Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Top 10 Things to do on Canada Day

Of all the summer holidays, Canada Day is definitely the one that's the most steeped in tradition at our house. There are certain things that just have to happen, or the celebration is not official! In no particular order, here are our top ten musts for today:

1. Pick a whole whack of strawberries at Lindley's farm (this year it was 24 quarts). Check.

2. Make a whole whack of jam with the strawberries (generally this is 3 batches, which still leaves us an obscene amount for freezing and eating). Check.

3. Watch the Joe Canadian commercial on YouTube. Check.

4. Read The Yarn Harlot's Canada Day blog post (this one will be taken care of as soon as I finish this post).

5. Watch the Blue Jays play in their spiffy red Canada Day uniforms. Check (nice game, boys - particularly the back-to-back homers by Adam Lind and Scott Roland).

6. Crank up the Canadian tunes. Check. So far we've worked our way through Blue Rodeo, Great Big Sea and 54-40.

7. Barbecue something. I haven't decided what yet :) but I'm guessing it's going to be a classic burgers-and-dogs feast this year.

8. Ingest as many strawberries as possible. Yes, strawberries are a big part of our Canada Day, as they rightfully deserve. Not only are they dressed for the party in their red (with subtle white) glory, they are also ready to pick on the big day. I think we are going to go all fancy with some Strawberry Daiquiris this year.

9. Adorn oneself with appropriate Canadian themed decorations (we are just breaking out the fake tattoos as I type, and my cute little socks with the Canadian flags are all ready to go for tonight).

10. Watch fireworks! The weather forecast is not in our favour right now, but we're busy praying to the weather gods and hoping the festivities won't get rained out tonight.

Happy Canada Day!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Connection & Clutter

These are the two words that have kept me from posting for so long!

"Connection" is the word I picked for my Word of the Year. I was pretty excited about it at the time, because it is so meaningful on so many levels:

  • CONNECTION to my Authentic Self
  • CONNECTION to the present moment
  • CONNECTION to my family and friends
  • building meaningful CONNECTIONs with many people in my new profession
  • all those fun learning CONNECTIONs that happen in unschooling
  • keeping myself open to unexpected CONNECTIONs of all kinds because you never know where they will lead next!
Well, ever since I picked CONNECTION as my Word of the Year, I have been caught up in a whirlwind of connections of all kinds that have kept me happily busy - so busy that I have neglected a lot of things (like this blog for instance) as I ride this wild wave!! Hopefully I will not be kept so busy *connecting* all year that I don't have a chance to share more details here.

Ah, and now on to the CLUTTER...

I am really not a pack rat at heart and I thought I had done a pretty good job of purging unwanted stuff on a regular basis over the years. So I was kind of surprised when, after hearing a friend of mine mention the book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui on an email list, I felt an uncontrollable urge to see if my library had a copy. They did, and I picked it up last week. Ever since then I have been on a clutter-busting rampage the likes of which I have never experienced before. For two days straight I was pulling open cupboards and closets and tossing, tossing, tossing!! Our recycling bins and trash can are MUCH fuller than usual this week, and I have large stacks of usable items awaiting new ownership through Freecycle (or, if all else fails, a trip to Value Village to drop it in the donation bin!) Needless to say, I was quite shocked to see how much stuff we've accumulated that we don't need or use anymore. There is still more to be done but I'm going to slow down a bit (the dog's looking a bit worried I might toss him in a donation pile, LOL!). Our house suddenly feels much calmer, more serene and spacious, and I want to keep it that way. Definitely a great way to start a new year!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Deck the Halls

We have been busy getting the house spruced up for Christmas this week. I'm amazed at how fast the boys set out all the decorations - they remembered exactly where we put each item and had most of it done before I knew what happened!

I had some fun rummaging through our Christmas Book Box (you can see it tucked in there behind the chair in the photo). All the standard seasonal favourites are in there (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Polar Express) along with some books that are more obscure but that have become our family favourites over the years.

Snuggling up together and reading our seasonal favourites in the glow of the Christmas tree is one of the things I cherish most about this time of year. If you're looking for some new books to add to your holiday collection, our family gives "two enthusiastic thumbs way up" to the following:

Rotten Ralph's Rotten Christmas by Jack Gantos - quite possibly the most-read Christmas book in our house!

Joel Schick's Christmas Present - a fanciful twist on the Twelve Days of Christmas featuring whimsical illustrations of dorkle bugs sneeds-a-slavering and many other very hungry critters.

Woodleigh Marx Hubbard's Twelve Days of Christmas - this one has the traditional verse along with playful and bright illustrations.

The Nativity, illustrated by Julie Vivas - our favourite version of the Christmas story, hands down. Beautifully illustrated, with some gentle humour.

I Spy Christmas
- okay, this one can't really qualify as "obscure" but it's certainly provided many hours of holiday entertainment at our house.

Happy holiday reading, everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Snow Joy!!

We got our first significant snowfall yesterday. Noah and Nathan started doing the "Snow Dance of Happiness" as soon as they saw the flakes starting to come down midafternoon. We walked home from the library enthusiastically catching snowflakes on our tongues. We then ran around the yard grabbing bikes, scooters, and all manner of outdoor items we hadn't quite got around to bringing in the house for the winter yet.

The boys tried to scrounge up enough snow for a snowball fight while they waited for their friends to get home from school. The whole gang then proceeded over to the toboggan hill (a 5 minute walk from our house) and I didn't see Nathan again until after dark. The snow accumulation was not huge but the kids were determined! By the end of the day both boys were rosy cheeked and wet from head to toe, full of sparkly-eyed excitement at the official onset of winter.

I have no photos to mark this occasion because my camera batteries died again. We picked some up last night, but by this morning the sun had come out and melted away most of the snow. I'm sure there will be more soon so I don't think I need to worry too much about getting a good photo op!

With the arrival of the snow I feel the stillness of winter settling in. It's a welcome feeling, as life has been particularly hectic of late. In the space of five weeks (between the end of September and the beginning of November), we celebrate both of the boys' birthdays (involving 2 parties for *each* boy) plus Canadian Thanksgiving and Halloween. This mama is looking forward to some quiet days snuggled up under lots of warm blankets, reading books and watching movies together! Of course, it's time to start thinking about Christmas celebrations as well, but I am determined to keep our holiday as peaceful as possible this year.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Late Summer Potpourri

A hollyhock in our front garden

So much for life slowing down! We have been incredibly busy since I last posted at the end of August. And yes, it's still technically summer until the equinox tomorrow!

Since I last posted, our family was interviewed and photographed for an article in our local paper. I was not entirely thrilled with it, although it was generally favourable towards unschooling. They left out all the most interesting and relevant stuff I told the reporter!

In the last couple of weeks we have also cheered Nathan on at his end-of-season soccer tournament in the pouring rain, celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary, and attended our local homeschool group's Not Back to School picnic.

The most exciting thing we've done lately is visit our unschooling friends at their farm in Upstate New York. We all had a blast - that includes the dog who seemed totally in his element as a "farm dog" despite his entirely urban existence. We made butter and mozzarella cheese with fresh-from-the-cow milk, and Nathan learned how to pick up a chicken and groom a donkey.

The boys engaged in lots of swimming, gaming, and trampolining!

Aric helps Nathan groom Jenny the Donkey

Kirsten milking her cow Becky

Joe getting to know Rumpus (Marley looks interested, too!)

During this flurry of activity, I have tried to stay on top of the fall garden, whipping up several batches of tomato sauce and wondering what the heck I am going to do with several dozen jalepeno and banana peppers (the only crops in my garden that seems to have really thrived during this cold, wet summer). Suggestions, anyone?

As if all that wasn't enough, yesterday I had the opportunity to attend an Abraham-Hicks workshop in Toronto - what a thrilling experience that was!

Life is so full and so good here and there seems to be a perpetually long list of upcoming events on our calendar!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Olympic Learning and a Pizza Box Solar Oven

Now that the Olympics are over and the outdoor pool is closed for the year, I might actually have some time to blog...

We absolutely love watching the Olympics around here. I am not normally one to watch a lot of sports on TV, but there is something so irresistible about the Olympic spirit. We spent many hours in front of the TV together in the last couple weeks (and I spent a few nights up by myself until 1:30 a.m. to catch the gymnastics competitions!)

It's fun to reflect on all the learning that occurred as we enjoyed all those great Olympic moments. What a perfect, real-life illustration of time zones - the kids were quite fascinated by the fact that when we were watching something on Wednesday night, it was Thursday morning in Beijing! We had our atlas sitting on the coffee table during the entire duration of the Olympics as we were regularly looking up where countries were located. It really amused us to discover that there were a number of countries off the coast of Australia with populations far smaller than our city. Solomon Islands' population (441,000) is very close to that of our city. It's fun to think of our city being an entire country, LOL! The kids picked up quite a few different country's flags during the course of the Olympic coverage, too. We also had lots of great conversations about the rules of different sports, sportsmanship, why Michael Phelps is so much faster than all the other swimmers, and many other things I've already forgotten!

In between all our Olympics-watching, we also found time to build a pizza box solar oven and test it out.

This was a really fun project - I got the instructions from Family Fun magazine. Here's the oven construction in progress.

Testing out the finished product! We measured the internal temperature - it got up to 139 degrees Fahrenheit (59.6 degrees Celsius) in 20 minutes. The air temperature was 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius).

Yum! Melted cheese on crackers - very tasty! The cheese was thoroughly melted after 15 minutes but didn't bubble and spread the way it normally would in the oven. We want to try making s'mores in the solar oven next.

If you want to try this project yourself, the instructions are here.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Where Did July Go???

I am sitting here in that rather fuzzy-headed state I always get into around this time of year when I start hearing all the back-to-school ads (blech) and realize that we're well into August already. Although our standard "schpiel" is that summer doesn't end until Thanksgiving when school is not part of your family life (that would be mid-October here in Canada), there are certain things that will only be around for a couple more weeks this year (like our outdoor community pool and most of my kids' friends). Of course there is plenty to look forward to in the fall - in September alone there's my wedding anniversary, a trip to visit unschooling friends in New York State, an Abraham-Hicks workshop (for me) and Nathan's birthday!!

But I'm still wondering where July went! Lots of lazy afternoons at the pool, a couple of nights a week on the soccer field, a family camping trip, and BAM! There she goes!

We did manage to acquire a new camera in July as well, so I suppose it's about time I posted a photo or two:

Noah and I chilling out on the rocky shores of Awenda Provincial Park (on Georgian Bay)
This is approximately the 3rd photo of us together in Noah's entire lifespan as I am the unofficial family photographer. Okay, there might be upwards of half a dozen, LOL!

We're pretty sure this is a young plainbelly water snake that was slithering along the beach.

We located what is possibly the last teeter-totter left in North America at our lunch rest stop on the way to Awenda.

One Happy Dog!

Noah lounging in the pool at our friends' house!

Nathan reading to Paige (to whom I am unofficial if not biological Auntie)

I guess we did do a few things in July after all :)