Saturday, November 28, 2015

Creative Kids _ Advent Calendars

Growing up, one of my favorite parts of Christmas was the Advent Calendar that hung above my bed. Mine was made of dark blue felt with 4 Santa's down the middle - each day of December had a brass ring allocated to it, the numbers and rings were sewn onto the felt fabric, and it was the most exciting feeling in the world to wake up on December 1st to see the calendar bulging and sagging with the weight of tiny presents, each one tied to one brass hoop. I still have it, although the Santas have been retired for quite some time now !

I want Christmas to be just as magical for my own children as it was for me, and so I find myself following the same traditions that my mother and grandmother laid out for me all those years ago. When our oldest was little the calendar just held chocolate coins wrapped in gold paper, one for each day of December. As he got older I added a gift just on the 4 days of Advent ... a little car, a plastic animal. One year I took a tube of plastic knights and dragons and wrapped one for each day of the month. Some years it's chocolates, some years a combination of a treat and a small gift. There are families who write out 24 lists of things to do as a family to enjoy the season - things like watching a movie together in their pj's, having a snowball fight, singing carols by candlelight ... there are some who wrap up holiday themed books for the family to read together, one for each day of the month. That's the beauty of it, whatever you choose to do is just perfect. (Although to be fair, how does anything compete with chocolate !)

Here are a few beautiful and easy to make calendars I found online via Pinterest ... usually I try to use my own images only on this blog, but hopefully the owners will be happy to share ... all photos are linked to their original websites.

Image 4: Frydogdesign via Pinterest

For us, Advent means a family breakfast with the table set. A fresh wreath, four candles. The little touches that make for a special morning. The children are already counting sleeps until their calendars go up.

Happy Advent !


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Creative Kids _ Happy Thanksgiving

I love Pinterest. More than love, i probably have a mild form of addiction to the site. Maybe more than mild. From ideas for party decor to an inspiring studio space to the best of fabric designs, it's an amazing place to go for inspiration. 

But sometimes it's the real-every-day and maybe not-so-perfect that makes the best memories. When we're decorating for the holidays it's easy to get caught up in the spreads of the magazines, to yearn for the beautiful new & shiny on every store shelf ... there are always gorgeous new things ... new dishes, new decorations, new ideas. But at the end of the day, for me, decorating for the holidays when there are little people in the house is all about them lending a hand. Rather than worrying about perfect mantelpieces and beautiful table top centerpieces that take hours to set up, I use preschool clay turkeys and ask the little ones to gather pine cones to help decorate. Get them to write letters on pieces of cardboard spelling out 'Give Thanks' and pin them onto a piece of string to form a banner ... it's these simple little touches that also teach them that their creativity and contributions are valuable, and make them feel so proud when they see their artwork hanging on the walls.

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These clay turkeys are the best for an easy Thanksgiving craft project. One of them came home from pre-school 8 years ago, the others were made at home after ... the kids love seeing their creations being brought out year after year and until they're old enough to be embarrassed by their pre-school creations, these are my favorite Thanksgiving decorations.

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Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Some days ...

The warmth of soapy water, hands dipping in and out, suds clinging to skin.
The reassuring quiet of washing dishes, the dripping wet as they are placed to dry.
The everyday routines that weave through my days. They anchor me.
The smell of quiche fills the house. It is not home made and that is ok.
Children's voices, book pages turning. Two chickens home sick from school.
Outside the air is crisp, crumpled decay - leaves hang lifeless from the last vines.
The smell of wet earth, plants half dead, the end of a season.
I turn to go inside and stop, the leaves alight with fire.
Such beauty. The sun is warm on my face.
The woods stand quiet, squirrels scuttle feverishly, gathering nuts.
I think of all the weight the world is holding.
Of all the grief and anger I've been reading the past few days.
How that's not the way to feed a soul and sometimes, no matter 
how big the issues, it's time to turn aside and let it be enough that
the sun still holds warmth and that the food is nearly ready.
That there is food and warmth and the voices of children around me.
I think of my family, safe near Paris.
I think of all the other families, that are not.
Not just in Paris.
I think of all the losses and the mourning and the refugees, desperate.
Of how there don't seem to be answers, some days. 
The questions are too big.
I think of all the articles and the news and the stories flying on social media,
and I close the door and catch the warmth inside.
I put lunch on the table and make a cup of tea.
Slow sips, sitting in the sunshine.

Three Facebook pages I do love reading, at any time:  the Worldwide Tribe (Focused on the refugees in the Calais camp, France), Humans of New York (For stories. Beautiful heart wrenching life affirming stories). And then Elizabeth Gilbert, who always seems to find the most beautiful words to share on her Facebook feed. Today she wrote about facing life with dignity in hard times. Just beautiful. Read it. You'll see.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

On looking for work but drinking tea instead ....

This is what my pile of reading looks like at the moment. Can you see the theme ... this is what happens when it's been 9 years since the last professional employment and one doesn't have a label. People ask me what I am. Or was. Or did. As if my life ended 9 years ago when in so many ways it was a new beginning. 

I knew it wouldn't be easy to go back after taking so much time off. I knew moving countries might shake me up a little. I knew it would be easier to stay working in the same place and to have a career that grew in a straight line and by now I would be so much closer to the top. But then I never was much good at straight lines or climbing ladders. There are other ways to make a life.

Still. Here it is. The new threshold and I am really really lost. A few window displays now and then, some painting commissions ... sadly they don't seem to count for much. I scan the job ads and want to cry in frustration. Not knowing which way. Or what. Full-time or part, here or there. 

Yesterday my oldest was sick. Not very sick, just enough to need a day at home. We hung out in our comfy clothes, he on the computer, me with my DVD player on my lap. We ate chocolate eclairs for lunch and drank a lot of tea. The house was peaceful and the light was streaming in. I decided to take a whole day off and hang around doing not much of anything and it felt so wonderful.

So that's my new agenda. The job searching can wait. I am going to eat soup and drink in the beauty of fall all around me, go for walks in the crunching leaves and catch a few as they drift down in the breeze. I am going to drink tea and lose myself in Downton Abbey, get lost in a different world for a while. I'm a little late in discovering this beautiful series but now that I have, I am absolutely hooked.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Around here lately ...

There have been playroom walls painted and time spent chilling at home. It's been a little cold and rainy and not quite summer most days. Not as much time at the pool as we had hoped. But there were playdates and a sleepover and a short football camp. We are taking things slow, day by day. This summer. No big plans, no rushing around. Nice and easy.

He made us all breakfast. On his own.

The first blueberries are ripe. I found a recipe for lemon and blueberry bread and pretty much ate the whole loaf myself. It tasted of summer. Delicious.

A lovely gift from our neighbors for letting us look after their dog. We should be thanking them. The perfect summer thank you.

A Sunday morning on the beach. Just the littlest and I. Much needed.

A local outing for the 4th July.

This girl.

She loves animals. More specifically - rabbits, dogs, turkeys and horses. She has been begging for riding lessons for a long time. Waiting and waiting.

This past week we signed her up for her first lesson. She had to have boots. Cowgirl boots. No sneakers. I wasn't sure we'd find any instore, in the middle of summer, but there they were, just waiting for her. One pair, in her size.
She has only taken them off to sleep.

My beautiful American girl.