Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vegan Bites: Broken Purple Heart

 Jelly Tester
Broken Purple Heart

My mom loves introducing jello to kids for the first time. It starts off solid and then ends up liquidy; usually resulting in some very funny first-time faces. When I told Adam I was making some veggie jelly for O, the first thing he said was, "oh, let's eat it with a straw!"
My first attempt was not straw-able at all! As Adam suggested it had the density of wine gums! But the result was sensory fun for O, easy to make for me and tasted pretty good.

Agar agar is sea vegetable flakes found at health food stores. It is an alternative to gelatin for vegans.

Fruit Jelly
~2 cups of 100% fruit juice (or combination of juices)
~2 tablespoons of agar agar
Bring to a boil. Simmer until agar agar flakes have dissolved (around 5 minutes.) Pour and let set.

We poured the hot liquid into little bowls, which easily slid out. I had left some in the pot and it made a shallow pancake, which was great for cookie cutter hearts!

Happy Children's Day!

Toe's & Other Succulents

Succulents for the Beginner Gardener
Succulent Toes!

Dabby is definitely the green thumb in the family.
But O is competing for second. 
Here they are this morning giving my only plant project a little drink.
I love the dangling toes!

Happy BIRD Day

Birds of a Feather

Two Little Blackbirds
Sitting on a wall,
One named (Peter)
One named (Paul)
Fly away Peter (hide Peter behind back)
Fly away Paul
Come back Peter (Pete returns!)
Come back Paul

The fingerplay "Two Little Blackbirds" was a go-to for my old kindergarten class. In between activities, I could occupy the students for ten minutes by substituting their names and pairing them with their friends. 

O is a big fan of fingerplays so I made fingerpuppets {courtesy of tutorial at Rhythm of the Home} as visuals to introduce the Blackbirds rhyme. However I failed to remember that all of our songs have to involve the word 'baby' or 'apple juice' these days!

I made two extra's and sewed them to blue cardstock for our favourite to-be 2-year old in Canada!
Hopefully he receives them in time for his big day!
We miss you!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bawk Bawk!


Way back when, I prepped some bean bags for our new babe. At the time they served as great sensory tools for touching and knawing. These are my preferred kind of project since motherhood began, as they take only a few minutes to sew, the supplies are easily available around the house and the cost is minimal.

These days the bean bags have proven to be worth their weight in gold with the myriad of activities that they encourage. Some suggested and others simply discovered!
~easy and safe for throwing
~great for learning to catch
~super for sliding under 'bridge' legs
~sorting, by bean or material type
~hoop aiming

~piling & re-piling!
~spreading out bean bags for dolly bedding
~standing on bean bags for foot massage
~filling pots with bean bags and 'drinking' the soup 
~'bawking' like chickens and 'laying' bean bags (created by O & Dabby)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Play with your Food

Got Milk?

We're not a perfect family.
We don't sit at a dinner table and have all of our meals.
We don't sweat it if our daughter cannot mind her manners in public.
We don't always leave the house having hair (and sometimes teeth, sorry dentist!) brushed.
We play with our food (I can hear my mother gasp!)

Since O is still tiny enough to require heaps of attention, not much cooking and cleaning gets done on a day to day basis. I have tried a few tricks that I read about to hold her attention while I sneak in meal prep; offering a basket of new toys, playing with playdough, banging pots and pans, allowing safe 'cupboard' exploration and tupperware (need I say more?). None have the lasting effect I need to put together a dish.

So I resorted to playing with food and I will never look back!
Pepper rings become bracelets. Corn on the cob is lovely for little motor skills. Shelling peas affords me about ten whole minutes. Little fingerfulls of samples like sesame seeds, coconut shreds & cinnamon keep her busy and interested in what surprise will next tantalize her tastebuds! She can eat everything offered, so there is no harm in letting her play and she willingly cleans up the mess via licking!

Playing Pretend


Wonder Fuels Imagination

The babe never ceases to amaze me.
For not yet one & a half, she has a strong sense of how pretend play works.
She has shown me her sense of imagination through her dollies for some time; hugging them if they 'fall' (she throws them on the ground and imitates a cry), nursing them and her latest, scratching their bums (because that is how Daddy helps her go to sleep!)

Today as O and I were running errands, I was feeling ever the crappy mother. How could I waste a morning of play, trying to mail letters and buy groceries? I was just as bored as she was!

As we waited in line at the Post Office, I offered her 'apple juice' and 'cake' from the counter. Without pausing, she grabbed the air (read: apple juice) and drank it up! There was nothing in my hands, but she got it! We both smiled and thus a new game began!

Stop B, the grocery store, O took it upon herself to find pictures of food and offered nibbles to me! She was thrilled that I understood! As she encouraged me to gulp my 100th Preserved Duck Egg (yes, we live in China) I reminded myself not to rush her, since she had waited so patiently for me through my bore of chores.
By this evening at home, she could grasp that she didn't even need to see a picture of food to imagine that it was there; she was offering 'juice' and 'cake' from the 'shelf' over the bed! Lovely!

It is the seemingly simple games that really max out their mileage and provide connection in the chaos of an otherwise run-of-the-mill day.

Little Miss Spider

Babe Loves Bugs!

Little Miss Spider,
Sat down beside her
The next thing I knew,
A friendship there grew!

Spinning Yarns

Story Starters

The age-old art of being able to tell a story is a gift.
I can read a book, but tell a story? It is a true art form that takes a bit of practice for me.
Sitting down to write a story is one thing; telling one on the spot (that actually has some sense to it!) is another. Projecting a story or just going with the flow are real brain exercises!

For these reasons, our Story Jar came into play.
Included are:
~quirky titles that might make for a great story (and help adults and children offer different perspectives)
~Aesop's Fables; these quick stories with a moral are fabulous for conversation and contemplation
~myths; my hubby is a whiz at telling actual tales from ancient Greek & Roman times re: gods & wars
~snippets from the lives of famous artists: my highschool art teacher had a knack for telling us the most interesting tidbits about masters of  the art world
~quotes/titles from the books of famous authors (read: A.A Milne,  Lewis Carrol, Judy Blume, Eric Carle, Roald Dahl, Ezra Jack Keats, Jack London, L.M Montgomery, Robert Munsch, Tolkien, Mark Twain)
Note: Read AA Milne's marvelousness!
~nursery rhymes; so easy to change names and circumstances

Then I found a great article on the amazing website Simple Kids; Simple Storytelling and added the authors ideas to our jar.

With a few more quick searches on the internet, I found a couple of interesting ways to introduce storytelling:
~Story Boxes
Cut & paste pictures/photos on each side of a box. Have storyteller roll the box & tell a story about the picture it lands on. Can be used again and again or change pictures for fresh ideas.
~Spinning Yarns
This involves a group of people to start and finish a story together. 
Cut random lengths of yarn in different colours. Tie each piece to the next to make a long strand. Roll in a ball. The person holding the yarn has to continue telling a story until their strand makes it to the next colour. Pass along and continue.

Though O is still content listening to just about anything I read or make up, I can get some practice in before she gets a little older, more interested in the content and drawn to helping me create.

As for good, old plain reading to your child, a great list of must-read classics can be found in the Dangerous Book for Boys, by Conn & Hal Iggulden. Adam owns the Iggulden brothers' collection of Books for Boys. I would have NEVER looked in this book to find such an amazing and thorough list of quality reading for the family!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Here Fishy Fishy

 Great Big Sea

Recently, I was on the internet in search of easy-to-make dolly clothes. O has shown a real interest in undressing her dolls, perhaps the dressing them up part might be interesting. Now if only we had some dolly-sized clothes. I got so far as making a much too small cloth diaper and then realized I needed to return to felt to feel accomplished!

Enter fishies!
From the Waldorf book Creative Play for your Toddler, it was simple to cut and sew a few fish and add some sequins for scales. Also used in Waldorf-inspired play, we added silk scarves as a 'sea'. Their mouths are run-of-the-mill washers bought for pennies. They are meant for playing a fishing game, with wooden rod and magnet, but alas, the magnets we have are not strong enough for these fat fishies. Fishing game on hold.

Alternative uses:
~Math: patterns, colour matching, shapes, counting, classing

O prefers to 'eat' them (very realistic when wet!), so they are often added to her felt food pile!

Monday, May 21, 2012


No better place for watermelly, then right straight in my belly!

Vegan Bites: Fudge!

 First taste of summer is a fudgsicle!
 Vegan goodness!

Neither a chef nor baker, I appreciate a good, easy recipe.
Though this particular fudgsicle took a little extra time since we decided to make our own brown rice milk, it could be easily put together with the store-bought variety. O loved the crunchy, coldness! It is 100% vegan with no artificial sugar or caffeine and it is chock full of calcium (good, old carob!)

~1 cup rice, oat, hemp or soy milk
~2-4 T carob powder
~1/2 cup soft tofu
~maple syrup, to taste
~cinnamon, to taste

Whiz all ingredients in a blender and pour into popsicle molds or ice cube trays.

Because I am your mom...

Enjoying Mother's Day No. 2

Because I am your mom..
I laugh louder,
cry harder,
love more fiercely,
honour my instincts,
wake up being thankful that there is another day to enjoy
& you to enjoy it with.

Happy Mothers Day

Bamboo Bliss

You brought my Sunday morning sunshine...
Walk through the woods
Is there any bliss quite like this?

Grandma's in the House

Six months sans hugs!

O and I had the pleasure of hosting my mothers third visit in Shanghai since O's birth. There are many years I had the privilege of travel and work, but it was not until I called and said, "It's a Girl!" that my mother has decided to leave her abode and get on a plane; THREE TIMES in 16 months!

It is heart-warming as a mommy to know how much your daughter is loved by her relatives. It is astonishing as a mommy to think that your mother loves you like you love your own child! Which my dear old reminds me, as I boast about O and ask if it is alright to love your child this much! She assures me it is.

The reality is that this is the first grandchild on my side and we live literally oceans away. This was the first visit in six months and that is far too long for my mom to wait for a hug. She copes very well though, living with Skype dates and not lecturing me too often on bringing O back to Canada.

There is a flip side that my mom and I discuss, about how living abroad helps you come into your own as a mommy without the pressures of well-meaning relatives. I understand that 'a village raises a child' and believe it, but the key may be finding which village supports your parenting philosophy. 

Of course, we make the most of the time we are together, talk moms ear off, look forward to all the treats she brings from Canada and get in those hugs when we can.

Baby's Got Bath

Bathtime is just beginning!

Following the great success of Easter-egg washing, I introduced Olivia to more water playtime. I remember having a water table in kindergarten and what a privilege it was to be one of the chosen five who could play there at a given time.

Our large, flat tote (I saw one of our playdate friends using one and ours has become invaluable!) holds O, as well as our biggest kitchen pot filled with warm water. She opted for a mini pot from her kitchen, which is clever since it is much easier for her to manipulate (read; dump water from big pot to carpet outside large tote!)
In went baby and away flew a half hour of intense playtime. There are very few activities that hold O's attention, but most of them that do, take place in this tote!

A definite perk to these ideas for sensory play is most of the objects can be found around your home, therefore playtime is not only cheap, but very easily organized for any mommies that happen to feel less so!
Win-win for everyone!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Baby Bunny

 Alternative Easter Basket
Hippity Happity Easter chick

We celebrate Easter in our home to welcome Spring; a much-needed season after the long haul of (Shanghai!) winter. This year being O's second Easter, she was much more into the festivities and we got a head start the week before, washing Easter eggs! Really I had no idea this would be such a hit, so much so that on a day when I am tapped for something new and creative, we pull out the plastic eggs and get washing (photo exhibit A!) Though we avoid buying plastic, even while living in the plastic capital of the world, I had some extra's from my teaching days and so we made good use of them.

Instead of chocolate, Adam and I decided that we would start our own tradition of a alternative Easter basket; A Gardening Basket. This years was a tin bucket filled with seeds, mini garden gloves, mini shovel and rake as well as an owl puppet (just because.) Of course Dad's Easter basket screamed traditional; chocolate and pastel coloured candies galore!

We incorporated my parents tradition of an egg trail leading to the basket 'o goodies, but we substituted candy eggs for the plastic type and filled each with a Cheerio. Not only was it adorable watching our bunny ear wearing toddler with a bounce in her step chance upon every egg, she had an absolutely blast opening them, skipping over to her favourite colours and being surprised every time to find another Cheerio inside!

The afternoon was capped off with a great picnic in the park with friends and their wee. A wonderful Sunday to welcome the Spring!

Mini Masterpiece

First attempt with pencil-crayons

Hubby & I put together a lazy susan-inspired craft caddy.
Again, I am vicariously re-living my childhood through Miss O!
Again, I am using IKEA as my staple supplier for projects.
We purchased their wooden Lazy Susan second-hand (40rmb/5 bucks) and five of their tin plant pots (4.9rmb each/50cents).
After adhering the pots to the Lazy Susan, it now serves as a mini merry-go-round, ah hem, I mean, art caddy for my, I mean Olivia's pencil crayons, child-friendly scissors (they ONLY cut paper! Phenomenal!), crayons, chalk and goodies yet to be discovered.

Olivia much rather enjoyed watching the table spin and gathering a stack of pencil crayons in one hand only to watch them drop pick-up-stick style onto the floor! 
All play is considered learning; particularly the play where objects are not used for their original purpose!

Bubbles are a Babes Best Friend

Bubbling early morning winterttime

We have some blog catch-up to do.
Bear with;)

Way back wintertime Shanghai, Daddy went away for his first ever week without us. It happened to be the week Olivia learned the word for BUBBO's and used it every time she opened her eyes.
So, dressed for the morning frost, we were the first in the gardens, along with our friendly-neighbourhood Tai-Chi'er!

We have since started bubbling in the house (preferably on the carpet as bubbles on the floor, leave a lovely circle and slippery spot!) Playing indoors led to the discovery that bubbles are much more likely to be popped by little fingers without the wind and elements to move them about! A great lesson in hand-eye co-ordination, as well as gravity!

Bubbles. Do not leave home without them!

~2 T dishwashing soap
~1 T glycerin
~1 cup water
Mix 'em up and use over and over. I have even read about marvelous moms who make buckets 'o bubbles and use colanders and other open mouth kitchen tools as wands. CLEVER!