Get Out and Bounce!

OK.  I’m calling it.  Yes, it snowed in Toronto last night, but winter is over.  Officially.  The calendar and I both say so.  It’s now just a matter of mind over sub-arctic winds.

As hard as it may still be to imagine a summer’s day, the sunny weather IS coming, and with it, the chance to gather outdoors for your parties, fairs and assorted extravaganzas.

Adventure Mania has a great range of bouncy castles for your events, with products to suit toddlers to teens.

A brand new offering for 2015, they’ve just brought in a movie screen bouncer, so that you can transition from daytime bouncing to night-time movie theatre.  The rental comes complete with a PS3 console, a loud speaker, and a projector, with a movie screen that is 9 feet long, and 5 feet high.

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There is a huge selection of bouncers with movie and game tie-ins, and you can combine them with various things, like slides and basketball hoops.  For your little Frozen fans, one of their most popular rentals is the line of Frozen bouncers.

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There is also a bouncer that operates rain or shine, so if you want your bases covered for your event, this is a great, safe bet.

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Haley Chiappino is the Event Specialist at Adventure Media, and she is a delight to work with.  Such a friendly ally in what can often be the stressful process of event planning.  You can reach her at (905)864-3290 or info@adventuremania.ca.  Best of all, if you mention this blog post, you will get a 10% discount for your rental.  They rent everything from bouncy castles and slides to sno-cone makers and carnival games.  All you need for a fun day in the sun.  Based in Milton, they serve the entire GTA, and you can check out their full range of offerings here.

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*Adventure Mania offered 4mothers1blog a rental for review consideration.  The opinions expressed are our own.

 

Fun with Non-Newtonian Liquids: Liquids That Act Like Solids

Here’s a slippery slimy activity to do with the kids for the month of April Fool’s: make a liquid that acts like a solid.

Non-Newtonian liquids are liquids that act like solids when pressure is applied to them, and you can make one with just two ingredients from your kitchen: water and corn starch.

Materials

small pitcher of water

measuring cups

molasses

corn starch

food colouring (optional, add it to the water if you want a coloured mixture)

two plastic trays or baking trays with a lip

Method

Begin by looking at how different liquids move.  Pour 1/4 cup of water from one container to another.  Pour 1/4 cup of molasses from one container to another.  Both are liquid, but water moves faster because it has a lower viscosity.  Ask kids to name the things in the house that act like water (vinegar, juice, milk) and the things that act like molasses (shampoo, ketchup, syrup).

Make your non-Newtonian substance by mixing 1 cup of corn starch with about 1/2 cup of water.  Gradually add the water to the corn starch until you have a mixture that pours like honey.  Pour this mixture from one container to another and observe how quickly it moves.  Is it more like water or molasses?

Ask kids to predict what will happen if they squeeze the mixture?  Will it run through your fingers?

Now scoop some of the mixture in your hands and squeeze it.  The harder you squeeze, the more solid the mixture becomes.  Force makes the liquid act like a solid.  Now stop squeezing.  What does the mixture do?

Pour enough water onto one of your trays to make a thin layer of water from edge to edge.  Ask kids to predict what will happen if you bang your hand onto the tray.  Splash!

Now do the same thing with the mixture on the second tray.  Will the mixture behave like the water?

Hit it and find out!  (There is a video here of the experiment if you want to see it before you try it in your own home!)

Experiment with different ways to exert force on the mixture: touch it softly, quickly, stir it slowly, hit it with the spoon.  You can even hit it with a hammer.

Clean up

This can get a bit messy, especially if you are using food colouring, so be prepared to wipe up spills and splashes.  Also, DO NOT POUR YOUR MIXTURE DOWN THE DRAIN.   It will clog your pipes.  When you are done, scrape your mixture into the garbage for disposal.

 

 

Funny Things My Kids Said: Holiday Edition

Nathalie: No more screen time today, guys.

Middlest‎: But I haven’t had any screen time.

Nathalie: What do call all that time playing the Wii games you got for Christmas?

Middlest: That’s not screen time. That’s gift using.

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Nathalie: Can you plan something fun to do with your cousins when they come over?

Eldest: Does eating count?

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Nathalie: Someone has to finish the blueberries.

Eldest: I volunteer as tribute!

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Littlest: Can I sit in your seat for dinner?

Nathalie: What’s so special about my seat?  Why do you guys fight over it?

Middlest: It’s got mummy love.

::

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter and Passover Holiday weekend.

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DIY Kids’ Birthday Parties: Looking for Inspiration

We are about to embark on Silly Season: that time of year when my little chickens hatched, one after the other, in April, May and June.  Three months of birthday planning and parties are ahead of me, and I am already behind!

I really enjoy hosting the kids’ parties at home.  Beth-Anne recently posted this list of tips from Alyson Schafer to our facebook page (via The Mabelhood) about hosting a party for kids at home.  It’s got lots of sound advice, and I especially liked how Schafer spelled out present etiquette: decide ahead of time if you will open presents at the party or after.  If you open them during the party, make sure the birthday child thanks each guest individually; if you open them after the party, make sure the birthday child sends a thank you note acknowledging the gift.  I like my kids to open the gifts after the guests have gone home, and I’m glad to know that it calls for an extra thank-you.

In the past, we’ve had parties at which we put on plays, parties with a fencing instructor, and, of course, sleepovers that featured very little sleep.  Beth-Anne has hosted a fabulous Ninja Party, and Carol has written about a horrible birthday party and the perils of trying to make everybody happy.

As I cast about for ideas for this year’s crop of parties, I keep coming back to the loot bags for inspiration.  I love putting loot bags together, and I usually find a book that works with the theme of the party: knights, magic, fairy tales.  My kids make bookmarks with a drawing and a note of thanks, and that goes into the book with each guest’s name printed at the top.  Add a sweet treat, bundle it up, and you’re done!

This year I’m putting the cart before the horse and looking at books that have inspired me recently and that could give me a theme:

charlieCharlie’s Dirt Day

written by Andrew Larsen

illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli

We could get the kids to paint flower pots, fill them with dirt and a plant and send them home with a good read and a green thumb.  Between the painting of the pot and the planting of the plant, there could be the kind of birthday chaos that is best enjoyed with a short shelf life.

basquiatLife Doesn’t Frighten Me

by Maya Angelou

Paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat

We’ve been twice to see the Basquiat exhibit at the AGO.  Both times, Littlest and Middlest got busy getting their art on.  The first time they sketched, the second time they sculpted, getting inspiration from the art on the walls.  We could do an art activity and get the kids to create their own signature motif, like Basquiat’s crown.

 

mattOur Woodland Birds

written and illustrated by Matt Sewell

I can’t get enough of Matt Sewell’s bird illustrations.  They are an amazing balance of being entirely his own style while being reliable enough representations to help you identify the bird.  Littlest and I sat down yesterday to paint, a luxury afforded by the slowly tapering end of hockey season, and he painted an homage to Matt Sewell.  We could give the kids sketch books and pencils and make bird art.

 

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Littlest’s copy of/homage to Matt Sewell.

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Jennifer Flores on DIY

jbs-130516_68We are thrilled to have as our guest today Jennifer Flores.  Blogging since 2007, Jennifer is the writer behind Rambling Renovators, a chronicle of the renovations, DIY adventures, creative projects, and home life she shares with her husband and daughter at their home in Toronto. Offline, Jennifer focuses on bringing the blogging community and lifestyle brands together as the Founder and driving force behind BlogPodium, Canada’s Conference for Lifestyle and Design Bloggers.

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I’ve always been a DIYer. From the time I would make clothes for my dolls to now when I make felt food for my daughter’s play kitchen, I’ve always found joy in doing and making things myself. But in this world of Pinterest and Instagram where your feeds are filled with picture-perfect projects from seemingly over-achieving women, that joy can be short-lived.

Where we once derived pleasure from the simple act of learning a skill and using it to create something uniquely ours, nowadays the pleasure might not come until after our home-baked meal/Christmas craft/upcycled thrift store find generates likes and repins from dozens of strangers. And I think that’s when doing it yourself becomes a don’t. Social media has really allowed us to expand our ideas of what’s possible. I’ve been inspired by countless projects on Pinterest. I’ve dusted off the sewing machine, wielded the glue gun, and mastered the miter saw because others have done it so why can’t I? And that’s a good thing! It should be good enough. But still.

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There is that feedback loop now that didn’t exist before. The need not only to do the thing but to share it as well. Increasingly, Doing It Yourself does not necessarily mean Doing It For Yourself. As a blogger, I’m well aware of the currency a clever and well-executed DIY brings: comments, page views, re-pins. Even in offline life, there is satisfaction in saying “Oh this? I made it myself”. When you start to seek that external acceptance though, you set standards that might be impossible to meet.

Then there’s the idea that DIY is somehow a step backwards, a regression to times when there was an expectation for a woman to be domestic. When did DIY become a four-letter word? To me, DIY is a choice and in some ways, an inevitability. If I’ve been given the skills and natural talents to be able to craft and create things, shouldn’t I do just that? My inability to throw a football is just as strong as my ability to throw a stylish fete. Neither of these define me as more or less of a person. It just is. I think DIY is just another facet of one’s personality, expressed in physical form. Just like we all have a singer and a painter inside of each of us (albeit at different levels of ability), we all have a DIYer inside us. And when one chooses to express that ability, online or offline, I think it’s a very beautiful thing.

The Magic and the Mystery of Making Things

alafoss-lopi-1231I make and craft and create to discover the magic and the mystery in things.  Pickles?  I can make those!  Handknit sweater?  That, too!  A felted handbag?  I learned how to do it one summer seven years ago.  Lip balm?  I made some this year!

What all of these things have in common is not necessity or having to make do or any kind of motive of need or fashion.  Nor is crafting a particular passion.  I can go for months without taking up a new project.

What they have in common is that I wanted to unravel the mystery of something that struck me as beautiful and rare.  I loved making lip balm with my boys not only because it was a great idea for Valentine’s favours, but mostly because it took all of the mystery out of something I use several times a day.  I had been paying an outrageous $40 per tube of lip treatment because after many, many tries, it was the only one that worked.  Learning how to make my own, made cosmetics something totally accessible, and I could control the quality and the contents.  That was a powerful feeling.

I have known how to knit since I was a child, and my mother, bless her patience, helped along many a hobbled project when I was little.  Most of them I abandoned.  In elementary school, I think I may have completed a knitted bear, and perhaps a blanket to go with it, and in high school I made myself one simple summer sweater, but I was not a star knitter by any stretch of the imagination.  My mother was.  She knitted, crocheted and sewed the most beautiful and intricate things.  She always had a project on the go.  When I got to university, and my mother was an ocean away, I happened to see some gorgeous Icelandic wool on sale in a bin in big department store, of all places.  It came in a cellophane package, with about ten balls of wool for the main colour of the sweater and one ball each of the secondary colours.  There was a pattern for a chunky fairisle sweater, and it looked so wonderful for the Montreal winter that was already hinting at its severity.  (I had moved from Egypt.  I was not at all used to Canadian winter.)

I love the internet!  This is not the pattern I used 25 years ago, but that's the model, complete with her white headband.

I love the internet! This is not the pattern I used 25 years ago, but that’s the model, complete with her white headband.

At first, I just looked at it longingly, feeling that it was something so far out of my reach, and then I thought, “No, I have what I need to be able to make that.”  I bought the wool and the needles, and I set out to make it.

The only problem was that in all the knitting I had done, my mother had always cast on the stitches for me.  I had never done that alone.  I didn’t have any choice but to go it alone this time, so I taught myself how to cast on simply by closing my eyes and remembering the motions of my mother’s hands as she did it.  There was a trick and a rhythm, and after a few false starts I found them.  I was amazed at the time to have been able to draw that out of my memory.  Muscle memory by proxy.

Making that sweater was so much more than just arming myself for a cold winter.  I felt such a sense of accomplishment in moving myself from beginner to intermediate knitter, and my joy at succeeding at the project was immense.  I wore that sweater for years with great pride.  I made two more, all with the same sense of joy, and with increasing confidence and willingness to improvise with colour and pattern.  It was also contagious: several other women in my dorm went off and bought the same kit, and we’d sit and knit together, avoiding term papers and the drama of the wider world for just that little while.  Making our own sweaters gave us a common purpose and a space apart from the world that worked so hard to define us.

The moment of remembering my mother’s hands casting on my stitches is a touchstone for me.  I think of it often and fondly as a minor miracle of memory and motion and chance.  How many times would I have actually witnessed her casting on stitches?  How carefully was I watching?  I often wonder if or what motions of my hands my own kids will remember years hence.  We don’t plan these moments, but in some way, shape or form, I hope that there will come a time when they are trying something and can close their eyes and see me doing it.

At Issue: Does DIY DYI (Do You In)?

For our At Issue discussion this week, we are looking at the pleasures and perils of doing it yourself.  We will be discussing the debate of whether DIY culture is enriching and helps people to be independent from the marketplace or whether it creates (yet another) sphere in which we are measured against impossible ideals or whether new domesticity amounts to nothing more than a regression to the domestic sphere.

Are you more drawn to Pinterest Fails than Pinterest-worthy pics?  Are you a master or a menace with a power drill?  Do you aspire to be magazine-worthy with your projects and décor, or are you content to either farm out the work or not do it at all?

Join us this week as we discuss our own takes on whether DIY is Doing You In.

jbs-130516_68We are thrilled to welcome as our guest this month Jennifer Flores.  You may know Jennifer already from her amazing design blog, Rambling Renovators.  The blog chronicles Jennifer’s and her husband’s adventures in renovating their 1950s Toronto home.  She keeps it real, and keeps it gorgeous!  Take a tour of her house, and you will see what I mean.  We got to meet Jen in person through a blogging conference that she organizes, Blog Podium.  We have attended for two consecutive years, and we always learn so much from the presenters and other conference-goers.

In the mean time, for a great discussion of the many facets of this debate, check out this review of Emily Matchar’s Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity Ann Friedman summarizes wonderfully the push and pull of feminism, the workplace and the new cult of domesticity.

Hockey Nook DIY

I am a hockey mom.  It’s not all I am, of course, but with three boys in competitive hockey it sometimes really does feel like hockey fills every nook and cranny of our lives.  I took that feeling to its literal extreme this week with this hockey DIY project, and in less than 15 minutes, I filled a tiny corner of Middlest’s room with a hockey vignette.

My project began with a trip to Blacks.  We were invited to visit the store on Yonge at Eglinton to experience their Playground for Photography, and I was inspired the minute I walked through the doors.  We were introduced to a myriad of ideas for taking photos to the next level, from pillow cases, to phone covers to bound books, but I was most captivated by the gallery wall.  Humble instagram photos really came to life grouped together and mounted on interesting surfaces.  (I will be writing about my own gallery of photos from my daily walks for our Photography Month in June!)

Blacks kindly offered us a sample of a mounted photo, and I chose one of Middlest right after he had scored a goal.  Here is the original, taken with my iPhone in less than ideal conditions through plexiglass and with him in motion.  I mention this because you really do not need to begin with a perfect photo for this to work.

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I mistakenly shot the photo with a filter on my phone camera, but it was a fortuitous mistake.  I then added shading to the corners and deep focus to blur the edges with Phototoaster.

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This is the image I gave to Blacks, and I chose to mount it on a metal plate that really complimented the tone and texture of the image.  Metal wall art begins at $34.99 for an image that measures 8 x 8, which is the size that I had.

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I love the mounted image, and I was so excited to find a place to hang it.  The photo is small, but I wanted to give it pride of place, so I knew that it would have to be part of a vignette, and the wall by Middlest’s bed was the perfect spot for it.

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Books are as big a part of our lives as hockey, and they really fill every nook and cranny of this house, so it made sense to include books in the vignette, too.  I put up an invisible book shelf from Umbra to ground the vignette with a stack of hockey books.

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Then I set one of the many, many hockey trophies this boy has already collected on top of the books.  And voila!  A quick and simple project to honour the ways we fill our days (and nights, and weekends, and holidays, and….)

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