Thursday, December 5, 2013

Let the Countdown Begin Again

Ok, I'm not going to lie to you. I'm kind of wiped out on the inspiration side at the moment. Every year, I pretty much hit a lull during the fall. Though I head into it with all kinds of good intentions, it's my busy season at work and I get drained. I consider it a stellar parenting moment if I can sit on the floor next to Mads while she's coloring and not fall asleep. So I'm warning you, that the posts this month on our annual advent calendar of crafts are not going to be so much in the line of ideas as pictures of the fun that we're having. 

Here's this year's set up: 
 Confession: last year, I almost received divorce papers when my husband woke up on the first morning of advent to discover I had used all his coffee filters. As I was making my advent list I could see him getting nervous, so I opted for a different craft calendar. I used red solo cups this year.

 I actually remembered that advent was coming far enough in advance to buy all my supplies and get organized! It was actually very easy to fill the solo cup with as many supplies for that day's craft as would fit, then glue on a circle of white paper. I wrote out my numbers on white gift tags and used some polka dot "washi" tape (psst... it's not really washi but super cheap fake washi from Target!)

Maddie has loved ripping that circle off the cup for the day. Stacking them up as a Christmas tree has been a little cute too!

More on our crafts throughout the month!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Twas the Night before Halloween

I have been all about Halloween this year! I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Maddie loves this holiday SO much and secondly that her school is not really celebrating Halloween this year.  She did however get to attend a "Fall Family Night" where they got to craft pumpkins. That's hers above with the cool shades.
I've been trying to instill as many Halloween traditions as I possibly can. Including doughnuts, which I think are intrinsically characteristic of Halloween -- maybe that's just me. So we made these, my absolute favorite: Caramel Filled Chocolate Doughnuts.

And this lovely craft was born of an attempt to keep Maddie busy during the recent Bills-Saints game. (Daddy gets one televised Saints game a year -- don't mess with him!) I cut out some white fabric and pinked it a little bit. Then Maddie and I put a little wooden ball in the center and used washi tape like a scarf. Maddie did all of the faces. And of course, now she says she's scared of them, but I think they're cute.

Then for a nice new tradition, we decided to add this:
Apple Pie Caramel Apples. Delicious! It's just an apple dunked in caramel and cooled, then dunked in white chocolate and rolled in cinnamon sugar. My favorite from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory but surprisingly easy to make.

I also came up with this little Halloween edu-craft. One of the big benefits of a glass top table is that it's super easy to do stuff like this (not so easy to photograph though!). Maddie has been working on her shapes, so I thought it might be fun to make a cobweb. I used washi tape to create an octagon. Then I helped Maddie tear off pieces to make the inside of the web. 

My hope was that we could then point out different shapes that we had made. Of course, my child is just a little bit compulsive. Her plan is to completely fill the octagon. It's still a work in progress.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Now that Maddie has gotten a little older, I've been trying to let her get bored a little bit more. Less structure, more opportunities to get creative.  And sometimes the most interesting things happen.

Tonight, when bored, Maddie headed to the watercolors. My little artist is quite the minimalist.
 She proceeded to paint page after page in a single color. After each one was finished, she would announce, "Yea! We got to the next level!"

 But my favorite part is the way that she is such a little lady when painting. Such a class act.

Yup, that's my girl! As a side note, she later had me bind these pages into a book and then proceeded to cut out princesses from a coloring book to affix to each page. Maybe she's more of an illustrator. Hard to tell really.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall at the Farm

Every year, we go to a place in Somerset, New York called the Cobblestone House for their heritage field days. We've been going since I was a little girl when my grandmother used to work the pie stand and my grandpa used to work the Lion's Club chicken barbecue (Sooo much better than Chiavetta's!)

There really isn't anything quite like running down a hill. Fifty thousand times.

It's rather low key -- the afore mentioned chicken dinner, hay rides through the fields, a petting farm, some craft stands and some veggie stands. But oh, do we love it!

This year, there was an amazing large amount of animals to pet, including (surprisingly) a turkey -- very friendly, approximately 20 ponies, goats, bunnies, kitties and more. 

But my absolute favorite was this beautiful (ok, his buckteeth were even crooked) Alpaca.  He just stood there and mooed mournfully. Finally his owner said to me, "He's missing his brother. He's in Olcott." 

I've always loved it. And now that we have Maddie I must say I love it even more.
It always makes me think of the simplicity of days gone bay and desperately want to be a part of that country dwelling. Sadly, it also marks the end of summer for us. And the end of our days at Kopeka.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lucky Ladybugs

A few weeks ago, our family headed up to our cottage on Lake Ontario. Maddie and I headed down to the beach and were shocked to see this:

More ladybugs than I have ever seen in my life. Apparently September is prime ladybug season because their food is plentiful and this year must have been the most plentiful harvest ever. We seriously killed a lot of ladybugs just by moving.

My little girl does not shy away from a ladybug. She loved them! She would get right up close and observe them. We could see some many variations (mostly yellows and oranges, which are apparently perfectly normal. I always though yellow ones were dying, but I guess that's not true). We could see some with lots of dots and some with none.

Maddie could guide ladybugs onto rocks.

Or (fatally) pick them up and move them where she wanted. (Oops!)

She even built one a fort so it could stay warm.

They happily crawled all over us. And by the time we went inside we were still finding them on our backs and in our hair. Good thing ladybugs are lucky!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My New Adventure

Forever ago, I teased that I was starting a new endeavor. Well, I started a craft business. Two weekends ago (yes, in the midst of our move), Maddie and I ran our first booth at a craft fair.

My mother had a wonderful idea for little entrepreneur Maddie. All summer, she and Maddie harvested lavender from her garden, dried and plucked it. Then she and Maddie prepared some sachets and a little display so that Maddie could sell scoops of lavender for a quarter each.

When I was a little kid, my mom had a similar idea for me. She was starting a cake decorating business and set up a cake stand on our front lawn. My brother and I were allowed to sell lemonade and keep the proceeds. But we sold our lemonade out before she could even get the cake out to the stand.

Well, needless to say, that's what happened with Maddie and her lavender. Before she even got dropped off to work the sale, I sold seven of lavender scoops. By the day's end, she had made enough money to buy a cute little puppy marionette at the fair.

As for me, I got a few bites despite it being a very small audience but I also got my feet wet. And with that my Heart Felt Crafts business was born.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Today was a lovely day. For some amazing reason everything just went my way. The culmination of that day was coming home to a daughter who was cheerful, calm but playful, and brimming with excitement about her day.

On June 6, Maddie turned four. Almost to the day, she announced she would no longer nap -- and boy did she mean it. I think that child has only napped about five times all summer. Any time I take her for a ride in the late afternoon, she conks out after about five minutes of drive time. As soon as we get home, I carry her in, set her down on the couch, and she pops up saying crabbily, "I am not napping. I do not take naps." The crabbiness sometimes continues through the rest of the day. Sometimes, far too frequently lately, we also bridge into the realm of rambunctious. Over tired would be my word. But, she does not take naps. I can hear that independent, grown-up emphasis in her voice.

Today was not one of those rambunctious days, because today after Pre-K she took the nap that her little body so desperately needed.

And as I enjoyed the playful time with my darling girl, it reminded me that with the many issues that we moms struggle with -- the balance of time, the battle with patience, the need to discipline, the urge to coddle -- perhaps the greatest is the amazing shift of phases.

Any mom will know what I'm talking about, I'm sure. It seems that kids change phases at least every six months. More when they're babies. You get everything running smoothly and all of a sudden, every routine and every pattern suddenly becomes a frustration. And then you know, 'Whoops! New phase!" Usually this whole process takes place exactly one day after you've figured out your last phase. With Maddie, she changes her phase like clock work. "Oh, today's my birthday? Let's switch things up!" It's a transparent attempt to keep me jumping. I know what she's up to.

As Maddie entered the four phase, I suddenly found myself struggling not only with the new napless wonder, but also a need to scream loudly, repeat everything I say, the development of snark, and my favorite giving puppy dog kisses. Somehow, I will find a way to figure it all out -- but if any of my loyal readers have advise on the fours or want to regale me with their own tales of four I would be happy to hear!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The First Day of School

Yet more changes swept into our life last week with Maddie heading off to preschool for the first time.

Her first day was a little exciting and a little sad for Mama. Not so sad for Maddie. She had a few anxious moments -- particularly while the kid next to her fell apart in a mega-tantrum. But when I picked her up from school, she pronounced that she loved school!

In just one day,  my little one started doing things she had never done before. She marched around the apartment. She told her dad and I to stand in line and to get a partner to do this project. She had free play. And she taught real school, explaining tasks and steps to her "students." Of course, she later told me that she was just the substitute because the teacher had cancer for a few days. "Why, Charlie Brown, Why?"That show did a number on my kid.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New Beginnings

In April of this year, I got my hair cut. It was a dramatic and beautiful change for me which involved going back to my natural color. Something that I had lost and had been told by many hairdressers I could never find again. Ha! Showed them!

As if right on cue, my life got sent for a little flip the next day. My husband was suddenly no longer employed. Instead of working 70 hour work weeks with two days off a month, he was family-focused and much less stressed. In another change, my life took a little flip with changes at my work that kept me busy, busy, busy. I started working on a long planned and much dreamed of project that would occupy my creative efforts for much of the summer. My husband signed up for a comedy class in Toronto. I signed up for an awesome photography class online.

With all the changes in our life, we decided to add one more and move.  Not just a little move mind you, but a move that involved heart and soul.

We uprooted out of our beloved apartment of four years. The home we lived in when Maddie was born. The home we loved.

And we took a leap, moving into the home that my grandmother and grandfather lived in. The home where my father grew up. The home that I remember from childhood visits and family gatherings.

It is a lovely home and despite the tons and tons of work needed to pack, unpack, clean (a home that hasn't been lived in for 20 years!), reorganize, redefine spaces (and electrical usage!) we are proud to say that we are now the 8th generation in my family to live in this beautiful space.

This fall, I hope to update you more as we settle in. I'll be sharing more tales of the move and amazingly enough even more tales of the myriad changes in our life. Some people have a major life change once in a while -- once a year, once a decade. We like to get them all done at one time.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Maddie's Project

I recently read a New York Times article on Melissa and Doug and their story of the company that makes toys that promote an imaginative spark. As I read the article, I wondered if we are too materialistic in our house. Do we rely on the easy toy to entertain?
And then yesterday, Maddie said, "I want to make a car." I back-seated this conversation* and tried to see if she could own her craft project.

(*back-seating a conversation: you know, when you hold your breath and see what they'll say next and try not to steer. Comments like "wow" and "and then what" are key to the back-seater. Man, I should TM this team.)

I was shocked to see that she could establish her own plan to build a car. And here it is.
How-to-Build a Car by Maddie

First, you need a big box.
Then you stick on paper using tape.

Next you color the inside. (We used bingo dabbers which worked out amazingly!)

Paint two sides blue for the windows.

You might need to get under the hood.

Cut out four big, black circles and four little, white circles. Glue the white circles on the black circles and you have some tires. Stick two on each side with tape.

Cut out a cardboard circle and color it.

This will be your steering wheel. You can stick it on with yarn. (I interpreted this as make two holes in the wheel and the box and thread it on as you would a button.

Cut out a hole for your feet. (I suggested yarn suspenders to help her carry it around.)

And that's a car. (Wow, my house is a mess. But look at that cute kid!)

Look out! Here she comes!