Saturday, December 28, 2013

Merry Christmas!

This is obviously a late post.  I honestly have no idea where December went.  As many of you will have noticed-I sent no Christmas cards this year.  For a few reasons-the biggest being I ran out of time.  But for the last few years I've been struggling with the fact of how much waste Christmas generates.  So consider this my first official electronic Christmas greeting which will include my traditional family updates along with a few pictures.

2013 seemed to be a busy year (as we can all relate) but here are the highlights:

Dean continues to keep busy on our beef farm.  Moose hunting season proved to be a success for him, after a few years absence.  He was excited to join a new gang and hunt in a new place.  He's already planning next year's hunt.  Deer season he was not so successful but we will not starve-with a freezer full of beef and moose meat as well as chickens that were raised on the farm this year by Dean and a neighbor. Dean finds great joy in sharing the farm with Dustin and Emma - he loves taking them in the tractor or the Ranger.

I returned to work in April after my year long maternity leave.  If you're a regular reader of my blog you know I love planning activities and events, including birthday parties for Emma and Dustin and our annual Advent activities which Emma really enjoyed this year.  I'm on the planning committee for our Community Winter Carnival which happens in January.  Beckie (sister) and I traveled down to Kingston for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts which was a highlight of the year for me.  We also enjoyed a trip to Nova Scotia for Easter which I think will become an annual tradition for us. Summer family vacation just involved a few days trips locally and Mom joined us for a visit at Thanksgiving which was wonderful.

Emma started school in September which is so hard to believe.  She turned 4 in October and keeps us entertained everyday.  She started step dancing lessons this year and is really enjoying them. Her loves right now are anything Hello Kitty and drawing/coloring/printing.   It's not unusual for the kitchen table to be covered in papers that she has been practicing her letters on or drawing pictures.  One of her Christmas presents was snowshoes so hopefully she'll get some use out of those this winter.
Dustin is our little ham.  He turned one in May and keeps us busy.  He loves being outside and it's hard for Dean to get out the door without him.  Dean just has to say the words "I'm going to feed the cows" and Dustin is getting his boots on.  He also loves coloring and drawing and his trucks and tractors.  He seems to have inherited a love of music and step dancing as well so it wouldn't surprise me if we see him on stage in a few years too.

We're hoping this finds all our friends and family healthy and happy.  We wish you all the best as we get ready to ring in 2014.

Much love from our home to yours.

~The Graham's

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Advent Calendar

This time last year I was on maternity leave with Dustin.  I wanted to do something special with the kids to countdown the days until Christmas.  So after pinning many ideas I settled on an advent calendar filled with festive activities and special treats.  It was so much fun!

I mention that I was on maternity leave because that is how I had the time to do all these activities.  As I prepare to do the same thing this advent season I just can't help be slightly disappointed that I am now working 40 hours a week instead of having 40 hours a week to dedicate to Christmas crafts and activities.  I have a feeling this year's advent calendar is going to be scaled back significantly.  

Anyway, as I prepare for this year's advent calendar I had to go back and refresh my memory on all the things I did last year.  So here is it:

First the advent calendar. I bought an old wooden frame at a local thrift shop.  I wrapped cardboard with Christmas paper and strung twine across it.  Then I hung 24 squares using mini clothespins.  On the back I placed the activities of the day.  This is something I'll do differently this year.  I spent a lot of time planning the 24 activities but things would come up and I'd have to change things around.  This year I think I'll just plan a few days ahead.

Here was the 24 activities we did:

1.  Make hand print ornaments.

The original pin I found is not working anymore but if you search for salt dough Santa recipes there are many options. 

2.  Write a Letter to Santa

3.  Go to the "Old Time Fiddling Show"

4.  Make Cinnamon Ornaments
 Click here for the recipe I used. 

5.  Bake Christmas cookies

6.   Set-Up Nativity scenes

We set-up two Nativity scenes at Christmas.  One is the Fisher Price Little People one which I bought for Emma her second Christmas.  The other was handmade by my Aunt Margie. It has so much sentimental value for me as my mom has one identical to it.  I even had a friend build the barn which also matches what my mom has. 

7.  Do Hand/Footprint Crafts

8.  Collect items for the foodbank
9.  Watch a Christmas show with treats
10.  Make gingerbread houses (planned by local play group)
11.   Open special gift (Christmas books)
12.   Make special hot chocolate treat just for you

13.  Pick out Christmas tree
14.  Go to special Christmas brunch (planned by local play group)
15.  Decorate Christmas tree
16.  Help Mommy wrap gifts
17.  Drive around and look at Christmas lights
18.  Decorate Christmas candy trees
Love this idea of using waffle cones for decorating Christmas trees.  So much easier than gingerbread houses.
19.  Have a picnic in front of Christmas tree
20.  Make Christmas crafts
21.  Have dinner by candlelight
22.  Open special gift (new Christmas socks)
23.  Breakfast for dinner (special pancakes)

24.  Open One Gift (Christmas Eve Gift)
This was always a highlight for me when I was a child - getting to open a special gift on Christmas Eve.  I usually give the kids pajamas, a new book/toy and a special treat. 
I loved doing these 24 days of special activities with the kids.  Some days were easy-some days I cursed myself for starting it.  But the kids (especially Emma as Dustin was really too young to notice) I know really enjoyed it.  I've been thinking about all the activities for this year's advent and can't wait to get started (I better get on that...December 1st is on Sunday!).


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Emma's Woodland Party

Planning for Emma's 4th Birthday party actually began when we were at a friend's baby shower.  The theme was woodland/forest and I was looking at all the cute decorations and thought this would be perfect for Emma's birthday. So I approached the host, we made a deal for me to purchase the decorations and I began pinning party ideas that were related to children's woodland birthday parties.

First up - party invitations.  Can't believe I have not figured this out earlier...invitations on Etsy!  So glad the host of the baby shower mentioned it to me. You pick the one you like, place your order, they e-mail you the digital copy, and you print at home.  All for a very reasonable price.  Here was Emma's by Printable Candee Designs.
I think I could write a whole other blog post on the discussions around the "invite list".  This was our first birthday party with Emma's friends from school.  Every time we sat down to compile our list Emma wanted to invite everyone plus we had our neighborhood and daycare friends.  But my sister reminded me many times during this process "it's her 4th birthday, not her wedding!".   So we got the list narrowed down and the invites went out.

Next came the decorations.  I was more than excited to be reusing decorations from the baby shower including the banner that I just put new letters on.

These were cute little stickers I found on sale at Michael's.  Emma and I picked pine cones in the backyard and I used them as place markers at the lunch table.  

For Dustin's First Birthday Party I had planned some children's games for the older kids in attendance.  They were somewhat of a disaster so I was a little nervous to plan some for Emma's party.  I'm certain the kids would have been happier to spend time on our play structure but I organized everybody (including some parents who were very good sports!) to go on a nature walk.  Emma kept saying her favorite part was the nature walk so I hope the kids enjoyed it! The nature walk ended with painting bird houses and a little pin the eyes on the owl. 

The menu consisted of mushrooms made from mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, Snail tails (ham and cheese wraps), ants on a log (celery, PB and raisins), sticks (pretzels), pumpkins (clementines with a celery stem), grapes on a stick and rabbit food (veggies).

We'd already had two birthday cakes so this party got owl cupcakes.

And as always I struggled with the treat bags.  I wanted to keep with the theme but couldn't find everything I wanted.  I'm also aware of the fact that I need to practice what I preach thus try not to fill the bags with things that will just end up in the garbage.  So the kids received a small bag they could decorate with markers, a juice box, coupons for a free treat at Wendy's, a pencil/eraser, their painted bird house and then bird seed molds that I made using this recipe.  I found I had to add a little more bird seed than what the recipe called for and I greased the inside of my cookie cutter with some lard but other than that they worked perfect.
As I mentioned, my sister gave me a lot of grief (all in fun) about this being a birthday party, not a wedding.  But I get a lot of joy from planning, preparing and throwing a party and I know I must have done something right when Emma is still talking about the nature walk four days after her party.

And of course, no party would be a success without the help from my fantastic family and friends (and parents who stayed for the chaos!) - everything was covered-crafts, food, and clean-up.  Thanks for all your help and generous gifts for Emma!  We are so grateful for the love you surround us with everyday!  


Monday, October 14, 2013

Giving Thanks

I have so much to be thankful for everyday but Thanksgiving gives us a time to reflect on things we often take for granted.
Thankful for the wonderful bounty provided to us from our garden (OK it was only one pumpkin and one gourd but we are still grateful.)

Thankful for the beauty and wonder right in our backyard - both man made and that provided by nature.

Thankful for the agricultural community for providing fresh, in-season, produce for us.  Thankful for my children who were sharing at this moment. 

Thankful for the beauty of autumn decorations.

Thankful for all the teachers and caregivers in Emma and Dustin's lives who take the time and have the patience (because I don't) to nurture my children's creativity and artistic ability.

Thankful for my family who were with me on Thanksgiving (my mom and my sis) as well as my in-laws (you'll notice Dean is missing-he's off moose hunting which we're also thankful for-that he has an opportunity to do something he loves with friends). 

Thankful for the beautiful meal prepared by many helping hands today. And our beautiful table setting.

 Sometimes I have the patience to do crafts with my children...thumbprint turkeys!

And I'm probably most thankful for my two beautiful children who bring so much joy, laughter and sometimes tears to our lives everyday.

What are you most thankful for? 


Friday, September 20, 2013

A Letter to My Daughter

To My Daughter On Your First Day of School:

Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in your life.   A chapter I can’t believe we’ve started.  It’s hard to imagine you, my three year old daughter, will get on that big yellow school bus for your first day of Junior Kindergarten. 

I have so much anxiety for you.  Will you make friends? Will you be okay on the bus?  Will you eat all your lunch (make sure you eat your lunch!).   

I often think about the future, even if it’s only your first day.  What will your favourite subject be?  Will you like Math or Spelling? Will you like French class?   What will you be when you grow up?

You see I feel once you start school the years are going to start passing by at a really fast pace, faster than they are now.  Today it’s JK, tomorrow it’s Grade 12.   And as slowly as I want them to pass, I know this is the first step in obtaining an education that will allow you to do whatever you want, when you want.  (And I mean become a doctor or a hairdresser or a truck driver, not have chocolate before supper). 

I hope you love school like I did (most of the time).  I hope you make lifelong friends during your first year in JK.  I just hope you eat your lunch and bring back all our reusable lunch containers. 

As I wave good bye to you on that first day remember Mommy and Daddy are so proud of you.  We’ve loved watching you grow and can’t wait to hear about all the exciting things you’ll learn at school. I can’t wait to learn along with you and share in these experiences. 

We love you so much Emma.  Go into the world, learn all you can, be a good friend and enjoy every moment. 

Love Mommy 

Emma Graham
First Day of Junior Kindergarten
Favorite Color: Pink
Favorite Food: Macaroni
Favorite Thing To Do: Play Outside
What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up: Just like you mommy, and wear a pretty necklace and go to banks and take money (great my daughter thinks I'm a bank robber)