Shiver Me Timbers!

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The Chicklettes’s growing up.

Bloggy friends, folk warned me: they did!  They said to treasure the time while my children are little, because it is over so soon.  At the time, buried under mountains of washing, changing nappies, pureeing vegetables, and teaching ABC’s, it was hard not to look forward to when I’d see a little more independence.

Those same dear folk were just as likely to mutter dark sayings about, “If you think this stage is hard, wait until you have teenagers – then you’ll know what hard is!”  Which, I might add, is about as constructive and encouraging as those who share horror birth stories with you in the last week of your pregnancy.  (And what’s more, I so far maintain that it is not true.  Little children are hard work.  Big children are hard work.  Parenting is hard work!  But each stage has its joys. :) )

What has been on my mind lately is how to make the most of the sunset of childhood for my eldest girl. Opportunities for memories I want her to have of childhood that are yet unfulfilled, need to happen in a twinkling.  :)   I am a goal setting, list writing sort of character, and early on, aimed to create a firm sense of family, and to provide some of the experiences that I loved as a child. We’ve camped, explored creeks, been to the beach, holidayed on farms, walked the rain forests, held baby animals, planted edibles, been canoeing, read glorious books together, and had spontaneous adventures.  It’s been a lot of fun, and we are blessed to have  had family and friends who are  keen to share these experiences with the girls.

As I witness the beautiful thing that is dawning womanhood in my first born, I still long to cram in any last experience that childhood thrills to.  So… we went to the rock pools last weekend,  and this week we bought a couple of up-in-an-instant little tents.  We have a serious, heavy duty  monster one, but it makes me shudder to think of the effort to deal with it, particularly as it always seems to rain on the day we pack up and it has to be pulled out and dried at home – no mean feat.  And just as we have the new facilities for more spontaneous happenings, we find ourselves invited out this weekend for a bonfire and camp out.  Just the thing! :)

There is of course the obligatory stuff that needs to be accomplished before I launch her out in the world – education, domestic management, character: and all those things are important.  But it’s the delight in simple, natural things; the things that we no longer make time for when the cares and distractions of adulthood press in, those are what I want to do while I wring the last vestiges of opportunity from this period.

Here’s my list to accomplish in the next 12 months.  There are other activities I would like to do, but these I think are most likely to happen, and some have plans already in the making:

Two short camping trips

Boating

Vegetable garden.   Vegetable garden?  Yes, the Chicklette loves to grow things, and so far we have been reluctant to plough up the lawn (we have established trees all around the perimeter of the yard and only the very middle gets any sun) leaving her to garden only in pots.  But what’s a bit of lawn, yes?

Fossicking

Fishing

Medieval fair and museum

Heritage festival

Period ball

At least one trip to visit our dear friends at Marigold Cottage

When I asked the Chicklette what she thought should be added to this list, her response was instantaneous: “Bake a pecan pie!”   (Insert bemused mother face here.)  She has not long had braces removed, but who would have thought that a two year deprivation of sweet, sticky things would still be so fresh in her mind?  Stay tuned for reports of our next adventures, and .. ah.. pecan pie.

Who Has the Sweetest Bloggy Friends in the World?

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I do.

 

Yes, I do. :D

 

I’m writing from my little powerbook today, because the swanky MacBook Pro Mr BB bought me recently has suffered a … a hiccup.

While making dinner, I heard a voice with a small quaver assert that, “I was pretending it was an oven.”

I’m making dinner.  If a remark is not addressed to me personally, and it’s not declaring a national emergency, then I’m absorbed in the job at hand. (Hint: multi-tasking is not in my vocabulary!)

Then a little louder, and with a note of rising hysteria, the same little voice wailed, “I was pretending it was an oven!”

All of a sudden there was a cluster of people around little Blossy  and my computer, and everyone exclaiming as one,”How could you?  How could you?”

I realized I was one of those asking the question.  What would possess someone to post a handful of coins into the disk drive of my laptop?  Well, she was pretending it was an oven, of course!

Mr BB growled all sorts of menacing things about voiding warranties, and naughty children and a few things that are less than edifying, though justified: we have a bad, indeed a very bad record with computers..

The next morning, while bearing the dual gloom of my ruined Mac and the disaster brewing up north, something delightful arrived.

Want to see? :D

 

I don’t think hand-woven anything exists here, but this is, and made me marvel at the patience and skill that is required to produce it.  The image doesn’t do justice to the richness of the thread; the sides are a deep red, shot through with an even darker colour.

 

 

 

 

 

Aren’t they beautiful?  There are not adequate words to describe the feel of these fabrics, or the delight they solicited from the collection of little girls on my bed as we unfolded them.  Who could be glum on such a day?!

So, added to the shoebox treasures from our bloggy friends in Minnesota and Germany, the homeschooling-help-me-keep-records goodies from WA, the kefir from down south, and the snowy photo card from Texas, we have the most glorious scarves from… India!

Who has the sweetest bloggy friends in the world?

I know I do. ♥

 

 

p.s… don’t think Mr BB missed out, with all that girly joy happening; he didn’t. But his gift has gone off to work with him, and isn’t here to photograph!

Children’s Present Ideas – Free or Frugal

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Today I received a lovely email from a lady who plans to use my Kool-Aid play dough recipe to make gifts for her children. Christmas can be a tough time of year financially if you are providing for a family.  Whether it’s frugal gifts ideas, or things to keep the children occupied with over the holiday period, I hope you find something useful here.
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Here’s an Australian play dough recipe (for those of us who don’t normally have access to Kool-Aid :) )  You can make this before hand, or give the ingredients and recipe and let the children help.  It can be made in several different colours and stored in ziplock bags or wide mouth plastic jars or containers.  Add a plastic knife, some cookie cutters, toothpicks, scoops from the washing powder or infant formula, or anything else that will add value to the play experience.  If you have an empty box from refillable baby wipes, it makes a good home for the play dough accessories as the lid is easy for children to manage.
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You can also make your own packet mixes for baking – Make up the dry part of a cake, biscuits, or scones; type out the recipe; attach a photo of the finished product on the front of the ziplock bag;  and the child who gets to unwrap that present also gets to BAKE it.
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Collect a heap of fabric scraps (ask family members who sew for their off cuts of fabrics and trims, or cut up old clothes that are no longer needed and harvest the material and the buttons) and give each child a little packet with a needle, some thread, and a few spare buttons, and let them sew whatever they like – or borrow a child’s craft book from the library and copy a pattern, or download a craft pattern or simple doll’s dress pattern.
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Gather the ingredients for a  science experiment – there’s heaps of little experiments like this crystal snowflake that are fun, but the ingredients are quite inexpensive.

crystal snowflake from Anne Helmenstine

For the little ones, a  plastic egg carton or an ice-cube tray, with bottles of food colouring and an eye dropper will give a pre-schooler hours of fun. (just add water.. :) )
For the more adventurous, purchase some off cuts and seconds from the timber yard and try…
bird nesting box (if you research which birds live in your area, there are often plans to suit specific bird varieties)
a timber boat (or make a whole fleet!)
from Kids Konstruction Korner
Or collect odds from around the house,  and try this one from Martha Stewart:
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There are many paper projects for both boys and girls available  as free downloads from the internet.  You have to watch that the printing costs don’t get out of hand if you find a big project, though.
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A paper boat from the Toy Maker :
Pinwheels are great fun:
The Toymaker has heaps of cute, cute, cute paper toys to download, not the least of which is this pinwheel using a clever paperclip and buttons design.
Super cute design from Marilyn Scott-Waters
Another I couldn’t go past was this adorable bug box.  How tempting to print and make this to gift a packet of seeds for an aspiring gardener.
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Flower seeds, or vegetable seeds, or herb seeds in such a dear little box would have to move you to run out and garden.  If you don’t have pots spare, the bottom half of a milk carton or 2 litre drink container with holes punched in the bottom would do the trick.
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For the arty, Google your child’s favourite animal with “+ colouring page” and print out some pictures for them to colour, or browse the many free colouring page sites. There are some incredibly detailed pictures available, including famous art works made into colour pages.  Several sites also have paper dolls for download.
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Put all the ingredients for these paper bag puppets from Martha Stewart’s craft pages into a bag, and print out pics of what they will look like with the instructions:
Older children may like to make a castle;
For girls, save little boxes from matches, jewellery, medicine, etc, as well as all sorts of plastic packaging, and off cuts of pretty paper and fabric, put them in a large plastic storer,  and let the children use them make their own dolls house from a large cardboard box, or a small book-case.
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Download some audiobooks from Librivox (it’s free) on to CD’s  for car listening or bed time.  Google the cover art of the book and print out for your CD cover.
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Books..
Check ebay, the book Depository, your local thrift store for cheap books.  Keep an eye on your local library for sales of excess stock.  Some books are still like new, but even some of the beat up ones can be treasures if you choose your author carefully.
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This paper whistle would make cool stocking stuffer fun (you can use a coloured paper instead of plain to make it more festive).
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You can make your own word search with your child’s favourite bands, animals, friends names, family members (this is also good fun to do for each member of the family to personalise home-made crackers)
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Home made fudge/caramel wrapped in cellophane are delicious stocking fillers (pop in just before the event if you have ants!)  as is homemade popcorn with icing sugar or caramel popcorn in little zip lock bags.
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If you have older boys you may consider a sleep-under-the-stars camp out.  Wrap up a tin of baked beans, or spam, or some other grossly yukky traditional camp food, and let it be known that it goes with a trip to somewhere out of town to sleep out and cook rough.  (Of course, December in Australia that would be a breeze, but if you’re on the other side of the world, I guess that could be a bit brisk!) Hand reels could work the same way for a fishing trip if you have a lake or river near by.
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Happy holidays, folks!

We Have…..Chicks!

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pecan under lights.

After procuring permission to leave them at my mother’s house if Mr BB expressed too much consternation on their arrival at home,  and at the farm should the worst happen and they are all roosters, I committed my first ever impulse pet buy.  What a joy!

For less than the cost of taking my petals out for coffee, I picked up these three, win your heart with their fluffy cuteness, baby chicks.  Meet Pecan, Almond and Sago!

three chicks

They have been a great source of enjoyment for us to watch them at their antics, cuddle during any available moment, and fret over when they have to be left home alone.

chicks in school

I did remember to ask the man what to feed them and how long to leave them under lights.  However, when I asked when I would know if they were going to be roosters he returned a most unsatisfactory answer of,  “When they sit up and do this!”  (The “this” being a rendition of  a rooster crowing. Sigh.)

The rooster part is the only thing bringing me grief.  How could I ever have imagined how attached one can become to a little, peeping, ball of fluff?  And who knew that they all have their own individual personalities?  I know I will be the meanest mother in the world if I have to send any (God forbid, all!) of the darlings off to the farm to meet the fate of excess roosters.

Pecan, the sleeping chick

Oh, mothers don’t let your chicks grow up to be roosters….

Gifts for Girls!

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strawberries

I like to give my children gifts that will provoke imagination, fuel creativity, and inspire a sense of wonder and adventure.  I also resist items that have a short novelty life and that will quickly turn into clutter.

Here are some of the things that have been  appreciated by the little girls of the  Bluestocking household…

Pretty pot, potting mix, packet of seeds or seedlings,  or (joy of joys!) a strawberry plant or two.  Put with a little watering can and child size gardening tools and gloves when they were little, this was a favourite.  Any growing gift still pleases them as they have grown older.

Selection of remnant material, sewing box, little travel sewing kit, and notions.  Along a similar line, embroidery threads and the little pieces that go with it have also been well received by our girls at any age.sewing kitsewing box

All things beautiful in stationary. I haven’t gotten over it yet, myself. There is just nothing like a lot of new, beautiful stationary! Pretty envelopes and papers , plus some  stamps for sending letters, and stickers to attach to the envelope, or perhaps an initial stamp (gift shops sell them) or initial seal and wax.  Oh, the bliss.

pencil casepretty paperArt supplies.  If you have girls yourself, you probably don’t need that reminder. Anything to do craft with is good: ribbons, decals, beads, fine wire, thread, glitter, coloured paper, scissors that cut in patterns, stamps and stamp pad.  With scrapbooking such a popular hobby, beautiful craft supplies are very affordable.

Traditional paints, pencils, sketch pad and pastels are lovely, but if you buy those kind of items, get the best you can afford.  Very cheap pencils and paints won’t deliver rich colours, and just aren’t fun or satisfying to use.

Books! Reference, fiction, colouring, puzzle, all sorts!

Bags.  For toting books, dolls, and other secret girl stuff, you can’t have too many.

girl's bag

Bug catchers.  If you have several dedicated bug receptacles, it saves all of the kitchen items being used for insect storage!

Binoculars

Pocket knife. Did you know Swiss army knives now come in pink? (Though my girls all chose “Oldtimers”)

picture-51

Boxes.  Large and small for storing treasures. These are as irresistible as the stationary, and come in many beautiful designs.

A pretty apron to wear for cooking and for craft!

apron

Photos and special frames to display pictures of family or friends.

Subscriptions.  We are fans of  Australian Geographic and the girls subscribe to a magazine for homeschooling girls called “Sisters”.

Some enduring girls toys include;

Dolls house and furniture with dolls.  These are fun to create from an old bookcase if you have a handy person in the family.  You can then decorate the house to your own taste, choosing little pictures for the wall,  patterned contact adhesive for wall paper, etc.

doll's house

Horses.  Just the plastic kind!

Puzzles. Some children love them, and some don’t. For those who do, they come in many more varieties than the traditional jigsaw puzzle.

Giving an experience as a gift can be a lovely way of making a memory.  Some possibilities include a trip to the;

Butterfly house

Zoo

City aquarium

Historical villages

or a custom made outing of interest to your daughter.  A girl who loves wildlife may appreciate you organizing a visit with the local wildlife rescue carers in your area.  They are mostly volunteers and are often willing to share their time to talk about the animals they are caring for.

Have fun hunting out just the right thing for your little girl, and remember that one of the most enduring gifts you can give her is ….you!

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A Secret, O.F.Walton, and a Timely Reminder About Things I’m Inclined To Forget

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A very dear friend, Amy, shared a little secret recently that gave me pause for thought.  It was not long before I left for holidays (a time notorious for allowing a person to think about the deeper issues of life) that this matter was bought to my attention.  It was the answer to one of life’s great questions: but  I’ll let you wander over to Amy’s blog to discover for yourself just what that secret was – but folks…it was disturbing!

my little corner, o.f.waltonAnother Amy, Mrs O.F.Walton, back in 1872 wrote “My Little Corner”, which  I was pre-reading  for my daughter while I was away.    I have read many of her writings, and all previously have been about children, for children.  Imagine my surprise when the narrator of the story, also the protagonist, was a married woman with children.  The story was a vehicle, if you will, for the writer to share her thoughts on being a wife, mother, and Christian with her readers in a fictional setting.

In the beginning of the story the narrator tells how she fell into poor habits of wasting time gossiping with neighbours, to the neglect of her children, husband and house work.  She is brought to a place of reform after her neglect of her duty results in a very tragic loss.  While the story at that point was a little dramatic, and I am not in the habit of neglecting my children’s physical safety, none the less it caused me to ask myself if I am doing my best for my family?

I am prone to wasting time doing things.  None of the activities are of themselves evil, be it reading, playing on my computer, taking photographs, exercising, selling books, or even the (shocking but true) occasional bouts of domesticity that result in the family living in fear of messing up my clean house.  But at these times I am absent.

I need to find joy in making my activities more serving oriented, and  I need to be more emotionally available.  This is my new “home from holidays” challenge!

While I was away, my friend from India sent me a song to listen to. I don’t have the skill to upload just the song, so I will share the youtube version with you.  The man is actually singing about his father, but the question “is there someone you are loving while taking for granted?” begs asking.  I think I love my whole world in that manner.  It’s not that I have the emotional energy to love everyone as though it may be my last day with them (that’s fatiguing just to think of!) but, I could stand to be more thoughtful, gentle, and to make more of an effort to express my love for those I love!

I’ll leave you with this offering from the 70’s…

Butterflies and Crawling Things

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A common crow emerges from the chyrsalis

A common crow emerges from the chrysalis.

I had one of those kind of mothers.  You know the kind?  She didn’t yell when I brought my lunch box home with tadpoles in it, she knew all the best bushes to find caterpillars on, and (despite working full time) had no objection to helping us raise silk worms and didn’t mind when we wanted to hatch out lizard eggs.

I’m reminding myself of that for a reason.  We have recently had a wonderful experience of hosting first a caterpillar, then a chrysalis, and finally today, we released a butterfly.  It was great!  It really was.

After the event, the girls collected several varieties of caterpillars, and it would seem that the butterfly population of our entire city has chosen our backyard as a nesting ground.  At dinner tonight, (amongst many, many jars of crawling things,) the girls calmly remarked that we truly need a VERY LARGE school room adjacent to the kitchen, with a large bench for collections of live things.

Hmmm.

I have resigned myself to the truth that with four children at home all day, my house is never going to look like a photo opportunity for Vogue Living. It is also possible that I am too squeamish.  Great mothers surely don’t flinch with every squishy mouthful of caterpillar….pasta, while the children discuss the features and behaviour of the many fat, squishy, crawling things in glass tanks and jars before us.

But for all the messy, insecty clutter, and the overcoming of sensitivities, I enjoy watching my children love the world around them.  It’s a very thrilling experience to see a new butterfly, and escapees are less of a concern than if you have an ant farm.

You can purchase butterfly kits for around $45, or of course you can walk outside and hunt up a caterpillar from your own bushes and wait a couple of weeks, for free.  Either way, it’s an activity worth doing.

Releasing the butterfly

Releasing the butterfly

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