly to make it easier to just relax and not have to worry about anything once we're there (even as simple as which restaurant to go to). In the past several hours, I've made granola (for breakfast in pajamas in the cottage):

Brownies (ignore the horrible look--they are called "Ugly Duckling Brownies," after all, but they taste good!), for emergency chocolate situations:

And deodorant, because there is no way I'm packing that broken-up scrap of jagged crystal rock I've been using. (I've been wanting to get to this recipe for ages, and this vacation was somehow the motivation I needed to finally get to it. What took me so long? It took only 5 minutes to make and so far, it works great!)

Now, off to make Lucy some new longies. Somehow, her ratty old ones are fine for home, but if we're going on vacation, surely she needs to have some nice new ones...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Independence Days challenge: onions at long last!

(Lucy shops the Tuesday farmer's market)

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

1. Plant something:
Potatoes. Grape tomatoes. Moved the potted Meyer lemon and fig trees to the gardens from indoors.

2. Harvest something:
Eggs. Comfrey. Sorrel, kale, lettuce, good king henry, lovage, violets.

3. Preserve something:
Dried comfrey and carrot greens for winter chicken feed.

4. Waste not:
Planted the last of our stored potatoes, which had sprouted profusely!

5. Preparation and storage:
Mended the chicken coop, which was is starting to fall apart. Finally cleaned out the winter's buildup of deep litter and spread it on various garden beds.

6. Build community food systems:
Nothing big, just our usual supporting local farmers at two farmer's markets.

7. Eat the food:
Green smoothies. Parsnips, leeks, scallions, and ONIONS from the farmer's market (we missed onions a lot since we ran out a few months ago!)

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Our chicken coop had fallen into a very bad state. (Excuse that "roof." It was "temporary" two years ago. Oops. And the lack of paint? "Temporary," too.) The skunks were getting in, so it was definitely time of some repair! Guess who was determined to get in on the action?

It took her about 3 minutes to figure out how to use a screwdriver.

And a measuring tape.

Working with her as our apprentice made it so much more bearable a task.

I was so inspired by finally, finally getting to this chore that had been weighing on me for too long, that I dug out two beloved riding toys that had broken and fixed them so that Lucy could have her chance to enjoy them. I'd gotten this Radio Flyer years and years ago, because I knew someday I'd like to share it with my baby. But all the other kids came first, and it broke. Now, it's her time at last.

And this? I was so sad when someone broke off one handle. But now it's all mended and ready for more play.

Not super creative work, but oh, so satisfying to have these things finished!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Family date night

Thursday is our "date night." It's been the evening we reserved for each other for many years now, but this last year, it's become "family date night," rather than a twosome. That's fine with us; just how we envisioned our family would grow. (We've been together nearly 20 years; we're ready to share our Thursdays.) This evening, we:

Took a short hike:

Took in the views:

Dallied along the way to collect treasures:

Stopped for a hug now and then:

...and to check out tracks both tiny:

and huge (bear):

Went out for some sushi:

complete with chopsticks:

And finished it off with a stroll in town:

Who could ask for a better date?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Homemade beads

I've been taking it slow and easy this week (as slowly as I can with 6 kids needing me all day long) while I fight off some bug I've caught. This morning's dreary weather called for something new and interesting enough to channel some of the kids' energy. There's been a lot of interest in stringing beads lately, and our supply is nearly depleted. So I pulled out my handy dandy recipe book and we made a batch of bead dough from a simple recipe of flour, salt, cornstarch, and water. Our dough came out a bit too wet, but it was still compelling for them to get their hands into the sticky dough and shape it however they wanted. "And we can paint them! All different colors. And we can leave some grey, and that can be a color!"

I'm glad the kids are still creating, because I haven't made much of anything lately. I'm hoping hoping hoping I'll find the time and energy to get started on my next crochet project tonight. Sometimes, I'm on a roll, making one thing after another. But (just like writing blog posts) I find that once I get out of the habit, due to busyness or chaotic house or sickness or whatever, it's really hard to get back in the groove. I find that, for me, diving into the children's work and documenting what they've been doing is my bit of creativity that helps me work my way back to my own stuff. What works for you?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Toddler-sized "zoo"

Lucy loves listening to books of sounds. (Is there any toddler who doesn't?) Recently, she's been loving a felt book of animals made for her by my cousin's wife--most especially, the fish page, where I say "bluub, bluub, bluub" to go with the bubbles coming from the fish's mouth. She wants to stay on that page for a long long time, touching each bubble and saying "bluub, bluub" herself.

So a simple trip to buy cat litter this weekend turned into an event: it felt like going to a toddler-sized zoo when we took a detour to the fish department. Here she is with our friend Tim, checking out all the fish:

Just right.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Independence Days: not very productive this week

Oh, dear. It seems I wasn't quite ready for regular posting yet. I'm sorry I've been so absent this week! But it's time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge, and somehow I must post that, even when I've done very little. Let's hope it's the jumpstart I need to get back into the rhythm...

1. Plant something:

I went to my favorite annual plant sale this weekend in the pouring rain. Little plants, dug from local gardens, and so nearly guaranteed to thrive in mine. I love it! This year, I tried to show restraint, and focused on edible plants. I got licorice mint, lavender, "bloody sorrel," lemon balm, and horseradish, and planted them all as soon as the rain cleared.

I'm sad to report that the bushes I planted over the past two weeks aren't doing very well. I didn't care for them as well as I should (hard to water things so far from the house, especially with a broken hose nozzle...) and only about half of them are leafing out. Pooh.

2. Harvest something:
Eggs. Lettuce thinnings. Daily chive snacking in the garden for the kids.

6. Build community food systems:
Well, I supported local farmers by braving the farmer's market in the cold pouring rain. Does that count?

7. Eat the food:
Lots of rhubarb cuppa-cuppa-cuppa (Lucy can now say "rhubarb"--with a big smile; she loves it). Parsnip souffle. Not much else interesting.