Monday, May 30, 2011

smoothie lovin' and the paddle pool

It's been HOT! Little guy got his first paddle in Gram's baby pool this weekend, which was adorable.

There are a few more flowers blooming in my yard, so I wanted to share those, too.

Mountain Laurel

Yarrow - not native, but a magnet for pollinators. Plus has herbal uses.

Cute bee on the yarrow!

I had peonies in my wedding bouquet so I have a soft spot for these.

And finally, my little guy got his smoothie on this afternoon - he didn't leave a drop for me! (Well, there may have been if there weren't that spill into the dishwasher...) If you've never made your own smoothie, you've got to do it! So healthy and yummy and easy! I use:

-about 2 cups of organic yogurt (I like the non-fat vanilla yogurt but plain whole milk yogurt is great, too)
-one banana
-2 cups strawberries (frozen ones are great because then they are like ice cubes)
- 1/2 cup milk

Blend in a food processor and voila! I swap out different fruits and experiment with the texture to keep things interesting, but here's today's strawberry-banana smoothie recipe. (Blueberries, peaches, raspberries, mango, and pineapple are all yummy fruits to try.) At my fave smoothie bar they also use almonds, grapes, chocolate chips, and agave or honey for sweetener.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

care for some bubbly? (with video, too!)

"Wanna go to the river?!" He looked at me and blinked.

Now that we're getting sun kissed and breaking a sweat outside, heading to the river was just the right bubbly we needed. Cromwell Valley is a great park that is quickly becoming a second backyard to us. The woods are beautiful and the trails well maintained. But my favorite part is Mine Run. It's not quite big enough to be a river but too large for me to consider it a stream. (I guess that's why it's called a 'run'.) Either way, it's a babbling waterway with shallow stretches, perfect for the little guy to test his footing.

Can you see the wonder in his eyes?

Here's our other bubbly: bubbles. As you can see, E is very skeptical...

Seriously mom. What are those things?

Monday, May 23, 2011

fettucine failure

Usually, when I put my mind to it, I'm a good cook. I've got lots of favorite cookbooks and so that's generally all I need to set me in the right direction.

But last night instead of making my "go-to" white sauce and adding parm to make fettuccine Alfredo, I thought I'd shake things up. Hold onto your hats, this is riveting... I found a couple of 4 star rated sauces online but I didn't have some of the ingredients. So, I kinda combined two of the recipes swapping out what was in my cupboard. Needless to say, things went south pretty quickly.

The Parmesan was clumped up in the middle of soupy milk, chunky cream cheese, and butter floating on the peripheral like the Horizon oil spill in my sauce pan. The fresh lemon juice and lemon basil from my yard were wasted on this pitiful attempt. For the first time in a LONG time, I actually threw out the batch and started from scratch. (And by this point my husband was hovering in the kitchen trying to pet my ego.) Flustered, attempt number two wasn't any better.

At least the bread was warm and the wine was cold.

Tonight will be a fresh start...but we are definitely NOT having pasta.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

first blooms

After three summers, this is the first year the lilacs are in bloom.

This is E's first sniff of sweet lilacs.

This little beauty appeared under our beech tree. The soil is covered in moss and a few sparse grasses. I'm going to look it up in my trusty Newcomb's Wildflower Field Guide.

My gardens are chock full of native wildflowers like this Wild Blue Indigo.

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is another favorite of mine.

I like the color combination of the Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) and the Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisa austalis).

The mountain laurel is going to bloom any minute now!
I wish I could remember the name of this shrub. I planted it right next to my spice bush and nannyberry viburnum. For the life of me, I can't remember what it's called. Do you know?

Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) is intensely magenta - it practically looks like it's glowing at dusk.

Wild geraniums, sometimes called cranesbill, are so sweet! (Geranium maculatum)

I believe this one is Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) - all I know is that it is an absolute MAGNET for goldfinches in the fall. They love to eat the seeds!
I love gardening. It gets me out in the fresh air, invites me to make our surroundings pretty, and most of all, provides habitat for wildlife. Because the latter is so important to me, native wildflowers are the way to go.

Since native wildflowers would naturally occur in our region, they are already acclimated to our climate and soil type. This means they are extremely low maintenance (no ammending the soil or extra watering necessary!). Native plants also provide valuable food to birds and pollinators.

No, I'm not afraid of bees in the garden. No, I'm not worried about allergies to goldenrods or grass.  No, I do NOT use herbcides, insecticides, or any other "cides" in the garden or on the lawn. I'm not saying that some people don't have valid concerns. But I refuse to live that way. It's just not natural.

I don't want my child to be afraid of bugs or dirt. And plenty of research shows that children who are "sanitized" and NOT exposed to all manners of dirt are actually far more likely to have allergies. So I say let them play and get dirty! If only people could stop worrying so much about anti-bacterial this and hypo-allergenic that. It's gotten WAY out of control.

It's good for our bodies and our souls to be connected to the earth we walk upon. We shouldn't need science to prove that. So here's to sunny, filthy play days in the garden.

Friday, May 20, 2011

coffee and rain boots

His first morning chore: feed the cat. Look how he does it with such panache - him and "ank" (blankie).
It's one of those rare mornings where my eyes popped open before E's. Even though I should have rolled back over for some more shut eye, I opted for solitude with my coffee. Granted, my cat is trying to hump my arm even as I type this, but that's just status quo around here.

We've been swimming in a deluge of rain the last several days. I'm always grateful for it when my plants are thirsty, but it starts to get depressing after a while. Last night E was begging "at! at!" which means "out! out!". Now that he knows how to ask to go outside, it's a constant. No complaints, he's my little nature boy so it's to be expected. But I feel terrible when the rain just won't let up!

The good news? I just got him his first pair of rain boots. Now there's no stopping us!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

a day in the life

Yes, he's doing what you think he's doing. He likes to kiss trees.

Hallelujah, spring is here! And I know how to drink from a sippy cup!

For some perspective, here is E last spring 2010.

Can we go for another swing mom? (E at 18 months in May 2011.)
Reading all about tails...
He's so big! But I'm enjoying every minute of it. He's really got the life... 

Monday, May 16, 2011

what keeps childhood alive?

For today's post, I am piggy-backing on a wonderful post I just read from the blog Intentional Life. She paints a scene from Mother's Day, one overflowing with gratitude for her family and the simple joys her children know. She poses a great question: what keeps childhood alive?

I'm sure we all wish we had the answer to this one. It's something I think about often in my experience as an educator. I am a big believer that it's positive experiences and the emotions born from those positive experiences that we hearken back to as adults. To me, the best way to keep childhood alive is to share it with young children and help create new feel-good experiences for them.

Especially in environmental education, I'd be foolish to think that scientific nomenclature is what a young child remembers best about time spent in the garden or in the woods. No, it's the feeling she gets from discovering the place that resurfaces throughout her life.

This is a topic that is deeply personal to me as an educator. But now as a parent, it is particularly troubling to me when other parents seem to nonchalantly brush this idea off. I am adamantly passionate about how important it is for us to spend real, quality time with our children. Quality time is about creating a bond of love and respect with our kids, of course. But it's also tied in to setting examples, creating positive experiences, and showing them IN ACTION (not words) that they matter.

Raising "good" people is serious challenge for anyone.

And guess what? This takes effort. LOTS of effort. And sometimes planning. It's not easy to let go of our own personal needs, especially after a long day or when we are under stress, to focus on our kids. Some days it may not seem humanly possible, and believe me, I've been there. But devoting UNPLUGGED, UNDIVIDED attention to our kids is crucial if we want to fan that beautiful spark that is blissful childhood.

How can we expect to keep childhood alive if we miss out on it in the first place?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I spy kiddie art and custom graphic tees

Okay, so the photo could look more professional,
but you get the idea. Can you spy a wooden car?

I had a fun with my six-year-old niece recently while making our own "I Spy" game. We scavenged the house for her favorite objects and she arranged them in a pleasing way. Next, we photographed them. The photos can be printed at home and made into a personal "I Spy" game book. Other themes to photograph might be:

-utensils in the kitchen
-stuff to write with or write on
-bath toys and bathroom items
-seeds, leaves, and flower petals
-things from the recycle bin
-puzzle pieces
-favorite finger foods/snacks

This would also make a cute calendar or even holiday greeting card. If you've got your own version of these "I Spy" photos, I'd love to post them here! I may try my hand at these with my preschoolers if we find the time before the end of our school year. I know they could come out with some great outdoor I Spy photos!

Hand-printed Animal T's
I also wanted to share a recent t-shirt project I made for my son. I love the graphic tees from the Tea Collection and Mini Boden but they are so expensive! So I took inspiration from a couple of my son's picture books and made my own graphic tees for under $5 each.

I picked up a few cheap cotton t-shirts and washed them to make sure they were already shrunk. I put newspaper in between the front and back of each shirt to make sure my paint wouldn't go through.

Next, I drew animal designs onto a foam sheet from the craft store. If you want your stamps to have texture, just press hard on the foam with a ball point pen as you draw. You can see the detail in the printing where I used dots and short lines on the owl. Remember, when you are printing, your design is going to print in reverse.

I cut out the foam pieces and painted each piece with acrylic paint (you could use fabric paint here instead). When you apply the paint, keep in mind that if the paint is too thick, it will squish and spread out - potentially distorting your design. Also, your brush strokes in the paint may show up, which can be a good thing if you plan for it.

I carefully stamped each piece onto the shirt, pulled off the foam stamp, and let dry. I washed off my stamps while waiting for the paint to dry. It dries fairly quickly because the cotton tees are very absorbent. Now, I already had a whole alphabet stamp set to add text to my design, again, using acrylic paint. You could omit this if you just want to print a design.

Once the paint is dry on the tees, you can use a contrasting fabric marker to outline or add little details. And that's it - your own custom graphic tees, just as cute as the fancy shmancy ones!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

couples night!

Nothing like a night out with friends to put the wind back in your sails! We hadn't seen our dear friends in months and we desperately needed an adults only night. It wasn't a fancy restaurant or an extravagent affair - just a nice meal with friends that know where we're coming from.

Our kids are both toddlers and share all the laughable, frustrating habits you might expect. Our shared list includes: non-compliant diaper changes, love of being outside with the wind blowing through barely there hair, dramatic tantrums when coming back inside, adorable love of story books, proud independant air when themselves, etc. It's such a wonderful time for our tots, but for us too as witnesses. And it's just so great to swap stories with other moms and dads.

I took all those couples dates for granted before E, and now I savor them! Finding time for people that also have kids is, well, it's nothing short of a scheduling nightmare. But when it happens, it's a magical thing. Thanks for a great night out, guys.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

thankful heart thursday

Driving home from work, my head is spinning. Or, more accurately, throbbing. There's lots of pressure, people to please, and stress about how everything's going to get accomplished during my jam-packed part-time hours. Running a preschool is demanding, but it's the demands I make on myself that seem to hurt the most.

While I was stressing, er, unwinding, on the drive home today, my mind wandered to what it might be like if I worked in a corporate setting...and I immediately felt myself cringe. I remember all too well what it was like to work for the County, with all the strict parameters, red tape, legal-ease, and hoops to jump through. Even the thought of it brought me right back down to Earth.

Despite the difficult days, I am one of the lucky few with a dream job. I am ever grateful for the flexibility and autonomy that I have working at a small non-profit. I feel supported and respected by my colleagues. And I am infinitely grateful that if I have to be away from my son, it's for a cause I truly believe in.

There you have it - my first thankful heart Thursday.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

yoga in the bathroom?

Oh yes, I said it. Yoga in the bathroom.

It all started after a L-O-N-G day. Little guy needed a bath and mommy needed a breather. Both needed to happen in a bad way. And voila - it was born. Yoga in the bathroom.

Now, obviously my child's safety comes first. First I set up his bath and got him situated with toys. My bathroom is small enough that even mid-downward dog I can reach for my kid. Okay, so it's not a deep, meditative experience because I am always present enough to keep my eye on bathing babe. But I still get some much needed stretches in. E laughs when I do my forward bend and pretend to kiss him. He looks at me like I'm crazy in my warrior pose.
Mostly I crave relaxation from slow breathing and back stretches. Lately my back has been so sore, noticeably aching once I lay down for the night. When I get up each morning I'm in pain. I'm sure it's from my healthy, steadily growing toddler who's reached a whopping 24 pounds. The yoga helps, especially when I can jump into a class alone. But I'll take yoga in the bathroom if I have to!

Yes, peas are delicious - and funny!

Yes, peas are delicious - and funny!
Our little guy at 15 months, February 2011.