Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sea Kayak on New Year's Eve

In early December I met an interesting couple at a party. They have a home near Tangier, Nova Scotia, the small fishing village where I grew up. The discussion quickly turned to the beauty of the coastline in this area and the opportunities to kayak out to the islands in the eastern archipelago, which lie just of the coast. It is a very popular area for sea kayaking as these pristine islands are easy to reach by kayak, have lots of beaches for landing and are great fun to explore. Nova Scotia's oldest sea kayaking company, Coastal Adventures operates from Tangier.

Our new friends told us they celebrated New Year's Eve in 1999 - the turn of the millennium - by kayaking out to the islands at midnight. There was a full moon and it was very cold. The sea water formed ice wings on their paddles as they slid through the silent night. Sounds wonderful doesn't it? I hope we have the opportunity to experience this some day. Not tonight though as we are hosting the neighbourhood party to welcome 2010. Happy New Year to all and all the best in 2010.
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hike in One of Nova Scotia's Hidden Gems

Photo by Dave the Haligonian

Terance Bay is one of the hidden gems of Nova Scotia.

To find it you take route 333 on the northeast side of the Chebucto peninsula and turn left on the road to Terance Bay. It is signed. When you come to the end you are there.

Start your hike with a visit to the HMS Atlantic Interpretation Centre to learn the history of the wreck of that ship and the village's involvement it the rescue of its passengers on April 1 1873.

Then follow the path down to the boardwalk along the ocean's edge. Along the way you will see grave markers covered by brush - take the time to explore this area a bit - you will learn a lot about local history by reading the grave markers.

When you arrive at the boardwalk you will see stone cliffs across the bay. A lot of the older buildings in Halifax were built using stone from these cliffs. Ships were moored at the water's edge and the stone was cut and lowered directly onto the ship for transport to the city.

The gazebo that is part of the boardwalk makes a great picnic site.

After your picnic follow the boardwalk around to the end and then spend some time exploring the village and the coastline. While there are no formal hiking trails the coastline is part of the Terance Bay Wilderness Area and offers outstanding hiking opportunities. Just wander and enjoy yourself. You could call it "free-form hiking".

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Go Outside and Get Healthy

There is no snow here yet and it has not been cold enough for the local outdoor rink to freeze so we are still doing a lot of hiking. And planning ahead.

In January I will be participating in the the Ten on 10 Healthy Challenge and invite you to join me. I will write about our (Arch is joining me) progress once a week. On Friday. The rest of the time this blog will be about what it is always about - going outside and having fun. Not that this challenge will not be fun, I think it will, but you never know.

Arch and I are not young chickens but we do not think of ourselves as being old - he is 69 and I am 67 - and at this stage in life it is not easy to lose weight. At the same time, good health is the greatest asset we have and we plan to hang on to it. That means controlling our weight and blood pressure. Without pills.

Our goals are:

  • Lose 1lb/week for 10 weeks.
  • Be able to walk uphill for 6kms in 1 hour. (that is from my sister's home to ours)
  • Lose 2 lbs a week for 10 weeks.
  • Reduce upper end blood pressure by 20 points.
How we will do it:
Are you ready to join us. If so register here.
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day

Most of the year we spend a lot of time outside. But not on Christmas day. That is a day to reap the benefits of being outside all year long - by eating whatever we like and capping the day off with a traditional Christmas dinner.

Many of our favourite dishes are of British origin, which is our heritage. We have turkey with all the trimmings, including bread sauce (recipe below), lots of well prepared veggies, and for desert, mincemeat tarts, fruitcake and plum pudding set aflame with brandy and served with both hard and custard sauce.

Bread sauce is a delicious but very underused accompaniment to turkey. Try it the next time you cook one - here is my recipe. I am not sure where it came from, the one mom used was simpler but not nearly as delicious. That happens sometimes, I guess.

Bread Sauce for Turkey

4 1/2 cups homogenized milk
8 shallots, peeled and left whole
1 garlic clove peeled
2 bay leaves
8 whole cloves
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
12 oz white breadcrumbs (I use 1 loaf Wonder Bread with crusts removed)
1/2 cup whipping cream

1. Tie the bay leaves and cloves in a small bit of cheesecloth and put in a saucepan along with the milk, shallots, garlic clove and nutmeg . Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
2. Remove the bay leaves and cloves an pour the milk mixture into a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs and cream. Mix well.
3. Process in batches in a food processor until smooth. Return each batch to the pot when smooth and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thick but still pourable. Serve hot.

This sauce is best made a day ahead. The flavour improves if kept in the fridge and reheated just before serving. You may need to add a tiny bit more milk as you reheat it.

December Views

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Great Tree For The Birds

photo by Linda Monk Fahie

It is unlikely that you are going to select this lonely tree to serve as the family Christmas tree but it would be great to decorate for the birds.

For years my husband, Arch, and I lived in Ontario and drove "home" to Nova Scotia every Christmas. Beside the highway between Grand Falls and Fredericton New Brunswick, there was always a tree that someone decorated with an assortment of food for the birds and, I expect, the deer.

One year we stopped to peruse the menu. It contained quite a selection of goodies: Suet with seeds in cages, oranges stuck with sunflower seeds, peanuts in mesh bags, a couple of bird feeders with niger seeds, & corn cobs. There were even a couple of mesh bags filled with pieces of wool that the birds could use in their nests.

This would be a great project for the little ones with help from some adults to get some goodies to the top of the tree, out of reach of the deer.

December Views

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Go Outside and Throw Snowballs

Most of the year our dog, Tara, works hard as the official greeter at The Bay Hammock Company. But she gets the winter off - not many people buy hammocks after the snow flies. This works for Tara as she loves the snow.

We can learn a lot about playing in the snow from our dogs. Tara here was so excited by the snow this morning she refused to come in for breakfast. (that says a lot as she is a Lab) She raced around in circles, jumping up and down and barking with glee. Nothing would do but we had to go out and throw snowballs for her. We had a grand time, got lots of exercise and worked up a good appetite for breakfast.
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Go Outside With the Nova Scotia to Boston Christmas Tree

Photo published with permission of Nova Scotia Come to Life
During my teen years we lived in north end Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the centre of the area that was destroyed by the explosion that occured when two ships collided in the harbour on Dec 6 1917. I remember the stories the older folks used to tell of that event. They were horrific. I also remember them speaking very fondly of Boston, a city that was very quick to come to our aid after the explosion, sending much needed supplies and money. The people of Halifax and all of Nova Scotia have never forgotten this kindness.

Today, as a lasting symbol of our appreciation for this much needed assistance, the province sends a Christmas tree to Boston each year. The tree is selected with great care by a person whose job it is to travel around the province and find the perfect tree and ask the owner of the property the tree is on to donate it.

This year the tree came from the property of Floyd and Elaine Shatford of Fox Point which is not far from where I live.The day it was cut was a great occasion and an opportunity for all the local school children to go outside for the morning, see it chopped down and learn the story of the explosion and why we send a tree to Boston each year. A living history lesson. You can see a video of the occasion on the Nova Scotia Come to Life blog

The photo above shows the Shatfords and their grandson Josh Shatford reaction as the tree lights up in Boston on December 3rd.

December Views

As a footnote: We have a dining room table made of chestnut. It must have been made in Nova Scotia during the period when chestnut tree groves were common and obviously, not long after the explosion. A piece on the underside of the table that cannot be seen is made of part of an old crate that has stamped on it: Massachusetts - Halifax Relief c/o Fred Parsons, Nova Scotia. If anyone knows more about this we would love to hear it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rose Hips in December

Wild roses grow in abundance in Nova Scotia. They seem to love the mild climate and ocean air. In the late spring, early summer the air is filled with their scent. In the fall their beauty continues when they produce seed pods called rose hips. In the winter months the gorgeous red colour brightens my morning walks.

I am now gathering some of them to use in a wreath for our front door and in flower arrangements in the house. A few fir branches and the rose hips make beautiful, long lasting table arrangements. I usually add a pine cone or two as well.

The picture above was taken by my nephew Paul. He did a great job don't you think?

December Views

Monday, December 14, 2009

December Picnic

It is a beautiful day in our area today. A great chance for one last hike in the forest before the snow flies. And one more picnic.

I like to keep the food simple: hot soup, cheddar cheese, bread of some type and an energy cookie.

Each person takes a backpack, even the little ones. I pack the soup in individual thermoses, add a spoon, the pre-cut cheese, biscuits and cookies, all wrapped in a cloth napkin and drop them into each backpack.

This recipe for Super Immunity Soup from Susie the Foodie is rapidly becoming a family favourite and will definitely keep you warm on a chilly day.

Plain old Canadian tea biscuits are great with this soup and are very simple to make:

Tea Biscuits
3 cups sifted flour
2 tbsp baking powder
34 tsp salt
2 tbsp white sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups milk


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter to a fine meal. Make a well in the centre and add milk. Stir well.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead 10 times. you may need to add more flour if dough is too sticky. Roll or pat out to 1/2" thick and cut with a floured cutter.

Place about 1" apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven 15 to 18 minutes until nice and brown.

Go Outside and have a great picnic before the weather gets too cold.

December Views
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Build a Snowman

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 25:  A 'snowman' ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Going outside to build a snowman is a great family activity. I suggest keeping a snowman-making kit in the closet so "good" hats, mitts, etc. do not get seconded to dress the creation: The kit could contain:
  • Hat, a secondhand clothing shop may be your best option here. We actually make snow women as women's hats are easier to find.
  • A colourful scarf.
  • As coal is hard to come by these days large buttons are great for eyes.
  • for the nose, a carrot from the refrigerator works best.
  • A good, curvy twig makes a great mouth. More twigs are used for arms.
  • An old pair of mitts for hands.
  • Small, round stones from the seaside make great buttons.
We are still awaiting the first "real" snowstorm of the season here so the wooden one above will have to do until then.. Or we may head to the beach and make one from sand like the one above right that was made on an Australian beach.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

After a December Storm

The night before last we had a storm called a Sou'easter. They are usually vicious storms that occur when one weather front (cold) meets another (warm) over our seacoast. The wind came up and the snow started about supper time, the rain at midnight, by morning it was clear and the snow was gone, and by noon the sun was out. This photo was taken late morning by my nephew, Paul, an amateur photographer who is now good enough to offer his services to the public.

December Views
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Decor

I remember tromping through the woods in rural Nova Scotia with my dad, brother and sisters looking for the ideal Christmas tree. We did not put our tree up until 1 or 2 days before Christmas and it was quite an event. First we spent days making ornaments. Then the walk through the woods with dad to find the perfect tree. We learned a lot about the various tree species on these treks and usually ended up with a tree we considered perfect. We also picked branches with red berries, some fir branches and some young shoots from maple trees to fill planters, window boxes and make a garland for the fireplace mantle.

After living for 45 years in urban centres where such excursions are not easily possible we are now back in rural Nova Scotia with two acres of land. We do not have any trees suitable for a Christmas tree yet (hurricane Jaun destroyed them all) but we do have lots of small trees, branches, berries and maple shoots suitable for planters and window boxes. So we spent the day outside on our property, gathering the greenery and decorating the outside of the house. The picture above is of a planter on our deck. It is great to get outside and relive these wonderful childhood memories.

December Views
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Would You do This Job?

There are lots of great jobs that involve working outside. In my opinion lobster fishing is not one of them. The lobster fishing season opens in our area on Dec 1 and lasts until May 31st. Trouble is, from early January to mid April the water in the bay is very cold and the lobster head to deep water and don't move very much, making them impossible to trap. Additionally a good part of the bay usually freezes over sometime in January making fishing impossible. So basically the season runs for the month of December and again in April and May. Not lot of time to earn a living. That is why, no matter what the weather, we see the lobster boats on the bay in December. I took the picture above on a blustery, gray day, not far from Peggy's Cove. The ocean was very rough and the boat was very close to the famous Peggy's Cove rocks. I love the ocean but there is no way you would find me doing this.

December Views
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Last Leaf of Autumn

This poor little leaf is telling us: it is time to put this hammock away for the season. It is in the Children's Resort at my sister's house. We all love to go outside and swing in it, but the time has come....

The signs of early winter are all around us - a light skiff of snow on the ground, late sunrise, early sunset, crispy cool mornings, etc. I love this time of year. Except, of course, putting the hammock away.

December Views

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December Sunset

Sunday night family supper is a ritual in our family. It is a time of the week when everyone gathers to discuss the past week's activities and news and make plans for the coming week. While are not a large family there are usually between 12 and 20 for supper so it is always nice when the 6 little people can go outside to play for a while and give the adults a chance to visit. As sunset comes early this time of year outdoor games can be a challenge. That makes flashlight tag an important addition to our games repertoire.

It is a simple game but the kids love it:
  • Somebody has to be chosen as "it".
  • This child gets a flashlight and hides his/her eyes and counts to 10.
  • Everyone else runs and hides in the dark corners of the yard.
  • The child who is "it"searches for them with the flashlight.
  • As soon as the flashlight spots a child he/she is considered found.
  • The search continues until all children are found. This is an important safety feature - we don't want to loose anyone.
  • Then the first one found is "it" for the next round.
This game keeps everyone entertained until supper is served.

December Dawn

Walking is such a pleasant experience. Especially in the early morning. You get to go outside and see the day slowly come to life. My sister and I walk every day from 8 to 9 am (the joy of retirement). I took this picture from her house, just as the sun was coming over the horizon.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A December View of Peggy's Cove

I am chairperson of the Peggy's Cove Region Tourism Association. We have a dream of creating a walkway along the ocean to the southwest of Peggy's Cove for about 2kms. We want to create an opportunity for people to experience the ocean in all its moods. Yesterday the ocean was very moody and another board member, Ron MacInnis from Oceanstone Inn and Cottages ,and I spent the day exploring possibilities for the walkway, including finding the best spots for photographers and painters to capture the extraordinary beauty and views of the ocean and the village. I took this photo from a knoll about 1 km to the west of the village.

December Views
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Last Apples of The Season

Autumn is coming to an end in our part of the world. The signs are everywhere. I spotted this apple tree on my early morning walk yesterday. The sky was glowing pink but a fierce rain/wind storm started by the time I got home. Do not think there will be any apples there today.

Storm Arriving Over St Margarets Bay

This photo was taken last summer. You would think it was not a good day to go outside but look at the boats in the bay. It is always a good day to go outside. We are expecting an awful rainstorm today so I am off for an early walk so I can enjoy the day before it arrives.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Visit a Christmas Tree U-Cut to Get Your Christmas Tree

In our family Christmas is not a few days but an entire season which starts about December 1st and ends in mid-January. This coming weekend we will all be heading out to Rocky Top Farms just outside New Ross, Nova Scotia to cut the family Christmas trees.

As this weekend is the 16th annual New Ross Christmas Festival we will spend the day there, cutting our trees, taking in the craft show, walking through the village to take in the seasonal decor and visiting Santa at the New Ross Farm Museum.

Lunenburg County is the Christmas Tree Capital of the World (that's what their sign says). We really do live in the best place to cut our own tree :) There are 3 U-cut lots available so you have lots of choice of where to go. We go to Rocky Top because Nelson comes to the Hubbards Farmers Market to sell his products and we buy our Christmas and Thanksgiving turkeys from him.

As I'm participating in December Views this month, hosted by Darlene at HippyUrbanGirl , and have selected the Nova Scotia outdoors as a theme I thought the photo of the team of horses that took us into the u-cut lot would be a great start. Please check back each day to see a new photo.

December Views

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Go Outside in the Peggy's Cove Area

I am lucky enough to live in one of Mother Nature’s truly great playgrounds – the Peggy’s Cove Area of Nova Scotia. Peggy’s Cove itself is a tiny fishing village at the mouth of St Margaret’s Bay. Its lighthouse, which warns sailors away from the rocky shores, is world famous but few know of the wonderful outdoor playground that surrounds it.
  • First there is St Margaret’s Bay itself. The bay consists of 5x7 miles of unobstructed waters. The area is free of shoals, commercial traffic, and currents. It is aligned with the prevailing southwest winds and generates a 15+ knot breeze on sunny days. A perfect spot for boaters and its many islands make it a fun spot for kayakers to explore.
  • Then there are the rocks and boulders. Bouldering and rock climbing are popular sports in the eastern part of our area, around Prospect, Terence Bay and West and East Dover.
  • St Margaret’s Bay is a great spot for scuba divers with lots of sea life and kelp beds to explore.
  • Then there are the beaches – we have 10 – while they are busy with swimmers and boaters on warm sunny days they are virtually deserted at other times – perfect for exploring, picnicking or simply relaxing to the sounds of the ocean. Many of us enjoy a walk on the beach on a stormy day when the surf in up.
  • The bay is surrounded by small villages but there is plenty of water access and just behind the villages is the forest with miles of hiking trails and many lakes suitable for canoeing and fishing.
  • This area provides lots of opportunity for remote camping and hiking, all within Halifax city limits. The St Margaret’s Bay Trail runs from Hubley to Hubbards and connects to other trails at both ends. It is a popular spot for walkers, runners and bicyclists. By using the connector trails you can bike (or walk J )from Halifax to Lunenburg.
  • I love to golf and we have what I consider to be one of Nova Scotia’s most challenging golf courses in our area. Granite Springs, is near Peggy’s Cove and gets its name from the granite rocks and many springs and water hazards on the course. We have friends who come to visit year after year just to take on this course.
  • If you love photography or painting you will love the Peggy's Cove Area. There are endless vistas small and wide for you to portray. Mother Nature changes the landscape everyday so the possibilities are endless.
  • Recently, a group of photographers and bloggers toured our area. You can read about their experiences in our area here: Things to do For Two, With Bite, and you can enjoy a the pictures from their photo tour here. Kimberly of East Coast by Choice has an interesting perspective on our area.

If you love to go outside, plan a visit to the Peggys Cove Area and spend a few hours or a few days. It is truly a “locals know” kind of place so please ask local folks about the best spots to go to follow your interest. Everyone is happy to help. We own The Bay Hammock Company on the Peggy’s Cove Rd (highway 333) in Seabright and are happy to share our favourite spots, just drop in and ask. If you live in the Halifax area it is the perfect place to get away without going away. Check the Peggy's Cove Area Blog for special events and deals.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Go Exploring

The little people in our family love to explore outside. There are so many amazing things to discover, especially in the fall when the leaves are on the ground. Here is a general guide to an exploration hike in the fall:

  1. Take a book about the bugs, leaves and flowers you will see to assist in identification. We usually borrow one from the library - an adult should be its caretaker.
  2. Each child will need a container for their collection. Discourage the collection of living things though, they seldom make it home alive.
  3. One of our little ones likes to take a notebook and pencil to record his finds, another has an old digital camera to take photos of interesting items that should stay in place.
  4. Find a not too well traveled spot with varied terrain to hike in. Somewhere that will enhance the sense of exploration and discovery. A woodland trail or path along a stream would be perfect.
  5. After the trip provide each child with a way to preserve their finds- a scrapbook where they can write and draw as well as paste in items is a good idea.
A trip to explore usually requires a snack at the halfway point. These cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod look delicious.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Have a Picnic

Picnics are my favourite thing to do outside. Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, warm summer days were occasions to celebrate and we did so by going on picnics. I could write a whole blog on picnics so I will do this as a series, starting with getting ready to go.

Mom kept an old suitcase packed with picnic things - cutlery, dishes, tablecloth, napkins, etc. It was then easy to make sandwiches, a salad and a quick dessert to take along . With today's concerns about the environment many of the things we did then are relevant today.
  1. We always used reusable dishes and cutlery - older items that were no longer considered presentable on the dinner table but were fine for picnics.
  2. Tea towels, a wet cloth in a jar, and a round metal wash basin came along for clean up time.
  3. A fabric tablecloth and napkins were always packed in the suitcase, again those just past their prime for dinner table use.
  4. Sandwiches were wrapped in a damp tea towel then placed in a covered tin - usually one that candy came in at Christmas.
  5. Salad was in a bowl covered with a tea towel tied in place with string from the ball of saved string. (Dad loved to save string)
  6. Dessert was also in a metal tin, often covered with a piece of well washed flour bag or tea towel before the lid went on.
After our picnic there was no garbage to leave behind or carry out. Everything was packed up and taken home for use the next sunny day.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hike Peggy's Cove

Fall is my favourite time of year. And hiking the barrens in the Peggy's Cove Preservation Area is my favourite thing to do - especially in the Fall. If you go please obey a few simple rules.
  1. Do not pick the flowers. It is tempting as they are so beautiful this time of year.
  2. Do not stray from the paths - you will see several spots along highway 333 where people enter the area - following in their footsteps will preserve the beauty of the area for others to enjoy.
  3. Leave no trace of your visit, take your garbage home with you.
Check out the Peggy's Cove Cam to check the weather at Peggy's Cove before you leave home. Weather out on the Ocean can be vastly different than weather inland.
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Corn Mazes Are Fun

Friday September 4 is Eat Local Day in Canada and the four Atlantic provinces have challenged one another to see which can get the largest percent of population to eat only local food on that day.

We took the pledge for Nova Scotia. What fun it will be. The menu is already planned and most of our food was purchased at the Hubbards Farmers' Market last Saturday. But a big part of the day will be to pack a picnic and head to Noggins Corner Farm Market outside Wolfville to have a picnic, buy corn and have fun in the Corn Maze. Later in October we will go back in the evening - the kids love the spooky flashlight maze.

This Friday is an adult day only (school, you know) but we love the maze also and can get just as lost as any kid. There are lots of other great outside things for the kids to do there but we old folks will just picnic, do the maze then buy some fresh corn at the farm market, stop at Grand Pre Winery (a member of our Atlantic EconoMusee Network) for some wine, then head home to prepare a family dinner that will include this favourite corn dish:

Fresh Creamed Corn

8 ears fresh corn
2 T.butter (we like the butter from Tatamagouche Dairy)
8 green onions, sliced diagonially, 1/8" thick
1 cup heavy cream (Farmer's or Scotsburn's)
2 T. chopped tarragon (from my herb garden)

1. Using along, sharp knife, slice the kernels from the ears of corn into a bowl and set aside.
2. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add green onions and cook until just softened, about 1 minute. Add the corn kernels and cream andcook, stirring occasionally until the cream has thickened. About 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tarragon and serve.

Serves 6 to 8
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Build a Fairy House

Go outside and let your imagination run wild - build a fairy house. Fairy houses are whimsical habitats built by children, families, gardeners and nature lovers reflecting their creativity, joy and pride. These small structures are made for fairies to visit. Any material found in the garden, forest or beach can be used. These two were build by 5 and 6 year old children in the garden. They spent hours running around collecting pebbles, sticks, etc. and finding just the right location for their fairy houses - one under the lilies and the other in the ferns beside the pond so the frogs could visit. You can't see it, but there is even a small hammock (made with a leaf) inside the house in the lilies.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Have a Human Wheelbarrow Race

Planning a picnic today? A human wheelbarrow race is a fun game and easy to organize. As long as you can find some willing "wheelbarrows".
  • Select an agreed upon start and finish line.
  • Organize the wheelbarrows and drivers at the start line.
  • Yell "GO".
  • Don't bother running to the finish line yourself as no one will make it - the last man standing will be the winner.
In this race Arch, the oldest driver, and Ruby, the littlest wheelbarrow, were the clear winners as they figured out that slow and steady wins the race.
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