Friday, February 27, 2009

Imagination at Play

Cowboy Carter made another appearance at the Simonini ranch, he rode into town on his horse Snowflake and chased that dog Willy right out of town!

Did you know . . . ?
  • There is a panda bear living in a hole in our basement floor, he loves to eat bamboo and requires a lot of cool water to drink. Oh ya and he can talk too
  • The bag of pretzels at snack time is actually a rocket ship, the pretzels are little people who blast off to the moon to swim in the water (aka hummus). The pretzels use parachutes to get down from the sky. Interesting.
  • There is a candy machine attached to the wall, you can fill up your pockets and the candy is, "really yummy".
  • Carter built the "Indians" a new house because theirs fell down. (Pretty sad when a 3 year old even knows the sad state of affairs on Canadian reserves).
  • I just got hit by a big rock and have to go to the principal's office. But I'm okay because I got a new toy to make me feel better.
All of this happened within a mere 30 minute play time. Exhausting really for me, difficult to keep up with at times but, really entertaining and makes my mamma heart melt. 

Imagination is defined as, "the faculty of imagining, or of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses . . . It helps provide meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge; it is a fundamental facility through which people make sense of the world".

One of the things I am most proud of as a mother (as mothers we all need to give our selves some credit sometimes) is my children's ability to use their imaginations. I have worked hard to provide the opportunity and environment for their imaginative play to flourish. I try to do this by providing a nurturing and open environment with toys and tools to allow their imagination and natural curiosity to lead the way. I try to allow opportunities for free play and unrestricted access to their toys, books, art supplies and whatever else is required. One of the most important ingredients for this is restricted access to television, this is one thing that I am very strict about. I have to turn off my adult mind,  put away my concerns about them making a mess and jump right in and play along. 

I gotta go its Mozart's Birthday (Carter's stuffed monkey) and they are just about to cut the pretend cake!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Woolly Tits

Yes, those are knitted "Woolly Tits"! What the? Here's the story . . .

The original idea came from a story on the BBC a couple of years ago, whereby a hospital in Liverpool couldn't afford or like the commercial fake breasts used for teaching breastfeeding to new mothers. So someone came up with the idea of knitting them instead. An appeal went out worldwide for knitters to help out. That's when a fellow Ottawa Public Health Breastfeeding Buddy Volunteer by the name of Elizabeth Ann Spencer decided to help out and see if there was any local interest, and there was!

Here is a video clip from BBC news to see Woolly Tits being used as a breastfeeding teaching tool.

Elizabeth is amazing, she has raised $400 during each of the last 2 years for UNICEF's "Spread the Net" campaign in memory of a school-friend who died of malaria when she was 19.  

So now you're wondering how can I order some?

Elizabeth knits basic skin colours (ivory/maroon or beige/chocolate) and fun stripey ones!
They are $10 each ($8 goes to UNICEF!) if picked up locally and add $3 (for a total of $13 each) to cover postage & handling if they need to be mailed. No bulk discounts, sorry.

These are aimed primarily at those who teach breastfeeding for demonstrative purposes only, such as lactation consultants, pre-natal educators, postpartum nurses & doulas and GP practices. They are not meant to be toys or novelty items.

Please email me at marcisimonini(at)rogers(dot)com to get in touch with Elizabeth to place your order.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cuddle Blankets

This is our basket of "Cuddle Blankets" that the kids (and I) use everyday. I am always folding them and putting them in the basket which has become one of my everyday rituals and part of the rhythm of my day. As I was folding them today I stopped to look at each one and admire it and really think about what these lap quilts have come to mean to our family. They provide more than just a practical use, they warm the heart and soul, they provide comfort & nurturing and are even used for imaginative play.

They have many uses indeed:
  • to cuddle with during our "snuggle buggling" which involves making a "love cocoon" under the cuddle blanket (very popular)
  • cuddle blankets are also excellent for fort building
  • they make a great picnic blanket for both indoor & outdoor use
  • are a must for tea parties
  • cuddle blankets also make excellent beach blankets
  • they also double as a stroller blanket to keep little ones warm on a cold winter's day
This one I actually machine sewed myself before we had kids, my first and only attempt at quilting, without help, without a book, totally free form. I loved it and can't wait to take up quilting again. But, this time I think I might actually take a class and learn how to do it properly. (Focus, focus on one craft at a time!)
This red one was a gift and is completely hand quilted, its beautiful.
This cuddle blanket was made by a very dear childhood friend of mine, I think of her every time we use it. Its machine quilted and beautiful, this one is Carter's favourite. 
This is Madison's choice as favourite cuddle blanket because of the rainbow.  Its thrifted and I would love to know who made it and the story behind it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Heart Squirrels

Yes that's right, I heart squirrels. I don't know exactly why but I just think they are really interesting little creatures. Not that I would want one as a pet but they're a lot of fun to watch and photograph. In fact when I was taking the pics for this post Madison rolled her eyes and said, "Mommy why do you like squirrels so much?" not really in the form of a question more of an annoyed statement.

Above is a felt squirrel broach, "on the lookout for acorns with his beady eye" which is beautifully hand cut & hand sewn by an amazing and talented fiber artist Lupin (or Laura). The broach is available in grey or dark red and measures approx. 6cms. Please visit her website or Etsy to order one & see more of her work and check out her blog Bugs And Fishes by Lupin for daily doses of felt + time + tea = handstitched loveliness.

Now lets learn some more about squirrels, shall we!

There are about 300 varieties of squirrels around the world. In North America there are ten. Examples are the red/brown squirrels that live in evergreen trees and eat seeds of pinecones and the gray squirrel (my favourite) which lives in woods of oaks, ashes and beeches and mainly eats beech nuts and acorns.

Where do squirrels live?
Squirrels typically live in trees - in holes in the trunk, or in treetop crow's nests. The homes in the treetops are called dreys and sometimes consist of two rooms and a nursery! How cool is that? Here is a video of some gray squirrels building their drey and mating (ya I knew that would get your attention!).

Above is a picture (gotta love winter's grey sky in the background) of a squirrel's drey high up in the Maple tree right in our front yard. The kids love to look out the picture window and watch the squirels go in and out. They are always busy repairing the drey, digging up stored food and either playing/fighting each other. Its hilarious to watch them jump onto the bird feeder to steal some seed.

I'm always asking the kids, "I wonder what the squirrels are doing today? I wonder what they are doing in their drey and when they are going to come out?" and they always get excited when they spot one and are sure to let me know!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Leg Warmer Update

This is one of my leg warmers in progress . . . I finally figured out how to knit in the round with double pointed needles (dpns)! Its 31 cm (12 inches) long, which I was pretty excited about until I realized the pattern says the finished measurement should be 66 cm (26 inches) long.  For sure I will only be knitting one leg warmer, the other leg will just have to stay cold!  There is no way I can do this again right now, maybe I'll knit the other one in the fall. While I'm knitting I think about what my next project should be, never mind knitting another leg warmer, been there done that. Now I know not to knit things in pairs like socks and mittens. 
I also bought myself (yes even new, not thrifted) this I don't even know what you call it, knitting folding storage stand to house my growing stash of wool and other such notions. I love the fabric and think that I will have to find coordinating material to make myself a roll up needle case and matching notions bag. Now all I need is the rocking chair to put it beside!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gardening, the Mouse & Tea

Madison is loving  . . .
Planning our garden for the spring
The medal she got for 100 Days of School & her new apron
Snuggle Buggling with Mommy on the couch in the mornings
Carter is loving . . .
Playing on the computer and using the mouse (with his big sister & Teddy)
Going to the "Barn" to see the animals in the winter & the cows being milked
Helping himself to snacks in the kitchen
Gabriel is loving . . .
Playing with the new Plan Toys Tea Set
Walking around getting into things & then proudly showing everyone what he found
Drinking or more like chugging milk out of his Klean Kanteen

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mamma Needs a New Chair

I'm sad to say that my glider is on its final glides. The arm is broken and won't stayed glued together, the cushions have no cushioning left, springs are missing & you need to sit on a pillow and screws randomly fall out of it while gliding. 

The thing is I've had this glider for over 5 years now, since I was pregnant with my first. It holds countless memories for us and has unmeasurable sentimental value. When I think about the amount of glides it provided for my babes and me it melts my heart. The nurturing it helped provide, the breastfeeding, the rocking to sleep, the consoling, the cuddles, just last week I rocked my five year old when she was sick. Plus now I like to sit in it and knit (how little old lady of me!). 

Farewell my friend, thanks for the glides, thanks for the love.
The time has come to choose a new chair. I really don't want another nursery looking baby glider but a nice upholstered chair that glides. Glide baby glide. This is the Hazel Glider by Serena & Lily. I love the casual look of this one and it looks so inviting & comfortable to sit in.
This is the Luca Glider by Monte which is a Canadian company and is sold at a local retailer. This one is more modern looking but I like the fact that its made right here in Ontario and the company is big on sustainability.

They both come in every colour combination imaginable, are about the same price & take 4-6 weeks for delivery. Isn't that just about the right amount of time for Mother's Day?
Another option, and a much cheaper one, is going with a traditional mission style rocking chair.
Oh please help me decide.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

And then there was bread, finally

I finally got around to making fresh homemade bread, after months of reading my bread books and sourcing out specialty organic bread flour and yeast. There really is nothing like the feeling of kneading your own bread dough, the smell of yeast & rising dough and bread baking in the oven. I started with the basic bread recipe with a bit of whole wheat flour added for flavour. It turned out really crusty on the outside and soft and delicious on the inside. 
Mmmmm . . . fresh homemade bread hot out of the oven with lots of butter spread over it. I can't wait to make another.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Blanket Scarf!

Well here it is, my first knitted scarf is finally done. Its actually more blanket-like measuring 140 cm (55 inches) long & 36 cm (14 inches) across. I think it would make a better table runner. Willy our golden retriever did a fine job modeling it for me doesn't he look happy?!
Then it was on to my next project and off to the local wool store I went for some help. Ultimately I want to knit a bowl (Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson) to felt in the washing machine and then needle felt some kind of design on the outside. But, first I have to learn to knit in the round . . .
So this is what's on my needles right now a pair of leg warmers for me from the book One Skein by Leigh Radford.  Actually its more like on my needles and then ripped off my needles and then on again and again. Knitting with double pointed needles (dpn) and four of them is proving to be quite a challenge for me. I had some help and support from the Crafty Mammas but I'm also going to our public library tonight to check out their knitting group. I absolutely love the wool I found for these with the different shades of red of course.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Madison gave hand-made Valentine cards to her school friends this year. I cut out a heart and wrote on the front and she did the rest. She wrote her name inside, drew & coloured pictures and stickered. We really enjoyed doing this together and she was really excited about giving them to her friends. What a sweetheart.

Wherever you are & whoever you are with today, Happy Valentine's!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Eeny Meeny Miney Moe

Eeny Meeny Miney Moe - I can't decide what to blog about today so here is a bunch of my scatterbrain odds & ends . . .

This picture pretty much sums up what I've been doing the last couple of days, mothering 3 sick kids with head colds, runny noses and a nice dry cough to go with it. My arsenal included lots of kleenex, orange juice, homeopathic cough syrup, chest rub, some cuddle blankets for snuggle buggling in the rocking chair & a whole pile of movies. I'm sure I'll get it next.
Knitting Update - My scarf is now 25 inches long and the ball of wool is about the size of a soft ball. I think I will be done in time for the Crafty Mommas meeting so they can help me decide on my next knitting project. I got some knitting books from the library, have joined Ravelry and have been coveting some really beautiful wool on Etsy.
I was really excited when the new Spring 2009 issue of Living Crafts arrived in the mail. There are some really great projects in it which include: sewing a doll quilt, a knitted baby carrier, weaving with children, felted flowers, easter bunnys & other great stuff.
Scott finally dug out the Advanced User Guide for our camera. I really need to read it and work on my picture taking skills.
And last but not least, I bought some carob chips to make some cookies with. I'm still looking for a good recipe so if anyone has one please pass it on.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Rhythm of My Day

Every morning one of the first things I do is grind my coffee beans to brew a fresh pot of coffee. The sound of the grinder grinding and the smell of the coffee brewing has become a ritualistic part of mine and the kid's mornings. Sometimes they even like to push the button on the grinder. I like to drink my coffee in the same thrifted ceramic mug and love to add the milk and sugar from the same thrifted mushroom sugar bowl and creamer. I rarely get to sit & relax and drink my coffee hot but that in a way has also become part of the natural rhythm of my mothering day.

I want to start blogging about and sharing my everyday rituals, the things that I do with or without noticing that are a very important and special part of my life. The things that make up the rhythm of my life and my family's life.  Sometimes its important to stop our busy lives and take notice of the small things. To live in the moment. Rituals are important on a personal level to nurture our inner selves. And they are important for families and children to develop a sense of belonging and tradition.

Mothering Magazine published a great article in their May/June 08 issue titled, "Mommy Rituals" about how simple, focused actions can bring energy and calm to daily parenting life. Here are some ideas:
  • greet the day & end the day by watching the sun rise or set and  bid the day a thankful  hello or farewell
  • Drink a full glass of water and imagine it cleansing your body, mind & soul
  • Be thankful & show gratitude
  • Notice nature
  • Stop sometimes, actually pause and take notice of the moment
  • Read for pleasure
  • Be silly everyday, laugh and break out of your adult mind
  •  Coddle and nurture yourself
I invite my readers to share some of their everyday rituals and leave them as a comment (remember to leave your name or initials in the text). They can be as simple or elaborate as you want them to be. They can be your own personal rituals or ones that you have with your children. They can be abstract or concrete. And they actually don't have to be something that you do everyday, its the ritualistic part that's important. 
Sharing is so much fun.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Needle Felted Wizard

Over the last 2 weeks a good friend and I took a needle felting class and had a lot of laughs making our "Wooly Wizards".

Basically needle felting is sculpting wool by poking it repeatedly with a special felting needle.
Wool fiber + mechanical agitation (with the felting needle) = felt

This is a picture of the wool roving I used to sculpt. One is dyed blue and the other in its natural colour. Sorry I don't have any pictures of the actual process but its actually really easy.

This is my 'Wooly Wizard' I tried to make him look more like a Father Winter but I think I will have to give it another try. I prefer the waldorf faceless needle felted figures. Here is a great post about this. I have more wool roving and needles to make some figures for our nature table.

My favourite needle felt artist is Beneath the Rowan Tree. She is unbelievably talented and Canadian too. Have a look at some of her amazing work and you will see why I was inspired to learn.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pink Play Silk, Teddy & the Vacuum

Madison is loving . . .
Her brothers (sometimes a little bit too much)
Anything to do with school
Her new pink play silk

Carter is loving . . .
Teddy (I mean he loves Teddy and says, "He's special")
Going for a ride in my craft bag (Not very safe I know, but fun)
Picking out his own clothes (finally some independence)

Gabriel is loving . . .
Walking and trying to keep up with his brother & sister
Napping in the stroller with Carts in the cold & not inside in his warm bed
His love affair with the vacuum continues 

Knitting Update
My scarf is now 17 inches long! 

Friday, February 6, 2009

Knitting Update #1

I've been pretty busy knitting since yesterday. First I rolled the "hank" (I love the new knitting lingo) of purple wool into a ball which is the size of a basketball, I think maybe I should have made 2 balls, oh well. I just keep it hidden away in my craft bag while I knit in public. 

Next I taught myself to cast on and I think once I got going I got a bit carried away since I ended up with 50 stitches. The scarf is going to be huge and almost more blanket-like.

As for the actual knitting it's going really well, the tension seems to be fairly consistent and I haven't dropped any stitches yet. Right now its 6 inches long and my goal is 60, so I figure at this rate I should be done in about 10 days which will be just in time for the next Crafty Mammas meeting. I already want to learn more stitches and how to read a pattern, this straight knitting thing is kinda boring.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Loving Baby Wearing

I have got to spread the word about the ERGO Baby Carrier. I didn't discover it until my third baby was 6 months old and I wish I knew about it 5 years ago. So worth the investment (it retails for about $115). I've tried pocket slings, ring slings, mei tai and others but the Ergo is by the far the best over all. Included in the many benefits of baby wearing, and there are many, is the elimination of the need for a stroller. Gabriel did not sit is a stroller until about age 1! The best is the back carry which means you are hands free but it also works well for the front carry too. Even Carter at 3 years old loves to be carried in mommy's back pack. Its very comfortable and easy to use for multiple wearers. 
(Oh, and did I mention that its available at 3 Little Monkeys!)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Crafty Mammas

I had my first meeting with my Crafty Mamma group last night, very exciting. We are a small group of like-minded mothers (all with 3 children) who like to craft. We are going to meet every 2 weeks and alternate hosting. Our main craft will be knitting but will also include felting and sewing and maybe a little bit of wine drinking.

Above is the purple wool and bamboo needles I purchased to knit my first scarf, with the Crafty Mammas help of course. I'll keep you posted on how its going.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Aprony Goodness

Call me old fashioned but I love aprons, there is something so domestic and almost nurturing about tying those apron strings around my waist. Not only are they functional but they are beautiful too, especially the vintage ones. Even my children love to put them on, they run to the drawer where they are kept and get excited about choosing the one they want to wear, especially if its one of mommy's.

The following are some of the aprons that I've thrifted that I wanted to share. And now that I have my new china cabinet with drawers I have a place to store them and room for more.

I love the pink pockets on this one and the vintage floral fabric is fabulous.
I think this is my favourite one, with a dish cloth sewn on and a pocket, the best! Sorry the picture is sideways, I still haven't found that little camera instruction book.
Gotta love the paisley fabric and pocket, very cute.

The embroidery on this apron is unbelievable, so much stitching and I love the gingham.