How to Make Paper

Thinking of doing a little schoolwork with your young family to get in the back-to-school mood? I certainly was a few days ago. Since we decided to homeschool our little kindergartener, I’ve been stocking up on cool, educational ideas that I feel align with our chosen school’s curriculum. I started by asking around for inspiration, and luckily, my very talented and artsy niece gave me this awesome idea – how to make your own paper!

Making your own paper is fun, eco-friendly, and developmentally motivating (for both kids and parents).

The paper is made from recycled bits of old paper, so kids can see your or their old projects become something new again and learn the importance of recycling. Recycling greatly reduces the amount of stuff that ends up in the landfill. It also helps us reduce our resource uptake, which saves the environment and our pocket books.

This activity is also messy play at its best so it helps increase sensory, motor, hand-eye coordination, and social skills. Not to mention – it’s incredibly fun!

Prep Your Play Space

So now that I’ve sold you, you’re wondering where to begin? Let’s start with clearing a spot for the activity. I like to do all messy crafts on the floor of my kitchen during cooler days and on my patio during hotter ones. I also like to lie old paper down but since the old paper is one of our key ingredients here, perhaps just use an old towel or do it right on the floor’s surface.

Next, grab your mixings and artsy utensils:

  1. A stack of old paper (my niece used all of last year’s homework while my kids used their old artwork)
  2. A soup pot filled with water
  3. Scissors, both adult and children’s
  4. A colander
  5. A large screen
  6. A few towels

Let’s Get Messy!

The best part about this activity is that all of it can be done with the kids. With their little kid scissors, tiny hands, and huge imaginations, they can participate in every step!

  1. Cut all of the paper up into tiny pieces (if your kids are anything like mine, they will be masters at making tiny pieces of paper that seem to multiply when glanced at)
  2. Put all of the tiny pieces into the tub of water
  3. Mash them up with many hands, big smiles, and tons of laughter
  4. Strain the soupy mix with the colander
  5. Spread the wet mulch onto the large screen into the desired shape and thickness (you can even use cookie cutters to make desired shapes!)
  6. Put a towel over the screen and flip the paper onto it
  7. Lay it on a table or other surface to dry overnight
  8. Wake up the following morning and colour that new masterpiece!

Cool Additions

After doing this neat project that was both hilarious and entertaining, my niece also gave us some cool tips to try for next time. These include adding seeds, flower petals, leaves, or even food colouring to give the paper some cool tints! I know my munchkins are eager to try this activity again and we will be sure to make these additions!

Until Next Time

I hope you and your little ones have a chance to try this cool activity and even learn a thing or two about development and the importance of recycling. For more info on teaching your kids about recycling and a few more educational activities, click here. For more information on the importance of messy play and how to encourage it in your home, check out this link. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share! Until next time, have yourself a wonderful paper-making experience!

Treasure Hunting for Kids

Being engaged with your children is very important, and with the short summers we get in Edmonton, making the most of those few precious days of sunshine can mean a summer well-spent. One activity my family has recently become involved with is ‘geocaching.’

You might have heard the term before. If not (like me a couple weeks ago), let me catch you up! You can think of geocaching as a sort of ‘treasure hunt,’ except instead of an old, wrinkly map (which is also fun!), you’re given GPS coordinates!

For the avid adult geocachers, sometimes these treasures or ‘caches’ are extremely hard to find. They can be located in remote areas that require days of hiking and, because they’re well out of service areas, a professional grade satellite GPS unit. This hardly seems like the kind of adventure to undertake with little ones, right? Luckily, there are plenty of kid-friendly hunts in and around the city, often in our own glorious river valley, which we are so fortunate to have! For these types of hunts, your smartphone, some sunscreen, a few snacks, and water bottles are all you need!

How to Find Your Cache

In order to complete geocaching with your kids, you need to have a smartphone and download the geocaching app. The app will allow you to follow the trail to your next cache and even track the caches that you find! And there are so many for the Edmonton area! You’ll never be at a loss for weekend treasure hunts!

Go here to get the app.

Like I said, you won’t need a pen and notepad because the app tracks it for you but I found my kids preferred the old-fashioned method anyway so we brought them with us!

After you have the app, check the difficulty level of the hunt. For little ones on a hot day, I would try a larger sized hunt with lots of caches. This is because it will be easier to find them and you can quit at any time with just an easy “Okay guys, last treasure!”

It’s easier to pull them away if you’ve already found a number of caches!

When you find your cache, you can check it off on your phone or on your handy notepad!

Making Your Own Cache

Once your kids have had the pleasure of finding a few caches, maybe your family can even make their own! Choose a small trinket from around your house and let your child choose a public spot to hide it. I recommend also placing the item in a waterproof container to prevent it from damage. Then hide it in your secret spot!

If your cache is going to show up for other users, you’ll have to use the app to add it to an existing geocache. Go to your secret location and the app will prompt you to go through the steps of adding it. My kids liked this part because we could watch how many people came by to find our cache!

Old Fashioned Treasure Hunt

Now, remember that old, wrinkly map I mentioned? If you want your kids to have the same old fashioned experience as you (or maybe Grandpa) had, perhaps you’ll find the time to make your own hunt!

Gather a bunch of your children’s toys (maybe not their favourites) and hide them around your yard or out in your favourite park. As mentioned, try to use waterproof items so they can return safely home. Then make a map! Or maybe two or three…

My kids are great sharers but even the best sharers can get a little excited and rip a piece of paper. I would even make an original for me if I’ve done a big hunt and can’t remember where I’ve left stuff. You can even make it look like an authentic map by pouring cold tea (or coffee) over it and leaving it overnight to dry. My parents also used to rip or roll the edges to give it that heavily used look.

Another tip for your homemade map is to put everything in picture form. This will help even the littlest hunter have a chance to find that treasure!

Lastly, roll up the map and tie it with a bit of string to provide that pirate look we’re going for. Voila!

Treasure Hunter Precautions

If your kids are anything like mine, nothing gets them more excited than the idea of seeking out hidden treasure. While most of the geocaches are simply books for those to sign, some include little trading items (often just gently used toys that other kids have grown out of) which work on a ‘take-one, leave‑one’ system.

With COVID cases on a slight rise again, I don’t let me kids touch any of the objects but that doesn’t matter to them! Finding the treasure and marking it down on their little notepads is all the fun they’ll ever need!

Other precautions are taken to beat the heat. Make sure to lather everyone up with your favourite sunscreen and bring plenty of water. My go-to for sunscreen comes in a spray-on can for ease of application. My kids don’t seem to ever stand still for long so this helps a lot! Find it here. As for our favourite water bottles, these ones from David’s Tea are the best I’ve ever used! They are like a regular water bottle, which helps keep them clean because there is no straw! Also, the bottom comes off! This allows me to add ice cubes to the mix and allows for an even more effective clean! Find them here!

Let the Adventure Begin!

I hope you have a great time outdoors with your family this season! Even with all of the changes we are currently going through, perhaps this little outdoor adventure gives your family an excuse to enjoy the sunshine!

At Home Pedicures

As wonderful as professional salon services are, it’s hard to justify the cost. It’s even harder to justify the risk of affecting your family’s health. Therefore, my Mom and I have starting taking self-care into our own hands during this new normal, including at home pedicures!

Now, my mom is the guru when it comes to salon style beauty, so I grabbed some tips from her. We also took some hints from her magazine collection (which also came in handy as our relaxation reading material). So if you want a fun girl’s afternoon, but are really into saving some money and keeping your family safe, try these out for size!

Materials

  1. One basin per person, large enough for both feet
  2. Nail polish remover
  3. Cotton pads or Q-tips
  4. Pumice stone
  5. Foot file
  6. Nail trimmer (scissors or clippers)
  7. Nail file or buffer
  8. Cuticle pusher or orange stick
  9. Cuticle cutters
  10. Moisturizer
  11. Toe Separators
  12. Base polish
  13. Nail polish
  14. Top coat
  15. Magazines/Romance Comedy Movie/Spa Music

Before getting off on the wrong foot, I know this list looks a little exhaustive – but have no fear! You can improvise or skip steps and you will still have a good time and good-looking toes! Now that we know that, let’s just jump right in!

Step 1. Prep your tools and work station. We put on a romantic comedy movie and busted out some chips and dip. If I were to do a pedicure alone, I likely would have put on spa music but to each there own! Also fill your basins with hot water. Add any desired perfumes or salts for added pampering.

Step 2. Remove old nail polish with your nail polish remover and cotton pads. Put the pad over the bottle top and invert it for a brief second to allow the pad to soak up some of the liquid. Then use the wet cotton pad to clean your nails. It’s definitely easier to remove the polish if you let the pad sit on your nail for roughly 10 seconds, letting the nail polish absorb the acetone. Then wipe all the access away. If you aren’t wearing any nail polish, it’s still a good idea to clean your nails this way as it removes dirt and grease too!

Step 3. Next, soak your feet in the basin. Every ten minutes or so, you can pull them out to scrub the dry spots with a pumice stone or other callous remover tool. Never use anything sharp or attempt to cut off dry spots as this can be potentially dangerous. Soaking your feet before scrubbing the areas will drastically help remove any dead skin, and will eventually make your feet baby smooth again, even if it takes multiple tries. Just keep soaking and scrubbing! If you find the pumice stone or other scrubbing tool is not working for you, I actually preferred using my own nails. Worked just as well!

Step 4. After soaking and scrubbing, if your skin still needs a little extra love, dry them and use a foot file. This works best if your feet are dry as the skin comes off in a powder-like form, making your skin softer.

Step 5. Clip your nails with a pair of nail scissors or clippers. Personally, I prefer ordinary finger nail clippers. I find toe nail clippers or scissors too hard to maneuver and regular nail clippers allow me to get a straight cut across the nail. I also prefer to keep my nails short to prevent them from getting caught on anything. I also wear an odd variety of shoes and having short nails allows my feet to be comfortable in any toe shape. When cutting your nails, be sure not to too far back on the corners as this can lead to ingrown toenails – super painful!

Step 6. File the new cuts with a nail file. I used a nail buffer to do this, brushing the nail in a downward motion rather than from side to side. This made the cuts very soft to the touch and not at all sharp. I also buffed the rest of the nail a smidge, which I was told would help the nail polish stick on better!

Step 7. Use a cuticle pusher to gently push your cuticles and expose the new nail growth. This was always my least favourite part of getting a professional pedicure because it was always kind of painful! Now that I’m in the driver seat, I can gently perform this task, making it a lot more pleasant and just as nice looking! Afterwards, you may notice the extra skin built up around your nails and may want to remove it. If it makes you more comfortable, you can use a pair of cuticle cutters to remove it but go slow to avoid any tears to your skin. Feel free to buff again with your nail buffer!

Step 8. After all the scrubbing, cutting, filing, and buffing, your feet may look a little caked in powder. Go ahead and remove as much excess as possible with a cloth or paper towel. You can then use your moisturizer to soften and pamper your feet! If you’re avid reader of my blogs, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that I used coconut oil. As well as the many health properties coconuts have, they are also known to be a great anti-aging moisturizer as well as being better for the planet than traditional lotions.

Step 9. At this stage, your feet may look and feel amazing and you may feel good enough to just walk away. I almost did until my Mom pulled out a shiny, clear nail gloss. So we busted out the toe separators! Before putting these bad boys on, I was told to give my toes and feet a little stretch to help with the awkward feeling of the separators.

Step 10. Once separated, run another acetone soaked cotton ball over the nails again to remove the oil from the previous steps. If putting on coloured nail polish, I was advised that a base coat would keep the polish from chipping. We also read that a quick buff from a nail buffer would do the trick so it’s personal preference (or availability)!

Step 11. Next apply your polish! I went with a clear shine but I find any lighter colours look great in summer, especially with your summertime tan! Use your brush and always go from the left-most toe to the right-most toe if right-handed and vice versa if left-handed. This prevents unconsciously smearing the previously painted toe! Also, if you have small nails and often flood the base with polish, an orange stick or Q-tip can help clean it up. If you don’t have either, you can always use your fingernail or paper towel. Paint your toes with two coats, letting dry between coats, to get an even colour and prevent chips.

Step 12. Before adding your top coat, clean up the skin with an acetone soaked Q-tip or paper towel. You’re then free to add that top coat and finish your rom-com as you let them dry!

Last Foot

I hope you were able to get your foot in the door with these pedicure tips! If you have a cool self-pampering tip, sweep me off my feet with it! Until next time, stay safe and sane!

Toy and Clothing Reviews

Photo courtesy of amazon.com

Toy sales have taken a strange turn during this new normal. I’ve certainly noticed the new pricing system for many of my favourite goods, including foods, clothing, and activity toys. Lots of things are on for better deals now, although my family has had to make some adjustments in how we shop, allowing us to be a little more thrifty. Here’s what we’ve noticed (or read):

  1. Activity toys and puzzle sales have skyrocketed since the closing of schools, and has really made my family happy to have more options and products available. We’ve been preparing for Kindergarten and it’s lovely to see more books, puzzle, and educational toys offered online.
  2. Used clothing and toy stores have closed, including my favourite Once Upon a Child. This has so far been the only negative we’ve noticed as it has made it a touch more difficult in getting quality items for low prices.
  3. Many clothing and toy stores are promoting large sales and more delivery options. We’ve been fortunate to find great deals on clothing (which is helpful as we are no longer able to purchase used) and complete curbside pickup at certain locations.
  4. The closing of many stores has caused a sharp decline in impulse buying, particularly for my family. We no longer see something we didn’t need and purchase small, inexpensive toys or clothing that really add up after a while.
  5. The new normal of purchasing and selection has really enabled me to complete adequate research on items and think about budget before spending. This is a huge benefit to us!

All of these observations have allowed us to save money and (in an obscure way) spend more time with our boys! Let me now share with you some of the great finds we’ve come across!

Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

Kinetic Sand

Kinetic sand is an amazing alternative to Play-doh or slime. We’ve been a Play-doh family since the beginning and more recently were introduced to slime. Both of these are great messy toys but they sure do make a mess! Personally, I don’t mind the mess, but I don’t particularly like how short lasting these two options are by drying out so quick. Enter Kinetic sand! A soft, malleable sand that sticks together and doesn’t dry out! It’s also easier to clean off of clothes and the floor by being so sticky to itself. My boys use it primarily in their “baking” game where they make me delicious sand cookies. Coming in many cool colours and providing endless hours of fun, this was a winner in this home! You can find it on most online shopping browsers, but if you order from Mastermind Toys, the order came very quickly for us and they do curbside pickup! Find it here.

Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

Globber 3 in 1 Scooter

The Globber 3 in 1 scooter is a super cool activity toy that has given my youngster a running start at keeping up with his big bro. It reminds me of a convertible carseat with its ability to turn from a ride-on toy to a scooter in two easy steps. My Polar Bear can sit on his seat while I maneuver to keep up with Grizzly Bear on his bike, or he can putter around on his own, practicing his footwork. A little extravagant but a great one for any little one! Find it here.

Photo courtesy of amazon.com

My First Dot-to-Dot Book and Paint by Stickers

Grizzly Bear is incredible at reading at writing, even for his young age, and Polar Bear is quickly mastering his numbers. They have always loved books and learning new things but there weren’t many books that they found just as enjoyable as educational. In preparing Grizzly Bear for Kindergarten and Polar Bear for Preschool, I’ve done my research and found a few greats in the many that are out there – and these are the two that really stuck out for all of us! My First Dot-to-Dot is an excellent connect-the-dots book for beginners and includes fun pictures and word-spelling. Paint by Stickers helps little ones master fine motor skills while creating pictures (and who doesn’t love stickers?). We work together and they complete the pictures by practicing counting, reading, and fine motor skills. It’s a remarkable thing to watch and be a part of! Find My First Dot-to-Dot here and Paint by Stickers here.

Photo courtesy of amazon.com

No Buckle Belts

An invention I didn’t know existing but am sure glad I stumbled across it! Grizzly Bear is a slender fella and has trouble keeping his trousers up. But an ordinary belt is a little tough for him during trips to the bathroom though… With Kindergarten coming up and knowing he wouldn’t have assistance in the washroom, I looked for an alternative and found these! They are so easy to put on and he can remove, put on, and adjust his pants with no trouble at all! Find packs of four here.

Photo courtesy of amazon.com

Watches and Calendars for Kids

Lastly, my parents have recently been teaching my boys about time – when mealtime is, when playtime is, and such for Grizzly Bear, and what “tomorrow” and “yesterday” means for Polar Bear. I joined in the fun by finding the perfect watch for Grizzly and an exciting calendar for Polar Bear. A Disney Marvel watch was exactly what I was looking for (and he LOVES it too). The hour and minute hands are labelled and it has two sets of chapter rings (a stopwatch built right in)! This all helps him learn to tell time, plus Spiderman is swinging into action on the watch face which really pumps up the learning. Find it here. As for Polar Bear, a visual representation to learning about the days of the week and when exactly Christmas is (haha) has helped him loads! He prefers dinosaurs so we went with this awe-inspiring (and eco-friendly) title here.

Fun Farewell!

I hope this little list of my recent family purchases help you and your little one enjoy your time at home! It certainly is fun to stumble across something new and help your little one learn along the way. If you have any new items that you’d like to leave a review for, send them my way – until then, see you next time!

Wormy Mud Cake

Photo courtesy of Blog Chef

 

As we navigate through this new normal, a few of the folks in my family and close circle are gaining new skills and recalling old ones. For me, I find I’m learning a little of everything here and there that has to do with homelife. I never really did stay at home with my boys when they were born; I took very short maternity leaves. I also didn’t really take a break between school and my career either; I jumped right into it. In this usually fast-paced world, I think that’s true for a lot of parents in my generation.

My parents and grandparents often portray a lot of skills I wish I had practised. My Mom makes the best turkey in the world and my grandmother can knit sweaters better than any machine. My Dad can build nearly anything out of wood and my grandfather was an excellent fisherman. I find these are very important skills that I seemingly lack – and never even noticed until now! So, in this new, and rather independent lifestyle, I’ve taken on a few projects to better hone my skills. These include gardening, fixing broken toys, mending clothing, and cooking.

When my sons’ birthdays started to approach, I realized we normally celebrate with purchased cakes or cupcakes. Even though these items are still fairly accessible, I decided to make a cake my Mom made me when I was a kid – A particularly unhealthy but super fun Wormy Mud Cake! This type of cake also fit in unusually well with the dreary weather we’ve been having as my boys have been helping me in our new earthy, wormy garden lately too!

Flavourful Ingredients:

½ cup of soft butter

8 oz package of cream cheese, softened

½ cup of icing sugar

7 oz of instant chocolate pudding mix (see additional recipe below)

3 ½ cups of milk

12 oz of frozen whipped cream topping

1 package of Oreos or your child’s favourite crumbly cookie

1 package of gummy worms

Fresh mint leaves

Mouthwatering Methods:

Did you know there’s a difference between wet and dry measuring cups? A wet (liquid) measuring cup is a glass/transparent cup, with markings on the side, and typically a spout to allow for easier pouring. A dry measuring cup is typically a cylindrical cup with a handle, and is designed to scoop ingredients like flour, sugar, etc., and then allow the backside of a knife or other utensil to level off the ingredient.  While 1 cup is 1 cup for liquids, regardless of which cup you use, there is an important difference. When measuring something like flour with a wet measuring cup, you have to shake it back and forth to get the top to settle flat. Doing this can actually pack the flour down, resulting in more ingredient than you should have. By using a dry measuring cup, you can scoop out what you need, and then scrape the top flush without packing the flour into the cup. Using too much flour can quickly turn a cake into more of a loaf of bread, so this is an important distinction!

Delectable Directions:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the butter, cream cheese, and sugar. This is a great activity for your little one, and the mixing action promotes motor skills while also being cool to look at.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine milk, pudding mix, and whipped cream topping and mix it up. Again, fun times!
  3. Combine the two mixtures together and let sit while you prepare the Oreo cookies.
  4. Place 10 Oreo cookies into your food processor and blend until smooth. This can be a very fun activity for your child if they don’t mind loud noises. My younger child is not a fan of loud noises so we crumbled our cookies manually by placing them in a large baggie and rolling a rolling pin over them.
  5. Pour alternate layers of the pudding mixture and cookie crumbs into separate glasses or into one large glass pie plate.
  6. Give your worms a new home on the top. My kids really enjoyed this part as we stuffed parts of the worms into the pudding to make it seem as if they were crawling around the top of the dessert.
  7. Place your creations in fridge until cool. This only takes a couple of hours which allowed us to have it for dessert that evening!
  8. When ready to serve, I also topped our muddy creation with fresh mint leaves from my new herb garden!

Sweet Skills for Parents and/or Kids

Learning one’s way around the kitchen is an incredibly important skill which I’m very quickly learning with my family. With the hectic lifestyles we all used to have, and the fact that take-out was easier and more available than ever, the unfortunate result was that we were simply spending less time in the kitchen. This new self-sustaining lifestyle has taught me a few things about kitchen preparedness, different measuring methods, and how to grow my own herbs (to be blogged next time)!

In addition to learning how to make your own meals, working in the kitchen promotes many other positive aspects of children’s development. By encouraging my older child, Grizzly Bear, to help me read and follow recipes, I’ve been helping him develop his math skills, vocabulary, and social skills, not to mention helping him learn his way around the kitchen too! By promoting this fun and rewarding experience, you too can provide your child with important life-long skills!

Appetizing Extras

Looking to make your own instant pudding mix? Check this out for use in this recipe and storage for later days. All that’s needed is to mix 1¼ cups of sugar, 1 cup of cornstarch, 1 cup of milk powder, ¼ cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt. Store in an airtight container for later use! When ready to make your pudding, boil 2 cups of milk with ½ cup of your mixture in a saucepan then simmer for about 5 minutes. Let it cool in a bowl for 10 minutes before serving. Also, if you don’t like that skin that forms at the top of the pudding, press clingwrap to the surface of the pudding before putting in the fridge to cool. Works like a charm!

Exquisite Farewell

Well, I’m sure it goes without saying, this was a fantastic birthday treat for everyone and the kids really enjoyed telling the story of its creation!

I hope this cake makes you eager to try something new too – or at least brings back memories of your favourite childhood treats! Please reach out if you have a favourite birthday cake recipe you want to share! All the best and stay safe!

Making a Birdhouse

Photo courtesy of Birds and Blooms.

 

The other day, I was visiting my parents when my Dad came in from the garage with a little pile of wood, nails, and a hammer under his arm. He had recently been building a new fence from cedar and had an extra board left over – perfect for making a birdhouse he said! My boys were so excited to help their Grandpa build the birdhouse and get a little taste for woodworking too. And Grandpa was also very impressed with their knowledge and familiarity with tools (I reminded him that their Dad was also an avid woodworker and that they had built me a few birdhouses over the years for Mother’s Day). Well, he said, this should be easy!

My Dad started showing them the pieces and tools. Not every birdhouse is built the same, and all are unique. However, these were the materials he used!

Materials

One 5’ (60”) cedar fence board. Although not necessary, cedar is naturally durable and can outlast the outdoor elements better than most other types of wood, even without protective finishing. It won’t hurt the birds that will hopefully find your project worthy to raise their young and won’t harm your child if he/she decides to take a bite like little Polar Bear!

Hammer

Ruler/measuring tape

1-1/2” Finishing Nails

One heavy picture hanger

Hand Saw. Home centres like Home Depot and Rona will do one cut/piece of wood for free, but if you explain the project, they’ll likely do all of them!

Means of drilling a 1” hole. Again, most home centres will drill a hole for you if you explain the project!

Baby oil for finishing. Baby oil is also another non-toxic finish that makes your project stand out a little, smell pretty, and give your young child a fun, rather non-messy task!

Here are the steps to building a birdhouse with your little one. A little bit of prep is required before inviting your young one to the table though. These first few strides (Steps 1 through 5) are best done on your own, or with a second adult there purely for supervision purposes as you won’t be able to watch both your child and your fingers at the same time! Again, if you don’t have a saw or drill, try taking your project to a home centre for a little bit of free help!

Photo courtesy of Birds and Blooms.

 

Saws and Cuts

Step 1:

If using a saw, cut two 10 inch lengths from your board. These will make up the front and roof of your birdhouse. The remaining length should be 40 inches.

Step 2:

Drill a hole in the centre of the front board. Usually a 1 inch hole works great for black-capped chickadees or birds of similar size. If the hole is too big, you may attract a different kind of bird or even a squirrel!

Step 3:

Cut one 7 ¾ inch length from your board. This piece is the back of the house. The remaining length should be 32 ¼ inches.

Step 4:

Cut one 4 inch length from your board. This will be the floor. The remaining length of board should be 28 ¼ inches.

Step 5:

Finally, cut one 18 inch length. The remaining piece of your board will be scrap – or the start of another project as my husband likes to think of it!

On the 18 inch board, make one mark at 10 inches on the left side. Transfer your measuring tape/ruler to the right side of the board and make a mark at 8 inches. Connect the two marks with a line (which will be a diagonal line). Make your cut on this line. This will make up the walls of the birdhouse.

Photo courtesy of Birds and Blooms.

 

Hammer and Nails

This was the part in which Grandpa invited the boys to help. They all sat on the floor with rapt attention and my Dad let them both have a go with the hammer as he held the nail in place (a very brave man indeed!). He always started and finished the nails off to help the project along and keep the boys from losing focus too. It was a pretty awesome and creative project for the group! Here’s how he did it:

Step 6:

Align one wall with the front of the birdhouse and nail them together with a nail at the top and bottom of each piece. Then everyone gets a turn as you repeat this process until you have all walls together. My older Grizzly Bear became a little bossy as he directed the crew and pieces!

Step 7:

Insert the floor of the birdhouse between the walls, and hammer into place. You can do the same for the roof too!

Step 8:

 

Nail the hanger into the centre of the back wall of your birdhouse.

Step 9:

This step is particularly fun for the littler ones. Use paper towel to dab baby oil over the project to give it a nice finish. It will turn the wood a slightly darker colour, so don’t be shocked if your project suddenly resembles a masterpiece!

Step 10:

Place a nail into your desired fence post and hang the birdhouse. Then spread seed on the ground in front of it. Be careful not to put birdseed directly into the birdhouse. I made this mistake a few years go. It only attracted visitors eager for a feast, not a couple eager to raise a family.

Lastly, keep an eye out for your little visitors! There’s nothing better than doing a little birdwatching with your own little chicks in the early months of spring!

Cooped Up With Kids

The new normal of social distancing coupled with the abysmal springless weather has been making my family feel unnaturally penned up! In fact, as soon as the shops and recreation facilities around us started closing, I got panicked texts from some of my mom friends. “What are we going to do all day if we can’t leave the house?” was a common question.

Unsurprisingly, my family and I have dived into a few new activities to keep ourselves entertained and active! The ideas came from a few coworkers, mom friends, family members, and internet searches. If you are looking for some fun things to do with kids while you’re stuck at home, here are some ideas!

The Royal Tyrell Museum

For Polar Bear’s 3rd birthday, which is coming up in May, my family was planning on making a trip to the Royal Tyrell Museum. Unfortunately, the museum isn’t anticipated to be reopening any time soon but we were able to find this little virtual gem! Take a grand tour at your own pace without leaving the house! You’ll feel like you’re really out and get a chance to educate the little ones while you’re at it – click here.

Start a Garden

Get spring going with a little indoor garden! My family and I started with herbs that sprout really quick, like cilantro and parsley. They go great on any pasta dish and allow us to experience a little spring activity. Add to the garden with your favourite vegetables. You can start the fun indoors with potters and move them outside when the right weather arrives.

Teach your Pet a New Trick

Our family pet is a nine year old dog. She is incredibly smart and as my munchkins grow, they are taking on more of an active role in her care. We started teaching her a few new tricks in our free time, involving her more in our family routines and giving her more attention! My boys really like watching her learn more tricks and she loves the resulting treats!

Create a Family Tree

With the present secluded nature of the world, it’s hard for the family to keep up with our social lives, and the little ones seem to forget friends and family quickly (my older Grizzly Bear was playing MarioKart and told me his ‘friends’ – the NPCs – were winning the game). That’s when I decided to help my boys make a family tree! It helps if you have a printer or pictures of your family to cut out and glue to the tree, it helps them understand who they are and who their family is! Beware though! Too much knowledge has led Grizzly Bear to start calling Grandpa “Mom’s Dad.”

Make a Maze

This timeless game of making a maze on the floor using painter’s tape is a great game for those active kids, especially those too young to read clues in a more advanced treasure hunt. If you have a big space and a little kid, the maze can be for them. If it’s a little space and multiple kids, let the munchkins drive cars or roll balls through the maze. I also brought their new favourite movie, Disney’s Onward, into play by giving them wooden spoons for wizard’s staffs, making little bridges, and placing an orange ball at the end for the Pheonix Gem. They loved it!

Note: If your kids are really into this and you want to enchant it up, write secret messages to them and leave them within the maze using lemon juice invisible ink! Find the secret recipe here.

Have a Tea Party

My kids and I have gotten into tea parties as part of our afternoon snack. It gives me a break from work and a fun get-together for the family. My son’s started quoting a scene from the original Toy Story too – asking me, Mrs. Nesbitt, if I would like some more tea! Adorable. It’s helped them learn some table manners too!

Wii Play and Wii Fit

With the current weather and closed recreation centres, it’s been a challenge for the whole family to get exercise. Luckily, my husband was able to find our old Wii and a couple of active games. My sons’ only foray into the video game world thus far has been Mariokart. With these active games, we’ve now enjoyed tennis, fishing, yoga, and other strength training games. It’s been a great way to get exercise and have fun!

Spring Cleaning

Not everyone’s favourite activity but this extra time at home has really helped my husband and I tackle some much needed home organizing. It’s even helped us save a bit of money too! Rather than driving back and forth to work, going out for dinner, shopping for new items, and spending on recreational activities, we’ve been spending more time with each other and saving funds! This gave me the idea to get some tasks done that I normally wouldn’t have time for, such as repairing old toys and clothing, things that would be too cumbersome normally and would result in purchasing new items! Now my kids and I are fixing things, having fun, learning a bit, and saving money! What a show stopper!

Enclosed

See anything on this short list that inspires you? Notice anything missing? Tell us all about it! We’d love to hear more ideas or know what you and your family are up to! It’s important to feel connected while still staying safe! Give us your ideas to share with others or give us a shout to let us know something new you’ve tried. Hope to hear from your family soon!

COVID-19 Food Assistance Information

In response to the unprecedented burden citizens are facing in light of the Covid-19 outbreak, the City of Edmonton has provided the public with a list of grocery and food resources for those in need of food and grocery assistance during this crisis. If you are in need of food donations or grocery shopping assistance, please consult the list below for information on the resources being made available.

For information on the financial support services available please visit here.

Food Donation/Assistance Resources

Edmonton Food Bank

www.edmontonsfoodbank.com

IFSSA Halal Food Hamper

www.ifssa.ca/food-bank

(IFSSA) is in partnership with Edmonton’s Food Bank. Call: (780) 900-2777

Fresh Routes

www.freshroutes.ca/delivery-request/,

Fresh Routes delivers food baskets at no to low cost depending on eligibility. If you are in isolation and are unable to get fresh food, call Steve at 403-249-8350 for help.

Grocery Store Information

Costco (All locations)

www.costco.ca

Senior Hours: 8am – 9am Tue & Thu (over 60+ age or disability)
Regular Hours: 9am – 8:30pm Weekdays | Sat 9am – 6pm | Sun 9am – 5pm

IGA (9106 142 St NW)

www.west.iga.ca/stores/iga-andys-valleyview/

Senior Hours: 8am – 9am Everyday
Regular Hours: 9am – 8pm Mon – Sat | Sun 9am – 7pm

Safeway (All locations)

www.safeway.ca

Seniors Hours: 8am – 9am Weekdays
Regular Hours: 9am – 8pm Everyday

Save On Foods (All locations)

www.saveonfoods.ca

Seniors Hours: 7am – 8am Everyday
Regular Hours  8am – 8pm Everyday

Superstore (All locations)

www.realcanadiansuperstore.ca

Seniors Hours: 7am – 8am Tue & Fri
Regular Hours: 8am – 8pm Everyday

Grocery Delivery/Pickup Services

 

Good Food: Meal ingredients and recipes delivered weekly

Instacart: Grocery delivery service, their shoppers will buy food and deliver to your door.

Save on Foods Online: Pick up & Delivery options

Superstore PC Express: Order online, grab and go at store or pick up locations

The Organic Box: Order online, focus on local, organic, and health food, including local farm fresh and organic produce boxes. Delivery available.

COVID-19 Financial Assistance Information

In response to the unprecedented financial burden citizens are facing in light of the Covid-19 outbreak, the City of Edmonton has provided the public with a list of resources for those in need of financial assistance during this crisis. If you are in need of financial assistance, please consult the list below for information on the resources being made available.

For more information on available food donation and grocery shopping support services please visit here. 

Employment Insurance

Employment Insurance: sickness benefits

Government of Canada: Apply as soon as you can after you stop working

For Canadians without paid sick leave (or similar workplace accommodation) who are sick, quarantined or forced to stay home to care for children, the Government is:

  • Waiving the one-week waiting period for those individuals in imposed quarantine that claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. This temporary measure is in effect as of March 15, 2020.
  • Waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits

Alberta Government Emergency Isolation Support

Alberta – Emergency Isolation Support Package

Starting March 23rd, Albertans will be able to apply online for and receive $572 from the emergency isolation support package starting next week which is meant to act as a backstop until federal payments come in April. Eligibility will be based on the Government of Alberta’s criteria for self-isolation, and include those who are the sole caregiver of a dependent who is in self-isolation.

Government of Canada Emergency Care Benefit

Emergency Care Benefit apply through CRA MyAccount portal

Introducing the Emergency Care Benefit providing up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks. This flat-payment Benefit would be administered through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and provide income support to:

  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
  • Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school or daycare closures, and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI or not.

Application for the Benefit will be available in April 2020, and require Canadians to attest that they meet the eligibility requirements. They will need to re-attest every two weeks to reconfirm their eligibility. Canadians will select one of three channels to apply for the Benefit:

  • by accessing it on their CRA MyAccount secure portal;
  • by accessing it from their secure My Service Canada Account; or
  • by calling a toll free number equipped with an automated application process.

Utilities Assistance

Utility – 3 month deferral

Utility payment holiday: Residential customers can defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for the next 90 days to ensure no one will be cut off, regardless of the service provider.

This includes City of Edmonton Waste fees

Child Photography

Children are always so photographic, with their dimply smiles, wild hair, and endless playfulness. I’ve always wanted to cover my walls in photographs of my children – what parent doesn’t! And with the numerous social media platforms enabling us to share pictures with others, it’s nice to be able to send the best pictures of my kids to my family. However, even with the easy access to photographic children and shareable media, it’s still difficult because children never seem to stop moving!

Nonetheless, over the last couple of years, I’ve met some moms who’ve given me some pro tips on being a successful amateur child photographer. I’ve used quite a few of these different tactics and have found that some work very well at catching that perfect emotional or adventurous portrait. So, I’ve compiled them here for you too, in the hopes that you get what you desire – the perfect picture of your family!

Cameras for Candids

Before getting started, be sure to be familiar with the camera and scenery that you are using. Cameras range in both price and practicality. The camera on a smartphone is a great choice if not looking to invest in something bigger but it has a few limitations when taking shots of moving or shadowy targets. Compact cameras are great for busy families and can be purchased on a budget. I’ve always liked simple cameras that aren’t too difficult to use as whipping it out fast is imperative for those once-in-a-lifetime shots. But the bigger and more functional cameras can also allow you to get stunning candids that can be blown up for a big wall canvas. You can find more on camera types here.

Personally, I use a Nikon D5300 as it was given to me as a gift. This camera generally runs around $500 so it’s actually on the cheaper side of the spectrum. It’s given me some astounding photos of my children though and has been simple to use and adjust for my needs. I believe as long as you are familiar with your camera, it should do you well!

Portrait Particulars

As for scenery, lighting is your object of manipulation. For the best and brightest photos, I always take pictures outside on cloudless days. This provides the best backdrop and lighting to highlight my children’s activities. Almost every photograph is wall worthy if taken outside I’ve found. However, not all memories are made in the wonderful outdoors. Some of my best captured images were taken indoors with bright lighting, natural light, or mirrors.

Natural light and artificial light tend to mix unwell, giving harsh undertones or strange shadows to a picture. I try to choose one or the other when trying to get the perfect shot. Natural light that comes through your windows is soft and mood captivating. Artificial light, when it’s bright and everywhere, can produce outstanding photos (ever wonder why the best selfies are shot in bathrooms)? Mirrors can also provide more light to a shot, if your child will look into one long enough!

The Uncooperative Child

Now that we’ve covered the minor basics (the easy part), let’s look at how to capture candids of those moving targets! Not every kid wants to have their own personal parental paparazzi, so catching them in the zone can be a little tricky. Here are those pro tips from the moms I’ve met with some photographing experience!

  1. Embrace Their Desires

To get your desired picture, you’ve got to give a little! What do your children love to do most in the world? Is it dressing up as a superhero? Jumping wildly into a pile of leaves? Cuddling on the couch with their favourite stuffed animal? Let them do it while you snap away to get that perfect portrait! Letting them do exactly what they want will put the biggest smile on their face and will also help you capture the memory of their favourite pastime. A win-win!

  1. Play a Game

This little trick of misdirection can work wonders on tantrums, chores, and even photography! Invent a game to get your child to do the image you’re trying to capture. If you want a running shot, throw a soccer ball. If you want a goofy shot, play Simon-says with them. If you must have a messy shot, help them finger-paint a picture. Make a game out of the picture and watch them get creative!

  1. Time Your Work

Your child or children do have a schedule to keep. It may not be as diligent as yours, or as precise, but it does make a huge difference in their lives if the schedule is disrupted. You will never get the goofy shots when your child is tired, or the cuddly shots when your child is playful. Work to the schedule you’ve built for them already and you will have tons more luck nabbing that perfect candid!

  1. Let Them be the Photographer

Every child is curious, always wanting to see or do what their parent is doing. Give them a chance behind the lens if they should give this indication. It could help quench their thirst for knowledge a smidge and also give you an opportunity to get a selfie! My children have had so many opportunities to take photos now that they happily let me snap away and then come see the photos afterwards!

Kinds of Candids

There are many different kinds of photography – landscape, architectural, sports, wildlife, aerial, etc.

But when it comes to my kids, I’ve landed on a few that make my heart melt to look at. I’ve listed them as well, and my tips on how to capture them for your wall!

  1. Action Shots

I love taking photos of my kids when they are in the middle of playing particularly active games. To do this without getting a blurry photo, I had to try a few different things. One, I learned the best action shots are taken outside. If taken inside, I had to really brighten my home! Next, I had to focus the camera’s centre on my child. This meant I would not be able to get a photo of them running past me, but more a photo of them running at me. Last, I had to increase my camera’s shutter speed and turn on the continuous shooting mode. These functions are typically on every camera other than phone cameras. If you are using a phone camera, the other tip you can try is to shoot often. This is not an ideal solution but sometimes you will catch that one-in-a-million shot!

  1. Silhouette Shots

Another type of fun shot that can be produced by manipulating lighting is the silhouette shot. I find silhouette shots (or black and white photos) make the best dramatic pictures. Many moms-to-be or new moms get these dramatic shots taken of them, and they make lovely, soft, emotional photos. Other silhouette shots that are hilarious (and super contrasting to the softer photos) are the imaginary play shots. I think the best ones are when children dress up in their favourite costumes and act out their wildest imaginary stories. These are likely the most fun indoor shots for toddlers and preschoolers too!  Turn out the lights, and let the natural lights from the windows make shadows of your kids on the walls. Try to capture both your child and their shadow in the shot. They will love to make more for you once they see what you’re trying to achieve!

  1. Sensitive Shots

I have found that these photos are the easiest ones to take as they only seem to require dramatic lighting and cuddly child. To get the best results, I like to use dark backgrounds for black and white photos (coupled with dark clothing colours and your child’s face will really stand out). If you want a colourful sensitive photo, I also like to shoot with the sun behind my child. It makes for a pretty neat silhouette portrait that’s soft and dreamy in nature.

  1. Portraits

Portraits are easy to take if your child is unnaturally cooperative! They often require a steady hand and a large pile of chocolate for bribery purposes. I find any camera is able to handle these shots too, especially if taken one of two ways: have your child look up at you while you take the picture (vertical shot) or use a mirror for horizontal shots. The vertical shot, when you’re standing and looking down at your child, emphasizes your child’s eyes. Children naturally have large heads and their eyes tend to pop when looking up. These photos make heart-melting portraits. The horizontal shot, just a simple head-on photo, is easiest to take in a mirror I find. You take the photo of the mirror while your child looks into it. This prop helps scatter light all over your child’s face while giving them something to focus on.

  1. Scenery Shots

These shots are also particularly easy to take but require good lighting and a pleasant backdrop, such as the golden hour and the glorious outdoors. These shots focus less on individuals and more on the group, perfect for family action shots! Get the gang together for their favourite pastime and snap away! Shoot away from the sun during the golden hour. The golden hour is the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset. This time period makes soft, warm pictures. To get more vibrant pictures, I take pictures in the middle of the day and then play with the camera effects to enhance the colours. It helps to focus on one colour, like the background, to do this. Use elevation to your advantage, like being at the bottom of a hill and looking up at everyone to catch the blue sky, or vice versa, to catch the green grass.

Snappy Happy

Well there you have it! Please feel free to use any of these tips to get that perfect picture of the child or family! Also, please don’t forget that I’m still learning the ins and outs of the child photography world and any tips for me are greatly appreciated! Leave your comment for the KARA family or just for me! All are welcome and happy photographing!