Not the most glamorous of snowballs, but it's one Claire can call her own. You've been hit!


Merry Christmas!

I sure hope your family had a wonderful Christmas, we celebrated with a big family gathering, lots of delicious food and much laughter. Watching Claire just enthralled by all the magic of Christmas was the best gift of all.

And snow?! Well we certainly got that. Our first storm of the season, and what a storm it was. Our family left late on Christmas day rather then risk getting caught in the blizzard. We were sorry to see everyone head out early but I won't lie and say that spending boxing day in PJs sipping eggnog and eating random leftovers wasn't fun.

I'll be so sad to take down our tree and decorations this year. Claire was so excited to help out. If there was a surface that could be covered in ornaments or greenery she was all over it! We spent evenings leading up to Christmas cutting snowflakes out of coffee filters, making evergreen wreaths and garlands and generating huge messes of glue and glitter for our paper punch ornaments. By the way - shatterproof ornaments are a fantastic invention, Claire helped me string them up everywhere! I'll have to post a tour of all our decorations but if you look carefully in the background of these photos you'll catch a glimpse of our handiwork.

I have a feeling that tossing the tree this year might be a bit of problem considering Claire is STILL decorating it. To make letting go easier, I'm thinking of having her string it with some popcorn and cranberries for our bird friends. We can watch them feast and enjoy the tree just a little longer without having pine needles underfoot in our living room for another month. Let's hope this works, otherwise there are going to be lots of tears or a tree up in February over here! I'm not sure which is worse!

If I'm not blogging before the New Year, let me take the time to wish you and yours a healthy and happy one!

Happy Solstice!

I'm lying in bed watching a full lunar eclipse through my skylight on today's winter solstice. It occurred to me that this is the type of thing I can't wait to share with Claire! My viewing platform of pillows and blankets is so much more snug then where I started out in the yard, I can't tell you how fantastic this is!

There is an 8 year age gap between my youngest sister Amanda and I and I vividly remember waking her up at odd times of the night to watch eclipses and meteor showers (the latter were always a bit disappointing on suburban Long Island). The Hale-Bopp comet was probably the best astronomy sight we've shared.

While I won't wake Claire intentionally tonight, if she stirs I'll be sure to show her what our magical universe is up to. This is a kid who is always aware of the phases of the moon so I'm sure a full lunar eclipse on this crisp, clear night would be a thing of awe for her.


Making Magic

All kinds of hysterical things seem to fly out of Claire's mouth, I suppose it's one of the joys of being around a three year old. Recently, all three of us were snuggled up in bed watching a movie and Claire said, "ooooh I'm making magic." Dan and I turned towards her as she rubbed her eyes, enjoying the fireworks inside her eyelids and just smiled.


Ireland Week 2

I'm writing this entry sitting on the train about to depart for Galway. Apparently, I've timed my visit to Western Ireland to perfectly coincide with another storm, many of the passengers are on cell phones discussing the unusual weather this fall, much of which I've seen on my visit! We've witnessed the front page news hurricane that hit the southern coast of Ireland when we were in Wexford, an early icing in Dublin that made for a treacherous playground trip, and now this! I'm hoping all this fuss about the storm bound for Galway is just the another overreaction on the part of the Irish who only know fair weather. I've decided to call all of this stormy weather "rainbow opportunity weather." Case in point:

Brey was a gorgeous town with a cliffside path and beautiful views of the sea. Unfortunately, I turned back after a few minutes because of insane winds and rain. On the way back down to the car a rainbow appeared! We were able to see end to end but just couldn't seem to find that pot of gold. This is one of the few times I've seen both ends, and yes it was a double rainbow! If you missed the pop culture reference search YouTube for "double rainbow" and enjoy one man's exuberant reaction (that may be too light of a word) to a double rainbow over one of America's National Parks.

The sun peeping out from behind the storm clouds made for some interesting lighting. The tufts of grass just seemed to glow. I found a small footpath to follow down the hill and came upon an unmarked ruin, perhaps a home or church?

The waves were ridiculously huge and violent, what a site! Watching the sea birds in the wind was fantastic, they barely had to flap their wings.

Galway adventures to follow, Claire and I have just arrived for our little solo trip and will be walking about the city and doing some day tours in the west.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Taking Ireland by Storm

I've been posting photos of our trip to Ireland to Facebook but thought Id
better share a few here as well! Claire and I are having a grand time and have enjoyed spending the past few days with the Admirand family and all their pets. Claire is just loving the dogs, especially the sweet natured pointer, Belle...unless Belle is trying to hop into Claire's bed in which case Claire throws all of her weight (all 30 pounds or so) into a shove that never seems to evict the needy-snuggler, Belle.

We've spent the last four days locally in the Rathfarnham area celebrating Kaitlyn's birthday, exploring the Wicklow Way, and just hanging out and catching up. There's been a good deal of fighting and loving as you can expect from four children under one roof, but Claire has greeted each new day with a smile and "where are my friends?!"

Jack who is in second grade (or second class as they say here) is tolerating Claire's affection very well, she's always on the lookout for him and will slip her arms around his neck in her chokehold version of a hug whenever he's off his guard. Four year old Kaitlyn and Claire either play really sweetly or are engaged in a tug of war over some toy or another, quite on par for the age and family standing. And last but not least, my uber snuggly Godson Chris and Claire have been caught numerous times snuggling on the couch...until Claire snapped the arm off a lego dude. She still hasn't been forgiven for that one but things seem to be on the mend.

This weekend we're having a girls only trip down in County Wexford. This is the first time I've been to the coast of Ireland (aside from Belfast) and I'm hoping the weather holds out for us. We've packed some rain gear for the girls and are keeping our fingers crossed that the "hurricane" heading for us isn't too bad. And here is my favorite photo so far:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Dipping Picnic

A favorite meal for the libary bench or big rock in the yard, may I intorduce the "dipping picnic."

Celebrating Autumn's Splendor

I know, I know...two foliage posts in a row - but I can't help it! The beautiful leaf rubbings we worked on earlier are still on display but this is an even easier project to commemorate the season. Walking with Claire in the yard always turns up a few colorful leaf specimens to work with, here's the unique way we're displaying them:

I picked up a few $0.99 frames while shopping at Ikea recently. My original thought was to put some letters in there or label things on our nature table (more to come on that another day) but Claire thought a small maple leaf might look nice in there too. I think she had a great idea. The light shines through beautifully and I love that we can see both sides of the leaf.

What do you think? Isn't this a gorgeous and simple way to showcase autumn leaves?


Chalkboard and Autumn Admiration

Since we spend a lot of time here:

Looking up at this:

and this:

of course, it was only a matter of time before there was a tree in our house decked out in colored leaves of its own:

This chalkboard hangs in our kitchen and sometimes I'll write out our dinner menu or a fancy birthday greeting but most often we're using it for school. Claire loves to draw on it while standing on a kitchen chair and most recently we created this cool tree using coffee filters and watercolors. Forget the brush on the coffee filters, eye droppers are the way to go! The wrong sized coffee filters gathering dust in your cabinets are best to use, I'm not that smart though.

Claire really wanted to tape up this interesting branch with berries she found in the woods so we added that too. I'll have to bring out the colored chalk and we'll add some brown and grey to the trunk. I do think Claire's "burls" are a nice touch.


Spider Hand Prints for Halloween

Halloween Greetings to all! We created some spooky artwork last week gearing up to celebrate Halloween. This was definitely an art project that focused on the art process - it took three days, but was well worth the wait. Any project that helps a three year old work on patience gets a thumbs up in my book.

Day 1 - Claire drew a web in white crayon. The idea was to get some lines on the page, this is Claire's work so I wasn't preoccupied with the perfect web shape. Claire filled the entire page with purple liquid watercolors and any puddling was quickly absorbed by the paper and wound up looking mottled - very cool indeed. We kept a wet rag handy to catch any spills, these paints are sure potent!

On day two we moved onto the spider hand prints. I painted Claire's fingers and most of her palm (her giggles were hilarious) and helped her press each hand onto the web we painted the day before.

I suppose at this point you could have glued the googley eyes on while the paint was still wet, but I wanted to stretch this out as long as possible. We hung the eyeless critters up to dry and called it quits.

On day three we talked a lot about spiders and their eight legs (and eyes!). I poured some glue into a spoon for her to use and gave her a paint brush to apply it. This seems to be one of the neatest ways for Claire to use glue. We put eight eyes on one of the spiders but it just didn't look right. Maybe if we had a few different sizes we would have been more successful. We stuck with the cartoony spider version and just used two. Of course I forgot to snap photos of the eyes actually glued on...but there are a few photos in the slideshow of our glue-spoon contraption. Have a spooky-fun Halloween!

For those Mac folks without the capability of playing flash - here's the link to the album: Spider Hand Prints there are a few more of cutie-pie Claire and her artwork there.


DIY Wrapping Paper

Good friends of ours are expecting their first baby and I made a diaper cake filled with goodies for their shower. In the past I have wrapped diaper cakes in cellophane or brought them "naked" if they were serving as decoration. This time I enlisted Claire's help.

While this looks like an extremely messy project, I assure you it wasn't. In fact until we arrived at the shower and the dry paint began chipping off the plastic tablecloth, there was no mess to speak of (unless you count Claire herself who washed up just fine in the tub). Large scale painting is definitely in our future, but I think we'll be sticking to fabric.

From Diaper Cake


Future Foodie?

Meet Claire, the tomato loving toddler! I grew more then a dozen tomato plants this year in a variety of hues. Some I nurtured from seeds and others I grabbed on markdown from a local farmer. All thrived. The tomatoes survived drought, neglect and most importantly - deer.

We had a real hodgepodge out there, but it allowed us to sample a lot of different flavors. Please note that none of the cherry tomatoes actually made it into the house because Claire snagged them off the vine as soon as they ripened. You have to watch this kid closely, she stalks those plants for any hint of red!

The season is winding down and I decided to slice up some different tomatoes for Claire to taste side by side. We tried the yellow "Sungolds:, the green "Mr. Stripey", and a cherry tomato whose name escapes me. I tried using words like "tangy" and "sweet" but Claire simply replied they were "yummy" or "squishy." We're working on it...

The one that earned Claire's thumbs up approval was the green Mr. Stripey. It seems to have been everyone's favorite this year. Sweet and tangy at the same time and a very nice texture.

Coming Soon to a table near you...

Meatloaf is not my strong point but last year I saw NotMartha's monster meatloaf and had to give it a try. Of course I was lacking in both a freaky gelatin hand mold and decent meatloaf recipe. So I winged it.

Meat, oatmeal, onions, carrots, zucchini, eggs, spices, ketchup, tomatoes...why oh why did I not write down what went into this DELICIOUS creation?! My best meatloaf ever and no way to recreate it. Ugh.

I covered my free-handed hand (get it?!) in ketchup and provolone cheese and served up the gruesome feast to Claire and Dan.

Clapping hands followed. Ok. I'll stop now.

We'll also be revisiting the witches fingers recipes. I am totally adding some of our homemade strawberry jam to the nail beds and "stumps." We brought some of these down to the "Grands" last year and although the looked rather disturbed eating them, the plate came home empty.

Have I mentioned Claire wants to be a ghost for Halloween? Is it wrong to send your kid out wrapped up in a blanket? It IS what she wants...but I had grand plans of turning her into a tree with the miniature birdhouses we bought. She was admiring a pair of brown cowgirl boots at Old Navy today, maybe we'll go for a cow girl look!


Reading...or listening as it may be!

Claire is devouring books lately, and while I adore reading to her I was happily surprised by the selection of audio books for the young child at our local library.

We've been listening to a fantastic recording of Winnie the Pooh narrated by Judi Dench featuring Stephen Fry as Pooh. There are a bunch of other well known British actors involved in the reading and it is so well put together, the actor reading for Christopher Robin has the sweetest voice and Eeyore, and his eternal misery is captured perfectly.

Since I've only seen the cartoon version of this tale myself (Disney?) I've been cracking up at the witty language...why was this all taken out?! We've been having great car rides listening along to the adventures of Christopher Robin and his "Edward Bear." I can't wait to see what else we dig up in the the coming weeks.

I've also been checking out read-a-long stories. I set Claire up at the kitchen table in the evenings and she is happily occupied for half and hour "reading" along with the narrator of various stories. Clifford is a big's short and sweet and Claire knows just where the repeat button is. Would you like me to recite "Clifford Takes a Trip?" Heehee! I remember cramming into the library audio booth at Elmont's public library on hot summer days sharing a headset with Michael Ponticello and listening to a bunch of stories. What fun!

I just wish some of the publishers would re-record many of the classics onto CD...the old magnetic tapes are worn out and there's nothing to replace them. The children's librarian shares the same sentiment...we might have to start a campaign! Move aside LeapFrog! We want our stories read by humans - not machines!

Because I've been told I'm not allowed to write posts without photos of Claire - here's a picture of her in our own hundred acre wood.


Three Years Old?! Tomorrow?!

Wow. Time flies!

Does this kiddo look suddenly older, or is it just me?



I know Claire looks half asleep in this photo but there is something about it I like! Maybe it’s the color or the way she’s flaring her nostrils like her Daddy, heehee!



Autumn Artwork - Exploring Leaf Rubbings


DSC_0905The air is crisp and colorful leaves are dotting the trees – it appears autumn has arrived! Last week Claire and I grabbed some crayons in fall hues, gathered a few leaves from the front yard and sat down to make some rubbings. As I expected, Claire found this project magical! The veins and edges appearing as she rubbed different colors thrilled her and the end result was really beautiful.

We have quite a few species on hand in our front yard – rhododendron, maple, hosta and the teeny-tiny leaves of the impatiens in the planter. We tried some coleus leaves but they were too “juicy” and Claire’s enthusiastic rubbing turned them to mush before they left much of an impression on the paper.

I found using crayons (unwrapped of course) split in half were easiest for Claire to handle. It took a while for her to get the hang of holding the crayon horizontally and pushing it to get a rubbing. The result was a frustrated soon-to-be three year old who was bummed out about less then perfect attempt. I love her pouty face, but I’m glad it turned into a smile when she finally figured things out!

"I'm mad so I'm crumbling my paper and making my "pouted" face. Go 'way Mommy."
We worked with regular computer paper, but I hope to try again soon with the rhododendron leaves on watercolor paper. With the sturdy veins and stiff leaves, hopefully they’d show right through and allow us to create some watercolor resist artwork.

Our final product? Hanging proudly on the fridge (and displayed here) until I can frame it. Enjoy!



A Swimming my crawl space.

We have a crawl space under our house where our furnace (and many families of cave crickets) live.

It flooded in the wee hours of the morning and since we didn't hear the alarm going off until 4 am, it continued to fill up drowning our furnace.

I hope all of our early morning efforts getting the pumps back up and running help save the furnace (and by "our efforts", I mean Dan - I stood in the rain offering encouragement and hot cocoa and admiring my hot pink and polka dotted rain boots...Target clearance $3.24, woot!).

I'm grateful that at least it's warm enough that we won't need the heat today. Of course there is no hot water either...but maybe one of my blog readers will let my stinky self (and daughter) bathe at their place.


McManda’s Wedding


I had a few titles floating around in my head for this post -

“And the boys wore watermelon” a quip at Amanda’s color choice, she called it watermelon and I dubbed PINK (in all caps, shouted…loudly)

“For the Facebook Phobic” a poke at my friend Lauren who can’t seem to bring herself to join the fun but is desperate to see my slave labor tablescapes.

“Flower girl” Ok, not creative but Claire WAS the flower girl and seeing how she is the focus of the blog it works…right?

DSC_0829 DSC_0494 DSC_0467

But alas it’s after midnight and a late afternoon coffee (bad idea!) has kept me wide awake, well that and the fact that I’m finally back online (!) after a storm knocked my phone and internet out (my lifeline!) and I have about 30 million things I want to read and catch up on.

But here I am dropping off a few favorite photos to share with you all with an untitled post because I just can’t think of anything catchy and clever this late at night.

I’m used to photographing wee-folk, but here’s a go at some wedding photography:


Aunt McManda smooching her new hubby DJ, note Claire’s headband hanging out in my bouquet – I didn’t notice that until just now!


Hello Photoshop, you are my friend indeed. I fully intend to blur out the groom’s eyes. Who kisses with their eyes open (let alone stares at the camera during a smooch?) You’re a freak DJ but I love ya anyway.


Ooh! A baby picture, how did that sneak in here? My sweet niece Jessica (or Jessa as Claire calls her) who snoozed through most of the reception.

Yes, the centerpieces were all hand made – on site, by yours truly and a few good friends of the bride. And no, we did not get much sleep the days leading up to wedding. We had to set the tables, and with a ton of dried orchids leftover, came up with the GORGEOUS place settings you can see in the second album. A stroke of genius I tell you! Look out Martha, I’m eyeing your job.