Apple-picking – an autumn highlight

Willowviewfarms Abbotsford, BC

Perfect apples at Willow View Farms in Abbotsford, BC

When we moved from Vancouver to the Fraser Valley almost 5 years ago, I remember asking a friend who lived here what moms do out here with their young kids. I was trying to find similar entertainment for myself and my toddlers to what I had been used to in Vancouver and Port Moody. Her response was to name one of the local orchards.

What? I thought – what is this place, that it could be the thing to do? I think I was picturing things more like weekly library children’s programs or other such programs.

It’s funny because over the years, it really has become that sort of an experience for our family and friends each fall. We go to the orchard every week or two to pick apples and buy fresh cider, squash and pumpkins. Our kids love playing on the playground there and visiting the farm animals. Once in a while we get a coveted caramel apple or go on a hay ride. And every year since my daughter started preschool, we’ve gone on at least one field trip here.

Some seasons, we’ve tried to make a weekend ritual of going to the farm and then hosting a brunch at our house, or serving up a huge stack of pancakes while the kids play at our house and then hitting the orchard afterward. It really is a great excuse to gather, and is a highlight for our family.

pumpkins and plums

Fancy lemonade milkshake – great girl’s birthday party idea

My daughter enjoys having her birthday parties at home, so in the midst of a fairly hectic August, we sat down one day for just a few minutes and looked at pinterest to brainstorm a few ideas for a “fairy” themed party for her 7th birthday. I had just seen a recipe for a lemonade milkshake, with instructions for decorating cups with sprinkles.

When we went to get the cups ready, I wondered what to use for glasses – we didn’t want to do styrofoam or disposable cups, but we didn’t have anything else uniform so I grabbed a bunch of small canning jars we have on hand.

Mason jars decorated with sprinkles

Preparing some mason jars to serve as milkshake cups at the fairy birthday party.

A couple of days in advance, we just prepared the jars. We melted some white chocolate pieces in a small bowl, and dumped some red sugar sprinkles in another one. My daughter was able to do this herself: just dip the jar in the white chocolate, then the sprinkles. We placed the jars in the fridge until the day of the party.

lemonade milkshakes fairy party

My daughter at her 7th birthday party

For the milkshake, we made a variation of this recipe. It’s essentially vanilla icecream, strawberries, lemonade concentrate and strawberry jam. (P.S. – it was popular so make sure you get enough ingredients so there is some left for mom and dad).

With such a fancy drink, the kids were quite content with our bowls of chips and simple cake mix cupcakes for snacks. We chose our battles wisely on this one!

Camping at Chilliwack Lake: nature therapy

Chilliwack Lake, BC

Chilliwack Lake, BC

This is another ode to the summer that was, the epic, endless summer of 2014 in British Columbia where the teachers’ strike added an extra 5 weeks to summer. Now that is all over but I haven’t quite caught up here on sharing my summer highlights. We went camping for a few days at Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park. We camped there over 10 years ago, and have hiked there a few times, but it’s been ages. It’s quite a drive past Chilliwack, and well beyond cell phone service. But it was a wonderful experience for the kids, who biked that campground every daylit moment like only a gang of 5-to-7 year olds can. They found castles and kingdoms of rock.

Driftwood

The lines and contrast of driftwood

A highlight for me, other than the quietness of the campground, the complete lack of mosquitoes and insects at this time of year, and the company of friends, was the hike to Lindeman Lake. It’s a beautiful turquoise lake that took about 45 minutes for us to hike up to. It’s fairly steep but I made it, despite being barely into my second trimester of pregnancy. The kids were champions. Of course it always helps when they have friends to play with and they motivate each other onward.

Hiking and camping pals

Hiking and camping pals

I love finding patterns and art that naturally occurs in nature. Check out the pattern on this drifting log:

bug paths on log

The beautiful pattern was drawn by some kind of bug, creeping around under this tree’s bark.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll mention it again: there is nothing more relaxing and fulfilling to me than time spent in nature. These pictures from another day’s hike sums it up. The icy clear water rushing over my feet just washes away the stress or difficulties of the week. And finding all those colourful rocks – honestly they aren’t that colourful when they are scattered all over the riverbed. But with a goal of making a rainbow of rocks, it’s amazing how the colours stand out.

river stones

Cold river water and brilliant river stones

So while summer is officially over, I will try to revel in it a little longer! We try to hike as much as we can, and I’m thankful that is possible almost year round here in British Columbia.

Eclectic Cottage Art

As I mentioned in my last post, we traveled to Oregon in the summer and we stayed in a comfortable cottage within walking distance of the beach. I didn’t have much time to think about art, being quite busy with the kids. But I did take some {really bad} snapshots of some of the artwork around the cottage. I enjoyed the variety of artwork, and the different styles and skill levels.
cottage art 3This top one was neat just because it captured the experience our children were having. While it portrays a different time period, the essence of their play and enjoyment of the coast was the same.
cottage art 1I was most taken by the church painting above. it is representational, and amateurish in style. But I really like it. It made me want to paint and not worry about how things turn out.

cottage art 2The last one here is a very simple watercolour. It captures one of my favourite types of scenes: peaceful lakes! Wilderness.

My point being, I feel inspired to allow myself to get back into painting in all the different styles I’m capable of, from watercolour to realism (in my own non-exact kind of way) to abstract.

Oregon Coast roadtrip

One of the fun things we did this summer was to take a road trip to Oregon with my husband’s brother’s family. It was wonderful for our kids to be able to make memories with their cousins, and for all of us to get away and enjoy some beautiful scenery.

I think the sand was our favourite thing – in BC, the sand is pretty gravelly. Making a sand castle doesn’t always turn out as planned. We all loved the soft, flawless sand!

Here are a few highlights from my instagram photos that capture our time away.

masks

Ready for a road trip and excited about their homemade masks.

cousins on vacation

Summer of cousins!

Oregon coast kite flying, Cannon Beach

Oregon coast

children buried in sand

Every kid loves trying this, being buried in sand.

Oregon coast beach scenes

Summer of cousins

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Oregon Coast beach Oregon Coast

Flowers painting progress

mixed media painting of flowers

In progress painting

What can I say? I am way behind on blogging, but I have a few good excuses. The main one being that I can hardly keep my eyes open by the time I get home from work. It recently took me three evenings to get through watching one movie.

So the progress I made on this flowers painting actually took place about six weeks ago! But here are a few photos. My daughter was quite taken with this and made her own version.

6-year-old girl paintingFrom the reaction on Instagram, it seemed like a lot of people thought I was done this painting. I have so far to go! I put a lot of work into my paintings, adding more texture, nuances of colour, distressing, etc. I might be able to finish it in one or two more goes, and hopefully that will happen soon.
In progress mixed media painting

Craft: Fairy necklaces

acorn caps

Have I mentioned that I LOVE FALL? Well I do – I just loved walking around, still in August, and already finding numerous fresh acorn caps on the ground, which were needed for my daughter’s birthday party.

I’m a pretty creative person, and sometimes cannot stop thinking of ideas. I know this can be tiring for less creative people. My daughter, who is turning seven, has been getting increasingly creative herself, and I have been surprised a few times how many ideas she generates. For example, she wanted a gumball machine she saw at the dollar store. I said no, because it looked like it would break in two seconds. At home, she made her own out of paper and tape!

So planning her seventh birthday party has been full of ideas. We took one look at pinterest and I already had to point out, Hey, this is not your wedding….we’re not creating an archway covered in tulle!

I am not exactly bursting with energy, being pregnant and working full time, but we did finally gather all the supplies needed to make these fairy necklace party favours on the weekend.

Fairy necklaces

Fairy necklaces

Steps:

1. Drill holes in acorn caps big enough to get your ribbon or string through.

2. Glue glitter on the acorn caps (we used white glue).

3. Cut ribbon long enough to go over kids’ heads (estimate big…some of ours ended up still too small).

4. String ribbon through jingle bells and through the acorn cap.

5. Hot glue bell into place in acorn cap.

6. Tie knot in ribbon.

Waiting for the glue gun to heat up

Waiting for the glue gun to heat up