Tuesday, May 31, 2011

From Farm to Fridge

I decided to end the school year with a month long block on gardening and farming. Of course, this ties directly into the 3rd grade curriculum for Blake, but it was also something the other kids would enjoy as well. One of the supporting activities of this block was strawberry picking! It is something we tend to do annually anyways, but it was fun to label it as school work this year. We went to a new farm this year and ended up picking 2 gallons. It was a very hot day (no surprise for us in the south...summer starts in spring) and the kids got grumpy pretty quickly, but I think they still managed to have some fun during the process. Now that Blake is older, I was able to point out to him the various growing stages of the berry as we were picking. And of course, there was some in-field sampling :-)

In my mind, 2 gallons of strawberries would yield several jars of preserves and at least a gallon in the freezer to enjoy later in the year (this was after already eating 2 gallons bought at the local farmers market). Ha! The kids ended up eating a little over a gallon straight from the container. I definitely need to rethink my amounts next year! So on Saturday, I cleaned the rest and Blake helped me make a jar of preserves (our first time for both of us). He also prepped them for freezing. It turns out we have about a half gallon in the freezer. I guess I will have to make those stretch as long as I can!

The kids can be pretty funny when it comes to fruit. While they will gobble down gallons of fresh strawberries (obviously), they do NOT like strawberry jam/preserves. So I get to enjoy it all by myself and boy is it delicious! We didn't have to add too much sweetener (honey) as the strawberries were pretty sweet to begin with. Now that the strawberry season is over for us, we can look forward to blueberry picking in a few weeks!

Monday, May 23, 2011

7 times around the sun

This past Sunday, we celebrated the 7th birthday of our Jakey Bug! It was a fabulous day indeed. Daddy and the boys had gone camping for the weekend and this mama was anxious for them to get back (I stayed behind due to some tummy issues). I spent most of the morning getting everything ready...setting up the birthday ring and putting the gifts on the birthday table. After what seemed like forever, they were finally home!

We tend to keep birthdays fairly simple in terms of gifts. Homemade are the best and it seems to be what my kids tend to expect now. While I didn't get done everything I had hoped this year, I was able to knit up a cute little sweater for Lizzy. I will definitely be making a few more soon for the other babies in the house. We also gifted Jacob with a pair of flip flops, a swim shirt, The Seven Year Old wonder book and a few cat toys and collar. Yes, that's right, I said CAT. Because in our house, having a 7th birthday means getting your very own pet! More on that in a bit...

Poor Lizzy. The morning of Jakey's birthday and Kenna decided to draw on her face with permanent marker!!! I was trying very, very hard not to be livid, but admitingly, I did get a bit grumpy with her. Thankfully, Jacob wasn't too upset and I promised to make a new Lizzy face after I finish up Kenna's gifts. She still looks beautiful though in her new sweater!

Now, back to the kitty. Our good friends cat had a litter of kittens about 6 weeks ago. The timing couldn't have been more perfect as Jacob had decided he wanted a kitten for his birthday last year already. We had visited the kittens a couple of times and he picked her out immediately...she was the only girl of the litter. So after opening presents yesterday, he and I set out to bring her home. She was a bit shy at first and wanted to hide under the bed. Of course, the kids wanted to play with her, so they spent most of the time climbing/squeezing under there to get her. MaKenna squeeled with delight every time she saw her and kept saying "kitty, kitty". I had forgotten how much Dakota loved cats too, but he was right there under the bed with the kids. In fact, he didn't leave Chloe alone all evening. Silly old dog!

Jacob decided on pizza as his birthday dinner and then chocolate birthday cake. When we lit the candles, I told his rainbow bridge story and Daddy lit one candle at a time on the birthday ring for all seven years of his life with us. I did get a bit emotional at the end. It is really hard for this mama to watch her babies grow up. I look at him and he seems so big to me right now (even though I know he is still little!). Ugh...it never gets easier though!

It was a long night...the boys were too excited to settle into sleep and kept playing with Chloe. Finally, it was quiet and Daddy headed up to bed. He then said we had a missing kitty. After searching for her for about 10 minutes, I finally found her- she was all curled up with Jacob under his covers! A sweet moment to end a really great day!

I asked Jacob when I was tucking him in for the night if he had a good birthday. He said "it was the best birthday...I don't want this day to end!"

And this is the only picture Daddy took of the boys and their mountain camping trip. Poor Jacob was getting a bit carsick from the mountain roads...you can see the misery on his face! But despite this, he said he had a great time.

I really am such a lucky mama to have been given this gift- to mother a boy who challenges me to grow as a person and who brings such joy and laughter to my life. I love him more than he could ever possibly know! And I am so proud of the little person he is turning out to be.

Working with wool

The boys have shown an increased interest in knitting again. I have found that the afternoon seems to be a perfect time to pick up the needles, so one day last week, all four of us were knitting on the couch (love!). Parker is still too young to use needles, so he finger knitted instead. It felt so wonderful to be working creatively beside the boys. I can't say what they are working on as it is going to be gifted to someone who reads this blog ;-)

I have also picked up a new handwork hobby- needlefelting wool! For those of you who may not know what that is, it is simply creating a 3D object made of wool roving by "stabbing" it with a special barbed needle. I had needlefelted a pumpkin a couple of years ago, but never really pursued it as I was also just learning how to knit. Now that I am fairly comfortable with knitting, I decided learning something new was in order. Well, Blake has also been wanting to needlefelt so I was more than happy to show him how. He is working on a fairy and is about half way done at the moment.

For Easter, I made some gnomes for my gnome lovin' guys. These were inspired by the book A Donsy of Gnomes (which is one of our favorites!). I still don't quite have the hang of the caps, as you can see, but I was pretty pleased with how they turned out.

I recently also created a little fairy for one of our friends who had a birthday this month. She was my first stand-up figure. I can see myself making a few more of these in the future, hopefully improving my technique on the hair and embellishing the dress a bit more.

She is left without a face so that the child who is playing with her can use their imagination to create any sort of emotion. Honestly, though she doesn't actually have a face, when I look at her, I can "see" her eyes and bright smile! I will be sure to post pictures of Blake's completed fairy as well.

A taste of summer

We are in the midst of a heat wave, so the boys put on their bathing suits and we had our first sprinkler run of the year! They became a bit obsessed with me taking pictures of them trying to capture them in mid-air...I will spare you from all of those, but here are a few. Kenna does NOT like to be sprinkled on, so she occupied herself by ringing the doorbell! This kind of weather makes me long for ice cold lemonade and watermelon slices. Soon enough, summer will really be here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mother's Day

I had the most wonderful Mother's Day this year. My family sure does know how to spoil me! While I was hoping to get a chance to sleep in a bit (whatever that may mean), that was just not going to happen. The boys were too excited to give me my presents and cards and they just didn't want to wait. They had made the sweetest cards (as they always do). They also know this mama well as they gifted me with gnome garden stakes, garden hand tools, and cucumber, pepper and sunflower seeds. After a delicious breakfast in bed, we headed outside to test out the tools and plant some seeds!

They planted the sunflower seeds all by themselves...all I did was take a couple of pictures. I have no idea where they planted them or how many, but it doesn't matter does it! I am just so happy they love to garden as much as their mama does (and grandma!).

Peter made this for me...he wrote "because you deserve flowers everyday" on the back! So sweet!

We ended the day with a delicious daddy-made dinner and smores makin over the fire. I am always amazed at how blessed I am with such a wonderful family! This day couldn't have been any better.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Reedy Creek

Last Friday, we met up with the Clarke's at Reedy Creek (one of our favorite spots). When we got there, it was pretty packed so we ended up taking a trail that led down to the pond. It was such a gorgeous spring day and we could have stayed there for hours! The kids immediately went into the pond to look for anything. It turned out to be a great day for spotting nature- tadpoles, toads and bullfrogs, water snakes, ducks, crayfish and a pileated woodpecker! It had been such a long time since we had such great finds on our visits. After the kids were thoroughly soaked, we headed over to the natural play area and stayed a bit longer. All in all, it was a great day and we look forward to heading back there again soon.

A bit of gardening

*a bit of a warning...I think the only other person besides me who would appreciate this post is my mom!
Gardening, both flowers and vegetables, was always a part of our seasonal rhythm growing up. It was something that I wanted to bring to my children as well (and besides...it's fun!). I was pretty excited to learn after moving to this house that the landlords had given their blessings for our gardening adventures! While the boys have always helped grandma over the years, we never did much gardening of our own (last year was our first attempt at something other than sunflowers). As the weather became warmer, I pretty muched stalked the yard, following the sun's path throughout the day trying to determine where we could get a raised bed planted. Well, as the canopy filled out, my dreams of a raised bed were quickly crushed. Can you believe we have too many trees?! Ah, I had to settle for flowers. But the thought of having cut bouquets for the rest of the summer makes me just as happy!

My little helper...MaKenna is always ready to help water everything and anything. She finally stopped picking the flowers, well at least until she saw me taking the dead heads off :-)

Here she is watering the children's garden. It is just a small bed, that was already here, planted with annuals the boys had picked out themselves....petunias, marigolds, snapdragons, and a white blossom flower I can't remember the name of (mom?)

I also cleared out a bed on the side of the house which gets the most sun. Here I planted a mix of seeds...wildflower, sunflower, daisy and zinnias.

We do have some veggies growing in pots on the back deck. The boys "pizza garden" seedlings are coming up and I was also given a pot that had two pepper plants, a tomato plant and some basil. We also have more pots of sunflowers and daisies (from the flower egg kits given at Easter)

When we moved in, the previous owner had already planted a few rose bushes and they are now blooming like crazy. I wasn't sure at first as all the silk worms were feasting on the leaves and some sort of mystery bug was eating the buds. But it appears they are doing just fine. Now I am just keeping my fingers crossed the gardenias will bloom!

The boys and I still talk about the "someday" when we will have some acreage and can really tackle gardening. I think Peter is in a bit of denial as to what our future home will actually look like (think less suburban, more mini-farm). But he will come around ;-)