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.

Spring Fun!

My favourite time of the year has arrived! The bulbs are coming up, the trees are starting to leaf out and the air is getting warmer. I have been so busy the last couple of weeks it has been hard to sit down and have time to write a post.

Hellebore in full flower. Love the early spring colour.
Hyacinths, looking beautiful.

My mom and I spent some time together with the kids a couple weeks ago at the Waterloo Region Museum(http://www.waterlooregionmuseum.ca ) to see the dinosaurs skeletons they have there! It was a bit scary for the girls at first. They have some loud animations that worried them a little bit.  Later my mom and I worked in my vegetable garden and got a little fence to keep the dogs and children out of the freshly sewn seeds. I got carrots, beets, lettuce, peas, dill, and borage planted into the garden and some other things started inside that are starting to poke their little heads out.

 

T-rex!
Mom, Ava and Leah

 

Mom and the girls after we finished our fence

I have officially started my new job at the University of Guelph. It has been an awesome but tough transition. I have weekends off now, and am enjoying working part time. I see the kids and Nick more, as well as being able to attend more events and get togethers. I have seen some of my friends more in the past two weeks than the last 5 years. This meant I was off for Easter Sunday. We spent the day at my parents house, My dad and I cooked a large meal and the girls enjoyed an easter egg hunt!

Easter egg hunt, in the fairy garden at my parent’s house
All the dogs enjoying being outside. Hawk, Sam, Ginger and Kodi.
A little ribbon snake. warming itself on the rocks
I think this is a mourning cloak butterfly, enjoying the daffodils.
Four Generations

I had the chance to try making pickled hop shoots. They turned out pretty well. I might tweak the recipe next time so that there are less fennel seeds in it. The hops grow like weeds so Im hoping to make more to keep them in check.

Pickling the hop shoots
In the jar and ready to enjoy!

The front yard is starting to look really good with the daffodils in full flower now.  I love watching the transition from tiny shoots to beautiful flowers.

Nick working in the yard, Finally a straight(ish) edge.
A couple days later. The first daffodils in bloom.
More in flower.
It changes every day!

 

The kids are thrilled that the weather is finally warm enough for spending most of the day outside. We have some maple trees in the back, and the girls love to watch as the trees sprout new leaves and flowers. It so entertaining and curious watching the girls discover and rediscover new things. Leah loves to show Ava things that she remembers and Ava soaks up everything her sister tells her.

Ava collecting maple flowers
Leah investigating her maple flowers.

Next week is Ava’s third birthday. Time flies thats for sure. It hard to know what to get a three year old, because she has so many toys that used to be her sisters and so many clothes that are the same. In any case I need to get some shopping done soon! Im hoping that once I get a little more settled into my new routine I will have posts out a little more often. With summer here I have more to talk about. Nick and my dad opened the cottage this weekend. I can’t wait for the may long weekend! It is usually cold, but nothing beats Georgian bay sunset, and nothing says summer like a beer on the dock.

Spring has Sprung

Every time I have sat down to write this post the weather has been different. Warm, snow, rain, sun… But it feels like we might finally have spring on the way. I finally have hopefully a few minutes of uninterrupted time to finish while the kids play outside rediscovering their outdoor toys.

Watching the birds come back is one of the sure signs of spring for me. I have seen robins, red wing black birds, and I’m pretty sure I saw some snow geese fly over the other day.  The chickadees have started singing their spring song, and the trees are trying their hardest to bud out.

Nick and I worked on getting some of the front yard cleaned up yesterday in the afternoon sun. I wish I could find the secateurs that vanished some time last fall. Clean up is hard to do without the proper tools!

Nick raking up leaves
Got my trusty wheelbarrow out. Cut all the grasses down and cleaned up all the garbage and leaves out of the front. So many bulbs starting to come up.
The kids figuring out which bike they fit on this year. they love riding up and down the sidewalk while we do yard work.

The gardens are starting to come alive, I hope that this last bout of cold hasn’t disturbed things too much. The crocus, daffodils, and some tulips are starting to poke their heads out and there are even 4-5 crocus flowering.  The buds on the peonies are starting to show some colour. I can’t wait to see what the bulbs in the back yard are going to look like this year. I got a bunch of Dahlias, and Gladiolus for the front that will get planted once the frost is out of the ground.

Crocus in the snow

Spring crocus happy the snow is melted.
Peony buds starting to burst.

The kids and I started some spring crafts this week to help curb the cabin fever that is starting to affect everyone.

Painting some spring pictures
Leah working on her reading. Hawk likes to listen to the stories.

The kitchen started to get a good cleaning today, and I got some seed trays ready for sewing.  I am starting to let some plants go outside for some sun and fresh air during the day, the rosemary is so much happier with some gentle rain and warm sun on its leaves. I have to drag the fig out from the garage and get out planters back on the deck.

I tackled a baking project that I have been wanting to try for a very long time. Macaron. A french cookie that is a meringue based with a butter cream filling. We made bright green ones for St. Patricks Day. They turned out better than expected for the first time and now I know what I will do differently the next time.

Macaron before I assembled them. I forgot to take an after picture, they were too yummy!

I also started a woodworking project that I need to finish up. Large wooden dice for outdoor Yatzee or other games.  Thank you Pinterest for more projects that I need to find time to finish.

Cutting up a piece of maple for wooden dice

Well thats it for my free time. The girls thought it would be fun to paint themselves with the dirt from the garden. Guess it’s bath time!

 

February Already?

The last couple of weeks seems to have just flown by! I am excited to get closer to the end of winter and watch for signs of spring. The days are starting to get noticeably longer and the temperatures look like they might be on the rise. Everyone in our house, including the plants are starting to get a bit cabin feverish. We seem to be keeping ourselves busy enough for now.

We have been busy with our CrossFit Lifestyle Challenge with our Box http://www.crossfitrebuild.com. It has been a great experience so far. We have been eating a Primal diet and Nick got us a barbell for home WODs so we are working out everyday.

Leah, Ava and I baking an almond flour tart. So yummy!
Sweet potato and ground turkey chili topped with avocado.
Nick is very excited to have his own bar!

While we were having breakfast this morning I looked out and saw that there were about 50 robins sitting in the trees! I hope that it means spring is coming soon, as it is a bit early to be seeing them back. The house is getting crowded with plants desperate for some proper warm sun and heat.

Three robins in the tree.
Picotee Ameryllis-White with red edges
Picotee Ameryllis
Plants under the plant light waiting not so patiently for spring.

The kids and I worked on some fun Valentine’s Day crafts this week. Pinterest is full of so many fun ideas! I remember making some of these things when I was a kid. There is a bit of nostalgia for me as we make the crafts together. I now understand how many crafts can be created by one child and the space to keep them seems to be getting stuffed to the brim. Perhaps when they are older I will be able to purge some of the crafts, but for now it will just cover the fridge and my wall in the office.

Finger painting and tissue paper gluing.
Making a tissue paper heart for Valentines day.
Ava very focused on her finger painting
Dug out the Cricut for fun Valentines Day cards

We went to the butterfly conservatory in Cambridge last week, to escape the cold. It is so close to us and a great resource for fun educational outings! This week we were focused on metamorphosis, so we watched some butterflies hatching out and drying their wings.

Butterfly sitting in the warm sun drying it’s wings
Fresh out of the chrysalis.
Having a snack.

I can’t believe we are half way through February already. I am putting together the last of the seed orders for the garden and probably getting my little deck greenhouse put together in the next week or so. Its almost time to start getting things going for the growing season. I am hoping to can way more beets than this year. I am also working on redesigning the garden. Peas and pole beans have never done well and they take up a lot of valuable space for tomatoes and potatoes. As soon as the ground is thawed I will be out in the garden.

Happy New Year

The holidays are over and the new year has begun. The Christmas decor has been taken down, and as usual there is always one thing I forget to put away, this year it is a cushion cover. With the putting away of Christmas comes the purge of no longer useful to me things. I cleaned out the linen closet and got rid of some of my old clothes. I finally said goodbye to my prom dress, its only been sitting there for 10 years. Its very therapeutic.

The holidays were very busy this year. I was working for most of it, but due to a cold ( nothing like a 100 degree fever on Christmas Day and Boxing Day) and a couple of snowstorms I did end up with about 5 days in a row home with my family doing all the wonderful christmasy things. Building snowmen, hot chocolate by the christmas tree with new and wonderful stories to read, and all the chocolate one could want (must resist eating the giant Toblerone with my name on it!)

Making a good track for tobogganing
Ava loves snow!
Ava after her first time down the hill by herself
Leah is a pro
Here we go!
Giant snowballs!
Hawk, Leah, Ginger and Ava in front of the christmas tree, It is so hard to get the to sit still!

It also turns out that we really didn’t take many christmas photos over the holidays, its hard to remember to actually take the photos when you are involved with the all the gifts and interacting with the people.

Ava and her Great Granny

The girls enjoyed helping out with cookie decorating and cake baking. I love making sugar cookies this time of year. It just feels so festive and gets me right into the christmas spirt. We usually have christmas music playing while we bake and decorate!

Decorating Christmas cookies

The winter weather has turned us to indoor activities. We got a wonderful set of Kapla blocks from my MIL. It is supposed to be for the kids, but I think I am having more fun with it right now. The blocks are all exactly the same size and the designs are really challenging and fun to topple over.

Kapla blocks.

Nick has been working on his pizza creations, we got a second stone for christmas so we can cook two at once in the oven now.

Pizza
Two stones in the oven.
Pizza is ready!

The warm weather has me itching to get back into the garden. The seed catalog arrived a couple of weeks ago so the planning is in full swing. We got a mini greenhouse from my parents. I cant wait to set it up on the deck and get growing.

Well thats all for now. Happy New Year to all! Wish all of you the best in the year to come!

 

Christmas crafts

Finally a chance to sit down at the computer. I am so happy that it is finally my weekend! The weather this week has really got us thinking about how Canadian we are – who else checks the current road conditions and current weather statements before getting out of the bed in the morning? It was a nice change to not have to clean my car off this morning before work.

Leah learning all about snow shovelling

I didn’t make it to work on Saturday because of snow and road conditions, this unexpected day off thrilled the girls to bits. We spent the morning making an excellent toboggan run in the back yard, followed by a walking trip to the park, where the girls discovered bigger hills and that snow makes the slides a lot shorter.

In the last week or two the weather has gotten colder and snowier. It is hard to spend as much time outside as we do in the summer, so I have been setting up more indoor projects.

Before the real snow came, I made some simple homemade snow for the girls. It is made with 1/2 cup hair conditioner and 2 cups baking soda. It has an endothermic reactions so it really feels like snow, and it packs and kind of rolls up like snow too.

Ava playing the in fake snow
Leah playing in the fake snow

Leah and I made some paper snowflakes to hang in our front hall. These are one of my favourite crafts. They look awesome and really don’t take that much work to make. Link (http://www.craft-craft.net/christmas-ornament-paper-snowflake-tutorial.html) The only thing I change – and it’s merely for ease and time – instead of glue I use staples.

Leah and I making paper snow flakes
Finished!
Snowflakes hanging in the hall

We got the tree up! The girls love helping me dig out all the decorations and put everything on. It is one of my favourite things to share with the girls. I remember going out with my mom to harvest all the evergreen for wreaths, swags, and garlands and the house would be filled with the fresh smells of pine, cedar, and fir.

Starting to get the lights on the tree
All done!

The one other project we did in the last couple weeks was making borax snowflakes. Theses were a simple craft that we could do all together and watch as the crystals formed on the pipe cleaner. I mixed 1/3 cup of borax to 2 cups of water, I tried boiled water and just the hottest water out of the tap and both worked effectively, I found the tap water to work a bit faster.

Pipe cleaner snowflakes
Snowflakes soaking in the borax
Snowflake in the tree!

Its the final week before Christmas! I have sugar cookies to decorate and presents to wrap. I can’t wait to see their smiling faces with the surprises that will be under the tree. I’m hoping to attempt a Buche de Noel. There is a recipe on Pinterest that has been catching my eye for a year or so and perhaps its time to try. The next time I get around to updating this, it will probably be after Christmas and probably after New Years. So I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and all the best in the New Year!

Leah rolling out sugar cookies

 

 

 

 

Welcome Fall

The air is cooler, the days are shorter and the gardens need a different type of tending to. I love watching the changing leaves and the hearty comfort foods of fall and winter, I can almost taste the schnitzel and spaetzel already! I also really enjoy filling up the freezer with perserved foods for the cold months ahead. Putting food that we grew ourselves and have preserved for the months ahead is so satisfying. Sometimes I think that I would have liked to be a homesteader, but then I remember how much we take for granted, like indoor plumbing and heating, and refrigeration.

One silver maple leaf changing colour
Fall colour is coming, One part of one leaf is burning red.

We started a new family tradition this year. Apple picking! I had never really been before and it was so easy compared to picking strawberries and raspberries. It took no time at all to pick 20 pounds of apples which meant that it was still fun for the girls.

Macintosh apple ripe for the picking
Macintosh apple ripe for the picking
Walking through the fields to apple orchard
Long rows of Gala apples
Long rows of Gala apples
Child holding an apple
Ava admiring the apple she picked
Leah thinks her apple tastes the best
Leah thinks her apple tastes the best

Leah and I turned all 20lbs into applesauce. She really enjoyed running the apple peeler. I have never used one before and it really made a difference Leah could peel one in the time I could chop an apple up so it only took us maybe an hour to process all the apples.

Child using an apple peeler to peel apples
Leah peeling the apples

The garden is starting to get ready for its winter nap. This week I pulled all the tomato plants out. Nothing was really ripening anymore and I wanted to use one of the nice warm days to do it. I collected about 8 pounds of green tomatoes! So I made up a batch of my version of Salsa verde. I use the Hungarian hot and sweet wax peppers and a ghost pepper for spiciness and then add some onions, cilantro, oregano, and some lime juice. Blend it up and put it on fajitas, or as chip dip.

The vegetable garden starting to get ready for winter.
15 jars of homemade Salsa verde ready to be put away for winter
15 jars of homemade Salsa verde ready to be put away for winter

With Thanksgiving just around the corner we picked up the turkey today, I already am having visions of too many leftovers, but it will taste good all the same. I made an apple pie, a pumpkin pie and tried out a new recipe for sweet potato pound cake. Leah got to help make the cake today, she is loving helping out more and more in the kitchen.

Whisking up some dry ingredients for the Sweet potato pound cake
Whisking up some dry ingredients for the Sweet potato pound cake
Finished product! Apple pie, pumpkin pie and sweet potato pound cake
Finished product! Apple pie, pumpkin pie and sweet potato pound cake

Our spring bulb order came in today, More daffodils, tulips and some new amaryllis for christmas time. I look forward to seeing what the look like, I kind of dread the planting part though.

September at the Cottage

This week of the year tends to be one of my favourite weeks in the whole season. It was even better this year as the warm weather stayed the whole time. Most of the summers only cottagers head south on Labour Day, leaving us pretty much alone and the river is almost silent. It is an excellent time for hikes and being out on the water. We got stunning sunsets every night, this time of year the sun sets straight down the middle of the river.

My dad and I went out for a quick walk one evening, and he got a picture of me that pretty much sums up my life. You can dress the girl up, but that doesn’t mean you can take her out.

Out for a walk in my Ralph Lauren dress… Country girl at heart.

We saw lots of birds, bears and some very special red squirrels who claimed the cedar trees beside the cottage and they yelled at us every time we walked out the front door. We were fortunate enough to see a mother bear and her cub swimming while we were out for a sunset cruise with friends of ours. It was such an amazing site to see, I was very thankful to be in a boat and far away though.  We saw some Common Mergansers swimming in our little bay fishing out all the little minnows. I also caught sight of what I think was juvenile gar fish, most likely the spotted Gar. Leah caught her first fish, and I hope she will be as hooked, pardon the pun, as me.

Child catching a sunfish on a dock
Leah caught a sunfish
Common Mergansers
Common Mergansers

My dad got so much work done on the cottage this week. All the logs and sticks from the beavers this spring got burned.

 

bonfire at sunset
Dad supervising the bonfire

He and Nick did a lot of painting, while I worked on cleaning up the insides. We still have lots of things left over from my grandparents, and stuff that was left by the people before them. It is kind of like a museum going through some of the stuff.

Nick and I got the smoker up and running again this week, and we finally have a pretty good grasp of smoking ribs. They spend about an hour soaking in a homemade dry rub, followed by 6-8hrs on the smoker, followed by an hour or so being basted in a homemade BBQ sauce. Each time we do it, it gets a bit better. Some day my dad and I might actually get around to writing the recipe.

I got my old paddle boat out for the girls and leah learned how to drive it very quickly, and we spent a lot of time paddling around our little bay looking for fish and turtles.

Out in the paddle boat with the girls and the dog
Out in the paddle boat with the girls and the dog

The girls swam almost every day. The water was so warm and a great place to cool off after a hike in the bush.

Ava starting to swim on her own
Leah loving the water
Leah, Ava, and Ginger drying off after their swim

I spent most of my time with the camera at sunset, each day brought a new stunning view.

Sunset on the Key River
Sunset
Sunset
Sunset
Last sunset