Blue houses

I snapped these photos quickly with my cell phone and for some reason, they’ve all got a blue cast to them. I took the photos because I’ve been meaning to post about a little project that’s been ongoing for what feels like half the summer.

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We’ve been painting bird houses.

Some days, friends come over and paint one, too. They keep their birdhouse, of course, so what you see here is probably only half of the birdhouses that have been worked on this summer.

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Sometimes the painting is a collaborative affair with multiple people working together to produce a single house.

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Sometimes there are more layers of paint than you realize as houses go from pink one day to red the next, and blue the day after that.

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The houses are from the dollar store for the most part, prebuilt and ready for decorating however you please. The big one (second from the left in the first photo) is a build-your-own kit from Lowes or Home Depot, as is another one shaped like a barn that is not yet finished, so I wasn’t allowed to photograph it yet.

I’m not entirely sure what we’re going to do with all these bird houses. We might do a yarn-bombing type event and decorate a school yard fence for a day or two. We might randomly leave them on neighbours’ porches with a little note of appreciation for being such good neighbours. Or we might just put them all up somewhere in our backyard as a colourful counterpoint to all the white stuff that we know is coming in a few short weeks.

But not just yet. For now, I rather like looking at them as they sit on the table all in a row, cheerful and happy little things that they are.

Here be dragons

I’ve always loved dragons. From the fiercely carved beastie who graces my desk to the soft stuffed version (in sparkly purple, no less) who often lives on my bookshelf, they’re wonderful creatures of myth and fantasy.

Lately, there have been a few more dragons flying around our house.

Literally.

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They’re paper dragons that you throw like paper airplanes, and they fly marvelously well.

Yummylicious

There are definite advantages to having a son who is fascinated by the Netflix show Chef’s Table. Here’s one of them:

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Pork chops in sour orange sauce with a side of sweet maple-glazed veggies paired with a salad fresh from our garden with balsamic vinegrette dressing, plated to look pretty, just like they do on the show.

He may have lots more to learn in the kitchen, but man oh man are my tastebuds loving this young man’s cooking!

Parking

There is so much to love about summer. There’s plenty to dislike, too. Like mosquitos. And hornets who build a nest under the deck and sting you when you try to weed the garden. And rabbits who eat all the parsley before you even realize it has begun to grow in earnest.

But there’s so very much to love about summer, and love it we do! One of our favourite things to do is to grab our well-loved rainbow blanket and some tennis rackets, maybe the badminton set too, pack a lunch and a book or three, and head over to the park from a lazy afternoon.

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We love that park. With tennis courts, big fields, a baseball diamond, swings, teeter-totters, many lovely shade trees, and not one but two climbers to play on, it’s a great place to hang out for a while. On our most recent visit, we didn’t play tennis. Instead, we played “whack the tennis ball.”

What? You’ve never heard of it? It looks rather like tennis. It’s played on a tennis court. Or not. You keep score. Or not. You have teams. Or not. You argue over whose ball is the bounciest. You argue over who gets the pink racket (neither of them want it). And you laugh a lot. (That part isn’t optional.)

We also did not play badminton. Instead, we played “whack the birdie” which, like “whack the tennis ball,” is rather fluid in its rules and regulations. This particular game was played while using a chain link fence as a net (though we did have our net with us, we were just enjoying being lazy too much to bother with setting it up). Getting the birdie stuck in the fence was worth an extra 5 points each time. Whacking the birdie at the fence and having it not get stuck, but rather go right through the fence was worth an extra 10.

And we ate snacks, read books, and talked and talked and talked.

I do love a day of long, wandering conversations while hanging out at the park.

About half way through our lazy afternoon, we started to hear music. Not radio music, and not live music, but rather that particular poorly recorded and even more poorly played back jingle of show tunes and traditional children’s songs that heralds the arrival of…

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…the ice cream truck.

The kids were off in a flash, money in hand, and returned a few minutes later with drippy cones and huge smiles.

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Well, they were smiling, but they’re teenagers. Heaven forbid they smile for the camera.

So what do you love about summer?

 

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As a professional writer, I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with paper. There’s something strangely appealing about the stuff, whether it’s pure, blank white or every colour of the rainbow. It can be lined, it can be dotted, it can even be perfectly blank on every side. It doesn’t matter, I’ll still love it.

When I was a young girl, my mother taught me how to make paper. She would bring out an old blender, throw in a bunch of paper pulp, and start adding things like onion skins or flower petals or even dryer lint. We would blend it into a watery mush, scoop some of it up on a square of screen stapled to an old picture frame, then sponge all the water out until it started to resemble something more like paper and less like guck.

I was always amazed at how pretty a piece of paper you could make from the most mundane-seeming ingredients.

As a teenager, I found myself in the exact opposite position. Instead of learning how to make paper, I was teaching other people how to do it as part of my job at the National Museum of Science and Technology (now called the Canada Science and Technology Museum). Most people thought it was kind of neat and would pause for a minute to try their hand at it, but you just knew they didn’t really get it. Why would anyone go through the time and trouble of making chunky, bulky, weirdly coloured paper out of onions or wildflowers or grass?

Every so often, though, someone would come along who would have a particular gleam in their eye and you just knew that this wasn’t likely to be the last time they had their hands wrist deep in paper pulp.

Maybe it was the way they crushed a handful of pulp in their hand to squeeze some of the water out and see what it might look like when finished. Or maybe it was the way they sniffed at the various ingredients and fingered the finished samples.

Maybe it was just a case of kindred spirits recognizing each other.

It’s been a long time since I’ve made paper by hand. My mother still does, as does my sister. Artists, both of them, so they have a daily excuse to dabble in all things creative — it’s all in a day’s work, after all.

For the past few months though, I have been knee deep in paper. The Man We Call Dad bought me a paper cutting machine, the Cricut Explore Air, and I have been having SO MUCH FUN with it! Yes, I know I’m shouting, but really, it’s been such a great thing to play with.

I’ve made all sorts of things with it. Cards, of course. Animal masks for all our nieces and nephews. A gorgeous bouquet of 3D paper flowers. Layered paper art for our walls. Tiny, delicate birds that are currently decorating the doors on the main floor. Mobiles for hanging in bedrooms and from windows. And paper banners, which I think turned out to be my absolute favourite project to date.

See?

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New toys

When our kids were little, the family room was full of toys. Thomas train sets, Rescue Heroes, toy fire engines and dump trucks, teddies, and dollies, and so much more.

Despite being determined not to fill our house to the brim with toys, we had a lot of toys. And yet, whenever there was a holiday, or a birthday (or a rainy Tuesday in July, let’s be honest here), a new toy or two would make its way into our home, much to the kids’ delight. Mine too, truth be told, since nothing makes Mama happier than when the people she loves most in the world are happy.

Often times, the toys served a dual purpose. Board games that taught math skills and money handling. Playmobil that taught careers and adventure loving and opened the door for many a conversation on values, behaviours, and life in general. Musical instrucments for noisy play that set the foundation for the wonderful musicians they have become. Those wonderful science kits from the Young Scientists’ Club. And the LEGOs…Oh, how we love those!

Over the years, the toys changed. Some have stayed constant – the Playmobil sets, the science kits, and of course the LEGO blocks. Others were around for a very short time indeed — well loved at the time, but not for long, like Rescue Heroes, play kitchen, and Pokemon cards.

Lately, the nature of our toys has changed. Imaginative play is slowly being replaced by sports and books and video games. Craft kits have been replaced by drawing lessons thanks to Craftsy and YouTube. But most surprising of all has been the latest obsession: baking.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I bake a lot. Cakes and cookies, squares and brownies…the kitchen is one of my favourite places to spend time.

As a result, I have quite a few toys in my kitchen, though there are a few still on my wishlist. Most recently though, we added three new toys to our stock of kitchen things: A meat slicer, a dehydrator…and this:

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We came across it at Canadian Tire and both kids instantly started chattering away in that very earnest and somewhat frantic and wildly pleading way they haven’t used since they were rather a lot younger. It was clear in an instant that this was to be one of those toys that would see a thousand hours of use in just a few short days, and then quite possibly, having been used to exhaustion, be then soundly ignored for weeks, and then months, and maybe even years.

But they were so excited at the possibility of owning such a thing, explaining how the band teacher for years has done something similar, and how awesome it is, and how they could do it all by themselves, and it would be AWESOME!!!!!!! (Though I’m not sure there are enough exclamation marks in the entire world to express exactly how awesome, so you’ll have to use your imagination.)

So we bought it. (It was on sale, after all.) And it was put to use almost immediately, much to their delight.

To my delight, too, since they are now of an age where they can be completely independent in the kitchen, trustworthy with sharp edges and hot surfaces, and confident that they can follow a recipe.

So what is our new toy? It’s a cake pop maker.

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They’ve already made at least two dozen cake pops, and they have plans for more, though we have run out of sticks. And sprinkles. (Oh, the horrors of not having enough sticks and sprinkles!)

The way I see it, though, is that a cakepop without a stick and covered with a little bit of sugar glaze or powdered icing sugar is rather remarkably similar to a Timbit, which opens up a whole new world of possibilities, as far as I’m concerned. Though I will have to figure out how they get the jam in the middle of the raspberry jam ones.

I think, when the kids have decided they’ve had enough of this particular kitchen toy, I just might have to play with it myself.

Fourteen years ago today…

Fourteen years ago, this happened:

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Last week, on our family camping trip, this happened:

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This kid, this young man we call K…he’s amazing. He’s so full of love and kindness and caring. He’s so good at nurturing his cousins, big and small. He’s so full of silliness, too, with a great sense of humour and so many stories to tell.

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We love him so much. Even when he’s hiding in cupboards. Or riding in canoes.

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Or waiting for something to finish baking, like pies. Or cake pops.

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His smile makes me smile, and always has.

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Happy birthday, son.