Monday, September 30, 2013

celebrating sukkot (or trying to)

Sukkot, which is a harvest festival that lasts seven days, is one of my favorite jewish holidays, and it involves building a dwelling the backyard where you eat all (or most of) your meals and you are encouraged to camp out in it as well. I have lofty plans of one day building a beautiful one and decorating it with the kids and sleeping in it every night, but we are not quite there yet. Maybe some of these will be our inspiration.  

The boys made this sukkah, which I am pretty sure doesn't qualify as a proper sukkah according to jewish law, but it worked for us this year. Hopefully in future years when there isn't a lovely little baby hanging all over us, we will have the time to make something a little more sturdy and well equipped for the inevitable rainy weather we have this time of year. The first night or two of sukkot was pleasantly sunny and beautiful, so we barbecued and feasted and enjoyed our time in the backyard. And then the rains started and the baby knocked the sukkah over (whoops!),  so we headed indoors for the rest of the week. But, it was certainly fun while it lasted. 


Friday, September 27, 2013

sunday's baking

Every Sunday since the school year has started, I do most of the baking for the week. This week it was a french yogurt cake (similar to this one, but without any glaze), our favorite granola (I will post a recipe soon) and pumpkin muffins. Everything was delicious and served us well for breakfast, snacks, and dessert throughout the week. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

september tradition: vaux's swifts in portland

Every year since I have lived in Portland, I have gone to watch the swifts. I used to live a few blocks away from the school where they roost, and would walk there most nights to watch it all unfold. It is truly amazing to watch, and I love creating the tradition with my family to visit the swifts every autumn. 

So here is the story: every September thousand of migratory birds (named Vaux's swifts) stop in Portland on their way to Central America. Since the 1980's they have been roosting in a chimney at an elementary school, and hundreds of people come to watch them near sunset as they fly into the chimney to roost. I can't really explain how incredible it is to see, but the birds transform from the tiny swirling black dots in the sky to these massive groups of spiraling birds flying around and into the brick chimney. Every night, there will be a hawk or falcon that swoops in to catch a bird, and it causes gasps of excitement from the crowd. Here is a little more information, and there was a documentary made as well. 

So every year we pack a picnic and a blanket and some cardboard. The dry grass hill is covered with children sliding down it on cardboard and in boxes. The boy loves it and we let him run wild while we settle down and watch. It is super crowded, but I love it anyways. And I love that I live in a city where  every September, hundreds of people come out as the sun sets to watch some birds. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

after school art projects: salt paintings

Kindergarten has certainly been a change for my boy. The day is long for him and I know he misses unstructured play time at home. His school is amazing and I think he will grow to love it and learn so much, but it is definitely a big transition for him. He has been having a hard time in the mornings, wishing to linger at home, instead of getting ready for the day and heading out the door. Often bedtime will come and he will protest because he didn't get to do a certain project or he will suddenly remember something very important that he wanted to do. It's a disappointment to him when we don't have time.  

So, I have been trying to talk to him in the morning about fun things he wants to do after school. The main thing he misses since starting kindergarten is making lots of art. At his preschool he could spend all morning creating, but his new school is much more structured. He comes home with lots of drawings everyday but that is the extent of his art making at school so far. And I want him to have lots of time for art projects because that is his passion right now and I want to nurture his pretty amazing aptitude for it, especially if he doesn't get much time for it at school. 

On our drive to school (and sometimes the night before) I talk to him about potential projects we could work on when he gets home. I let him choose something he wants to do and I remind him to look forward to it if he is a little reluctant to head into the classroom. And then before I leave the house to pick him up, I set up our table with all the supplies we will need so it is ready when he gets home. This has been super helpful as it really allows us time to make a little art before we need to clean up and start supper. 

He is constantly making art on his own and is never out of ideas, but for these after school projects I like to give some suggestions for projects we have never done before or using materials that are new to us. I have a lot of great reference books for art projects with kids, as these are some of my favorite books to collect and own. Lately we have been diving into The Artful Parent, which is a fabulous book and website full of great ideas for making art with kids. Uzi noticed the salt paintings the other day and chose that to be our first after school project.

 It was a lot of fun, certainly more about the process than the project, and the two of us got to sit together and make some paintings while Josh and the baby played outside. Basically, you draw a picture with white glue, sprinkle it with salt and then gently touch the drawing with a paintbrush loaded with watercolor on it. The color travels down the line, and it is a great intersection between a science and an art project. Both of us were having lots of fun and made several paintings each. 

Obviously, we can't do art projects every day after school, but most days we try. And maybe some days he will prefer to sit and read a book together or bake something. But I am appreciating the connection these projects bring after a long day apart, and I am finding that planning ahead really helps us actually have the time to do the projects we want to do. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

birthdays and a new year.

Well, summer is coming to end around here. The weather is still piping hot, but school has begun and our long days at home have transformed into school drop-offs and pick-ups and early suppers and bedtimes. We had a great summer, it felt so busy and full with lots of trips and visitors. I think we have a few more weekend adventures planned, with at least one more trip to the river this weekend, but soon our hot summer days will begin to cool off and there will be apples and soups and darkness. 

I had a birthday and turned 31! The same day our first born headed to his first day of kindergarten and that evening we celebrated the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the jewish new year, with family and friends. We celebrated my birthday by heading to the beautiful Opal Creek Wilderness, where I swam in the coldest, deepest pools of gorgeous green water and climbed up huge smooth rocks. And then the next evening we headed to my favorite spot for celebrating my birthday with delicious wood fired pizza and my favorite ice cream in town

With the new year, comes time for reflection. Autumn always feels like the "real" new year to me, as opposed to the first day of January. So for our family, this is the time to celebrate and reflect. I have lots of ideas and goals for the coming year, and I am excited for all the changes this new year will bring. 

Also, if you are looking for the best apple cake in the world: it's this

Thursday, September 12, 2013

the end of summer


The last weeks of summer were filled with adventures both big and small. Collecting seeds from the garden and putting the summer garden to rest (and letting the chickens work their magic on it, before we plant some things for late fall and spring). Harvesting beets, garlic, shallots and potatoes. Eating the last raspberries and feasting on the newly ripening grapes. Gathering bowlfuls of italian plums. The baby spending most of her time in the back garden or chicken coop, finding scraps to feed the chickens and dropping them through the fence (and occasionally breaking in and grabbing handfuls of their feed to scatter around). Last batches of ice cream churned. Heading to the river for cold swims and dips while the sun still shines brilliantly. Swim lessons every day for our little otter boy. Fairy houses (and hotels) popping up all over the yard. One million tomato sandwiches. Basil on everything.

It's been a good summer. Our pantry and freezer are full of our bounty. I am thankful for all of it. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

hikes with kids: McLane Creek, Olympia

When we took our trip up north to camp at the farm, we stopped in Olympia to visit some friends, grab some snacks, and take a little hike in the forest. When I lived in Olympia, I would often go to McLane Creek to draw and explore. I have fond memories of dipping my feet in the cold creek with a friend and throwing rocks into the mud across the water. It is a great little loop hike through wetlands, a pond, the forest and a creek. There is a nice little boardwalk across the marshy areas with little observation decks overlooking the pond, which is fun for the little ones. I had been wanting to take Uzi there for a long time and I thought this trip was the perfect opportunity to stop by and visit. 

The kids both loved it. Uzi was off looking for beavers and orange-bellied salamanders, and Shoshi just sat in the cold water and played with rocks. We ate some red huckleberries along the way and tried to catch some little fish. It is a beautiful, easy, and fun hike for the kiddos, well worth a stop if you are in the area. In autumn you can see the salmon spawning in the creek, and in the spring the ponds are filled with tree frogs and red-winged blackbirds flying amongst the cattails. Hopefully we will make another trip up north to go mushroom hunting in the fall and we will stop by the creek and explore some more.