Monday, May 30, 2011

Fairy Tea Party

While I profess to follow the KISS* rule of raising children, I somehow cannot resist the potential of a little girl's birthday party...the food! the decorations! the favours! the costumes! I usually start checking out sites for ideas a few months in advance, jotting down anything that grabs my fancy. I can't really credit any of these ideas to one specific site; they're kind of a reflection of what my mind does with a bit of inspiration!

*Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Wands, created in Northern Ontario from birch bark coloured with watercolour paint, glued on to sparkly fun foam; ribbons and sparkly hearts were added as embellishments, then the whole lot was attached to a sturdy twig with hot glue.

Invitations gently suggested that fairy wings be worn, and every guest complied with joy. Daddy entertained the guests with silly songs, including the faery hokey-pokey..."You put your left wing in, you put your left wing out..."

Fancy tea cups are a must for any tea party; if the Guest of Honour's name happens to be Violet, then a tablecloth adorned with violets are a nice touch!

Tiny toadstool hors d'oeuvres...made from pinching one end of a mini-marshmallow and inserting it into a raspberry. Following the note I left before rushing away for the weekend, my husband and his buddy sat up till 2:30 a.m. making these...

...and these: Faery Fruit Wands!

Strawberry cupcakes with buttercream icing, tinted pink, of course...decorated with fresh violets from the garden (of course!)...

Violet requested that mommy wear a "special dress".

Tinkerbell graced us with her presence.

Sweet girl, with pink nail polish (only for a four-year-old girl!)

A wooden play kitchen has been on our wish list for a few years, but there never seems to be the money for one...so I printed off a picture of one I liked from the internet, handed it to my hubby and his buddy (the one with the tools and the know-how!), and sent him off night after night to work on it. I'm so thrilled with what they managed to create without a pattern!

Violet was thrilled, too!

While I did the research and planning of this party, credit for its execution goes to my beautiful man, who so graciously takes on extra tasks when I'm looking like I might burn out...sends me off to the north, stays home alone for a weekend with the kids, doesn't freak out when he realises that I accidentally took the van keys with me (OOPS!), and loads the kids into his little Mazda instead to get groceries for the birthday. Violet felt like the most special little girl in the world for a day, and what more could anyone want on their birthday? My heart overflows.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kidnapped!

This weekend was Violet's birthday party weekend, for which I have planned and prepared for months: handpainted invitations, fairy-themed food, pushing my husband to build a magnificent gift for her...

Then, I was kidnapped Friday evening, shortly upon my arrival home from work.

My instructions: pack your toothbrush, your clean undies, and a pillow. I left a panicked note to my husband, a to-do list comprised of all my mind's wanderings in regards to Violet's Fairy Tea Party Extraordinaire. I stuck a post-it on the cupcake recipe to be made, and was whisked away to what I like to call "the back arse of nowhere", i.e. Northern Ontario, where the moose wander at will and the mosquitoes are hungry.

Ensconced in a cottage with five wild women, welcomed, embraced, plied with red wine and mojitos, my spirit has been uplifted. My once-per-season retreat took place unexpectedly, "late to the bill...an added attraction", just when I needed it most.

I'll coast now for a few months, on the laughter of this past weekend where I learned to let go of this illusion of control I like to think I have.

Thank you, Kidnapper...I needed you more than I knew.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

this moment

No words, just a photo of a moment I'd like to treasure in the midst of the madness that I call my life:
Have a peaceful weekend.

Charmed, I'm Sure

What do you call an octopus wearing socks?


A Socktopus, of course!



I know. Words are not necessary to express the absolute charm and pure appeal of this little creation. Photos are quite enough. The rainbow knee sock! The pouffy leg warmer! The WORK SOCK! The tiny turned heels (using short rows), and the rustic stitched face. This little lady positively oozes charm!

To the right, see the pink over-the-knee stocking...you can't see the black seam up the back, or the sexy little bow at the heel...

The pattern is clearly written, but allows for creative expression. Ideas for the socks came as I knit (the pattern doesn't give specifics), so I'm already hatching plans for the next three I make (my children have been clamouring for their own Socktopi as they watched the birth of this one).


You can imagine the thoughts that go through one's head whilst knitting socks on an octopus:

this is a knee sock, but does an octopus HAVE knees? or a heel for that matter?...a real octopus would need super-elastic socks to keep them up on those rubbery legs...an octopus doesn't have to worry if the mate to a sock goes missing!...

And so on. Then I'd catch myself ruminating on the sock-habits of an OCTOPUS for heaven's sake, and smile as only a knitter can.

This little lady is a gift for a friend of Violet's. I can't wait to see her face as she first lays eyes on her very own Socktopus.

It's one of those things: you didn't know you needed one until you get one!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Turn Around


Where are you going, my little, little one?
Where are you going, my baby, my own?

Turn around and you're two,
Turn around, and you're four,

Turn around, and you're a young girl going out of the door...

Turn around, turn around,
Turn around, and you're a young girl going out of the door.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Miss Violet Pearl! I don't know where the time has gone.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Library Day!

I may have mentioned that I have the best job in the world. I am a kindergarten teacher. I get to spend my days at work surrounded by children ages 4 to 6, with gaps in their teeth, crooked pigtails, freckles and scrapes, and lots of stories about things unconnected to the topic of discussion. We sing and count, say sorry and pray, grow things and play in water and sand. We build and figure stuff out. I use a pink pen to draw smiley faces on their work, and sit in a tiny chair to listen to them read.

I feel very blessed to call my classroom my "workplace".

Because my job is part time, it means I'm home with my kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays, doing the other best job in the world: being a mother. Tuesday in our house is Library Day. We scrounge around the shelves and under the couch to find the books we borrowed last week, rewind the videotapes that need to be returned, and drive into town to the Bonnechere Union Public Library.

Our village is on the small size; the population sign reads 1300. So, a visitor to Eganville might be surprised at the beauty of our little library. Everything one sees says, "Welcome!", from the warm red walls to the cozy chairs pulled up to the gas fireplace.

Paintings and sculptures by local artist Andy Adach (who can often be found sketching in one of these chairs) adorn the walls and corners.

I treasure our visits to the library, where gathering information, cuddling into beanbag chairs for a story, and trying a new computer game add variety and colour to my children's lives.

The littlest readers are always welcome, even if they read a book like this: "Ho ho ho, Cwismas, The End!" Perhaps they're welcome BECAUSE they read like this! The library staff know our names, and we know theirs.

In addition to learning resources, our library offers a Knit Night, support for homeschooling families, readings by local authors, a film club, and book clubs for teens and mothers/daughters, coffee houses featuring local musicians, and more.

In addition to teaching kindergarten, the best job in the world is mothering. What makes it even better are the days when I say, "Let's get ready to go to the library!", and my words are met with a resounding,
"Yaaaaay!" from my kids.

If you're a visitor to the Eganville area and your kids need a break from driving, stop by the local library, and tell them I sent you!  If it's a Tuesday, you just might see us there.

Share the love...tell me about your local library! How can you support this essential community service...volunteering? Donating books, CDs, or movies? Teaching a class or sharing a skill?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Inchworm!

Poor little inchworm
with all his inchworm traits,
crawled onto the yard stick
but he was only seven-eighths.
“It’s because of your posture”
his mother did say,
“There’s a hump in your back
that just won’t go away!”
“I forgot about my hump!”
he said with a laugh,
then he stretched himself out
to an inch and a half.
~Charlie Parant

"Look, Mommy! He's moving!"

If I am a woman who celebrates small beauties, who revels in the common magic that surrounds us and waits so patiently to be noticed, I have my mother to thank.

My mother, who stopped to pick trilliums in May. My mother, who caught fireflies in a jar to hold under our quilt at night. My mother, who laughed with glee every time we brought her the treasure of an inchworm, found twirling at the bottom of a thread descending from a tree. I learned to cherish the quirks of nature from her: to run outside every time there was a rainbow, to celebrate each new bud and flower, and to stop to take it all in.

Now that I am a mother, busier than I have ever been in my life, I pause to thank her for these lessons; when has stopping for a moment to breathe and appreciate this wonderfilled life meant more than it does now that I have children with whom to share it?



Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mayflowers

The humble trillium is a fleeting beauty, blooming on deciduous forest floors throughout Ontario. Somehow, it knows that its time to shine is in May. It is not a showy creature, dressed in bridal white with three no-nonsense petals. It does not like to be picked (in fact, when we were young, we were taught that it was against the law to pick them, as they are the provincial flower of Ontario and very slow to reproduce).
My mother is a law-abiding citizen, generally. But she cannot resist seasonal plants. When we were kids, she would drive the getaway car as we crept into a local cornfield to cut a few stalks for her display on the front porch or altar at church. Pussywillows were also treasures to her. My dad used to get the task of finding boughs at Christmas time (he would always say, "I'm off to get your bows, love", as he bowed and bowed like a performing penguin.

Trilliums in their natural habitat...a forest floor rich with leaves and fallen branches.

Imagine the thrill we had each Spring, then, driving home from visiting relatives in Quebec...mom would make dad stop on the roadside in sight of the "Welcome to Ontario!" billboard, and we'd hop out to pick few for our kitchen table. I still experience a feeling of illicit excitement when the trilliums come into bloom, remembering my mom teasing from the car, "I see a car coming!!", causing us to scramble back up the bank for our big getaway.

The rarest gem on the forest floor: a showgirl trillium appearing amongst the shyer white ones, wearing scarlet to the party. The other trilliums don't like her, but we all know they're just jealous!

Trilliums, otherwise known as the Mayflower: enjoy them, but don't pick 'em (says the reformed daughter-accomplice of a class-one offender!)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Farm Friday: Green

The residents of Ireland might argue with me, but the benefit of constant cloud and rain is a green that is so lush and voluptuous that to look at it heals any pain in your heart.



We're spending lots of time outside in the green, and sometimes the little ones find priceless treasures. These are offered up like the gifts they are, with reverence and joy. I'm mindful to embrace this blessed moment of the Earth's intake of her breath, before full-blown summer is upon us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Harbinger of Spring

A few weeks (months?) ago, some dear friends gathered for what has become a seasonal tradition: an exchange of handmades, intended to grace our nature tables. We used to create Advent gifts for each other's children (and still do), but felt that the year between each exchange was too long for our creative souls. Now, every few months, we settle on a date to share our goods. The friendship of these women has been an ongoing blessing in my life.

Unfortunately, I missed our Spring exchange, because two out of my three children were ill with fevers and coughs and snotty noses. Still I sent along my contribution:
I could refer to her in no other way but as the Harbinger of Spring. Her knitted dress is a slightly adapted version of Christine Shreier's "Flower Child" dress, found in Living Crafts magazine (Spring 2008), made with Noro sock yarn. I didn't have the materials on hand to create a doll exactly like hers, so I improvised. I used a peg doll form for the body (the "neck" worked perfectly as a waist, and the "head" became her bosom!) I wired the bead head onto the peg body using a pipe cleaner. I love how she turned out! I didn't want to fuss with fabric-covered-bead hands, so I opted to sew her cuffs together, monk-like...then had to figure out what to tuck into her embrace.

What else? Pussy willows, of course. They were that perfect finishing touch. We giggled at how she kind of looked like someone you might see on the streets of Killaloe, the beautiful village where I teach and once lived...and where most of my friends still live. Her floppy hat protect her from the Spring sun, and her eyes are closed in bliss.

PS: We crafty mamas know in our hearts that these little exchanges aren't really for our kids...they're for us. We know that when our children are well past the age of being interested in peg gnomes, felted flowers, and toadstools, we'll pop on our bifocals to continue creating for each other's delight. I can picture us in our 70s, giggling with delight over cups of tea, gently holding our latest handmade treasure, and adding them to a mantelpiece piled precariously with the offerings of all the years past. This will be our legacy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Garden Sprites

It's been a long, cold Spring in Ontario. The seedlings on our windowsill are getting a little too big for their britches, but their protective midwife and mother will not let them out to play until I see the sun for more than seconds a day.

Outside, however, the plants are up as bold and brash as ever. My two little sprites went out at bedtime to take a quick peek:
Violet shows her little sister what "viowets wook wike".


They admire the dainty blue of the first forget-me-nots,

and the bossy red of the tulips.

Sweet wee hands cup this bloom so tenderly, inviting me to take a sniff: "They smeh-oo wike ice cweam!"

Blessed garden sprites. With their trampling boots, and hands that can't resist plucking each flower as it blooms, my garden has never been so beautiful.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Asparagus Family


I was all set to do a post about the wonder of that earliest of harvests, the catch-me-before-I-bolt crop of asparagus that assures us Spring has indeed arrived. That perky green, the purple triangles that appealingly adorn its sturdy stalk, its pretty little overlapped head. The sweetness that reminds you to never buy it out of season. The way it makes your pee smell funny (which is apparently a genetic trait that doesn't affect everyone).

Then I laid out my asparagus for a photo. And noticed it. These asparagus stalks are just like my family. The tall daddy asparagus, with his only-slightly-smaller asparagus wife, their heads leaning affectionately together, sheltering their little asparagus kids. The almost-gangly older brother asparagus, with one skinny little sister, and one smaller, pleasantly chunky little sister.

I could hardly eat this little family of asparagus, that so resembled our own.

But I did.

And it was delicious.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yaarrrr!

The Pirate Dad created a scavenger hunt for the pirate-partygoers, and helped the littlest ones read the clues, written in calligraphic script on tea-stained, burnt-edged scraps.

I kinda like my husband in his swashbuckling garb. I love piratey words: swashbuckling, swabbing the deck, keelhauling and parleying. I love how my husband adopts these words like they're his first language, as in "Sit ye down and drink yer grog!"

Lego pirates adorn the gluten-and-dairy-free birthday cake, where X marks the spot.

A proud first mate presents the cake to the Captain,

...and shows off her piratey grin.

By late afternoon, the guests are gone, a fire is lit, the two girls are sleeping,

and the Pirate Dad hits the bunk for a well-earned kip.

The remains of the party whisper of the fun we had,

and gifts are assembled and admired and played with.

Scattered wrappers of gold doubloons litter the floor,

and the evening sky wishes Jude River a wonderful 6th Birthday.