Monday, 28 April 2014

My Sweet Boy

Being a mom teaches me every day to be a better person, to be kinder, to be more patient, to be more selfless than I ever was in my previous life - but nothing and no-one in my entire life has taught me more about kindness and generosity and selflessness than my oldest son and how he sees the world.

My sweet boy is the most unselfish human being I have ever met. His enormous heart makes me melt and breaks my heart every day.

If anyone in the house isn't feeling well he turns into a little nurse, bringing blankets and glasses of water and tucking in and snuggling and soothing.

Whenever his youngest brother is upset he puts on a circus act for him until he's happy and laughing - singing, dancing, funny faces, silly noises - no matter where we are or how long it takes.

He makes friends with every new kid at school and invites anyone standing alone at recess to play ball hockey with he and his friends.

He high-fives and cheers every play on the pitch at soccer practices and games - win or lose, success or fail. Every teammate gets a pat on the back from my sweet little boy.

With the allowance he earns every week he buys gifts for his brothers. There are toys and games and books he'd like for himself - but he likes even more to spend his money on his younger brothers.

He gives toys he's outgrown to his younger cousins without prompting.

He donates his own money to buy food and gifts for families in need at Christmas time.

He offers to give up treats and trips for himself when there's a question of anyone else in the family having to make sacrifices.

He's amazingly sensitive to other people's moods - if anyone seems down or tired or short he feels it and tries to fix it as best he can.

My boy is the kindest, sweetest, biggest-hearted, most loving person I have ever been lucky enough to know - and he makes me a better person every day for knowing him.

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Friday, 25 April 2014

Earth Day Tree Planting

My kids are absolutely fascinated by all things growing and green. They love helping in the garden, planting and watering and pruning and weeding and watching things grow. They spend a good chunk of their allowances during the growing season on flowers for the garden and seeds and pots to grow their own little vegetables and herbs. Our daily checks of the vegetable garden are one of the highlights of their summer days.

In addition to the herbs and vegetables and flowers we plant every spring, each of my boys has his own little tree that he's been carefully nurturing. When we first moved to Pleasantville from the city a few years ago the kids each received a teeny-tiny little sapling at a Movies in the Park night sponsored by the Town. It was such a perfect symbol of our new life in our new home and our new town. We planted the saplings in great big roomy pots with lots of good earth and the kids have taken care of them ever since, watering them every time we water the gardens, weeding any stray weeds that dare grow in those pots, transferring any worms they find in the garden into the earth around their precious trees. One day we will have to plant those trees permanently in the yard, but for the time being they're thriving in their enormous pots and the kids are thrilled with them.

In Pleasantville, Movies in the Park is an annual event. As is the free tree for each kid. We've been here a few years now. We have a lot of little trees, and a pretty small suburban backyard. There's simply no way we can keep all of these little trees here. But the kids are very attached to their little trees, so until now we have - the one special tree for each boy is in its special pot, but a half-dozen others have accumulated over the years and are collected in their little plastic cups and pots in various corners of the yard waiting for a forever home.

So for Earth Day this year I had a stroke of brilliance - we'd plant them in the park behind our house. Close enough to home that the kids can still take care of them and watch them grow. Outside the confines of our fairly limited yard space, allowing me to keep my dream of a one-day pool back there alive. And just behind our fence so that we can keep them relatively safe from being stepped on or mowed over while they're still small and benefit from the privacy and prettiness of mature evergreens when they're grown.

Earth Day Tree Sapling, kids activities
The kids carefully positioned and repositioned their little trees just outside our fence (it's possible Mom's organizational obsessiveness has rubbed off just a bit...) and when everyone was satisfied we marked out the locations and got down to business. We dug out their tiny little holes and backfilled them with good gardening soil. We carefully pulled the tiny trees out of their little pots, loosened up the tangled roots and gingerly placed them in the holes.We backfilled with more of the good soil and tamped it down with the earth we'd removed. We created little shelters for them from bamboo gardening stakes and twine and watered them - and now we wait.

Earth Day Tree Saplings, kids activities
I have no idea if these little baby trees will survive life in a fairly high-traffic public park - the kids running around, the town landscaping crews coming by with their massive machinery all summer long - but our fingers are crossed!

Happy Earth Day. Plant a tree!

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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Apple Cinnamon Oat Bran Muffins

Apple cinnamon oat bran muffins, baking, healthy snacks
I make these delicious, healthy muffins in enormous batches and freeze about half of them. We have them with breakfast, as after-school snacks, as extra treats in the boys' school lunches, and I pop a few in my purse whenever we're going to be out for a few hours.

Apple cinnamon oat bran muffins, baking, healthy snacks Apple Cinnamon Oat Bran Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup bran
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup apples

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Mix all wet ingredients together in large bowl.
3. Add oats and bran, mix.
4. Mix dry ingredients together and add to wet ingredients. Mix.
5. Add apples, finely chopped.
6. Pour batter into paper lined muffin pan cups to 3/4 full.
7. Bake for 25 minutes at 400F. Remove muffins from pan immediately and cool on rack.

Apple Cinnamon Oat Bran Muffins, baking, healthy snacks

Any dried fruits, raisins, seeds or nuts are a tasty addition or substitution - but don't forget to keep it nut-free if you're going to send these to school with your little ones.


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Monday, 21 April 2014

Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake & Cream Cheese Icing

This delicious, super-sweet carrot cake and rich cream cheese icing is a family favourite in our house every Easter.

Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake, Easter, baking, desserts, cream cheese icingIngredients:

12oz pkg. carrots 
1 1/2 cups veg. oil
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
8oz pkg. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups icing sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease & flour 9x13 inch baking pan.
2. Cook, drain and mash carrots. Add sugar, oil and eggs. Beat well.
3. Mix flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat into carrot mixture.
4. Pour batter into pan. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes (toothpick inserted in centre should come out clean.)
5. Leave cake in pan to cool on baking rack.

1. Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a bowl until creamy. 
2. Add icing sugar one cup at a time until icing is a spreadable consistency.
3. Spread frosting evenly over cooled cake.

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Friday, 18 April 2014

Family Easter Celebration

Easter basket, Easter flowers, Easter decorations

This Easter, with winter dragging on for so long and spring just barely arriving in time for the end of April, we weren't exactly able to fill the house with pretty fresh flowers for our holiday decorations. No problem in a house filled with such enthusiastic little crafters!

Pom-Pom flower craftOur Easter preparations kicked off with some creative holiday crafting to brighten up our home:

we spent days creating colourful pom-poms and placemats and centrepieces...

Tissue paper Easter egg craft

...Easter eggs and chicks and bunnies...

Easter chick craft  Easter bunny handprint craft

Tissue paper flower craft
...and a beautiful bouquet of tissue paper flowers.

We dyed two dozen eggs for Easter Sunday brunch and made a few special ones into minions.

Minion Easter Eggs

I baked my super-special sticky-sweet carrot cake with cream cheese icing (delicious!)

Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake

And when Easter weekend came with a surprising burst of warm, sunny weather we were ready to enjoy four full days of relaxing family springtime fun.

Good Friday was spent outside - playing in the backyard, biking through the neighbourhood, walking through the ravine and soccer at the park. On Saturday we went to the annual Town Easter event with holiday crafts, outdoor activities for the kids, a meet-and-greet with the Easter Bunny and a massive egg hunt through the woods, then hosted the in-laws for Easter dinner.

Coloured Easter Eggs
Sunday was our own family Easter egg hunt - a hundred and eighty tiny foil-wrapped eggs hidden throughout the house and yard for three very excited little boys to find - followed by an enormous breakfast of bacon, ham, fruit, fresh bread, and of course our traditional coloured eggs, hard-boiled and ready to crack.

Once again my oldest son was the family champion with the longest-lasting egg (although I'm not sure "winning" the egg cracking competition is all it's cracked up to be - everyone but the "winner" actually gets to eat their eggs while the champion is left hungrily holding a beautifully decorated, completely intact egg.)

The rest of the weekend was spent up north at my parents' house with the whole family - kids, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - the usual wonderful noisy jumble of people and music and toys underfoot and a game in the background and oodles and oodles of delicious holiday food and drink.

Happy Easter!

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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Easter Eggs & Making Minions!

Coloured Easter Eggs

Coloured Easter Eggs

One of our favourite Easter traditions is colouring our own Easter eggs and then cracking and eating them for Easter breakfast. It's so much fun for the kids to do and the eggs make such a pretty decoration for the Easter table (before they get eaten up!)

Colouring Easter EggsTraditional Coloured Eggs

1. Hard-boil as many eggs as you want to colour. Rinse in cool water and pat dry.
Colouring Easter Eggs2. Prepare four bowls with colour (one bowl for each colour): two cups boiling water, two tablespoons vinegar, and fifty drops of food colouring.
3. Dip egg carefully into selected colour. Leave in until desired colour is reached. Remove and pat dry.

This year I surprised the boys by making them one extra-special egg each in addition to the ones they made themselves: minions! They were a little tricky and time-consuming, but worth it to see the boys' excitement.

Making Minion Easter Eggs, Despicable Me, colouring eggs

Minion Coloured Eggs

1. Hard-boil eggs, rinse and pat dry.
2. Prepare yellow colour as above and colour eggs yellow.
3. Fill an empty egg tray with plastic egg halves from the dollar store or left over from last year.

Making Minion Easter Eggs, Despicable Me, colouring eggs

4. Fill the plastic egg halves with blue prepared colour (as above).
5. Dry the yellow coloured eggs well and place in blue colour in tray.
6. Remove eggs carefully and pat dry.
7. Use a strip of electrical tape and white paper for the goggles and eyes and play clay for the mouth.


Minion Easter Eggs, Despicable Me, colouring eggs
Minion Easter Egg, Despicable Me, colouring eggs

Minion Easter Egg, Despicable Me, colouring eggs

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Monday, 14 April 2014

Tissue Paper Easter Egg Crafts

Tissue paper Easter egg craft, stained glass, crafts, kids crafts

These tissue paper Easter egg crafts are a fun activity for kids and are easy enough that even the smallest little hands can easily manage them.

Tissue paper Easter egg craft, crafts, kids crafts

Puffy Paper Easter Egg

1. Cut out a large piece of construction paper in the shape of an egg. Draw a pattern onto the paper.
2. Cut several sheets of coloured tissue paper into two-inch by two-inch squares.
3. Pinch the squares in the centre and glue to the construction paper at the pinch following the pattern you've drawn.

Tissue paper Easter egg craft, stained glass, crafts, kids crafts

"Stained Glass" Easter Egg

Tissue paper Easter egg craft, stained glass, crafts, kids crafts
1. Cut out a large piece of parchment paper in the shape of an egg. (Note: paper must be translucent.)
2. Cut several sheets of coloured tissue paper into one-inch by one-inch squares.
3. Glue the small squares on the parchment paper; where only one layer of tissue is glued the colour will be very pale, while the colour will be more saturated where several layers overlap.
4. Hang the tissue egg on a window when dry for a "stained glass" effect!

Tissue paper Easter egg craft, stained glass, crafts, kids crafts Tissue paper Easter egg craft, stained glass, crafts, kids crafts

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Friday, 11 April 2014

Handprint Easter Crafts

Easter bunny handprint craft, kids craftsWe can't let any holiday pass without making some seasonal handprint crafts. These construction paper handprint crafts are fun and easy for little hands and a cute little Easter activity.

Easter Bunny Handprint Craft

Cut out shapes from construction paper for the bunny's body, ears and pads of paws. 
Trace and cut out child's handprints - you will need two. 
Glue handprints to body as paws and construction paper circles to paws as pads. 
Glue ears to body. 
Glue on pom-poms for eyes, wool for mouth and cotton for tail.

Easter chick handprint craft, kids craftsEaster Chick Handprint Craft

Cut out a shape from construction paper for the chick's body.
Trace and cut out child's handprints - you will need four.
Glue handprints to body as wings and feet. 
Glue on pom-poms for eyes and felt for beak.

Happy Easter!

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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Easter Chick & Bunny Craft

Easter chick craft, Easter bunny craft, tissue paper crafts, kids crafts
My seven-year-old came up with the idea for this craft and I thought it was super cute and very creative.

Easter Chick & Bunny

1. Make a tissue paper puff using your favourite colour - follow this paper puff tutorial for easy step-by-step instructions.
2. Cut shapes out of construction paper and felt for the eyes, ears, beak and feet.
3. Add any other details with whatever craft supplies you have lying around - pom-poms or googly eyes instead of felt, feathers for the chick's wings, pipe cleaners or wool for the bunny's whiskers, cotton for his tail.

Easter chick craft, tissue paper crafts, kids crafts

Easter bunny craft, tissue paper crafts, kids crafts

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