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The Great Outdoors

After almost two weeks since the return of our family camping trip, I am finally beginning to feel the return of our daily rhythms. While I am still catching up on what was a living room full of dirty clothes and blankets, waking and naptime have returned to their regular times, weekly chores are getting done, and I am finding myself with a little bit of free time once again. Whew!

However hectic it was to return from the trip, I must say, it is always worth it. Besides a few setbacks, our trip couldn’t have been more perfect. Although initially setting out for Glacier National Park, our plans were abruptly changed when two nights before departure, I decide to check the weather. Outlook did not look good. Freak weather rolled into the park, creating thunderstorms, highs of 50 and lows of 27 (not your ideal camping weather I must say). While the thunderstorms were certainly no reason to change plans, sleeping in a tent with 27 degrees was. I don’t even like to sleep in my HOUSE at 27 degrees! Although disappointed, we turned to the internet in search of a no-too-far locale where we could spend the week camping. It didn’t take us too long to find what seemed to be a perfect site inside Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Nestled in between Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams, we found a remote campground located on the lower falls of the Lewis River; the Lower Falls Recreation Area to be exact.  The next morning, we got in the car and headed south about three and a half hours. While there were only 40 sites at the campground, when we arrived on a Monday afternoon, there were plenty of sites to choose from. The sites were large and private. Easily able to hold five tents. The only visible sight of your neighbors was a flicker of their campfire and the falls were loud enough to be heard form all parts of the campground. The so-called “no-smell” composing toilets were close, yet far enough not to smell them. Perfect!

Here is a shot taken when we arrived. It took us some time to set up camp and scout out the place, so we decided to just relax and hang out by the river above the falls. DSC_0237

 

The next morning, we woke up (parents of toddler’s lingo for “woken up”) early and started out on what we thought was a hike down south to Big Creek Falls. However, an hour into the hike, we realized we went the wrong way and decided just to make the best of it. After about 5 miles of hiking, we decided to rest up on a bluff at the highest point on the trail. At that point, Liam was ready to turn around. What a beautiful sight though. (For pictures sake, I think I need to invest in a graduated density filter so that I can capture both the foreground and the sky without the sky being so overexposed… the list never ends). DSC_0270

The next day, was a big day. We decided to take a little road trip (about 25 miles) to get closer to Mt. St Helens and to explore the Indian Wilderness. First stop: Mt. St Helens.  Here she is in all her glory. Absolutely breathtaking!DSC_0286

 

Second stop: The Trail of Two Forests. Very cool. It is basically a location in Mt. St Helens where the lava had started to cool. Because if this, the lava didn’t completely wipe out the forest, but instead went around the trees. When it cooled completely, and the trees eventually died, it left huge holes and lava tubes (for the dead trees on the ground) where the trees once stood. There were also caves from where the lava cooled and eventually the cracked. I will be posting more pics of this on my Flickr page as it was truly one of the highlights of the trip. DSC_0308

 

Here is a 30 foot lave tube that I crawled through. It was dark, cold, and scary. You never think you’re afraid of closed spaces until you climb in a lave tube. DSC_0315

Next stop: Indian Heaven Wilderness. This hike is supposed to be a haven for huckleberries in late July and August. Offering some amazing views of Mt Adams and Mt. Hood, it is one of the best hikes in Washington. However, I so wish I was warned about the first mile and a half of some serious incline. I guess the huckleberries and the vistas are your reward 🙂 Here is a view of Mt Adams. DSC_0320

 

From this vista, you could see both Adams and Hood. However, my camera lens was not wide enough (and probably never will be after looking at the price of the lens) to capture both peaks. Below is Mt Hood. DSC_0317

 

The next day we decided to take it easy and do a 3 1/2 mile hike up to the Upper Falls of the Lewis River. Although almost losing our dog over a waterfall (the most panic stricken 10 minutes of my life), we managed to resuce her and make it up to the upper falls for a nice lunch. DSC_0483

After almost a week of eating really healthy, sustainable snacks and meals, we decided to stay longer and needed to restock at the local general store. As you can imagine, word of the food revolution has not spread to Cougar. Although I will say that there’s something to be said about eating canned green beans off a camp stove. Washed down with some diabetes-inducing homemade marshmallows, you feel like your…. well….. CAMPING! DSC_0515

Our New Friends

A few weeks ago, my neighbor informed me of some visitors we have in the Arboretum and I could not wait to meet them! I took Liam to their usual hang out spot before dark and we got to meet these beautiful adolescent barred owls. How amazing is it that these little guys are hanging out less than a five minute walk from our house!

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 They let us get really close. In fact, one of them was right over my head for the first ten minutes I was there and I had no idea! This species of owl are quite large and their wingspan is amazing. They were fascinated by Liam and were following his every move. I wasn’t able to find the parents, but I could sure hear them. There is a slight sound difference between the parents and the adolescents. These guys are getting ready for a good night’s hunt. The one below was the first I spotted when I arrived.

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As I was posting these, I did notice that the pics are a little blurry. I was shooting with a brand new telephoto lens that unfortunately does not have the VR I need for shooting them in low light. The one with VR cost about 300 dollars more! Being the pro that I am not, I could have changed the aperature and produced a much clearer shot. Next time I will just bring my tripod. Here’s another shot I took that may be a bit clearer.

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There’s something so tranquil about large bodies of water. I am not sure if it is the thought of them extending on for miles, wondering what is on the other side, or the simplicity of the sound. Its mystique drew me to the writings of  Thoreau, Emerson, and other Transcendentilists.  On really nice days, or days that we need some serenity, I take Liam and Dylan there and the three of us just relax. There’s no place quite like Seattle in the summer. 

On our way…..

On Our Way

gotta hold his hand….Hold My Hand

we finally arrive…at the pond

These toes were just too cute not to captureDSC_0054

I recently embarked on a journey into the world of sock dolls. Every time we were out and near dolls, it seemed that Liam was drawn to them. He enjoyed pointing out where the mouth was, the ears, the nose, etc. He even took it upon himself to give them little kisses. I knew right away that I had to learn how to make him one. I checked out some Wald0rf-inspired doll making books from the library and it seemed like the easiest one to make was a sock doll. I think if down the road, I ever have a girl, I would love to make her one of those beautiful traditional Waldorf dolls, but I thought this one would be just fine for Liam.

I think it is really important for ALL children to have at least one doll. I think many people in our society worry needlessly that letting your little boy play with a doll will “feminize” him in some way. It’s almost like they forget that little boys become daddies just as frequently as little girls become mommies. It is sad that somewhere along the way, teaching your son to be nurturing became taboo. With that said, lets take a look at Liam’s little man.

From this….Sock Doll Start

To this…. P6282001

 

 I still haven’t figured out what I want to do with his head. Hmm.. I made him a beanie hat, but when I put it on, I am not sure that I like how it looks. I am thinking of adding some hair, but right now, my craft closet is void of yellow yarn. Oh well, most babies dont have much hair anyways 🙂

Summer Craftin’

My recent obsession is crafts. Although it has been something that I’ve taken up a serious interest in since giving birth to Liam (and discovering Etsy), I’ve really only dabbled in a few projects here and there. Over the past few months, however, I have been doing a lot of research into Waldorf education and “unschooling“. Natural crafts (felting, knitting,  wood crafts, projects made from nature) are an integral part of the Waldorf program. In fact, it seems that one of the basic methodologies is that learning actually comes through artistic expression. Since I plan on homeschooling Liam at least for the first few years, I feel that by the time he starts school, I would like to have some tricks up my sleeve when it comes to crafting. Plus, its super fun and rewarding! The past couple months I have been fooling around with some things and here are some of my creations.

 Waldorf Window Star

I heart stars. I just love them. So when I saw these window stars in The Children’s YearI , I just had to make some for Liam’s windows. I made this window star out of tissue paper. It was pretty easy. However, I originally put them a lot lower on the window. When Liam got a little taller, he was easily able to rip them off and so I had to throw away a bunch of stars. I quickly realized that a sturdier paper would make the star a lot easier to move around and put away at the end of the season. A few weeks ago, I found some awesome kite paper at A Child’s Dream. In the future, I will be using that paper instead of the tissue paper.

Wooden Branch Blocks

Why spend a ton of money on wooden blocks when you can make them in your own backyard? In Creative Play for Your Baby. I learned how easy it is to make these. (It would have been a lot easier had I not started this project on a 90 degree day!) I borrowed some tools from my neighbor, cut down a good sized cherry tree branch from my backyard, and used a pruning saw to cut out small blocks. What you see above is a work in progress. I still have to cut a few more, sand the edges, and apply some linseed oil for a nice finishing touch. When I am all done, Liam will have some awesome new blocks!

Felt Alphabet Letters

These letters were inspired by MiChiMa on Etsy. I happened to be surfing around on Etsy one day, and I stumbled upon this awesome idea! I wanted to purchase them, but couldn’t justify spending $50 on magnets, so I decided to make them myself! It only took me about 2 weeks to complete the project, but when you factor in working and mothering, it really wasn’t that long at all. I will say that a few of the first letters I did are a little sad looking and will be replaced, but overall I am happy with them.

Garter Stitch Washcloth

After I knitted this, I realized that I really didn’t know how to purl. I was totally entering in the knitting needle from the front, not the back. While I thought I was knitting a stockinette stitch, it turned out to be a garter. Oh well! This garter stitch washcloth was made for a very thoughtful friend. I also made her some of my homemade almond-oatmeal face scrub to go along with it. I hope she enjoys them. Since I have just learned how to shape my knitting, I will be experimenting with all kinds of farm animals for Liam this summer. My husband also put in a request for a hat so I will start working on that one too. 

I have had so much fun doing all of this that I now have a long list of crafts on my to-do list. Here are some of the things I will be working on this summer:

1) Sock Doll 

2) Felt Finger Puppets

3) Felt Bean Bags w/ letters

4) Needle Felted Farm Animals

5) Knitted Animals

I will be sure to put up some pictures of these as I complete them.

A Day in the Park

Summer solstice is here and I couldn’t be happier. Those baby ducklings are getting bigger, clover is in full bloom, and days to spend in the park seem endless. While I will surely miss the lovely spring we had here in Seattle, I am looking forward to many sunny days at Greenlake and refreshing ICED beverages like the rhubarb soda my friend M brought over a few weeks ago. The summer will also give me numerous opportunities to play with my new Nikon D2oo. Hope you enjoy the pictures.  

Liam

And aren’t those purple bottlebrush flowers just beautiful? Liam thinks so!

Purple Flowers

Although they are getting bigger, those ducklings are still clinging to their mama! Ducklings

Taking a break under the redwoods as we look for some goodies for L’s nature box.

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And boy does he love playing outstide with him mama.DSC_1146

 And after a long afternoon in the park, this is the face that sends us home and in the tub. Ahhh, a solstice well spent 🙂 DSC_1186

Dance into May!

May is one of my favorite months. Besides being the month of my birth, it is also home to May Day (my second favorite celebration of the month), Memorial Day, Cinco de Mayo, International Workers Day, and of course, Mother’s Day. With so many celebrations, where does one begin? Well, in the words of Julie Andrews, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” (are you singing yet??)

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picture by Pete Ashton

May Day:While, unfortunatley, a far overlooked holiday in the states, the first day of May is what’s termed a cross-quarter day…meaning that it falls approximately halfway between an equnox and a solstice. In ealier times, it was considered to be the first days of summer. It’s origins take root in many countries in Europe, such as Scotland, Ireland, and the upper Baltic states. While each country has a particularly unique way of celebrating this day, many of the countries also share silimiar traditions. Some of the common activities include dances (yes, around a “maypole”), special musical performances, songs, and traditional foods. At a local Waldorf school here in Seattle, they attended a mid-day festival full of singing and dancing. Many of the children and parents were adorned with crowns and tiaras made of flowers, grapevines, and ivy. Other places in America, people filled “May baskets” with flowers and small treats to be left anonomsly on someone’s doorstep. Tradition has it that if you are caught leaving the basket, you owe the “catcher” a kiss! No matter what the tradition is, the people that gather are taking time  to celebrate the return of warmth, of light, and in many places….green 🙂  

International Workers Day: Also on the first of May, International Workers Day is a day to celebrate the social achievements of the international labor movement. It is also a day to bring awareness to the host of labor battles that still need to be fought. In America, it marks the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Square Bombings . Considered a “massacre”,   it was on this day that the Chicago police force took the lives of dozens of activists that were on strike, demanding an 8 hour workday. Although Labor Day is traditionally celebrated in America in September, it was out of a fear of riots that President Cleveland moved it the following year. Many countries around the world, however, still celebrate it on the first of May with thousands of demonstrations taking place each year.

Cinco de Mayo: The fifth of May is a regional Mexican war holiday often mistakenly thought to be Mexico’s Independence Day. While the actual date of Mexican Independence is September 15th, 1810,  it was on May 5, 1862 when a Mexican army of 4,000 claimed victory over an even larger number of French forces, that had not been defeated in over 50 years. It was General Seguin that led the Mexican army in what is known as the Battle of Puebla. When the battle was over, and the French were dispelled, making them not only less of a threat to Mexico, but to the US as well. Viva!

Mothers Day: While this date need no introduction, it is typically is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. In ancient times, this day was traditionally set aside as a day to worship female goddesses. However, even the more “modern” celebration of mothers dates all the way back to antiquity. The first North American Mother’s Day was conceptualized with Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870.  Howe had become so distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War that she called on mother’s to come together and protest what she saw as the futility of their sons killing the sons of other mothers. With the following, she called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood. It took over 40 years for the first state to adopt this day as a holiday, and my has it blossomed since then! While Mother’s Day is celebrated in over 40 countries around the world, each with their own traditions and  date (not all of them are in May), not all of them spend nearly what the United States does, where it is a 14 billion dollar industry. In some countries, like Sweden, their is an emphasis on giving to charity, not just to moms.

Memorial Day: It is on this day, the last Monday in May, where we honor all those who have given their lives fighting for the United States. Originally known as Decoration Day, it began in 1868 as a day to honor the sacrifices made by those during the Civil War. Those honoring the dead would actually “decorate” the graves of those who had fallen. For the next 100 years, there were arguments as to who the day should honor and what day it should be, but in 1971, Congress declared the last Monday of May an official holiday, as a tribute to those who died in all of America’s wars.

Any days I missed??