Friday, 31 October 2014

Halloween at Home

Halloween in our home is less creepy-scary and more spooky-fun. My kids (and I) don't get those fun, tingly little thrills out of being scared - we mostly just get scared. So in our house Halloween is heavy on pumpkins and cheerful ghosts and light on anything really creepy or frightening.

For Halloween decor we draped the house inside and out with Halloween cobwebbing and dozens of pumpkins big and small. The kids, as always, designed and carved their own jack-o-lanterns (with a little help for the sharp parts!)

Halloween dinner featured our usual jack-o-lantern stuffed orange peppers and pumpkin-styled drinks with lollipop ghosts and Halloween-themed cupcakes.

For crafts this year we made block jack-o-lanterns using orange and black building blocks,

pom-pom pumpkins using homemade wool pom-poms for the body and twisted craft wax for the stem,

and popsicle stick spiderwebs using criss-crossed popsicle sticks.

This year, for the first time ever, the kids all wanted different costumes and dressed up without a theme.

Baby went as a ladybug - one of a couple dozen costumes in the dress-up play chest in the basement, he's worn it out visiting, to his brothers' soccer games, and to the grocery store. It seemed a natural choice for an actual costume-appropriate occasion! Middle Child went as Leonardo - he's obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And Oldest Child decided to dress up as Creeper from Minecraft. We couldn't find anything in the stores so I made it myself with cardboard boxes, dollar store tablecloths, paint chips and pantyhose. I'm pretty proud of that homemade Creeper costume, if I do say so myself!

Happy Halloween!

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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Minecraft Creeper Costume

My oldest son, at ten years old, is straddling that line between little boy and pre-teen kid. Coming up with a Halloween costume that was kind of cool and not babyish but not scary was a little more challenging this year, but we settled on Creeper from Minecraft and he was very excited.

Creeper costume, Minecraft, Halloween, homemade costumeI wrapped cardboard boxes in plastic dollar store tablecloths. We collected a few dozen paint chips in various shades of green from the hardware store and glued them on for that Minecraft pixel look. I cut the eyes, nose and mouth shapes out and glued black pantyhose on the inside of the mask to cover the holes - opaque black from the outside just like Creeper, but see-through from the inside so my son could walk around safely at school all day and trick-or-treat through the neighbourhood at night.

My son was out of his mind with excitement when he saw the finished product. I'm pretty proud of that homemade Creeper costume!

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Monday, 20 October 2014

My Baby's Getting Big

My youngest little boy - the baby of the family - is three years old.

No longer a baby, though we all still treat him like one.

My sweet, squishy, smiley little boy, the love of his brothers' lives and the chubby little ray of sunshine that cheers and brightens all our lives has suddenly grown from a roly-poly baby to a big little boy desperate to do everything his big brothers do.

I love watching him learn and grow. I love exploring and discovering the world with him. I love how much he worships his brothers and how much they dote on him. I love watching his brothers teach him and seeing all three boys learn together. I'm proud of the little person he's growing into.

But every new thing learned, every milestone, every birthday brings with it a pang of loss. Because every step he takes toward becoming a big boy is a step away from being the baby he once was. I miss my baby. I miss all my babies.

And it's not that I'd prefer they stay babies. It's that I know that this is the end of the baby era in our family, and although that is my choice, it still makes me sad. Never again will I grow a new life and feel the thrum of a shared heartbeat. Never again will I sit in the armchair by the window for hours on end, nursing a little one to sleep. Never again will those impossibly tiny fingers close around mine and a softly tufted head rest trustingly on my chest. Never again will I be another tiny human being's whole entire universe - and he mine.

car cakeAnd now my youngest baby boy is three years old. A grown little guy with his own personality and thoughts and choices, with very definite ideas about what kind of birthday cake he wanted me to make and what toys he wanted on his wish list and how he wanted to celebrate his big day.

My little baby's getting so big!

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Friday, 17 October 2014

Something Special About Cousins

There's something so special about cousins. A kid's first friend after their brothers and sisters, a cousin can be both a playmate and confidante that straddles that fine line between family and friend.

I didn't know my own cousins that well growing up; my brothers and I are a lot older than our oldest first cousin and the youngest is nearly twenty years younger than I am. So watching my own kids and the relationships they have with my niece and nephews is a completely new experience for me.

It's a unique and special kind of relationship, this cousin relationship. There are the shared bonds of family, of holiday memories and special occasion celebrations. In a family this size, sometimes it seems we're celebrating one birthday or festivity or another every weekend. Sometimes it can be months in between visits. No matter how short or how long the separation, as soon as the kids are in a room together it's as if they were never apart and they pick right up where they left off, running and chasing and shouting and playing.

There are very few things that melt my heart more than listening to the older boys teaching the younger ones how to play a game or watching my son and my niece cooking together in our play kitchen or sitting in the sofa audience while the youngest two cousins put on a performance for the family, rocking out with their play guitars.

And when my two-year-old is asked who his friends are, he lists his cousins' names.

I'm so glad my boys have such a special friendship with their cousins.

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014


Last weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada.

For our family, Thanksgiving means a weekend up north at my grandparents' home - the warmest, most welcoming place in the world, the place where so many of our family's happiest memories live, a home filled with love and laughter and built on big family dinners and sunny afternoons spent on the water and cozy mornings curled up under homemade afghans watching our favourite family movies together.

We were blessed once again this year with a gorgeous, golden sunshiney weekend. Following tradition, my grandparents left the leaves out on their enormous property for the kids to play in and we spent the entire afternoon raking the leaves into great piles, leaping in and rolling around, wandering down to the water to feed the ducks and inspect the crayfish, and exploring the woods all around.

The children, as always, seemed somehow to multiply as soon as they got together - though there are only a half-dozen little ones in our family, as soon as they start shouting and chasing and playing there suddenly seem to be hundreds of them underfoot.

A weekend full of family, an afternoon out by the water in the golden autumn sunshine, tables laden with snacks and desserts, a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings and a couple of dozen faces filled with love looking back at us.

There's an awful lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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Apple Picking at the Farm
 Apple Picking at the Farm

Making Memories
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Monday, 13 October 2014

Homemade Halloween

With Thanksgiving under our belts, our bellies full of turkey and trimmings and our hearts full of family and holiday spirit it's time for those of us with young children to turn our thoughts to Halloween - draping the house in cotton cobwebs, decorating the yard with ghosts and goblins, baking spooky treats to send to school with the kids, picking out costumes to wear on the big night.

My boys and I sat down this week to discuss costume ideas. Merely as a matter of interest I pulled out all the costumes we already had in the house - out of the dress-up box in the playroom, packed away in the Halloween box in the basement, mixed up with the outgrown baby clothes in my youngest's closet, stuffed haphazardly into the crawlspace.

In our home, at this moment, our costume inventory includes: three pirates, three pumpkins, two ninjas, two dinosaurs, two avatars, a ladybug, Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, Darth Vader and a Storm Trooper, Mario and Luigi and a mushroom. Plus assorted masks, hats, capes and accessories. And all three of my children have chosen different costumes for this year.

It's fine - of course it's fine. Halloween is a fun holiday for kids. Dressing up in costume, walking in a parade at school, trick-or-treating through the neighbourhood at night. They're only little enough to really enjoy it for such a short while; of course I'll get or make them whatever costume they choose. But looking at that pile of costumes, heaps of colourful stuffed plush and screened fabrics and coordinating masks and accessories, all worn once and packed away - it just seems so wasteful.

It's not that kids' costumes are terribly expensive. You can get a pretty fancy character costume, complete with accessories, for forty dollars or less and your child will look like he just walked out of Central Casting. That costume can be popped into the play chest for dress-up play and then handed down to a niece or nephew or a neighbour's child. It's not like it needs to be a disposable item.

But Halloween costumes don't even need to cost that much. Remember when we were younger and our mothers sewed our costumes out of scrap fabric? It's actually still acceptable to do that. Or if, like me, you aren't much of a seamstress, a little bit of creativity and craftiness can get you an awesome kid-and-budget-friendly costume.

Think dollar-store felt and craft items, old clothes designated for donation, bits and pieces and odds and ends around the house. Dollar stores are also filled with cheap and easy costume pieces - colourful wigs, tiaras, witches' hats, vampire teeth and capes. Use your imagination!

Mouse, bunny or cat ears can be cut out of felt and affixed to a headband, makeup used for whiskers and nose and a stuffed pantyhose leg pinned to the back of a solid-coloured outfit to become a favourite animal.

Pull out Dad's hockey or baseball gear and go as a professional athlete.

Craft a masquerade mask from glitter and feathers and beads and dig through Mom's closet for glamorous dress-up clothes.

Wrap a large box in gift wrap, cut holes in the top and sides for head and arms and pop a bow on the top of the head to go as a gift.

Pull out that Santa hat from last Christmas, pair it with a red sweatshirt stuffed with a pillow and carry a stocking instead of a loot bag.

Mario Brothers Halloween costumes, kids costumes, Mario, Luigi, mushroom, homemade costume, HalloweenOne year my older two boys were going as Mario and Luigi and I could not find a coordinating baby costume for my youngest, so I created a Mario Brothers mushroom using an inverted plastic serving bowl covered in a blue balaclava with black felt eyes glued on. I sewed the mushroom cap onto the hood of his blue one-piece snowsuit.

I used all dollar-store items with an overall cost of approximately five dollars, and we've never had such rave reviews over one of our kids' Halloween costumes.

Last year all three boys were in a lather of indecision over their costumes and it came right down to the night before Halloween before they decided to go as pirates.

I dug three pairs of black pants out of the piles of clothes they'd outgrown and cut them off with jagged edges, chopped an old striped maternity t-shirt into three black-and-white sashes, dressed them all in plain black t-shirts with open white dress shirts and rolled-up sleeves, then dug into our stores of piratey play things: pirate hats, pirate bandana, eye patches and earrings and medallions. We finished off the costumes with eye pencil "scars" on their cheeks and foreheads.

Total cost: nothing, other than what we had in our house to begin with.

There's nothing at all wrong with splurging on a store-bought character costume for your kids' Halloween. But if you're thinking of saving a few dollars in the months leading up to Christmas, homemade Halloween costumes can be a great way to go!

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Happy Halloween!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Halloween Craft Ideas

It's time for some Halloween holiday crafting!
Like most kids, mine love Halloween but are not really into super spooky or scary costumes or decorations so I've collected some super cute craft ideas that are fun and festive but not frightening.
Happy Halloween!
 Pumpkin Glasses
Pumpkin Glasses
Photo and instructions:
 Pumpkin Paper Lanterns
Pumpkin Paper Lanterns
Photo and instructions:
Paper Pumpkins
Paper Pumpkins
Photo and instructions:
 Handprint Spiders
Handprint Spiders
Photo and instructions:
Popsicle Stick Spiderweb
Popsicle Stick Spiderweb
Photo and instructions:
Lollipop Ghost
Lollipop Ghost
Photo and instructions:
Paint Chip Halloween Craft
Paint Chip Halloween Craft
Photo and instructions:
 Halloween Mobile
Halloween Mobile
Photo and instructions:

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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Fall Leaf Crafts

As soon as the leaves begin to change colour and scatter the ground underfoot each fall kids begin to collect them by the armful and bring them home. Though they don't stay bright and beautiful forever those colourful autumn leaves can make great craft items for little ones while they're here.

fall leaf rubbing, fall crafts, kids crafts, autumn leaves

Fall Leaf Rubbing

Even toddlers can manage this easy, colourful craft. Place a piece of parchment paper over leaves collected from the ground. Rub (or scribble) with crayons in fall colours over the leaves. Tape the parchment paper on the window and let the sun filter through the "stained glass" autumn leaves.

Fall Leaf Placemat

Collect leaves in as many different colours and shapes as you can find. Before they begin to dry out, arrange the leaves on a piece of paper. Carefully stretch plastic wrap across the full paper and press beneath a heavy book for a day or so. Remove the book and affix the ends of the plastic wrap to a piece of cardboard behind the paper. Use as a placemat on your Thanksgiving dinner table!

Fall Tree Craft

Cut a tree shape from craft paper. Let your toddler paint the tree in fall colours. When the paint dries, help them glue the leaves they've collected onto the tree. A cute fall creation for little crafters!

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Monday, 6 October 2014

Autumn Harvest

It's a beautiful autumn so far - warm summer breezes still rustling the now rust-and-copper trees, fall flowers blooming brilliantly from every front porch and crimson leaves crunching underfoot, sunny afternoons drifting into golden evenings.

Autumn is the time of year when our summer garden explodes, flowers blazing into colour beneath the changing foliage and popping up in unexpected corners of the backyard garden and our vegetable garden suddenly swollen with ripe fruit and vegetables ready to pick, vines dripping with juicy red tomatoes and boughs drooping with the weight of blue-ribbon-worthy cucumbers.

It's this time of year, when we're picking dozens of fresh vegetables every day and eating home-grown Swiss chard salad every evening that I almost wish we had a little more land to devote to gardening. Nothing tastes better than fresh-picked organic fruit and vegetables from your own backyard!

Autumn vegetable harvest, tomatoes, cucumbers, swiss chard, organic vegetables, vegetable garden

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Friday, 3 October 2014

Apple Season

It's apple season in Ontario - warm, sunny summer days are slowly turning a little cooler and crisper in the mornings and evenings, the trees are blazing with beautiful autumn reds and golds, the ground is covered in fallen leaves and gardens are overflowing with ripe fruits and vegetables ready to pick.

apples, apple picking, autumn, fall, fruitFall always means a trip to the local apple orchard to pick our own apples. A couple of hours of old-fashioned outdoor family fun, of exploring the rows upon rows of twisted, gnarled trees heavy with fruit, of climbing the tangled branches and filling our baskets to the top, of eating the sweet, juicy apples fresh off the tree; of wagon rides and playing on tractors and feeding the animals in the petting zoo and pretending to get lost in the corn maze. It's one of our favourite fall traditions.

And what better way to finish off the day and use up some of those apples than with fresh-baked homemade apple pie!

apple pie, apples, baking, apple pie recipeEasy Apple Pie Recipe

8 large apples
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg
2 pie crusts (I cheat and use store-bought)

1. Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon.
2. Peel, core and slice apples.
3. Sprinkle 1/3 dry mixture in pie crust, add 1/3 apple slices on top; repeat layering 3 times.
4. Insert second pie crust over apple filling. Crimp edges and cut vents in top crust.
5. Brush egg over entire crust.
6. Bake 45 minutes at 350F.

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