It’s a beautiful day

Outside, the sky is a lovely wash of blue peppered with fluffy clouds in just the right amount so the sun can play peek-a-boo all day long. It’s warm, too, with an official temperature of +1 degree Celsius, and the wind is playing nicely, bringing it down to a pleasant -6 with the wind chill.

Inside, I woke to see the most adorable picture of my nephews enjoying a picture book together at my sister-in-law’s house.  The birds are cheerfully seducing each other, I’ve almost finished another of the brimmed hats I’m enjoying making so much, my workday is moving along nicely, and I find myself in the sort of happy mood that has me humming random snatches of songs just because.

It’s a beautiful day both inside and out.

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Spring cookies

While on the subject of cookies, I am firmly convinced that B and her cookies has finally, at long last, brought about spring. Every spring, the Girl Guides sell cookies. Boxes and boxes of them nestled together in a cute little box, 12 boxes packed tightly into a distinctive cardboard case, three of which now grace my dining room buffet.

These cookies are, I think, a most delicious sign of spring.

In fall, they sell the chocolate-covered mint cookies, but I don’t like those nearly as much. There’s just something about the neat rows of chocolate and vanilla that makes my mouth water and entire cases of cookies vanish in a heartbeat. The first case, as a matter of fact, didn’t even last 24 hours before we were staring at an empty box with a tidy envelope of money. One box for K, and one for B, of course, for she absolutely must sample the wares herself if she is to sell them effectively (or so the logic goes). Another for a teacher or two, and a school bus driver, and that guy who works with The Man We Call Dad and makes us laugh every time he comes over. Scratch that, he bought two, as did B’s best friend, C (after initially saying she only wanted one).

In such a way do cases and cases of boxes of cookies get sold, year after year. Last spring, we sold 7 cases. At 12 boxes per case and 20 cookies per box, that’s 1,680 cookies.

(We won’t mention exactly how many of those 1,680 cookies were consumed by me.)

This spring, she chose to bring home only 3 cases. So far, I’ve managed to limit myself to a single, solitary box.

Which is now empty.

And is sitting on the little, round, antique table in my office, mocking me.

 

Paper dolls

Our Miss B is obsessed with paper dolls lately. Last year, I bought her the book My Book of Little House Paper Dolls after seeing how much she loved reading about the life of Laura Ingalls and her family.

At the time, she cut them all out as carefully as could be and played for a few weeks, but soon they were tucked away for another day and then eventually forgotten.

Until now.

In the last few weeks, the paper dolls have made a reappearance. Not only are they back, they’ve acquired some friends. Many, many friends. Everywhere I turn, I keep finding little pieces of paper clothing, paper hats, paper shoes, and even paper pets.

paperdolls

And where I don’t find the dolls and their accessories, I keep finding little strips and squares and triangles of cut-out paper scraps that, if assembled correctly, form the perfect outline of a little paper person or a paper dress or a pair of paper pants.

Our girl B, you see, has learned the magical power of Google.

Did you know that if you do an image search for “paper dolls,” you will find hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of images of paper dolls that you can print out?

Some are sweet. Some are definitely old-fashioned. Some look like Holly Hobby. Some are from old store catalogues. Some feature the characters from Downton Abbey — and since Miss B is just as addicted to that show as I am, she has printed out several copies of those ones.

Others are more modern, if by modern you mean featuring unnaturally thin people with skin tight and too revealing clothing options.

And Rihanna – whose paper doll page claims it will be “the best dress-up fun you’ll have with a pair of scissors.” And Disney princesses. And a scantily-clad Legolas from Lord of the Rings, too.

I might need to print myself a scantily clad Legolas.

Ahem.

There are zombie paper dolls, too. I found several flavours of paper zombie dolls, all highly entertaining but seriously disturbing.

I would never have thought to look for paper dolls online, though really it only makes sense since you can find almost anything online, after all. My first instinct is to look for a book.

When I was a young girl, I received as a gift a book of paper dolls one year that I still remember vividly. They weren’t just flat little dolls with flat little clothes — there was a picnic table whose legs bent up to form a 3D table complete with benches, and a baby carriage, and — my favourite thing of all out of the set — a 3D water fountain with two sweet little birds taking a bath.

gingham paper dolls

You can’t imagine my surprise when I googled “paper dolls” and discovered that this long out-of-print book has been digitized and is available as a free download.

And yes, it has now been downloaded and is printing onto cardstock even as we speak and will be tucked inside a certain young lady’s Easter basket this weekend, guaranteeing a house strewn with even more paper scraps about 10 seconds later.

I hope your Easter weekend is as full of joy as ours is sure to be!

Spring babies

Spring is for babies in the animal world. Cows calve, foxes have their kittens, bears have their cubs, and birds… birds lay eggs. Many, many eggs.

Which this mean Mama tosses straight into the compost these days, having deemed that we have quite enough birds in the house already, thank you very much.

Strangely enough, spring is also for human babies this year, and my hands have been oh-so-busy making.

Mid-February, the sweetest little boy made his way into the world to a pair of parents who couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s been a long wait and, being some of our very bestest friends (and an honorary Auntie and Uncle at that), I went kind of crazy in the making department.

I can’t help it. Auntie M asked for handmade goodies — owls, in a hoop, for the nursery wall. I was more than happy to oblige her.

mamaowl

babyowl

papaowl

owlhoop

Not only that, she showed up at my door one afternoon with armfuls of yarn and instructed me to make her things. And I happily obliged her with a baby blanket and a bib, with a pair of blue baby socks/booties on the way. There is still more yarn left (she really did drop of armfuls) so I am sure there will be more hand knit goodies headed her way shortly.

bib

blanket

sweaterwoodbuttons

And, tired of knitting and hand embroidery, I sat down in front of the sewing machine with a fabulous pattern I found on Etsy and I made her a diaper bag with the cutest little puppy dog print fabric accents. I’ll show you the results and give you my review of the pattern next post.

 

Spring is on its way

Outside, the ground is hidden under 3 feet of snow, but my soul knows in the magical way souls know such things that spring will be here in a few short weeks.

It’s not here yet, not quite, though the air is warmer, the rink at the park and the Rideau canal have both closed to skaters, and where the city’s great beast of a snowblower cut all the snowbanks away from the edges of the roads, there is a slowly eroding vertical wall of striated snow in shades of gray and dripping with icicles.

The snow has gone lacy in places, too, in the way it does as the snow starts to melt, then freezes again, then melts out from underneath, leaving shelves of the most delicate and beautiful ice lace in the strangest of places. It is beautiful and ugly all at once, this not-yet-spring season of ours.

The ugly comes from all the salt and sand and grossly grey sludge of the entire winter making itself seen as the lovely pure white topping melts away. The roads are a dingy grey edged in shades of yuck and spotted here and there with slick puddles of water gone hard in whatever lumps and bumps were in it as night fell.

Walking is treacherous, as you must truly watch your step lest you turn an ankle or outright fall. But it is lovely, too. Mittens are thinner, hats are stylishly warm instead of usefully warm, and my scarf is tied loosely around my neck instead of snugly under my chin or — as on the coldest days — covering most of my face.

The kids no longer walk home from school in the setting sun, and our morning walk is a pleasant affair with the sun already several hours old and the air not quite so chill. Days are longer. Slightly warmer.

Spring is coming.

Inside the house, spring cleaning is in full swing. The dust and stuffiness of a closed up house is starting to ease as windows and doors get left open for a few minutes here and there, and a great scrub is in progress from top to bottom and bottom to top, 15 minutes at a time.

Spring messing up is also in full swing — otherwise known as planting the greenhouses.

Did you notice that extra ‘s’?

It’s true. The Man We Call Dad loves me that much. We don’t have a little seed starting greenhouse for the garden this year. We have two.

Which means twice the soil on the kitchen floor, twice the seeds scattered on the counter, and twice the number of accidental spills while watering, I am sure.

I am so excited!

Do you think The Man We Call Dad will be just as excited as I am when he realizes I’m ordering twice the usual amount of garden soil and intend to make him ask him to help me expand the garden beds again?

That’s what I thought. Good thing I’ve got slaves kids who are forced so happy to help me.

The beckoning woods

Today, the sky is a glorious clear blue, full of sunshine and smelling of springtime. It is warm enough that only a light jacket is needed, and some braver souls than I are out in nothing more than a t-shirt and jeans. Today, the world around us feels like it is waking up for real.

It isn’t the false summer we had a couple of weeks ago, nor is it the cold snap that followed on its heels. It is, quite simply, Spring.

Last weekend, K and I went on a long-awaited mother-son date to see The Hunger Games. We have been reading the series and are halfway through book two, so naturally we have been eagerly anticipating the film. We’ve found much to discuss as we read the books. The nature of good government, the question of poaching, the importance of self-sufficiency and the interdependence of a community, the wrongness of putting children in the position of tribute, and the rightness of Katniss’ feelings when Rue dies.

We have also been talking a lot about the woods. The woods are a central character in the books, you see. Both the familiar and comforting woods surrounding District 12 where Katniss hunts, and the more hostile (yet still nurturing) woods of the arena play a huge role in Katniss’ successes. Katniss takes refuge in the woods, both at home and in the games, and K found himself fascinated by this girl who loves and understands and uses nature so effectively.

At one point in our discussing, K mused aloud that most of Katniss’ success comes from her knowledge of the woods, and that several of the others fail to succeed precisely because they are not knowledgeable about the woods they find themselves in. Foxface and the berries, for example. Or the careers and the tracker jackers. Or even, for that matter, Peeta. He also noted that many of his classmates, like Katniss’ school mates, have never roamed through the woods, and that we, ourselves, don’t know nearly as much about the woods as Katniss does, but wouldn’t it be cool if we did?

During the movie, he was fascinated by the scenes in the woods. They look so very much like an older, larger version of our own ravine woods, after all, and it doesn’t take that big a leap of the imagination to put yourself in Katniss’ shoes in the little woods behind our house, hunting with your bow and bringing home meat to feed your family. K is a most imaginative kid, so it really didn’t take much imagining at all.

When this morning dawned bright and sunny with the smell of Spring in the air, we just knew what we had to do…

We had to go into the woods, of course, just to see what we could see. We brought J and C along for good measure. The woods is always more fun with friends.

A snake was the first sight of the day, before we had even gotten down the hill and across the creek and into the wood proper. A few minutes later, a second snake crawled right over The Man We Call Dad’s toe.

Here you can see it oh-so-close to the tip of J’s rainboots.

This little snake was definitely not afraid of people, no sir!

We crossed the plank that spans the creek, then went up the hill by the treehouse to the area that was cut clear last year, but this time, we ventured off to the other woods that lie on the far side. It was wet over there, with large pond-like puddles everywhere, and rotting branches and leaves and other things everywhere you looked. We spotted rolls of paper birch bark and termite-eaten logs, moss covered stumps, peeling cedar bark, the tracks of something large that B thinks might be a bear (but is really a large dog or maybe a wolf) and even a pair of the biggest shelf mushrooms we have ever seen. After a good tramp and much finding and discarding of walking sticks, we turned ourselves about and headed for home.

The girls led the way, the best walking sticks in their hands…

Deep in conversation, it didn’t take long before they were far, far ahead of us.

The boys were quick to catch up.

The Man We Call Dad and I followed along at a more leisurely pace until, together again, the six of us descended the hill and splashed across the rocks that make a little waterfall in the creek and climbed back up the hill on the other side then down the path towards home.

Tired now, with lungs full of clean air and faces bright with sunshine and joy and boots covered in mud and old leaves, we are home… and yet, I find myself yearning for the woods already, imagining, just for a little while, that I might one day be as comfortable in the woods as Katniss Everdeen.

Green growing things

For the past few years, we’ve planted a small vegetable garden and enjoyed a few yummy edibles from our own backyard. This year, we’re going crazy with planting, and all sorts of things are starting to pop up.

A lot of things were started from seed in our little greenhouse. A bunch more things, like the sweet peas shown above, were sown directly outdoors once the soil warmed up, in raised beds, in regular beds, and in pots. Some are still quite small, like the cauliflower and the winter squash, though they are progressing nicely. Or rather, they were until the rabbit decided to have a nibble — now I’m not so sure we’ll get any squash this year. Others, like the tomatoes, are already large enough to require a little extra support.

We’ve made a few commercial plant purchases too — mostly of things that need a longer growing season than we can give them without coldframes or a proper seed-starting set up with grow lights and warming mats (both of which are on my Christmas list this year).

And there was even a surprise or two. The garlic I had forgotten about, planted last fall. And this little guy, cheerfully setting his roots in a corner of the raised bed:

Parsley is a perrennial? Who knew!