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Monthly Archives: June 2010

critters in the woods

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Last week I took Pia and her little friend, Lou, on a hike in the woods to go on a scavenger hunt. I gave each girl a sheet with pictures of things to find in the woods: an acorn, a pinecone, a leaf, a rock, a stick, etc. and off we went into the woods. When we returned, each girl had a backpack full of treasures. Really, what fun is one pinecone when you can have twenty???  Thanks to Catherine Newman’s great ideas in the latest issue of Family Fun I knew just what to have the girls do with their treasures.

Yes, googly eyes may now be a nature hike staple.

I tried to find the online version of the aforementioned Catherine Newman article, but can’t find it. It was an article all about ways to make camping easier and more fun. Like any Catherine Newman article it was insightful, funny, and packed with ideas. She makes a subscription to Family Fun worth it.


heaven for $12

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These appeared in the summer bowl this weekend. 24 colors of brand new play-doh. Not sure who is happier, me or Pia. Sigh.

The benefits of lazy gardening

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A few years ago, we were playing croquet in the backyard when a friend discovered an 8 foot mulberry tree growing up through the middle of lilac bushes.  Happy to have the berries, I left the scraggly tree where it was.  The lilacs are unhappy, but the mulberry tree is growing like the weed it is.  Today, Tea and I grazed off the lower branches for half an hour and still didn’t pick everything within reach.


Tea was quickly stained purple.  He told me that “a girl on the airplane to Belgium had purple fingers, too.  It must have been the mulberries.”  He’s never seen nail polish on me, so I suppose mulberry stains are a reasonable assumption.

I have great memories of picking mulberries at my friend Rayna’s house when I was little.  We’d eat and eat and eat and then, back at home, I’d tell my mom with great excitement about our tasty adventures.  She seemed less than impressed, and I have since had the impression that mulberries are a secret treat that only kids appreciate.  Except that I still love them.

Straight from the tree, mulberries are sweet and delicious, but my attempts to cook with them have been tasteless flops.  It’s as if their flavor is magical and lasts only seconds beyond being separated from the tree.  I wish I had confidence that I could bring them inside to make a yummy pie or jam, but in that form, they just don’t taste like anything to me.  Does anyone have a successful mulberry recipe?  The Internets claim they can be substituted for blackberries but I don’t buy it – they turn to mush when I bake them.  I think the best way to eat them is straight from the tree, so anyone who wants some is welcome to stop by the backyard to help themselves.

everything’s coming up roses

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Today’s summer bowl activity is proof, once again, that if you take a toy out of rotation for a while it becomes new and fun when you bring it back. My fabulously crafty mother-in-law made these felt and button flowers for Pia a while back. I kept them out for quite some time because I thought they were so cool and tactile and pretty. But, since they had been out in plain Pia sight for so long it was like she had stopped seeing them. So I put them away for a couple weeks and they reappeared this morning in the summer bowl. Today she played with them in a totally new way, first organizing all the pieces by color and part of flower. Then she asked me to play ‘flower shop’ and we had fun picking pieces and putting together new flowers.

If you want to make a similar toy it works best with stiff felt. Cut out different sizes and shapes of flower petals and leaves and make button hole slits in them (make the slits big enough so the buttons you choose fit through easily). Cut strips of felt (about 6 inches by 1 inch) and sew buttons to them. The buttons should all be roughly the same size.  Make sure you leave about a quarter inch of space between the button and the felt when sewing on the button, so the buttons are easy to manipulate by little hands and so they can accommodate a few layers of flower petals. Then let your little one loose and watch a colorful garden appear!

and with the girls be handy

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Pia and I have been listening to loads of patriotic music lately, which is totally out of character for me. It is so weird how kids change everything and how a mere two years ago I would have been mocking the same songs that she and I now are singing together at the top of our lungs. Odd how being a pessimist just isn’t as much fun when there is a bouncy, happy 4-year old around. Our favorite song to sing together is “This land is your land” which makes me secretly happy as it is a Woodie Guthrie song. Oh, and Bruce Springsteen does a mean rendition of it which makes my heart swell each time I hear it. Listen to it here and your heart can swell, too. Robin, please don’t click on the link as I fear you will just poke fun and I can’t bear the thought of you not loving Bruce to the depths of the deepest oceans as I do.

Oh, but I must ask this: in the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy” what is the meaning of the line “and with the girls be handy”? Handy? Do they mean “handsy”? In which case that is totally wrong and dirty (if also mighty hilarious). Or did “handy” mean, like, chivalrous back in the 1700s?

But on to the point of this post: today’s summer bowl activity!!  We took our summer bowl on the road today and brought the fun to Tea.  Together we made these fun CD spinners that were in the latest issue of Family Fun magazine.

The directions called for an old CD, a shooter marble and an old plastic cap. Alas, old CDs are easy to come by in this house, but shooter marbles and plastic caps, not so much (as not much soda or bottled water is consumed in our house). So, instead of a marble we used big wooden beads and instead of the plastic cap we used old wooden spools. The swap worked fine once Robin figured out that the bead and the spool could be hot glued together through the hole in the CD, thus sandwiching the whole thing together (the glue didn’t work very well on the plastic CD). The tops work shockingly well and I think this might be the first CD reuse craft that actually has merit. Have you discovered a CD craft that is cool? Please let me know!

I would love to say that Tea and Pia played with their tops happily and sharing-ly for the rest of the afternoon while Robin and I sipped iced coffees out on the veranda, but that would be a big old lie.  The kids lost interest pretty quick and since it was about 900 degrees out today they spent most of the day bickering. Robin did manage to capture a bit of video that shows the tops in motion and the kids in the 30 seconds of the day that they weren’t fighting. Enjoy!

sad, sad pansies

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The summer bowl made its debut today… and it did me proud. It was wicked hot out this afternoon and Pia was being less than patient as we waited for our friends to head to the playground. I looked at her laying on the floor and whining, then looked at the bowl and said “hey, wanna check out the summer bowl while we wait?” And like magic the curiosity cured the whines.

Last night I had put two flower presses (that we made over a year ago) and two pairs of scissors in the bowl. We each took a set out to the front porch where our pansies sat, sad and wilting after a spring of putting on a show. We set to snipping off the pathetic little blooms and put them in our flower presses.  In a week or so we can take them out of our presses and do a fun craft with them. I have a plan.

On the pansies note: What do I do with them? Are they done for the season? Should I compost them now? Or will they come back in the fall when cooler temps arrive?

The Summer Bowl

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Years ago I stole acquired this wooden bowl from my parents’ basement. The bowl used to be my grandma’s (great-grandmother’s?) bread bowl and it is pleasantly worn from years of hard work. This summer I plan to put it to work again, but not for bread making (as it has taken me two months to make a measly 9 meals in my Vegetarian Kitchen quest I don’t see bread making in my near future). The plan is to fill it each night with different fun things so that there will be a ‘new’ activity awaiting Pia each morning this summer. Oh, the excitement in my head. The ideas are very nearly popping out of my ears.