Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday I'm in Love - BeginAgain Alphabet Puzzles

They're new, they're bright and they are making my day. The shop just got a bunch of BeginAgain's new alphabet puzzles in and they are just so cute! Incredibly colourful and vibrant they are the perfect tonic for today's grey sky day.

Made of responsibly sourced Rubber wood (you know I love that!) each of the 26 pieces in each puzzle has one letter of the alphabet - one one side in uppercase,on the other lowercase. Each is carefully crafted and stained with child safe stain and comes in it's own beech wood box for easy tidy up and display.

Problem is, I can't decide which is my favorite! The dino, no... the butterfly... no, the, butterfly... *sigh*... see, I can't decide. Which do you prefer?

Monday, November 12, 2012

World Kindness Day

Today is World Kindness Day. It's a day look beyond ourselves, beyond the boundaries of our country, our cultures, races, and religions and realize we are an extended community. A world family. It's a day to practice random acts of kindness. A day to recognize that one simple act can change the world.

Seems impossible. How can one act make such a difference? But just think- there are over 7 billion people in the world. If for one day just 1% of those people made a point to do something extra, something  kind, made a positive d change in the way they related to others, maybe took the time to help a stranger. Could you imagine how much change could happen? How much happy? The world would be an immeasurably better place. We' probably have at least 140 million happy people - beneficiary and at least one benefactor.  And since those recipients of others kindness would be more likely to pay it forward it becomes exponential and those around them might get the bug to do something kind. It can bes infectious - just like a smile.

So it's a big thought that just needs a small act. You don't need to give a million dollars like Lady Gaga did to make a difference (course if you have it to spare it's a great idea!), maybe you have some food to share or simply some time to help someone. Every small act counts in this big world.

If your short of ideas there are many places to find inspiration. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation's website is full of ideas and stories. It's a great place to be inspired and even has a section for educators to bring kindness into the classroom through activities and lesson plans.  And then there's blogs like 366 Random Act of Kindeness where Ryan Garcia journals his daily acts to inspire.

At Little Footprints we carry Boom Boom Cards. These awesome decks of random acts of kindness are perfect to make being kind the ultimate game of goodness. I love them. I play them. Each deck has 26 cards of inspiring ideas to do and even blank cards to create your own action cards. It's a game of play-it-forward, the idea is to commit the act of kindness from the card you choose then take to the net and share your act with others on the Boom Boom site and then pass that card on to someone else. As the card goes from person to person the kindness grows and so do the stories linked to that card on the site. The most amazing thing is see how one act can move across the world and make a difference, Boom Boom's site links the cards and their stories on a world map so you can see how far your kindness can reach. With their Green deck, Teen deck, Family and Original decks there's enough inspiration to inspire great change and with all the decks costing under $20 taxes in, they make a wonderful gift to inspire others.
Boom Boom cards at Little Footprints
Sharing Random Acts of Kindness with Boom Boom Cards

So don't let the enormity of the idea that you can make the world a better place hold you back. Do one kind thing today that you normally don't do and join in the quest to make this planet a little kinder place for us all.

With love,

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday I'm In Love with Rainbows

Wooden rainbow toy
Sunrise by Glueckskaefer

It's been really rainy and damp around here lately. It's the kind of rainy that doesn't come with many bouts of sun. The kind that makes you sort of glum. It's the kind of weather that keeps you from playing in the rain because there's nothing more miserable than a wet, cold kid being pelted with icy rain - or the sniffles that are bound to come after. It's the kind of weather where it's hard to find the silver lining, impossible to find the rainbows.

Capturing a rainbow on a road-trip
The kids and I are rainbow hunters. Every chance we get after a rain we look to see if we can find one. This year was a good year for rainbows, we found quite a few, even a double rainbow one day on a long drive through Ontario.

Rainbows are great. They have led to many fun and insightful conversations with the kids. In the early days a rainbow sighting was a chance to learn our colours and their order on the colour spectrum. As the kids have gotten older our conversations have turned more to how they are made by light refraction, about how the colours blend, if all the colours are present in the rainbow we see (not always!) and my favorite rainbow conversation of all time - where do they begin and where do they end. Kids have such wonderful imaginations and hearing them build stories around these places is always such a joy.

But it's not rainbow weather now and we don't know when or where we will see a 'real' one again. So rather than wait at the window looking we have brought our beloved rainbow inside.

The shop carries Glueckskaefer Sunrises and we have one at home. Made in Germany from sustainably sourced woods and non-toxic stains, this beautiful rainbow fills our den with colour and inspires our imagination. Sanded smooth and splinter free, this natural wood rainbow is beautiful enough to display and full of endless cheery fun. Both my 5 year old and my 8 year old enjoy the creative challenge it offers and it's limitless possibilities. Me, the ever geeky mom, loves watching them learn about balance as they try to build beautiful precarious structures challenging each other and themselves. Like the inuckshucks we see at our nearby beach, along the highway and annually at the Ex, the beauty of the build is found in the balance, the patience and the peace one needs needed to make it.

And it isn't just fun for kids, adults like me and their dad also love to see what we can build and if it will fall.

Balance build rainbow toy
A challenge at all levels
So as we hunker down for the on-coming winter it's nice to know all the pleasures of our beloved rainbows are not lost in the cold dark damp of the oncoming winter but alive and well in our hearts and our home as we play together.

A silver lining found in a simple toy, there's nothing I love more.

Thanks for stopping by.
I wish you a happy day full of rainbows and love,

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mid-Week At My Place - Making bread the easy way.

I am very much enamored with homesteading. If you haven't heard the term before, homesteading is about getting back to basics and among those basics are making food from scratch and clothes yourself. While I love the idea and dream of my very own plot of land where I can have chickens and food gardens I live an urban life in the heart of Toronto. Chickens are not allowed (yet) and my backyard's a shaded postage stamp. Even if I could have chickens (to my husbands horror I've planned in my head how to use some of our garage as a coop) I'm pretty sure the racoons would dispatch my flock lickety-split. And like many other working urbanites my time to make food and sew my own clothes is limited - about as limited as my sewing skills!

But one thing I am able to do on a very regular basis is make fresh baked bread and one of my favorite breads to make comes from Michael Smith from the Food Network. I saw him make this "no kneed bread" couple years ago by chance and have become a fan of his since.

This month I got to tell Chef Smith how great his bread it when I met him at Blissdom, a social media event held annually in Toronto where he was promoting lentils (*yumm*). I was so excited to tell him how much we loved his bread. He was excited to see what my green streaked hair would do with the green screen he was posing for pictures in front of. In case your wondering it went from this
Me with Chef Smith. Green hair and green screen

to this
I'm blue!
But back to bread!

The recipe so simple it's insane. I can recite it by memory, and here it goes:

In a big bowl I add 3 cups white flour, 1 cup whole wheat, 1/2 cup other grains (which I blitz in my magic bullet for the sake of my texture sensitive kid), 1/2 tsp active dry yeast, 1 1/2 tsp salt - I use ground sea salt, and 2 1/4 cups warm water. My grains and flour are all organic but you can use conventional of course. Mix until it's all a goopy glob, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it in a quiet place in the house for 18 or so hours. Once  the waiting game is done the goop/dough doubles in size and I take it out of the bowl onto a floured surface and with floured hands knock it down. It's quite the wet stringy dough - don't worry about that. At this point you have a couple choices as Chef Smith describes in his recipe. You can either let it rise again in a loaf pan or on a Silpat with a floured tea-towel on top. After 2 or 3 hours it has doubled again and can be baked. If you've gone the loaf pan route the oven should be at 425 and the bread goes in for 45 minutes. If you've gone with the Silpat you'll need to heat a cast iron or enamel pot with a lid in a 450 degree oven then flop your dough gently into the pot, bake for 30 minutes with the lid on then 15 minutes with the lid off.

The finished product looks like this
I would have showed you the whole loaf but it doesn't last very long around here!

The bread is dense, a bit moist, keeps well and really really good. I was asked to bake bread with my daughters class as they are learning about pioneers. I brought this recipe and it was a hit - I've even had parents come to me asking for the recipe after their kids came home raving about it. So if you've ever thought of making bread but haven't had the inclination to try I recomend you try making this bread or heck, it's so easy, get your kids to do it!

Thanks for stopping by, I'm going to go have some bread now.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday I'm In Love - The Art of Dino Rubbing

We went to the Royal Ontario Museum the other day to check out their awesome Dinosaur exhibit with friends. To make the trip a bit more fun I brought along a GLOB Artist Pad and a set of coloured pencils. My little guy brought his current favorite pen. I thought the kids might enjoy drawing bits of the exhibit but once we got inside I realized that as usual more fun is to be had when you go with the flow.

Once at the ROM my son immediately began journaling what he saw with his favorite pen.
 I just love watching him write!

When we got into the Dino exhibit we quickly discovered the images on the information plaques were raised. We figured this was for the visually impaired just like the Braille (very neat and smart the kids thought) but we immediately realized that this could make things even more fun for us too and grabbed our pencils to try a rubbing.

It worked beautifully!
Cool no?!?

The 70 lbs, 100% recycled, chlorine free GLOB paper was just thick and sturdy enough to do great rubbings without tearing or bunching. It even took well to both sides being used for rubbings.
My little guy rubbing away.
And once my daughter realized what we were up to she wanted in on it too so we tore a few pages out of the spiral sketchbook for her to run off to do her thing. When I caught up with her a bit later I saw she added her own ideas as like labeling each skeleton rubbing and even using the reliefs of people on the information plaques to define the scale on her drawings just like on the plaque.

Bringing the sketch pad made the exhibit even more fun and interactive for us and we've produced some great kid art that I'm looking forward to hanging on my wall.
GLOB Art Pad - Little Footprints Toystore