Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Activities for our days

Here are a few pictures of some activities that we have done in the last few weeks. I especially like to incorporate nature into our activities. Sometimes, the glitter and confetti come out. I am still trying to find that balance. Natural sights, smells, sound, and texture offer an enriching experience.

Just a basket of shells kept us busy the other day. We decorated a picture frame with shells and my daughter had some open-ended play. How rewarding.

Some warm weather came our way and we enjoyed a day at the park. We collected some pine needle branches, which sparked our next activity. Pine needle paintings. The smell of pine filled the house.

Our senses were delighted while we decorated oranges with cloves. We found this activity in the book, "Earthways". After, you could roll the oranges in cinnamon and let them dry. As a child, we made these into ornaments by attaching a ribbon. Dad had fun, too. Can you tell which one is his?

The other day brought us snow, which always brings the birds to our feeders and their little tracks. After the snow, came the sleet. What a great day to make hot chocolate. We used up all the hersey kisses we had.

I really am big on activities that involve building, constructing and manipulating. Regular old wooden blocks are perfect. This Haba game is fun and colorful and offers a variety of geometric pieces. Puzzles offer children opportunities to develop problem-solving skills.

Today, we collected some objects from nature that we found from around the house: pine needles, coneflower seeds, and dried carnation petals. Then, my little one arranged and glued them on a paper wreath.

For dinner tonight, we had a mixed green salad with steak, pistachios, red grapes, pears, crumbs of gorgonzola cheese, and balsamic dressing. So easy.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Will you be my valentine

It's was Valentine's day, yesterday. I love celebrating the holidays with my little one. Decorating the house, singing songs, making homemade valentines and cookies made the holiday even more special.

We have been singing this around the house.
Will you be my Valentine, my Valentine
Will you be my Valentine and where my big red heart?
Yes, I'll be your Valentine, your Valentine, your Valentine,
Yes, I'll be your Valentine and wear your big red heart!
Now we are sweet Valentines, sweet Valentines, sweet Valentines,
Now we are sweet Valentines, we wear our big red hearts!

from A Child's Seasonal Treasury

It is amazing how children can pick up a song so quickly. I attribute early singing around the house and music classes, at Gymboree and currently Music Together.
A few other books that include seasonal songs and activities that I love are:
All Year Round
A Child's Seasonal Treasury

This was a simple little valentine project. Little A glue some buttons down on a wooden heart. Little A chose to decorate the other wooden heart with sparkling confetti hearts and at school, the kids had a party. How fun. We also did some heart shaped potato prints, a little less sparkle.

A few little gifts from etsy, necklaces from Rosemary4Remembrance and these wool hearts from etceteramedia caught my eye.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Spring Bulbs

I am dreaming about spring flowers, too. I was so busy this fall that I did not have time to get my bulb order together. I will have to start putting some money aside now, as I know I have an endlessly accruing list in my mind by the time fall comes. I would also like to take a close look at the blooming periods and make sure that I choose varieties that will offer me the longest blooming period possible. Crocus vernus Vanguard heirloom (beautiful two-toned crocus) and Narcissus Crocodils start off the season with a splash of color. Narcissus Pheasant's Eye, Narcissus Dreamlight, Narcissus Misty Glen (all white) , and Allium karatuviense Ivory Queen I remember very fondly. I want to make sure that I also get a trumpet, large cup, small cup, poeticus, and a miniature variety. Here in Connecticut, White Flower Farm has exceptional descriptions and heirloom varieties that will help me plan my spring garden. 

I had some beautiful tulips in my garden that I have yet to discover their name. They are cherry red with painted white edges. They are really impressive and I want to add more impact by adding more of them. Last summer, the excessive rain uncovered some of my bulbs, which our puppy had fun digging them out and trampling through. I am hoping he missed a few and I will be able to enjoy a tulip or two this spring.

Eventually, I would like to have a cutting gardening, where I can allow myself to enjoy my flowers even more. I can not bare to cut the flowers from my garden, not yet. I love the simplest of arrangements, just a bunch of the same flowers in a vase. One of my favorite flowers, Allium Globemaster, would look magnificant in a tall glass vase. They grow 3-4 feet high and they burst open in late May / early June with 10 inch round flower heads. WOW. Here's a few pictures from my garden, with Digitalis purpurea Camelot Lavender. They bloom beautifully together.

Foxglove is a tender perennial that will reseed itself. They bloom all summer and my Digitalis purpurea Camelot Rose was one of my last flowers still blooming late in the season. We will see how it does this year. I love the tall spike of the Foxglove that contrast to the full spheres of the Globemaster. 

Last night, I combined a few recipes to make a dill sauce for the Pan Seared Salmon. My husband is still talking about it, so I thought I would share.

1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon dijon
1/3 tablespoon dried dill
1/3 tablespoon capers or more
fresh ground pepper

Monday, February 11, 2008

Blink of an eye

Some days pass by with a blink of an eye. It feels like I brought my daughter home yesterday and soon she will be having her forth birthday. Where has the time gone? 

I am hoping to capture my discoveries and experiences, as I travel through my days. As my husband will tell you, I always have to be doing something. And, he's right. I am always in search of something new and something different. Find out more to a thought that just popped into my mind. I have so many things that interest me and so many things that I want to find out more about. 

I am most passionate about activities and anything to do with my little one. I love being able to enrich her life and just experience life along side her. As any parent will tell you, a child brings true joy to your heart and your life. I love being home with her. 

Lately, I have been cooking more, which my husband loves. I love trying new recipes and I especial love Everyday Italian, which is on the food network. The recipes are so simple and so good. Tonight, I am making Pecan Crusted Chicken topped with Maple Balsamic Butter and Sweet Mash Potatoes. It is so easy. 

Add course chunks of pecans to plain bread crumbs with a pinch or two of nutmeg, salt, and fresh ground pepper. 
Dip your chicken in an egg wash and then into your bread crumbs. 
Put on coated baking sheet and cook on 400 for 15-20 minutes. 

Cook your sweet potatoes until they begin to crack open and you start to see some sugar run out. 

Now, for the maple balsamic butter. For a serving of three:
2 tablespoons room temperature butter (or you could melt butter in the microwave) 
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar (maybe even 3 teaspoons=1 tablespoon, depending on your tastes)

Hopefully, my little one will be more interested in the sweet potatoes tonight. It is hard to believe that she does not like them, they are like candy. The maple balsamic butter is great over carrots as well.

It is only February and I am already dreaming about my perennial garden. I absolutely love gardening. When we purchased our house, it had 3 shrubs on the entire property. One lilac bush on the corner of the garage and 3 overgrown hydrangea paniculata (PeeGee) bushes in the front of the house. I remember my childhood home being filled with the fragrance of lilacs in early spring. We had a huge lilac bush outside the dining room window and that the spring breeze carried the fragrance through our entire house. It was delightful and such a found memory of my childhood. So, I decided to add a perennial garden on the side of the garage, near my treasured lilac bush. At the time, we had no idea what to do with the overgrown hydrangea paniculata bushes and we were so overwhelmed with renovating our 1918 property that we let them be. I was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming bounty of beautiful and massive flower heads that started blooming mid July. I always had a vase full of Hydrangeas in bloom. The PeeGee bushes had to stay. The hydrangea starts blooming mid July and continues to add beauty into fall. I can not tell you how abundant the blooms are. Early on, just as the buds start to bloom, the panicle has a beautiful display of green buds at the top and stark white flowers that have just begun to bloom. Then, the bush is filled with massive white blooms that mature to a reddish pink, a wonderful color late in the season. Since, we purchased our house, we have added landscaping and my perennial garden has enlarge year by year. 

I would advise anyone just starting out or thinking about starting a garden is to find out a few essential things first. 1. Your zone  2. Your sun exposure  3. Your soil type. Then, jump right in. You learn so through just doing and learning from your experiences. As my grandmother says, "Everything will talk to you." If you are lucky, you may have someone to share your passion with. My grandmother has taught me so much about gardening and she has shared a lot of her knowledge with me. My grandmother has more of a wildflower garden. She spreads her flowers and her color out. So, all of her plants have come with a surprise or two. I like my garden to have chunks of contained, condensed color. I am learning to enjoy the surprises. 

I recently placed an order with White Flower Farm and I can not wait for the ground to thaw. Here's what I ordered:
Chelone lyonii Hop Lips
Centurea montana Purple
Gomphrena all around purple
Lantana peach surise
Rubeckia subtomentosa Henry Eilers
Veronicastrum virginicum Erica

The Connecticut Flower & Garden Show will be at The Convention Center next week. It is running from February 21st - February 24th. I am really excited to go.


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