I have a (not-so-secret) wish that Alexandra will really love the arts- I imagine her strolling through musems one day, talking about the artists and the paintings like she really understands what they’re all about. I of course don’t know the first thing about art, but I do love kids’ crafts, so we’ve had a kiddie-sized easel in our house for quite awhile. Alex has tried chalk on the blackboard side and crayons on the paper-side, both of which she’s enjoyed, but we’ve been somewhat nervous about giving her paint. This is mostly because she still randomly puts things in her mouth from time to time and also because of the mess- we grew up in European homes, so we’ve been trained to see mess as the enemy!
After a little bit of reasearch we realized that there was a way to let Alex experience painting and not to have to worry about her eating anything or colouring our walls- we found a recipe for “edible” paint. This is basically a mix of corn starch, water and food colouring and is made as follows:
- Put 2 1/2 cups of corn starch into a mixing bowl.
- Add 1 cup of cold water and stir until well mixed (it’ll be hard and “goopy” at this point).
- Add 2 cups of boiling water (1 at a time), until your mixture has reached a good “paint”/thin-ish consistency.
- Separate your “paint” into different containers. Add food colouring to each container in various quantities and mixtures to make your desired colours.
The above recipe was our variation of something we found online- the online version called for way more water so the paint would have turned out really runny if we’d followed it to the letter. If you’re going to try this at home start with 2 cups of corn starch, put in the water and then add some more corn starch at the end if you think it needs to be thicken up- I think it might depend on the actual type of corn starch you’ve bought (I’m guessing here, I’m not sure why it works out differently for different people?).
So we made our paint in 6 different colours (red, blue, yellow, green, purple and quasi-orange/pink), letting Alex mix the food colouring into each cup and watching the “magic” happen when we mixed colours like red and blue together. Once the paint was done we put her easel in the kitchen (where the tile would make for the easiest clean-up) and we let her have at it. She was very good about not putting paint on the cupboards or the floor (not on purpose anyway)- although it wouldn’t have been a big deal if she had because the paint came off very easily, even when dry- and she really enjoyed this activity (I mean REALLY loved it), her enthusiasm was absolutely awesome. And it was fun for us too, mostly just watching her excitement and also when she’d let us use one of her paintbrushes to dab some colour on her paper. She painted 3 masterpieces in total, all of which were set to dry in the basement (we’re definitely keeping all of these :)), and about an hour after we’d cleaned everything up she actually wanted to do it again.
This activity not only turned out to be a lot of fun for an afternoon, but it’s something that I think we’ll end up doing fairly often, at least while she’s showing this much enthusiasm. I think it was a perfect introduction to her future life as an art connoisseur
Here are a few photos from our afternoon of painting, including one of the finished masterpieces.
This week’s activity turned out to be a girls-only affair. This isn’t technically in accordance with our ‘family time’ rule since Brad couldn’t attend with us, but we’ll make an exception, just for this week
Strictly speaking Alexandra has actually been to two bridal showers before (both when she was only two months old), but since I don’t think she fully appreciated the experience at that time this was pretty much her first real bridal shower. To prepare for the occasion daddy dressed her up in a new dress (while mom ran around like a chicken with her head cut off trying to find something decent to wear!) and tried to put something in her hair; she of course had no interest in anything to pin back her bangs (a haircut is likely in our near future), but looked adorable none-the-less.
The shower was located at the ‘Grand Luxe’ banquet hall on Bayview south of Finch, the newly renovated version of the old Moonlight Ballroom for anyone who attended a wedding there in the 90s. The place looked fantastic and the bride (my cousin Tanya) was gorgeous, but as with most events where you bring a toddler, the main attraction wasn’t so much the people, the decor or even the food, it was more about making sure Alex didn’t get into any mischief!
She dutifully ate her appetizer of veggies (or rather she dipped her carrots in the sauce and licked it off while leaving the vegetables intact) and nibbled on her potatoes and chicken, but after awhile she just wanted “OUT!” of the highchair and our game of “chase Alex around a new and exciting space” began. My mom and I took turns following her around the room, where she proceeded to make friends at every table- “hi!”- and mostly managed to stay out of the servers’ way.
In the midst of making sure the young miss was doing ok I did have time to play some of the (cheesey, but fun) shower games. My brother’s lovely girlfriend Diana (pictured concentrating hard below!) and I participated in the ‘decorate a wedding cake’ contest- we were designated the “creative” ones at our table (soley because we were the only ones under the age of 50). Unfortunatley, we lost- check out our the pic of all the cakes below, we had some stiff competition. We also paired up for the ‘put the broom handle into the toilet paper role’ game (yeah, it’s as crazy as it sounds!)- pictured is one of my cousins demonstrating. Again, we didn’t fair very well, but had a great laugh while participating.
All-in-all, both Alex and I had a wonderful afternoon- we both left the shower having had a day full of good company and good food. We even won some prizes, including a cool sidewalk chalk set that we’ll have to try out in the summertime. That having been said, I think daddy and Alex will have some one-on-one time when the next bridal shower comes around next month- as nice as it was, it was exhausting chasing our princess around (Alexandra is FAST!) and I just might need that long to recover from running around in heels!
P.S. As you have a peek at the photos below, please note the one of Alex in her new pink raincoat- this was her first time wearing it since it’s been too cold until now. She was so excited about this jacket, I just had to snap a photo- she kept looking down and saying “mama, COAT, COAT!”. Nothing like a toddler’s excitment about the little things to put a smile on your face
The last week of March was a lot of fun in our household, we spent a good four days celebrating Brad’s Birthday which was on the 28th. Our celebrations consistend mainly of eating, eating and more eating (at one point we had 3 types of cake in our fridge!), so it was only fitting that this week’s activity was to bake homemade oreo cookies. This week we were also lucky enough to have help from Alexndra’s Aunt Jenny and Uncle Alex (well actually, Unlce Alex just drank coffee and watched!) who happened to come over for a visit just as we were getting started on our cookies.
The idea for homemade oreos came from a Pinterest board that referenced this recipe: Homemade Oreos. We happened to have pretty much everything in our pantry at home and it seemed fairly easy (and delicious!) so we decided to give it a go. In honour of Catholic Easter weekend (we don’t celebrate ourselves until May this year) I picked up some really cute Easter cookie cutters so we would end up with Easter-shaped oreos.
While Aunt Jenny was over she helped us mix the dough for the cookie part of the oreos (she’s the cute brunette pictured below!), which we had to put in the fridge for an hour before it was ready for rolling. Jenny also very sweetly brought over a rolling pin when we realized we don’t have one (I’d have made an awful housewife in the 50s!).
The best part of this activity was definitely having Alex roll out the dough. We put some tea towels on the floor, lined them with wax paper and showed her how to roll out the mound of chocolately goodness that came out of the fridge. The photos of Alex with the rolling pin in her hands are my favourites this week (thanks Jenny!!)- nothing cuter than a toddler hard at work. After the dough was rolled out we cut out Easter shapes using our new cookie cutters and put them on a sheet to bake.
By the time we were ready to put the cream filling into our oreos Jenny and Alex (senior) had gone home and little Alex was in her pjs ready for bed. This part of the activity was my least favourite as it required some finesse and patience, both of which I lack in the kitchen. The cookies broke really easily as we tried to spread the cream into them (to be fair the recipe called for one of those pipes that you use for icing- something which we didn’t have). So at the end we only ended up with 3 really well shaped cookies, the rest were cracked (or were dipped into the icing and eaten like chips-Brad’s idea!). Still we had a fun afternoon, made even more fun with the extra company, and we had a really tired baby come 8:00pm- a great end to any activity.
This week’s activity was inspired by a beautiful butterfly mobile that my god-daughter Chloe has hanging in her room. Her version is totally symmetrical and perfect in every way (courteousy of Pottery Barn), ours of course wasn’t going to end up this way, but we gave it a good try anyway!
I had visited the dollarstore during the week on a mission to grab anything in the craft section that might work for our mobile. (FYI, on a random note, I totally LOVE the dollarstore and am mostly not ashamed to admit it!). The theme was of course butterflies and I had a vision of what the overal shape would be since we were mimicking Chloe’s mobile. I was lucky enough to find tons of butterfly stuff (mostly wooden cut-outs and 3D decals) and even found some in Alexandra’s current favourite colour- purple! I grabbed the clear plastic string used to make necklaces (which I thought would be great for hanging things) as well as the hard plastic necklace starters to use as our mobile’s base.
At the beginning of our activity Alex showed tons of interest, especially when we opened up all the packages of wooden butterflies- she kept comparing them and saying “same” (her newest word) when she found two that were alike. Unfortunately, her interest started to wan a bit as it took quite a while to set up the frame of the mobile and then to tie the individual butterflies to the plastic string. She occupied herself by packing her lunch bag with the butterflies (along with her swim shoes and a measuring cup- all reasonable lunch bag fillers!).
After dutifully helping me set up the mobile framework so it wouldn’t be lobsided, Brad’s interest started to fade as well and he and Alex ended up playing hockey while I finished up the mobile. Check out the best pic of the afternoon, Alex and Brad standing side-by-side holding their hockey sticks.
Overall it was a fun activity (for me more than everyone else I think! haha), and the finished product was actually not half bad- definitely not as nice as Chloe’s, but kinda cute none-the less
With all the rain we’ve been having this past week we thought it might be a perfect weekend to let Alexandra have some fun playing in puddles- she has a new raincoat and new galoshes all ready for splashing around. But since she’s still nursing a bit of a spring cold and with temperatures being slightly chilly on Saturday when the rain was supposed to come we decided it might be best to save it for another day. Instead we endeavoured to let her play with playdough for the first time.
We had been to a birthday party a few months ago where my friend had made some amazing looking playdough from scratch so I knew that we could make it at home and not have to worry about her putting it in her mouth, etc. The paint from a few weeks ago worked out so well I was hopeful that this would too. I did some searching and found the following recipe online:
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity)
Mix all of the ingredients together, and stir over low heat. The dough will begin to thicken until it resembles mashed potatoes. When the dough pulls away from the sides and clumps in the center, remove the pan from heat and allow the dough to cool enough to handle.
I saw the list of ingredients and thought great, I have all of that at home (minus the cream of tartar, I’d never even heard of that, but it was optional anyway) so this was going to be easy! It turned out I didn’t find it that easy. The cooking itself was ok, the dough thickened up like it was supposed to, but adding the food colouring was sort of tough. It took a LOT of colouring to make the dough pick up the colour all the way through and by the end of the whole process my hands looked darker than the playdough. I realized much later that I had forgotten the oil when I was making it so that might have been part of the problem and maybe that cream of tartar really wasn’t “optional”?!
In any case we ended up with some so-so looking playdough for the little miss to dive into on Sunday afternoon when we had some free time to play. She seemed to really like it at first sticking her fingers in it and pushing her cookie cutters into mounds of the dough. But the stuff was really sticky (likely because I forgot the oil!) and so it REALLY clung to her fingers. As a side note, we have noticed in the last few months that our baby girl is somewhat adverse to having her hands dirty (even while she’s eating every once in awhile she’ll request a napkin to wipe her hands with), so sticky playdough on her fingers wouldn’t be her idea of fun.
What we ended up doing was making trips back and forth to the bathroom to wash our hands. She’d play in the playdough for a bit, get nice and messy and then say “hands wash!” and we’d go to the sink, wash her hands and then go back to the playdough to make more of a mess. She loves playing in water so I think the playdough messiness was just a ploy to get us to take her back to the sink again and again.
All-in-all a bit of a bust on the playdough (mostly my fault for not following instructions properly!), but she had a good time making a mess of her hands and then washing them, so not a bad activity for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
After the playdough mess we were also treated to daddy’s homemade falafels, which made for a yummy way to end the weekend. We even had the added bonus of some good company (see pic below), that beats playing with playdough any day.
As you may have noticed from some of our photos, in the last little while Alexandra’s hair has steadily become more and more unruly as the months have passed. She has the softest, most adorable semi-curly head of dark blonde hair and Brad and I have been really keen on letting it grow as long as possible. Every time the subject of a haircut has come up one of us has convinced the other to put it off just a little bit longer. The idea was that we could use clips and ties to keep it out of her face until it grew out long enough not to be an annoyance anymore. But for some reason she’s been really stubborn about letting us put anything in her hair – that is until this past week, when she not only let us tie her hair up, but even ASKED that we put clips in it. Ironically, this coincided exactly with us deciding that it was time to take her for her first haircut.
We arranged to take her to the salon on Saturday afternoon, after her nap so that she would be refreshed and less likely to rebel! As luck always has it with kids and strategic napping, she decided she didn’t want to sleep that afternoon. We resorted to driving laps around our neighbourhood for half an hour to lull her to sleep before heading down to Victoria Park and Danforth to visit Brad’s godfather’s hair salon. Brad’s been seeing his godfather for haircuts for years and we thought it’d be a super cute tradition to maintain with Alexandra.
We got to the salon with Alex somewhat rested after her carseat nap and while we were waiting for her turn she had a great time. She sat in a chair with those big domes that dry your hair and played with the rollers from a nearby cart, it was a room full of new toys. But when it was finally her turn to sit in the chair and get her haircut she was visibly nervous. We explained what was about to happen, but she didn’t relax until a few cuts in when she realized that it wasn’t going to hurt.
After a minute or two Alex was just fine with the whole haircut experience, but as I sat beside her watching the baby curls falling to the ground I got a tiny bit misty-eyed. The more the hair fell the more her little face transformed from the face of a baby into the face of a little girl. Brad saw the look on my face and said, “don’t worry, her hair will be in her eyes again in a month”, but I wasn’t so much worried about the short cut as I was that my baby was getting so BIG right before my very eyes. These moments hit me from time to time, when I suddenly realize just how much she’s grown and I wonder how I didn’t notice it before.
Mommy nostalgia aside, Alex’s first haircut was a success. At the end she had a purple lollipop to show for her troubles so she was happy. And her hair is no longer in her eyes so I guess we were happy too. They’re not kidding when they say don’t blink though, time goes so surprisingly fast. Until next week…
This week was exceptionally busy at our house, between tax season, co-ordinating courses for work and entertaining friends, we had very little time to ourselves. When we finally did have some free time, we decided on something REALLY low key to entertain ourselves. During one of our numerous grocery runs this week (we can’t seem to remember everything in one trip!) we picked up a few of those bubble wands- you know, the kind that look like mini swords-and so when we had nothing to do one night we decided on a mini bubble party in the kitchen.
I can not express in words just how excited Alex got with the bubble making. The three of us started in the kitchen with Brad blowing bubbles at a furious pace as Alex twirled around trying to pop them, yelling “more! more!”. The smile on her face was, honest-to-goodnes, something to behold, it was absolutely awesome that something so very simple could bring her this much joy.
Bubblemania continued in the kitchen for a good 20 minutes before the floor was completely covered in soapy water (which we discovered after a near tumble, “ohhh slippery!”) and we had to move to the hallway where we started again. More twirling and laughing and trying to pop bubbles (oh and a little bit of trying to eat them too at one point!). We ended up doing this two more times during the week and we’ve discovered that we have to keep the bubble wand hidden unless we’re willing to engage in another little bubble party.
So we ended up having lots of fun with the simplest of activites- I guess it goes to show you, kids really don’t need extravagent things to have a good time Check out the bubble pics below and also some photos of Alex with her cousins during a weekend visit at our place-hard to believe none of these little cuties were around just 4 years ago!
Now, to gear up for next week’s Orthodox Easter celebrations- it’s going to be a busy, busy week with lots of cool stuff to look forward to!
This past week we celebrated Orthodox Easter in our household. Easter has always been one of my favourite times of the year; my parents come from a small village in Northern Greece and even though we’ve been in Canada for over 30 years we’ve tried to maintain a lot of the fun, old traditions from back home.
Alexandra is still too young to appreciate some of these old customs, like the beauty of the Good Friday service and the unique flavour of fried lamb intestines (they sound disgusting, but are quite delicious!), so this year we incorporated some more fun kid-inspired activities as well.
The kiddie activities started Saturday afternoon in our backyard with an Easter egg hunt (decidedly NOT a traditional Orthodox Easter event!). I had hidden (I use that term loosely-more like “placed” since we are talking about toddlers here!) a bunch of coloured plastic Easter eggs filled with little knick-knacks all over the backyard. We invited our favourite partner-in-crme Peyton (a.k.a. “P) over to join in the festivities.
The kids seemed to have a really good time running around the yard; they were mostly good about sharing the eggs and even helped each other fill their baskets and after an hour or so in the sun (and some silly photos in Easter bunny ears!) we took the party inside for some Easter egg colouring. We used food colouring to colour our eggs vs. the traditional red egg dye. While the colour turns out great with the dye, I’ve always half wondered how safe it is to eat…that of course has never stopped us before, but funny how the rules change when you have a toddler.
The egg dying was lots of fun, but yielded few coloured eggs that were still intact. Most of them got smashed (either by accident or on purpose) so even though we started out with 36 white eggs, we had less than half that number that were “Easter-worthy” for giving away the next day. A messy, MESSY activity, but lots of fun none-the-less.
Our Easter weekend was rounded out with Easter Sunday lunch/dinner at both grandparents’ houses (check out the pics of Alexandra playing the traditional egg-cracking game below); we all came home that night completely exhausted, but very content. Easter 2013 was a resounding success and hopefully the start of some new family traditions too.
This weekend we of course celebrated Mother’s Day. This is only my second Mother’s Day, so I’m still not used to part of the celebration being in my honour! We had a great day Sunday going out to breakfast just the three of us and then spending some time with Brad’s grandmother and our own moms (check out Alexandra’s awesome “I love my Mom” t-shirt below). I also got a really sweet gift from Alex when I first got up; it was wrapped in a bright purple bag and came with a beautiful purple card in a purple envelope- she’s totally into purple right now- we have no idea why!
But before our Sunday activities we had a rainy/gloomy Saturday afternoon to fill with something fun. In a huge switch from last week’s t-shirts and shorts we put on our rain coat and boots and decided to try the sidewalk chalk we picked up a few weeks ago.
I had never used this kind of chalk before and Brad couldn’t remember the last time he’d used it so we were both pleasantly surprised at how kid-friendly it turned out to be. Alex didn’t have to push hard to make a mark on the driveway (we opted out of going to the park where we might be ambushed by a sudden downpour) and the colours turned out bright and vibrant. We also found that it kept her entertained for quite some time. She’d pick up the chalk, draw a picture then take a break to kick a ball around the backyard or go stomping around our newly turned over future garden (where we’ll hopefully plant some vegetables before the end of May) and then would come back to the chalk for a bit. Before our afternoon was through we even had a small contribution to our artwork by my brother (Alex’s “Uncle Nick”) who came by to deliver some lunch.
All in all a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon. Combined with a lovely Mother’s Day we had a really great family weekend together. Looking forward to next week’s long weekend and hopefully the return of the sun!
This past weekend was the unofficial start to summer- Victoria Day long weekend (can you believe it’s the end of May already?!). After the longest winter EVER we’re all really excited that the warm weather has finally arrived. We took full advantage of the sun this weekend starting off with a day in Wasaga Beach and Collingwood. We spend a lot of time in Wasaga in the summers, even Alexandra has been up quite a bit over her last two summers, but my parents have rarely had the chance to come up with us. This weekend we all got together, along with my brother Nick and Diana, to celebrate my parents’ 38th anniversary (pretty amazing huh?!). We finally had the opportunity to show them around Wasaga and introduce them to the village at Blue Mountain.
Although Alex has been to Blue Mountain a few times (she loves the mini splash park they have there), we still had the chance to introduce her to something new as well. After a fantastic dinner at one of the restaurants in the village we all indulged in some tasty beaver tails on our way home. For those of you who haven’t tried a beaver tail, it’s basically just fried dough dipped in sugar and cinnamon (this is the basic version that we stuck to, they have lots of other topping options as well). We gave Alex only a bite or two since it was after 7pm and it didn’t seem wise to hop her up on sugar right before a two hour drive home, but she definitely seemed to like it- she’s got her mom’s sweet tooth for sure. We finished off the day with a leisurely drive home, during which Alex passed out- always a good end to any day!
Monday morning, still a little groggy from our day in Wasaga, we decided that it’d be fun to have our first mini BBQ in the backyard. Our backyard has been in a constant state of construction since we bought our house so we were a little excited that it’s finally at a place where we can have people over. We invited Ken, Karen and Peyton (“P”!) over for a late lunch and some evening fireworks. I have to admit, the idea of fireworks have always made me nervous, and doubley so with toddlers in the mix, but Brad made sure that everyone would be safe. We lit the fireworks at the very back of the yard in a bucket full of sand while we watched safely from the opposite end.
As it turned out, the fireworks were a bit of a bust with the kids. Peyton didn’t like them at all and while Alex was curious at first, her interest sort of fizzled after the first two or three. It was still a nice way to end off a fun long weekend in the sun and a good way round out Alex’s second year- unbelievable as it seems, our baby is turning two this week!