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Sesame Seed Designs

So far spring in the Pacific Northwest has been wet, wet, wet but we took advantage of a beautiful sunny day and got outside. We went to the Opal Creek Wilderness and introduced the kids to an old growth forest.  It was especially nice to experience the quiet and solitude of the wilderness after 4 days of roofers pounding on our house.  We did come across some fellow hikers but we were lucky to spend much of the day by ourselves.

This was my view with the little dog leading the way.

Saoirse spent the day hunting for bird’s nest mushrooms. She found a lot but this fungi-laden branch was her prized find.

The girls looked especially tiny compared to the huge trees and the jungle of moss covered branches towering above them.

The grounds was covered with a forest of trillium flowers and I loved seeing the leaf buds on the trees and shrubs. It’s like the forest was awakening before our eyes

The water is so clear and pristine. It’s even safe to drink right out of the creek!

The trail we hiked on leads to Jawbone Flats, an historic mining camp that is now the home of an environmental education center. We didn’t make it quite that far with the kids but we had fun exploring the old mining relics along the way including an old cabin, a mining tunnel in the hillside and lots of abandoned equipment.

Next time we go on a long hike Mike and I want to put a tracking device on the dog so we can see how much more ground he covers than us. This guy didn’t let his short legs hold him back at all!

We hiked over 4 miles and little Carys Áine got a piggyback ride for about 3 minutes until she started to choke me. The rest of the time she walked entirely on her own! I think that’s pretty impressive for a 3.25 year old! She did say she wanted to go home about 30 minutes in but we ignored her and soon enough she was distracted by all the natural beauty around her. We took lots of snack breaks and Saoirse shared the tip she learned at summer camp- hugging a tree gives you the strength of the tree and so she and Carys Áine sought out strong Douglas Fir trees when they felt tired.

Towards the end some serious exhaustion set in but I distracted them with stories and singing and by the time the gate to the parking area was in sight the kids found some new energy.

All day Carys Áine referred to the outing as our “adventuring” and Saoirse enthusiastically shared her nature expertise with all of us. I love that they’re so young but already feel so at home in the forest. I also love that they fell asleep about 10 minutes into the car ride home. I don’t love that they picked all the chocolate chips and dried fruit out of the trail mix but that lesson in hiking etiquette will have to wait until our next “adventuring.”


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Baby chicks!

We ave three new babies in the house and the kids are thrilled. It’s been several years since we’ve had chicks and we figured it was as good a time as any to add some babies to our backyard flock.

Carys ­Áine was really excited to help take some photos of our 6 day old chicks. Surprisingly, she makes a pretty good chick wrangler.

This little fluffball is the one Carys picked out and named Squash, inspired by her current favorite library book about 2 dogs named Lucky and Squash. It’s a pretty dumb story, one that I was more than happy to return to the library, but Squash is a cute name for a little yellow chick.

She’s a Delaware chicken so she’ll be white with black feathers around her neck when she’s grown up. You can see her wing feathers beginning to grow in black and white.

This is Charlotte, named for Charlotte’s web since Saoirse and Mike are reading that book right now.

She was not too keen on the photo shoot and sat hunched down like this for a minute or so until she felt comfortable enough to walk around.

She’s a Welsummer and we have a grown up one already. Saoirse is a little disappointed that “her” chicken is a repeat of one that we have but Welsummers are really pretty and the chicks have such cute chipmunk-like stripes that she was hard to resist.

This chick is named Florence Nightingale, a collective naming effort by the girls and I. Apparently there’s a My Little Pony named Nightingale and Saoirse didn’t mind that I tacked Florence onto the front.

She’s an Australorp so she’ll be all black when she’s grown but right now I love her two tone coloring. She’s the feisty one of the trio and she didn’t want to stay in view of the camera at all. It was hard to keep her from wandering all over the dining room, especially since my little chicken wrangler gave up! Can’t you just see Florence Nightingale plotting her escape?

When we last had chicks, Saoirse was 2 years old and loved pulling up a little chair to sit in and watch them. Now Carys Áine has discovered the same little chair and sits and watches the chicks, mostly exclaiming “Oh, Squash! Squashy, Squashy, Squashy. You’re so funny! Oh, Squashy, why are you standing on your food dish!” Then she laughs so hard I think she may fall out of the little chair. Her enthusiasm is almost cuter than the chicks themselves.

Now I’m crossing my fingers that they all stay healthy and that they do all turn out to be girl chickens or else I’ll have one sad 3 year old. Saoirse has taken a more practical approach to chicken raising though tomorrow they are going to go visit the 1st graders at school.

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The polar vortex finally swirled it’s way up to the Pacific Northwest and with several inches of snow Portland sort of shut down on Thursday afternoon, because the city doesn’t use salt on the roads (it’s bad for our beloved environment) and doesn’t own many snow plows (because it hardly ever snows) and who doesn’t like a snow day every few years?

There was a lot of snow day chaos to work out yesterday morning. The kids were unable to decide whether they should first play in the snow or watch the movie they were promised so there was much arguing and yelling. We also learned that snow makes the dogs crazy so when the girls weren’t yelling at each other, they were yelling at the spazzy dogs. Fun times.

Finally we bundled up and went outside.

After that I got Saoirse to sit down and crank out her valentine’s for her classmates. It didn’t take any coercing, really. She loves making things. (I wonder who she gets that from.)

After making heart necklaces last year and seed paper valentines the year before, she decided on cupid’s arrows made from twigs and felt. They were really fun to make and she was able to do a lot of it herself. I think we were both inspired by the geometric pattern on our tablecloth.

We used twigs from a dead branch on our cherry tree since everything else was covered in snow. She cut out a bunch of triangles and glued them herself onto one end of the twigs with craft glue.

I cut out a chevron shape for the feathers and cut two slits in it to slide the stick through. Saoirse slid the sticks through and secured it with a little  craft glue. Then I cut the fringe, being careful not to cut too close to the slits that held it onto the stick.

Saoirse wants to give them away with a little poem that goes something like “Roses are red, violets are blue, I made this Cupid’s arrow, for a nice friend like you.” They turned out so well that I almost don’t want her to hand them out to her classmates! I think I need to make some more to decorate with.

What would you do with your own quiver of twig arrows?

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Celebrating Candlemas

Candlemas, Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day. What?

I love Saoirse’s Waldorf school for introducing us to ancient festivals and seasonal celebrations. February 2 is the midpoint between winter solstice and the spring equinox, making it the perfect time to welcome the slow arrival of brighter days and new growth. It’s also 40 days after Christmas, which would make it the day to celebrate when Mary and Joseph would have brought 40 day old baby Jesus to the temple for a blessing. Because Jesus was heralded as the light of the world, this day has come to be symbolized with candle light. In many Christian churches beeswax candles are blessed on this day, either for use in the church or to be distributed to the people. Hence candle mass, or candlemas

Saoirse was home sick with a cold on Monday and once I brought up the idea of celebrating candlemas she was fully on board and peppered me with questions all day. Together we learned that in Poland candles are blessed by a priest then placed in windows to ward off thunder storms.  In France crepes are traditionally eaten on this day, symbolizing a bright, round sun. In Armenia churchgoers light candles in church, then carry them home to light a lamp, or use them to light a bonfire in the churchyard.

A candlemas inspired chalkboard drawing at Saoirse’s school

Imbolc, or St. Brigid’s day, is an ancient Gaelic festival celebrated at this midpoint between solstice and equinox and it celebrates spring planting, sacred flames and healing, among others things.

We celebrated by eating dinner by candlelight. The kids were totally thrilled by this.

Among the candles we lit were hand-dipped beeswax candles made in Saoirse’s class.  We read a verse honoring the bees as we breathed in the sweet scent of beeswax.

Night is dark, and cold, and long
Winter’s hold is still so strong,
But beneath the earthen crust
Underneath the frozen dust
Life is growing, moving, thriving
Roots are drinking, resting, striving,
Buds are swelling on the trees
In the hives, still sleep the bees
But moving humming strumming sing
Soon we all will welcome spring!

Candlemas marks the end of the Yuletide season and is traditionally the day to remove the last of the holiday greenery from the home. We still had a Christmas wreath and some fir garlands that were very dry. They made for a nice fire in the backyard.

Our family enjoyed this so much more than waiting on pins and needles for some silly groundhog to do its thing!


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DIY Orange Peel Garland

Well, there’s nothing like the festivity of the holiday season to bring me back to the blog. I’m not working this winter and pledged to not overcommit myself with holiday craft shows and I’m enjoying being able to slow down a little this advent season. This morning little Carys and I made this easy and amazingly fragrant garland and I want to share a quick tutorial with you so you can make one too!

I started by scoring the oranges so that the peel would come off easily in large pieces. I found that taking it off in quarters was easiest but to get some larger shapes I peeled half the orange at a time.

I used average sized oranges and small 1 to 1 1/2 inch cookie cutters fit best on the pieces of orange peel. I found that it’s easiest to cut out the shapes by placing the cookie cutter on the white side of the peel. The metal cut through the peel easily enough that three year old Carys could do it with just a bit of help. The plastic cookie cutter I used wasn’t as sharp but rolling a rolling pin over it quickly pressed it right through. I used three oranges and got seventeen ornaments from them.

As if the orange peel alone didn’t smell amazing enough, I decided to go for maximum holiday spirit and added some cloves. Carys loved pressing them in after I poked holes with a thin skewer. She mostly did those in the middles of the snowflakes and stars since I didn’t trust her not to accidentally break off one of the narrow arms of the snowflakes.

I strung them together with some baking twine and a long needle. I threaded the twine through the middle of the orange peel, choosing the thickest part on each piece and it feels really sturdy even after sliding them back and forth to get the spacing just how I wanted it.

I love how it looks and this corner of my house smells really amazing! They’ll curl a little more as they dry but I think it’ll be beautiful. I love that it’s all natural and completely compostable when I’m done with it and I didn’t need to buy anything other then a few oranges. It fits right in as a decoration near our winter nature table but would look lovely on a twinkling Christmas tree too. You could even string hanging loops onto each shape and hang them individually as ornaments. Sairshe wants to give some to her teacher this year and I think it’s a great idea!

Do you have any other easy Christmas garland ideas? They’re such a great way to personalize your decorations and to make something just right for your space.

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