Author Archives: eisangel3

Noodle Box

by Sara

On February 14, 2008 I bought a Rubbermaid container and 4 bags of alphabet pasta.  It was our Valentine’s day present for the, then almost-two-year-old, firefighter.  We filled the container with the noodles and several of his favourite construction vehicles and voila, our very own construction site!  Two years ago the total cost for everything was less than $20.

The firefighter, on Valentine’s day, loving the  noodle box.

Two years later we still have the same box and the same noodles.  Although many have been sacrificed to the dog and vacuum. 

The noodle box is a toy that is kept behind closed doors.  I bring it out for the firefighter when I am working.  He will put the lid beside him and take out all the toys he doesn’t want to use.  He will play happily for 30-45 minutes.

The monkey also loves the noodle box but he needs be supervised as noodles usually end up spread far and wide.  I find the fewer toys I leave in the box, the more creative (and less disastrously messy) the play is.

It makes for a great rainy day or “I need 15 minutes to get dinner ready” activity).  We also have a rubbermaid container filled with Moon sand and assorted scooping and digging toys.

Do you have any sensory box activities at your house?

Sara is mom to 4-year-old ” firefighter” and 2-year-old “monkey”.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View.

Trick or Treat to a Wicked Beat

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Apple Crisp

by Sara 

We went apple picking with Kids in the Capital on Sunday at Cannemore Orchard.  We had a great time with all our friends and came home with two huge bags of apples. 

What was the first thing we did?  We baked an apple crisp! 

It’s a recipe that I copied from my parents onto a tattered recipe card.  Its one of the first things I learned to bake.  It’s not the fanciest recipe but its the one I grew up with and the one my boys have always baked with me.  

The firefighter's favourite part

Wash and peel 4-6 medium apples.  Core and slice (thin) 

 

Melt 1/2 cup of butter and mix with:
3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon 

Second favourite part: mixing 

Grease a 9×9 pan, spread the apples slices in the bottom, and crumble the topping mixture on top.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees 

Now we wait... 

And don’t forget the vanilla ice cream.  Or frozen yogurt if you’re Losing It, like me! 

Sara is mom to 4-year-old ” firefighter” and 2-year-old “monkey”.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View.

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Versatile Muffin Mix

by Sara

With the start of the Losing It In Ottawa website, we’ve been looking for healthy snack options.  What I like most about this recipe is its versatility.  You can add chocolate chips, raspberries, blueberries, raisins, dried apricots, dried mango: whatever it is that tickles your tastebuds.  Another combination that has worked well for us is grated apple (1 cup) and grated carrot (already included in the recipe). 

If you decide to leave out the cup of grated vegetables, make sure to include another 1/4 to 1/2 cup of applesauce to make up for the lost moisture.

1/4 cup canola oil

1 egg

1 cup grated carrots or zucchini (or 1/4 to 1/2 cup of applesauce)

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup applesauce

Whisk egg, canola oil, and then applesauce.  Add in sugar and mix.  Add shredded vegetables to the ‘wet’ mixture.

In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and any fruit or sweets you decide to add (e.g., blueberries, raisins, chocolate chips)

Stir the two mixtures together.  Makes 12 muffins.

Bake for 18 minutes at 400 degrees.

Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View.

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Brewer Park

by Sara

Despite several nearby parks, we regularly make the trek from Orleans to Old Ottawa South to take the boys to Brewer Park.  Its located across the street from Carleton University, tucked away behind the City of Ottawa Brewer Complex.  There is a large parking lot off Bronson Avenue but you can also park on the many shaded side streets off Sunnyside Avenue, which are right beside the park.  If you use the parking lot, you need to walk across two soccer fields to access the park.

Brewer Park is divided into five areas:

1) A  fenced-in (but not impervious to adventurous toddlers) area with two play structures suitable for the littlest members of the family.  The fire truck play structure is a big hit with my two boys.

2) A play structure on rubber mats for preschool children

3) A multi-level splash pad (there is a large ramp and bridge to access the upper level and water slide)

4) A larger play structure for elementary aged children

5) A sandy area with wheel-chair accessible sand tables, activity walls, and swings.

There are also several shady spots to set-up blankets for snack time and picnics as well as one large covered picnic area in the middle of the park.  The only disadvantage is that the play structure for older children is separated from the rest of the park (by the splash pad), which makes it hard to supervisor children of different ages.  One last important detail: there are (clean) washroom’s located next to the toddler area.

What I love most about Brewer Park is the variety.  Both my boys have very different interests and Brewer is one of the few parks where they are easily occupied, entertained, and safe.  Their play structures have fewer death-defying drops and are generally safer for small kids, which is one of the drawbacks of our neighbourhood parks.  My 2-year-old can explore and climb without me hovering right behind him.  While my four-year old love splash pads, my 2-year old hates spraying water; however, at Brewer there is a splash pad and water slide, which means they’re both happy to play in the water.

Unlike a lot of parks in new suburban areas, the play structures at Brewer are protected by shade (depending on the time of day), which makes it a great place to visit on really hot and humid days.  It’s often busy because camps and daycare’s frequent the park so be prepared to keep a close eye on your kids, as its easy to lose them in the melee of swim-suited bodies running around.

Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View

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Suburban garden

When we bought our new house this winter I was worried about what state we might find the garden in when the snow melted.  Based on the evidence in the backyard and the owner’s comments, it looked like we would be sharing our yard with a very large family of rabbits.

But lo and behold not a hint of rabbit presence when we moved in.  After we finished building the sandbox, we decided to add a small vegetable garden next to it.  My 4-year-old is an outdoorsy sort who loves to garden and eat vegetables.  Last summer the first thing he did upon arrival at my parents was rush out into the backyard to pick and eat cherry tomatoes.

Our first step was clearing a small, flat area in the backyard.  We chose a spot near the back corner where it would be out-of-the-way of flying balls and scorching sun.

Levelling the spot was half the fun and necessitated many shovels and even work gloves.

We chose to use 2×10 untreated wood to build a frame for our garden.  The wood cost less than $15 at Home Depot and we had them cut it there into 2 three-foot and 2 six-foot lengths.  We decided to use a frame so that, if we need to, we can add a wire fence around the perimeter if local critters decide to use the kids garden as a salad bar.

The assembly was a simple process: all I needed was a drill and 12 deck screws.  It took approximately 10 bags of soil to fill the box: we thought we’d only need 6 but it packs down quite a bit after you water it.

Because we started in mid-June, we used plants instead of seeds to start our garden.  The boys chose strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, and broccoli to start us off this year.

We now have little green tomatoes growing in the garden and my 4-year old checks on them every day.  His favourite part is filling up his watering can at the rain barrel and watering all the plants.  A quick tip: rain barrels sell for at least 50% retail cost if you buy them on www.usedottawa.com or www.kijiji.ca.

And so far, not a single rabbit has nibbled on any of our greenery!

Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View

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Dragonboat Festival: Mooney’s Bay Beach

by Sara

Neither my husband or I had ever attended the Tim Horton’s Ottawa Dragon Boat festival (despite our best intentions) but we decided this was going to be the year.   The event starts on Friday evening and runs right through until Sunday night.  Over the course of 2 and a half days there are multi-cultural activities and events, live music, roving entertainment, and of course, dozens of teams competing in the races.  There’s even a children’s area, which this year included performances by an illusionist, Little Ray’s Reptiles, Radical Science, and a visit from Spartacat. 

This year the festival raised over $320,000 for several local charities, including the Sens Foundation, CHEO foundation, Bruyere Foundation, ArtsSmarts, The Ottawa Humane Society, University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research, and Debra Dynes Family House. 

We parked at Canada Post (for free) and then walked over to Mooney’s Bay (about 15 minutes).  There are several off-site parking locations that are connected to the festival by OC Transpo Shuttle bus.  

Clearly we missed out on a lot of the fun of the festival since we were there before noon and didn’t stick around for the beer tent or live music but we did partake in the family-friendly activities, which is what this blog is all about. 

We started our day at Mooney’s Bay beach, which is right beside a giant shaded play ground.  The highlight for the boys was throwing sticks into the water and wading into the waves as they watched the boats race by.  It was a great place to watch the races from: we could see the boats heading out to the starting line and then watch them race to the finish line.  And because there are so many heats you don’t have to wait long for the action to start.

We strolled through the staging area where all the teams wait and line up for their turn in one of the massive boats.  We wanted a closer look at the dragons!  It was impressive to watch all the teams waiting in a huge line that snakes all through the staging area.  Even the boys were silenced by all the cheering and singing as people prepared for their races.

The Kid’s Zone featured bouncy castles, soccer equipment, a stage for music and shows, face painting, and balloons.  Because the park turns into a veritable tent city for the weekend, it was nice to have a kid-friendly area that was fenced off and easily accessible to families. 

Although the 2010 Dragon Boat Festival is over, there are other events in the Ottawa region this summer.  The Rideau Canoe Club hosts a Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday August 21st and there is another festival on September 11th in Carleton Place

And don’t forget, the next big event at Mooney’s beach is coming up on July 11, 2010: The Hope Volleyball Summerfest!

Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View

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Canada Day Craft

by Sara

Now that my four-year old is done preschool for the year I am in craft-planning mode.  I work from home, which means there is a 2 hour window every afternoon that I need to fill when I work and he needs to be kept busy.

We like to decorate our house for all of the holidays and celebrations so our craft yesterday was a Canada flag.  I chose it because aside from sketching out the side bars and his hand (as the maple leaf) it required minimal mom intervention.  We used red paint but it can also be done with crayons, markers, or finger paint, for the younger kids. 

1.  Outline the Canada flag on a large piece of white paper.  The outline of a hand makes a great maple leaf!

2.  Cover your table or art space, especially if its new (like our table) and you don’t want red paint everywhere (which I don’t).  Our dining room table is still wearing its badge of green honour from our St. Patrick’s day craft.

3.  Fill in the red spaces with paint, glitter glue, tissue paper, markers, crayons, red stickers, red feathers, or construction paper. 

4.  Hang in a place of prominence for all to admire.

Happy Canada Day!

Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View

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Noongam Aboriginal Powwow

by Sara

I’m not sure how I stumbled onto the Noongam Traditional Powwow but am I ever glad I did.  The cultural celebration took place this weekend at Queen Juliana Park, which is across from Dow’s Lake (intersection of Carling Avenue and Preston street).  Admission is free although donations are encouraged.

We arrived at noon on Sunday to watch the preparations for the Grand Entry and the start of the powwow.  Because this is a cultural celebration and not intended as entertainment, there are limited concessions and scheduled activities.  There is plenty of seating available but make sure to bring lawn chairs or a blanket (and an umbrella).  Before the powwow got underway my boys were happy to run around the back field with a group of other children who were hiding from the hot sun and playing with pine cones underneath the trees.

Because a powwow is a cultural event, there are rules and etiquette, which vary depending on the region.  The National Aboriginal Veteran’s Association has written a helpful guide, “What’s What” and “Who’s Who” – Pow Wow Etiquette about what to expect when you attend a powwow.

We had not expected to be invited to join the Grand Entry today but were very excited when the MC invited the audience to participate.  One of the dancers explained the rules to us before we entered the dance circle (no photographs, children walk beside their parents), showed us the basic step, and then provided adults with tobacco to make an offering upon entrance to the dance circle.

Not 2 minutes into the circle, it started to rain.  The drizzle was a welcome relief to the heat of the day!  My youngest didn’t understand stepping in time to the drum beat and was quite happy to march alongside my husband but I spent almost the entire entry watching our four year try to keep his step in time with the drum beat.  He was mesmerized by the dancers and elders that we followed.  Despite the rain we were honoured to participate: you could feel the rhythmic drums and singing in your chest and it was amazing to watch the dancers in their beautiful regalia.

Our powwow experience was interrupted by the unrelenting downpour but I’m glad we had the chance to participate in our first powwow today.  We hope it won’t be our last.

Listings for Ontario powwows can be found at:

500 Nations

Aboriginal Experiences

Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View

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Father’s Day Craft

by Sara

Let me preface this post with a statement about my artistic abilities (none) and my craftiness (about 6th grade level):  I love doing arts and crafts with my boys but am by no means ‘crafty’.

For Father’s Day this year we decided to make pencil / tool holders for our daddy and grandpa’s.  All three are relatively handy so we hoped our gift would make a welcome addition to their tool bench or office desk.  We even bought a few screw drivers and pens to demonstrate the usefulness of the project (and ensure clarity upon gift-opening).

I bought wooden boxes at Michael’s for $1.99 each but a tin can covered in paper would work just as well.

I chose the boxes because I have two boys and there was a side for each of them to paint and claim as their own.  Hence the painting tape dividing each side: they are both possessive about their painting surfaces.

My oldest painted his side first, with selection of Crayola paints.  I normally use bottles of tempera paint and mix my own colours but for gift projects he likes the variety of the Crayola 10 pack.  I’ll be honest, he likes their pink and purple.

After the first side dried I let my youngest loose on his section of the box, with mixed results.  Mixed paint that is (a purplish-brown) and some very green 2-year old hair.

We finished our project with a Sharpie pen.  On one blank side we wrote “Father’s Day, 2010” and on the second blank side the firefighter filled in the sentence “I love Daddy / Grandpa because…”.  I also ‘signed’ their names on each wooden canvas so they could lay claim to their masterpiece for posterity’s sake.

I always keep blank cards handy for birthday’s, anniversaries etc.  For Father’s Day I had our four year old draw a picture on the front of him doing something special with his dad and grandpa’s and then I wrote the accompanying text.

For less than $10, we are all happy with the results!

Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View

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I survived moving: how to move with children

by Sara

I feel like we deserve a bumper sticker: “We moved and survived”  I know people move all the time, some people even several times over the course of a few years, but our recent move really felt like climbing a mountain: a long haul with no end in sight.

We had been passively looking for over a year when we found our new house and within the span of 14 days bought our new house and staged and sold our old house.  All with 2 little boys underfoot.  Not to mention a 4th birthday party and lots of winter weather.  But we survived and learned a few things along the way.

1.  Its never too early to pack.  There was a three-month gap between the sale of our old home and the move into our new home.  When we began the process of staging our old home I packed away a lot of personal items that stayed packed for the duration of that three months.  Family photos, knick knacks, and holiday-related kitchen items are nice to have around but not necessities.  Out of season clothes, infrequently used toys, and stuffed animals were also on my immediate packing list.

2.  List of all lists.  When the process began I took over an hour to walk around our house and make a list of everything that would need to be packed: every dresser, cupboard, drawer, and shelf was listed.  And then I made the master of all lists in excel of every room in the house and a plan of attack for packing.  Call me crazy (or a multitude of other things) but it worked: instead of looking at everything in our house and feeling panicked about how / when I was going to pack it, I felt like I had a plan.  From the day we sold our house I set a goal of packing 5 boxes a week until we moved.  By the time the last month rolled around I had over 50% of the house packed and could panic about paint colours instead of packing.

3.  Donate, donate, donate.  Every time you get ready to pack something, ask yourself this: is it worth the effort to pack, store, haul to the new house, unpack, and find a home for?  We donated at least a garbage a week of items to a variety of different charities.

4.  Your possessions aren’t all as equally important .  When you pack boxes, number them according to the importance of being unpacked.  We labelled boxes that could wait with a 3, boxes that we would need relatively soon a 2, and boxes that needed to be opened a.s.a.p. with a 1.  It also made it easy for family and friends who helped with the move: they knew that ‘1’ boxes needed to be at the top of the pile.

5.  Rubbermaid is your new best friend.  During renovations last year we boxed all holiday decorations, memories, and other ‘rarely see the light of day’ items in Rubbermaid containers.  Although not part of my moving plan, having all these things pre-packed and ready to move made life so much easier.

6.  Embrace the chaos.  This was a tough one for me (see #2) as I like everything organized and tidy.  But moving is an inherently chaotic and unorganized process, which we learned to embrace.  The boys turned the unused boxes lying on the floor into a rescue boat and the large unopened boxes of IKEA furniture in front of our fireplace became a stage.  I learned to appreciate the sight of full cardboard boxes stacked around my home as a sign that we actually getting prepared for the move.

7.  Second hand is best.  Most moving supply companies sell used boxes at a vastly reduced rate.  We bought ours at CSR near Trainyards and paid about $1 a box for smaller boxes.  And ask about coupons and discounts: I also scored a 25% coupon that was good for multiple visits.  You can then sell your boxes back to the company once you’re done moving or pass them onto someone else.

8.  Permanent marker is the enemy.  I dedicated a pack of Crayola markers to the packing and labelling process, which meant the boys could ‘help’ label boxes and nothing was permanently damaged in the process.  While I packed, they coloured boxes, the floor, me, and themselves, but at least with Crayola I was able to clean up the mess.

9.  Let them eat cake and watch TV.  Well maybe not cake for dinner but we gave ourselves a break when it came to mealtime.  For a week long period we used disposable cups, plates, and utensils, and I relied on frozen food from the grocery store and easy meals like hamburgers and raw vegetables.  We saved a lot of money by avoiding take-out!  And the kids normally restricted TV diets went the way my sanity in favour of a portable DVD player that let mom and dad get a few things done during the 4 to 6 pm witching hour.

10.  Beg early and often.  We starting asking for help almost two months before we moved.  E-mails and phone calls were followed up with offers of food and beverages in return for sweat equity.  A bit bold, maybe, but on the first weekend of our move we had over 10 family members and friends there to move boxes, paint, assemble IKEA furniture, and unpack.

11.  Your babysitter is your new best friend.  We have a sitter that we use occasionally when we can’t get one of the aforementioned family members to watch our kids.  During the move we hired her for 2 entire Saturdays and a Sunday.  This freed up all adults for the moving process and ensured that there was one person responsible for the kids at all times.

12.   Let them help.  Our oldest, who is 4, really wanted to help with the move so we gave him safe and age-appropriate tasks that kept him occupied and made him feel like he was contributing to the moving process.  He unpacked boxes in his room, he put toys away in the play room, and we even let him help paint the walls (in a room where the floors were covered entirely in drop clothes).  We also encouraged the boys to give visitors tours of their new home: they were really excited to show friends and family their new bedrooms and the play room.

13.  Kids first.  Despite my desire for a functional kitchen and somewhere to rest my weary feet at night, the first rooms we painted, unpacked, and assembled were the boys bedrooms (followed closely by the play room).  With all the disruption we wanted to make sure they had a space that felt like home.

14.   Give yourself lots of motivation.  Organize your son’s second birthday 11 days after you take possession of your new house.  Invite 45 of your closest friends and family and celebrate.

Okay, so #14 is optional but it certainly sped up the unpacking process!

Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View

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