Just had to share this cool picture of Claire leaping off the table. I took it last week when we were visiting Grandma Caca. Shhh! Don't tell her ;-)

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Strawberry Jam

DSC_0313Earlier in the summer we made 3 separate trips to our local strawberry farm. The weather was so pleasant and a few mornings spent picking yielded some stellar berries and homemade jam.

Claire carried her own basket and was a great picker! She refused to eat any insisting they were all for her basket, what a change from last year!

We wound up with enough jam to pass along some to our neighbors and friends and I thought it would be nice for Claire to help with the labels. We used Pomona’s DSC_0318Universal Pectin which allowed us to make a low sugar version of freezer jam. It requires one extra step (making calcium water) but I think the results are far better then the super-sweet versions with pectin that require sugar to jell them.

Next year I’m going to get more adventurous and try some savory jellies and maybe even some real canning so we don’t lose valuable DSC_0320freezer space to these jars.

The freezer jam keeps in the freezer for one year and the fridge for 2 weeks.I wonder if it will all last that long, we’ve been enjoying ours on bread and scooped into some yogurt and cottage cheese. Yum!



Textile Art with Toddlers (aka PUFFY PAINT!)


Remember puffy paint from the 80s? If it doesn’t conjure up visions of Debbie Gibson and girls shaking their bedazzled rhinestone tushies DSC_0521you must have been born on another planet.

Claire is into squiggly drawing right now so I thought this would be a hit. Turns out I was wrong and she used the bottles in an entirely different way.

She made tall puffy paint piles. In every (rockin’ 80s teal, purple and gold) color. As this was going to be a gift, I decided that we would try another option because these swirly creations would never dry. I ran around the kitchen looking for something that would work as a spreader (note to self, better prepare the art environment so you’re not scrambling mid-project with a very messy situation unfolding). I finally came up with a few pipe-cleaners and twisted them together to make an impromptu paintbrush.


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I also grabbed some birch trimmings from a jar and used them as stamps. The bag came out really cute, and very colorful to say the least. I attempted some iron on letters (sparkly ones to please Claire) but they were a disaster so we went with a rhinestone butterfly instead. I’ll have to bully Bella’s Mom for a photo since i forgot to take one of the finished bag :)


Some things I learned from this experience:

  • Puffy paint is messy and sticks to skin just as well as fabric (I still have a purple smudge on my arm!)
  • Drying time always takes longer then the Puffy Paint folks tell you.
  • Remove puffy paint from your child BEFORE putting them in the bathtub or your tub will be as messy as your child.



You would think….

We went to the state fair on Saturday.

Claire’s favorite part you ask?

The rides? No

The animals? Nope

The insane amount of fried foods (deep fried pickles?!)

No again.


This kooky girl loved, *LOVED* this chainsaw sculpture. Yes, the fake wooden raccoons, her favorite thing about the fair. She left the elephant and made a beeline for the wood carvings. Yep, that’s our girl.


Next year I’m talking Dan into taking home one of these guys. And we will certainly make a point to watch the demonstration. I’m sure Claire would be thrilled to see how these are made!


Wordless Storybooks

Because I love a good story and one told strictly though pictures intrigues me, this is what we're checking out from the library tomorrow:
There are quite a few other wordless picture books out there (Goodnight Gorilla is a Claire favorite) but this article on ohdeedoh had a number of titles new to me. I'll post Claire's version of the events in the book, I can't wait to listen to her tell the story.

Have I mentioned how great the online reservation system is at our local library? It's my personal netflix for books, I LOVE it!


Potato Hunt

Success! An early morning dig to find a few spuds worthy of roasting yields an entire colander full of gorgeous little potatoes and one excited little girl.


We’ve had great luck with our raised bed gardening at home this DSC_0304year. Aside from losing all our radishes and a few beets to ravenous pill bugs everything else has earned its keep. Well, everything EXCEPT the sexually frustrated zucchini plant who only produces flowers. Two years in a row, now what am I doing wrong?!

The potatoes were surprisingly productive for such a confined place and we’re happily watching two watermelons grow inch by inch outside.

Unfortunately with all the travel in the past few months I didn’t get much into the ground at the CSG, we’ll DSC_0309have to try again next year.

What a fantastic garden assistant Claire has turned into! She’s no longer snatching fruit off the vine and with her newfound love of scissors I’ve relegated all the swiss chard snipping to her.   Never was there a kid more happy to eat her homegrown goodies!

I wish the photo below was a little clearer  (Dan snapped it with his blackberry) but check out our carrots and beets! See the carrots? The carrots are a cultivar called “thumblelina” and are happy growing in shallow or rocky soil (yep, that’s us!).


The root vegetables have really been a delight to grow. Claire is always shocked at what we pull out and to be honest, so am I…how tiny those carrot seeds were, and now look what we’ve got!


Things are going to get messy!


PUFFY PAINT?! They still make this stuff? I have to tell you that my inner (1980’s) child was squealing when I saw these little squeeze bottles.

I’ve got a great little craft project in the works, more to come.

…and no, I did not purchase the “bedazzler” next to the puffy paint, but I was tempted!


Shaving Cream Mirror/Window Art

Claire LOVES all things art. She's happy with her watercolors for at least an hour and draws happily with crayons and sculpts with playdough nearly everyday.

I've written a bit in the past about the evolution of Claire's artwork, the unusual places we've painted (rocks, jeeps and unfortunately walls), and even how we reuse medical supplies in our art projects.

I recently came across a great blog about one parent's quest to enrich her child's art experiences. I've been thirsty for some new ideas and will be giving many of these activities a try in the coming weeks.


My husband (aka the bearded maniac) doesn’t shave, but for this awesome project idea I’ll make a trip down the hair removal aisle!

In autumn and winter, as the late afternoon sun pours in the front door it will be the ideal location to try out this project from The Artful Parent. I think the tinted shaving cream will be gorgeous and since my entryway is tile we'll have a quick and easy cleanup!

In fact, it’s already one of my favorite spots to snap photos of Claire. Remember these?



Morning Rhythms

DSC_0388Ever notice when the morning goes well the rest of the day usually follows? I love the morning rhythm Claire and I found. I started to more actively involve her in the whole breakfast process and found that things went more smoothly and were more enjoyable for the both of us. It takes a little longer to get food to the table (and ourselves out the door) but slowing the tempo of our morning been really nice.
I gather breakfast makings while Claire enjoys a morning story. I crack the eggs, hunt down the whisk (in the play kitchen again?!) and rustle up some fruit and Claire’s handy-dandy knife.

Once Claire puts her apron on (too cute, right?) she whisks the eggs while I melt some butter.

Whisk whisk whisk whisk. I swear that she is a neater cook than I am, just ask Dan.


Salt, pepper. Perfection. Just look at her work that pepper grinder! This is when I need to pay close attention, we’ve had some s-p-i-c-y eggs thanks to Miss Liberal with the Pepper Grinder.

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While I cook the eggs, Claire cuts up some fruit for us. Grapes are a favorite (but a bit challenging) and cantaloupe often makes an appearance. This knife is fantastic, Grandma CaCa picked it up from a Pampered Chef party and it makes Claire really independent in food preparation. She cuts up her own cheese and fruit for lunch and snack when our schedule in the afternoon allows it.


I love the look of determination on her face in these photos. Soon she’ll be whipping up meals all on her own and delivering breakfast-in-bed to her parents on Saturday morning (let me dream, please). 


On Life and Death

Claire meets her great-grandparents for the first time (more here)

I wrote the post below when we found out Claire’s great-grandfather had few days left in life. I was torn about taking her to the wake, and eventually decided with my husband to take her. What a great decision! The deacon who spoke to us in the evening said he loved to see children at wakes because they are a symbol of life, love and family. I wish I had a tape recorder for his talk, he did a beautiful job turning a few of my handwritten notes into a well spoken eulogy.

Dan and I took Claire up to the casket after explaining that Pop had died and is no longer breathing or laughing. We told her that part of him now lived in God’s house. I avoided the whole “oh, he’s just sleeping” thing because I think that explanation can be terrifying for children. Who wants to go to “sleep” at night after seeing a loved one looking strangely still in a casket? So, we opted for the truthful route, gently explaining that all things live and then die.

Claire took a look into Pop’s casket said goodbye to Pop, then promptly asked for her puzzles and toys and ran around the room with her cousin having a grand time. Kids are great, aren’t they? So accepting and resilient. We’ll miss Pop but I’m so happy that Claire really got to know him and will keep him alive in her memories. Not every kid gets to meet their great-grandparents, let alone spend nearly 3 happy years with one of them. I’m grateful for that indeed!

father’s day 2008, all the guys in Claire’s life


written 12 July 2010

As Claire gets older I find myself thinking more and more about choices we make as parents. Not questioning our choices per se, but realizing the magnitude of our parenting decisions and their implications for our precocious little toddler.

Case in point, death and dying. Treated as a natural part of the life cycle, I don’t think it is a scary thing for a child to witness, especially a gradual decline in the elderly.

Claire’s great-grandfather has been in failing health for the past month or two. She visits with him and has not turned away or been spooked by the bi-pap machine that helped him to breathe last month. She was a little apprehensive about the “elephant mask” as we called it, but quickly warmed up to her great-grandfather - albeit a slighter and sleepier version then she remembered. We’ve brought drawings for Pop to enjoy and explained about Pop’s “boo-boo” in his lungs which makes it harder to for him to breathe. Claire’s been talking about Pop not feeling “berry good” and is obviously thinking about him throughout the day but doesn’t seem saddened or threatened by the change.

Now that he is weaned off the bi-pap machine and in the hospital being made comfortable in his last days I continue to take Claire to see him. I’m sure she can’t help but notice he’s skinnier and less and less alert but she clings to his hand and smiles at him and Pop seems to really enjoy the time with her. 
There seems to be such a disconnect with death in today’s industrialized world. The animals we eat in the grocery store are shrink wrapped and unidentifiable so Claire’s only experience with death is batteries that run out of juice and the occasional mouse that Ray the cat gets.

Of course I’m torn about the whole wake thing. Of course it provides closure but for someone so young would she understand? Should her last memories of her great-grandfather be of him alive and risk having her think dying just means “disappearing?” Or should we allow a goodbye and a viewing of his body explaining the whole spirit/body thing?

Any thoughts or advice?