Getting ready for Christmas

The Christmas season is finally here! We have decked the halls, and trimmed the tree. It is all looking rather festive, perhaps a bit cluttered…

Getting the tree up and decorated is probably the most exciting part of getting ready for Christmas for the kids. We get the tree and it sits in the stand for a few days to relax the branches and get a good drink, and then we get the big boxes out of the basement and the girls just can’t wait to see the lights and hang the decorations. We usually sing Christmas carols and have sugar cookies. By the time it’s up and decorated, the girls are wired and it’s way past bedtime, but that is most fun.

Getting the 900 lights on the tree.
Starting to hang the decorations.
unpacking the box is half the fun.
Admiring the tree and asking if Santa is going to come tonight

The girls are having so much fun with the snow that is ever so slightly starting to accumulate. Tobogganing is great this year as Ava is finally able to get around in her snow suit without too much help and they can stay outside for much longer periods of time. As much as I complain about driving in it, I love the excuse to go out and play in the snow! Building forts and sledding are some of my favourite things to do. This year we have started making some small ramps on the hill to make us go a little further into the yard. I am so happy that we have such a good hill in our own backyard.

There may just be a sprinkling of snow, but we have to get the sleds out.
Cheeky grins all around.

We have started doing so Christmas prep around the house, some baking, and some handmade Christmas cards. I had some friends over last weekend and we made some beautiful gingerbread houses, as well as some sugar cookies. The girls really enjoyed building the houses and are slowly eating their way through houses. I fear some of the gingerbread boys and girls only have one leg or one arm.

Getting the stamps out for Christmas cards
Ava preferred to fill a page with paint… She’s still working on the finer points of stamps…
Our cards are drying and almost ready to send.
Our decorated Gingerbread houses!
Sugar cookies!

I finally got around to taking some Christmas photos of the girls. I am going to share one of the not so great ones as it is kind of funny and show that pictures I share are usually one of 50 or 100 that just didn’t turn out as well.

The girls Christmas photo for this year.
Our not so great photo. I call it “The grumpy elves revolt!”

 

A trip to the zoo, and other stories.

We have been busy as always since the last time I was able to check in. We made a family trip to the Toronto Zoo with my mom and dad. Going back as a guest was kind of strange after having spent many summers working with the pony ride, that appears to no longer be there. It was also so much fun watching the kids see all the animals for the first time.We packed a large picnic lunch and spent the whole day and saw pretty much everything. I forgot how big the zoo really was.  Leah’s favourite animal turned out be the flamingos. She also really liked seeing the giraffes and the tigers. Ava’s favourite was the gorillas. It was a cool wet day and many of the animals were very close and active.  I am looking forward to taking the kids again maybe in the summer when it is a bit warmer.

a visit with the Giant Pandas
Leah having a bite to eat, the Komodo dragon was watching closely.
A gorilla, contemplating the meaning of an opposable thumb…
Leah, Ava and Granny checking out a pigmy hippo.
Zebras up close and personal.
Giraffe! Leah asked the see these first.
Sumatran tiger.
A pile of baby snow leopards. One of my favourites.
Leah, Ava and Granny reading some signs.
We found Dory!

Halloween was also a a bunch of fun. The girls enjoyed dressing up, Leah was Elsa again and Ava was a genie.

Elsa and Shimmer. They couldn’t stand still. Thus, this is the best photo we got.

Nick and I finally got most of the fall clean up done in the last week or so. It seems just in time to get the yard waste bags out for the last pick up. Also just in time as the first snow was upon us that evening. The girls were so excited about the snow they woke up early so that they could play outside before Leah went to school. Ava enjoyed the first sled run of the season.

On a mission!
The first run is always the best!

Christmas is coming! Having kids of a certain age has really made me enjoy celebrating the season a bit earlier. We got the lights up on the house outside and my dad came and built our winter planter. It is looking very festive. Our Christmas tree has also made an appearance. It will have to wait a few days until we can put any decorations on it and with that, the Christmas season is upon us. I have been busy making lists and planning various Christmas cooking expeditions for dad and I to embark on. The LCBO’s Food and Drink magazine always has so many fun and different recipes to try and play with. It is time to stock up on things before the mad rush at the end.  I got some beautiful alpaca wool today, I have some projects in mind for that. Well, off to check out some cyber Monday deals. I’m sure it will be just as successful as black Friday i.e. nothing purchased.

Fall Things

October is coming to a close and I’m finally finding some time to catch up on the many things that have happened since the last time I posted.

We enjoyed a beautiful weekend at the cottage. It was the last one of the season for the girls and myself. With such perfect weather it is really hard to close up and say goodbye for winter. We enjoyed a morning in the bush picking cranberries, and hiking around the swamp.

Learning about cranberries.
Cranberry in the sun.
Cranberries.

We stopped for a snack on the top of one of my favourite rocks and actually took a family photo for once. (see, we do things together)

All together!

After our hike, Leah and I tested the water, it was still pretty warm being the last day of September, however it was still chilly and the swim turned into more of a quick dip. However that is something that can go on the calendar as the latest swim of the season.

Leah deciding that the water might be just a little on the cold side.
I went for quick dip after supper, I’m so glad I did, but I am so glad that there was a fire in the cabin to sit by after!

Back home we got our apple picking done (look – another family photo! We are getting better at using the timer on the camera) and made several batches of apple sauce, a bunch of apple pies in the freezer and a couple apple crisps for the freezer too. I also made 11 jars of poached pears. I can’t wait to try them! The garden is finally producing some beautiful tomatoes and I grew enough tomatillos to make a jar of salsa verde properly rather than making it with mostly green tomatoes.

The girls enjoying the fall sunshine and a wagon ride!
Leah showing Dad how the wagon works.
All together again!
A beautiful apple catching the evening light.
Fresh heirloom tomatoes from the garden!
Salsa verde stewing.
The girls love the leaves that fall in the backyard.

This weekend I got most of the spring bulbs planted. I think this is the best weather I have had for planting. Im usually out in mitts and a hat, hoping that its still warm enough for the bulbs to settle in for the winter before frost sets in.

Cyclamen in full bloom, they are loving the heat too.
Planting bulbs. Loving the new Felco secateurs that my mom got for Nick for his birthday. Naturally, I use them whenever I can get my hands on them.

Im hoping that the weather holds out for a few more days so I can get the last 120 bulbs in. The girls are getting excited for Halloween, They have their costumes ready and I will hopefully get some pumpkins this week. Pinterest has some new and great ideas (as always) that I am excited to try. Off to bed now, school in the morning.

September…

Where did September go? It feels like the summer slipped through my fingers faster than ever.

September started off pretty miserably, We went for the first week to the cottage and it rained for the weekend, and then it was cold for most of the week. We did get some much needed cottage maintenance completed though. I also got to harvest a very full crop of fingerling potatoes. They grew very well in our compost and beaver muck mix. I tried to change things up a bit and worked on getting some sunrises rather than the typical sunset. It is a bit easier this time of year as the sun gets up at 6:30ish rather than the typical 4:30/5 that happens earlier in the summer.

A juvenile gar pike.
First sunset. The wind was very strong.
Washing our potatoes! What a good sized crop.
Interesting mushroom growing behind the cottage.
Mucking in the beaver swamp.

Boys will be boys they say. Well these two enjoy mucking in their unintentional cottage uniform.

On our second last day we visited Piney Island, It was a great hike even though the kids weren’t all that thrilled by the end.

Visiting Piney Island.
Boat ride with the girls!
Another stunning sunset!
Warming up by the wood stove.
Papa teaching Leah the fine art of Michaud cooking.
Sunrise at the Key!
Sunset right down the middle of the river.

With the return from our holiday, so began Leah’s elementary school career! So far she has been having a ball! She has made so many new friends and enjoys most of her time there. It was a bit of an adjustment period, but we are working out the kinks and she comes home with so many happy funny stories everyday.

Leah’s First day!

It also seemed that with the return of school came a hot, beautiful Indian summer! The last couple weekends at the cottage have been spectacular. I have swam more in the past two weeks than I have all summer.

Another beautiful sunrise
Examining a crow that I found by the water’s edge.
Turns out it probably hit a tree, and then had a bit of heat stroke. Cooled him off and away he went!

We are heading back for a weekend or two more before close up, hard to believe that time of year is upon us. I already bought one Christmas present and the crafts are starting to get planned out! Off to the kitchen there is salsa to make!

The summer house

We have spent most of August up at the cottage this year. We only missed one weekend. It is wonderful to spend the time there, our northern garden seems to be much happier than its counterpart in the south.

We started off august with a full week at the cottage. It really helps everyone unwind and enjoy life at a slightly slower pace. One of my favourite things is watching the kids play in muddy puddles and splash in the river.

Early morning on the river. Mist rising off the water as the sun rises
Kids are up and ready for action!

My grandmother had a wonderful old washtub at the cottage. It has served as a bathtub for the youngsters for the last few summers. They are realizing that they both don’t really fit anymore. Amazing how much difference a year makes.

Wash tub fun.
Swimming. The water is always warm enough for the girls.
Evening swim, Best way to settle down for the night.
Hunting for frogs.

This photo isn’t the best, but it is a view from the kitchen sink. This may sound very housewifely but it just warms my heart to watch the kids play outside while I wash the dishes. I love watching them find fun new games and things to do without really being in their way.

Watching Ava play

We had a great reunion of a family that used to own our cottage. It was great to share stories about our time up there. Most of the things haven’t changed, Even most of the furniture is the same.

Reunion with the Long clan.

Out cottage is home to a somewhat rare lizard called the 5 lined Skink. They have established a viable colony under our cottage and we see them running through our garden and on the rocks. This year we were there for some hatchlings! They have a vibrant blue tail that stands out on the rocks. We also have had numerous sandhill cranes move into the swamp. They have a very interesting call, I think it sounds like what a pterodactyl would sound like.

Baby 5 lined skink.
Sandhill crane

Blueberries were fantastic this year. We had many breakfasts of blueberry pancakes. We also picked lots for the freezer. There is nothing like a hint of summer in the dead of winter.

Blueberries all ready for the freezer.

We had so many great sunsets. I will only share a few… I need to go through my photos and edit/delete some. One night I took 200 photos. The sun and sky change so fast every picture feels like its better than the last.

Sunset from the first night.

We went out into the Bay with our friends for the last night and the water was perfectly calm. One of the most beautiful nights this year. Leah loves to drive the boat. She’s learned all about the markers and what they mean.

Leah driving the boat. She loves to be the captain.
Sun setting into the Georgian Bay.
Almost gone.
Last rays of sunshine.

We are heading back for another week at the summer house tomorrow. It will probably be the last long stretch of time for the summer. The mornings are cooler and the days are shorter. I guess that time of year is upon us. Leah starts school in a week, and we will be able to get back to a good routine soon, I hope.

Birthday celebrations and berry picking

Leah celebrated her birthday recently with a trip to the Cambridge Butterfly conservatory. She took one of her best friend, and they had a blast!

Leah really enjoyed not taking her sister along for the trip. The girls liked the waterfall and the fish pond.

Leah and her friend at the Butterfly Conservatory
Meeting a giant centipede
Giant Centipede
Skipping to see the waterfall

Last week we went berry picking. I have always gone to Marcy’s Berries. On Valens road and 97. Close to Freelton. It is a family owned and operated business that produce some of the best strawberries around, Their raspberries and other fruits are awesome too.

We managed to pick a flat and a half of strawberries and raspberries. The girls had lots of fun, although it was a bit “hard, and boring” for them.

Picking raspberries
Strawberries
Helping find all the good strawberries

 

Walking in the fields.

Once we got home, we got to do all the hard work of prepping the strawberries and making jam. I usually just make freezer jam so its a bit easier, Leah likes mashing the fruit the best. We ended up making 28 jars of jam for the winter.

Leah learning how to hull strawberries.

 

Jam heading for the freezer.

 

The garden is calling, I have more plants to go in the vegetable garden, and the weeds are starting to take over the flower beds. It seems like I picked a rather hot day to get that project going… Perhaps a book and a drink on the deck is what will actually happen.

The one about cottage trips

We have been to the cottage a lot so far this summer and it has been awesome!

We found a Spotted Turtle. I love showing the girls all about the plants and animals in the world around them. It is a great opportunity to learn about the type of turtle, where they live and what they eat.

Learning about turtles. This is a spotted turtle.
Spotted turtle

A first of many beautiful sunsets.

First summer sunset.
My favourite Iris.

For Canada Day, We got all dressed up and decorated our neighbour’s boat and joined in the Canada Day boat Parade on the river. It was a great social event. It was fun to see so many people out on the water and we had a great fireworks display to end the evening.

Canada Day! It is next to impossible to have all the dogs and kids in the picture and have them all looking at me!
Canada Day Parade
The Canada Day Boat parade. The water was a little bit rough and it was a little cloudy, but we had a great time!
The winning boat!
Getting ready to “march”

Having a cottage isn’t always about having fun. There’s lots of work to do around the place. One of our current projects is getting a better water system in place.

Cottage projects never end. This is for our water system

The cottage air, and being outside most of the day tires a little girl out.

Cottage air makes you sleepy
The girls soaking up some summer sun.
Another beautiful sunset!

 

The river was warm enough for me to get in last weekend. It is fun being able to get out an enjoy the water with the kids.

Swimming! Summer has officially begun.

As we are installing the new water system. We need to drill some holes for tie down points.

The boys working hard drilling holes in the rocks.
The river at sunset.

Rising early means, fresh blueberries for pancakes.

Blueberry picking
Fresh blueberry pancakes on the griddle
Breakfast outside in the summer sunshine

I can’t wait to head back north. It has been so awesome to get up to the cottage so many times this summer.

The one about building projects

So many projects, so little time. In the last month or so I have completed two bigger projects that have been waiting longer than they should have, but they are done now.

The first is I completed building the sandbox! However, there isn’t any sand in it yet. It will come soon. I purchased a bunch of 8ft mini ties and made slots in each piece, then drilled them together, the kids are enjoying the space as is right now but I can’t wait to see the sand projects that will come from this. I also realized that one can never have enough tools.

Creating notches in the logs so they fit together.
One joint all hooked together.

The other project I finished was the Crossfit box jump. It has three different heights to jump on. We used a sheet of 1″ plywood that was 4′ x 8′.

Measuring out the cuts.
Making the first of many cuts
The last side going together.
Taking it for a test jump.

The kids got to work on their own project. They got to excavate a dinosaur skeleton! I got a kit from Costco called Discover Dinosaurs. It has a great activity book, poster, wooden build your own skeleton and a fossil excavation kit. It is a well put together kit that kept the girls busy for about an hour digging, washing and building their new dinosaur.

Starting excavation.
Some bones start to appear! Leah was very excited to see the bones
A junior archeologist in the making.

Last Minute Trip

We had a great quick trip to the cottage. We left late Friday afternoon and came back on Sunday. The little time we had up there was perfect! The sun was shining and the breeze kept the bugs at bay.

a girl and her dog
Still best friends.

The girls spent the morning swimming. The water was warm enough for them, I think I will wait another week or two before I’m ready to get in.

Getting in the water for the first time this season!
Ava loving getting back in the river
Leah, acting like a fish. She didn’t want to get out!

We spent most of the day just relaxing and doing cottage things, like gardening, and playing with chalk, and a bit of fishing.

Leah practicing making patterns with chive flowers.
Ginger taste testing the chives.
Muskoka chairs, a drink and a dog. #cottagelife
Hawk, looking handsome.
Leah helping plant some tomatoes.
Ava planting some Jonny jump ups.
splashing in the puddles.

It is always hard to leave when you hear how hot the weather is at home, but alas we have to go to work. Then back we go next weekend!

The garden is growing

The warm weather is back and it is proving hard to keep up with my blog!

The girls enjoyed getting back to some of their favourite things. Today they did some painting on the deck. Leah is starting to get much more creative with her paintings, today she was working on “self-portraits”

Painting on the deck
working on her self-portrait
Ava experimenting mixing colours

The vegetable garden is starting to show signs of life! Leah, Ava and I spent some time last weekend doing some weeding and seeding.

Planting some sunflowers
Checking the seed package

The seeds we planted have started to come up – we have little potatoes, beets, carrots, peas, and lettuces.

Peas, sprouting up fast and furious
Lettuces peaking up
Potatoes, I think I might have planted too many.
Beans looking happy. There is a rabbit who thinks the beans are tasty treats at this size.
Tomatos all planted out. Lots of the saucing variety.

The peonies are looking like they are going to put on a good show this year! Our first Itoh Hybrid Peony is in flower, and it is stunning. The bleeding hearts, and primulas were beautiful last week, so were the last of our tulips. They need deadheading now.

Pink bleeding hearts
Bleeding hearts
My favourite primula
Tulips

We also had visitor in the garden today from Mr. Toad. He likes to hide under the peonies in the front garden.

Mr. Toad.

Our deck is getting its summer look. The hops are shooting out of the ground a mile a minute, and our planters are getting some basil, parsley, cilantro into them soon. I have some morning glories starting to sprout up and the fig has leafed out beautifully.  I love sitting on the deck in the evenings and soaking up the final rays of sun from the day with a good book.

The deck garden
Hops growing by leaps and bounds

I was out getting some lumber today for a couple new projects. Leah is getting a sandbox for her birthday! I will starting building it tomorrow and the sand will arrive when I get around to purchasing that part, hopefully before her actual birthday. I also have a box jump to build for our home gym, the bale of pro-mix soil just isn’t holding up anymore.

There are dishes in the sink that have my name on them, then hopefully a little bit quiet time on the deck before bed.