Earth Day Reads

We are all about nature at our house. We love to be in it, we love to celebrate it, we love to read about it. It is very important to me that Wyatt loves the earth and the outdoors as much as we do, and by exposing him to it through being outside, cherishing all our creatures great and small, and learning by reading as well, we can nourish that ingrained sense of love toward our world and all of its inhabitants. I have a few books that I have put aside just for Earth Day next week – some are old favorites, some are new to us. And here they are, one for each day next week and then a bonus one for fun!

The Earth Book – This one has been in rotation here for a while! Wyatt loves it, so do I. It’s a quick easy read, and has great colorful illustrations.

Me… Jane– This is a great read for kids, to introduce them to Jane Goodall- and to show them that a dream you have as a kid can become reality! We read this one together surrounded by every monkey toy that Wyatt has.

Blackout – This one is a favorite of mine. It is about a citywide blackout that causes families to leave their technology behind and venture out into the community. I love it to pieces and is a good book to use to talk about energy conservation and time without tech.

Fancy Nancy Every Day is Earth Day – It is important to me to make Wyatt aware that our choices for a better planet are an every day thing, not just on earth day!

Biscuit’s Earth Day Celebration – I thought this was a cute look at a few things kids can do to participate in keeping our planet alive and healthy.

It’s Earth Day! – I love Mercer Mayer! Little Critter was a favorite of mine as a kid and I can’t wait to read this one with Wyatt. This is a new one to both of us!

The Lorax – No list about Earth Day books would be complete without the Lorax…I think we might make some truffula trees even!

Bug Hotel – My son loves bugs. We bought a bug house last year but this year I want to really expand on it and do a few other things as well.

And a few books for you!

Two books that I love, and one that is on my list! Meadowland and John Lewis Stempel started a whole new way of how I look at the world around me. The Nature Fix took that a few more steps. I highly recommend them both. And Common Ground just intrigues me! I have it on hold at the library and it’s a waiting game.. (If you like nature narratives I read about one a month, check back for more!)

What about you? Do you have any good earth day/environmental reading suggestions? I would love to hear them!

A Bird’s Eye View

2019-03-25Saturday was a warm, bright, sunny day – the perfect spring day really.

Good thing we waited until Sunday when it was chilly, cloudy and gray for our family hike! Lol. Oh well. We dressed warmly and headed out – we usually try not to let weather stop us, unless it is extreme weather, of course.

So we headed out, braving the overcast skies and the cold air. We had a purpose to our walk this time too – to try out our new Kelty Kid’s hiking backpack carrier. We didn’t have a ton of time either, which ended up being perfect because we found a new cool place to hike when we want just a short little saunter in the outdoors. It is close to our home, and in a wetland area, which we normally don’t hike in for some reason, even though we live in the Great Lakes State!

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The trail was short but we saw so much during our adventure! We heard the whistle of the red-winged blackbirds, back in town after their winter away; we saw sparrows and chickadees, flickering about, singing and chittering to us from their perches high up in the still bare branches. We saw a plethora of waterfowl, from swans to mallards to ring-neck ducks to buffleheads (I love that name!) We even saw a beaver quickly duck under the surface of the water just a few feet in front of us! This was pretty cool, since beaver have just really recently returned to our area after 150 years – a very good sign regarding the ecological state of our waterways!

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As I said, we had a mission Sunday, to try out the Kelty. I was so impatient to get out and get going honestly, the excitement to see how it was going to work for our family was making me antsy! For us, it is not just a convenience but world-changing. As Wyatt has cerebral palsy, and is making progress every day with his walking, but we still need a way to get outdoors and take longer hikes right now. In our lives before becoming parents, this was something Billy and I did regularly and for vacations. Trips to walk the Appalachian Trail, trails “Up North” in Michigan, those are fun good times to us. It is so important for us to continue this, and share this passion with our son. We have so many national parks we want to visit – we just need to be creative! As Wyatt is getting longer and bigger (not necessarily heavier lol!) carrying him just in our arms isn’t cutting it. And honestly, it’s not cutting it for him anymore either. He needs to be able to experience the woods and trees and the birds and everything a little differently too – this way, in the pack, he can see looking straight ahead of him, see as we see, a whole new perspective! He can also reach up and out to touch things, learning and experiencing the outdoors in a new way.  He even got to use his own binoculars to look for birds! We loved it, and so did he!! He had such a great time, riding around on his dad’s back. He didn’t want to get out honestly, and wanted us to keep going! And we would have had we had the time. However, much longer adventures are now in our future!

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As we walked, I could swear I heard the hooting of an owl somewhere, although Billy missed it so I could have imagined it. I didn’t imagine however, the Bald Eagle that soared overhead. They really are such majestic creatures. It was a perfect ending to our walk, one that signifies more freedom for our family, with a visit from a Bald Eagle.

A bit of green, a bit of grey

On the weekend, we usually head for the wild. Or as wild as we can get near Detroit. Lol. The woods call our name and we go. This past weekend however we took a detour and it was a lovely one.

Saturday was a gorgeous sunny day, spring was in the air and all was merry and cheerful. Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery was having a Celtic Celebration, and I couldn’t wait to go. I love the work that comes out of Pewabic, and my family ancestry is very Irish. They had advertised dancing, things for the kids to do, and best of all, live music. I grew up spinning around the living room in my mom’s arms to the songs of the Irish Rovers and I play them now for my son. So I was super excited for him to hear some Irish music live. I knew he would really love it, that and the dancing, all that lively jumping up and down.

We got there at the start of the event since Pewabic is not a large building really, and full of breakables and we had the boyo with us. I wanted to ensure that we were not swallowed by a crowd, plus I didn’t want to chance breaking anything by accident. It was nice as we were among the first to arrive, and we were able to listen to the music and do some coloring without much crowding. Although, Wyatt was more interested in his pretzel than coloring, so Billy colored instead. Lol. Wyatt did love the music as predicted, and loved The Rattling Bog the very best, just like I do.

Oh that fireplace! If only…maybe one day? So many beautiful items were on display, so much fantastic artistry. I ended up buying the bunny pictured alone, although I am going back for more very soon. I love rabbits. The tile I bought was by a Canadian artist named Mary Philpott, and is in the style of the British Arts and Crafts movement. I am in love with it! You can check out more of her work here.

Sunday was about Billy. Kind of. He wanted to go to an RV and Camper show, which I wasn’t super excited to do. But you know how you do, you do things your spouse wants and vice versa, right? Plus, he threw in that it was in the same city as a coffeehouse that I have wanted to go to for twenty whole years! So, off we went. I didn’t hate the RV thing – but I did think once you saw a few of them, why look at them all? We are considering getting one so we can start doing longer trips with the kiddo on vacation. As a kid with cerebral palsy, he has a lot of equipment that goes with us on trips, and a small RV might just be the ticket. Plus…I have turned into a weird germophobe along the way. I love staying in hotels but I am always a bit skeptical about their cleanliness, which I am sure is warranted in some cases, but not all! I guess I just need to bring my own bed with me places now. LOL.

So this coffeehouse – Billy went to it twenty years ago when he was doing travel computer training, when we were first married. Only an hour away, and we never made it back there – until last weekend! This magic place is called The Raven Cafe, in Port Huron, and is so very Edgar Allen Poe. I loved it! It was worth the wait. The coffee was hot and black and delicious, and our food was pretty darn good too! Wyatt wasn’t as impressed, and began to finger paint on the mirror next to us with his cheese sauce. (we of course cleaned it up and stopped him! we are not those parents..lol) If you ever are in the area and get the chance to stop in, I recommend it. The service was friendly, the coffee perfect, and the tables named for poets! It was the perfect day for it as well, cloudy, rainy, a bit gloomy, and the cafe was all warm woods the color of honey and just warmth and coziness. The website describes itself as “Part Hogwarts and part Cheers, the Raven is a unique place. When you step through the doors, you’ll get the distinct feeling you’re walking into a story.” And this is a very apt description, and I agree. I can’t wait to go back again.

 

So our weekend had a bit of glee with a side of gloom, and I loved them both!

 

A Wild and Woodsy Birthday Weekend

This weekend was my son’s fourth birthday! Time flies – I never knew how fast until I became a mom.  One minute he’s my little peanut baby boy and the next he is a big time four year old!

We love to be outside, especially in the winter, so this weekend we kicked off celebrations with a special outing just for the three of us to the Howell Nature Center. The Howell Nature Center is a rehab facility for wild animals that get sick or injured, with most of the animals being returned to the wild. However, not all of their animals are able to return due to the severity of their injuries, and reside at the Nature Center.

It was a cold and snowy morning, so we had the place to ourselves, which was nice honestly. Quiet, peaceful…until the Sandhill Cranes figured out it was their feeding time. Wow they are so loud! It was pretty cool to hear them though, and we watched them get fed. When we approached the enclosure the pair were excited, asking their caretakers for their frozen mice. And on the ground was an egg! The female had laid an egg, unfertilized, but an egg. It was really huge and pretty, and brand new. The woman working said it would be used for educational purposes. It was neat to see!

After watching the cranes, we wandered around, visiting the other enclosures. Some animals were being housed indoors for the winter, but many were still in their homes and feeling like visiting us, such as the bobcat, who strolled on by like a giant indifferent cat; the beautiful foxes – my favorite – Vixen and Copper, who were rescued from a breeder in Ohio that was going to use them for fur; the mink, who was flipping and flopping and playing all over his enclosure; and many mammals, like the deer, the coyote, and the porcupine. And we saw almost all of the birds – including two beautiful snowy owls! Yeti is a snowy that is their most recent intake. He was found in a back yard, starving, having been hit by a car as well, with a broken wing, no longer able to fly. We saw so many owls and hawks and eagles – I also fell in love with a handsome guy named Leo, who is a long eared owl. He was so cool!

On Sunday, we celebrated with a party for the boyo! We go to our local metropark all the time, and Wyatt loves it there. So it made sense to have it at the nature center! We did an owl theme, since my kiddo loves owls (and does a pretty good imitation of an Eastern Screech!) and there was so much for the kids to play and do. The interpreters read the book Owl Babies to the kids, then had them all make the cutest little owl babies out of pinecones and cotton! It was such a simple little craft, and the kids really enjoyed it! Although getting them all to stay in one place was a little like herding cats. They would wander around, come back, make another – typical preschooler behavior. They all did such a nice job though, and the interpreters did a great job with the kids. It was the perfect activity.

We kept the food simple, just pizza and some trail mix, pretzels and Teddy Grahams – and of course cake and ice cream. I went a little crazy ordering the cake, but it was beautiful and delicious. Then we just opened gifts, and let the kids explore and play for a while. It was a really nice day – and it even snowed for us, causing the woods to look gorgeous and all the birds to flock to the feeders. We saw so many different birds, but the most brilliant were the cardinals, with their red feathers so bright against the snow. At the end of the afternoon, we said goodbye, and handed out the goodie bags that my stepdad made that looked like cute little owls! Inside we had a small decorative birdhouse for all the kids.

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We were all exhausted of course afterwards, but it was more than worth it. My boy had a wonderful, fun day with all his friends, just the way it should be on your birthday.

 

Saturdays are for family

Saturday is our designated day for us, as much as we possibly can. Our weeks are so full, with work and school and therapy and appointments and cleaning and chores and all the stuff that comes along with living everyday. So we set Saturday aside as our day. The day we let things go, and just be together.

This past Saturday it was very much needed. It’s been an intense two weeks emotionally for me, and I do best when I get space and quiet to process things. We were predicted to have some crazy bad weather later that night through Monday morning, but when we left the house it was a brilliantly sunny day. A little chilly, but warm enough to get outside, walk around a bit, and soak up a little bit of sunshine.

We headed to Belle Isle in Detroit, somewhere we haven’t been for a while. The river was full of giant freighters, making their way through the Great Lakes, and people were running, biking, and two people were even playing hockey on the ice on one of the ponds. We took our time driving around, looking for birds. We eventually pulled into the nature center parking lot to get out of the car and stretch our legs a bit, and get some air and some of that sun. We walked on the trail behind the nature center, among the tall frozen grasses, the sounds of birdsong surrounding us.

 

Being out in the air was so restorative. You can take a deep breath, and feel yourself just relaxing and letting go of things that are bothering you, at least for a little while. And when you have two guys with you that look like lumberjacks, even better.

We of course popped inside the nature center after our walk. It was nice to warm up a bit, talk to the interpreters, and sit and watch the birds from the viewing area.

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And sometimes you see more than birds!

When we had hung out long enough, we bundled back into the car, shared a snack, and headed into the city, to one of our favorite bakeries, Avalon. If you are ever in Detroit, they make some fantastic bread and cookies. Usually Billy stops on his way home from work on Friday nights to get us fresh bread for Saturday morning breakfast, but he hasn’t had a chance lately. So we decided to get our bread for the week since we were already in town anyway.

I always want to go a bit crazy in there and buy everything, but I practice some restraint. This time we got a baguette, challah bread, a raisin bread loafling, an olive bread loafling (they were made from the dough that wasn’t enough to make a full loaf – so I am calling them loaflings..), a plain croissant, three cookies, and a peanut butter and chocolate brownie. I refrained from the Rose Latte which sounds amazing, and the chocolate croissant – this time at least! The sun was shining bright through the windows, it wasn’t crazy busy, and there was a man playing some music on his trumpet, so we stuck around a bit to listen and enjoy our cookies.

Eventually though, we had to head for home, but we did so with restored spirits and full bellies.

Hello, February!

Have any of you seen that meme that says “January was a tough year, but we survived”? That is pretty much how I am feeling. January was a rough month, but we made it. We were sick a lot, stuck inside, the weather trapped us indoors, and we didn’t get to do a lot of the things we planned. We did have a lot of good family time at home, but we are feeling a little stir crazy. We usually love to hike and be outdoors in the winter, but January kind of kicked our butt this year, including slamming us with a polar vortex on its way out the door. So hello February, we are glad to see you!

The arctic freeze last week was horrid, leaving us layering up inside, gathering all of our blankets, and in general causing us to be slugs. We were as toasty as could be, and then there was a fire in a nearby county that depleted natural gas reserves. We got an alert to turn our heat down to save resources so that we didn’t run out! That was a fun turn of events. Not only that, but the rest of the lower peninsula had to worry about losing electricity as well. Our city actually has its own power company, so we are generally not down long, so in the event of losing heat, we could have used an electric heater. Not fun, but doable. Thankfully it didn’t come to that though!

By the weekend, Wyatt and I were crawling the walls. When Billy got home from work on Friday, we ventured outside for the first time in days, and headed to one of our favorite restaurants, Joe’s Hamburgers. It is an eclectic mix of local history, hockey, and burgers and beer. Everyone must have had the same idea, as it was packed, even early in the evening when we went.

Saturday we ran a bunch of errands, then we got to play! We spent most of the day gone from the house – we went to the nature center, where Wyatt had a blast exploring. Then we took a long ride in the car, where Wyatt promptly fell asleep after having exhausted himself at the nature center. We stopped for pie to eat at home, drank some coffee, looked at the frozen tundra that Michigan had become, then turned the car toward home. My mother-in-law came over to watch little man so that we could get out for a bit the two of us, and so Billy and I went on a winter night hike through the woods followed by a bonfire and s’mores.

The night was perfectly clear and still and cold. There is nothing like the magic of being in a winter woods at night. Lucky us, as we started down the trail a majestic great horned owl chose to fly overhead, leaving his lady owl on their nest to keep their eggs warm. After our walk, we gathered around a warm bonfire, making s’mores and learning about the area, and sharing our own stories. I managed to eat three before calling it quits, getting marshmallow all over my gloves since I am perpetually messy, but the little boy who was there with his parents devoured six, and managed to keep his gloves marshmallow free!

The full moon this month is the snow moon, so called that because this was a time of heavy snow. Hopefully though, we are done with big snows around here! It is also a time for renewal, so we are taking this month to try to focus on things that renew us, as a family, and as individuals. I have been wanting to practice yoga again, as I used to go religiously before Wyatt, so that is a huge goal for me personally this month. As a family we are focusing on our garden – planning it, starting seeds if we need to, looking forward to the warmth of spring and the return of wild and bright colors.

Anyone else have any plans or goals for this month? Were you excited to see January go?

Our Must Watch Holiday Favorites

I think most of us will admit that watching a good holiday movie is one of the little indulgences in a season that can be chaotic as well, with all the running and shopping and wrapping and all the bits and bobs that we do in December. But curling up with a favorite feel-good movie with loved ones is an easy way to just let it all go for a while, and get sucked into some magical world where all ends well and brings a smile to your face. 

When we kick back with our hot chocolate or wine, depending on the day and mood, these are some of the movies we must watch every December. Some are traditions that began when we were just little, some have been added in over the years. Maybe some of them are on your list too!

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Our whole family can pretty much recite this movie word for word. It’s a comedic look at the holiday but also has its poignant moments too. I remember watching this with my dad one year when I was in high school, and he was laughing so hard at the “Squirrel!” scene he was silent laughing with tears rolling down his face, rolling on the floor. Like really ROFL! 

Love Actually: Ok, this is not just my favorite Christmas movie, it is my all time favorite movie. I can watch it anytime. It never fails to make me shed some tears, and I just really, actually, love it. (Quick – whose story is your favorite? It’s such a tough call, but personally, I love Hugh Grant’s)

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Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas: I adore this movie. We just watched it with Wyatt the other night for the first time, and he did too. I was so happy that he liked it! 

The Muppet Christmas Carol: Another family favorite. I am a huge Muppet fan, have been since I was a little girl, and I love this version of a Christmas Carol. And Michael Caine is as always amazing. I am looking forward to watching this one with Wyatt too this year.

White Christmas: Oh, how I love this movie. I used to watch it every year with my mom and brother, and now Billy and I and Wyatt watch it. Wyatt actually loves musicals, he is a musical kid. And Bing’s voice – Christmas isn’t Christmas until you hear a carol crooned by him. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas: An oldie but goodie. 

A Claymation Christmas and A Garfield Christmas: I’m putting these on here together because we watch them together on the same night, back to back. Much to my husband’s chagrin, Wyatt also likes these movies. Lol. Billy is not a fan, especially of Claymation Christmas. It’s just such a part of my youth, watching these while drinking wassail with my brother and stepsisters, that I keep the tradition alive. And now Wyatt enjoys them, so a whole new tradition has begun!

So, there you have it! Our must watch Christmas movies. That doesn’t mean we don’t watch other ones – I watched Chrismas Prince on Netflix last year at least every other day for a while. And now, I am gearing up to watch the Wedding! (The Royal Wedding! Lol) I randomly watched The Christmas Bunny last year and loved it, although my heart broke a little bit a few times. And Carol Brady is in it! Well, not as Carol Brady, but as a curmudgeonly rabbit rescuer! I loved it and of course wanted a rabbit after watching. We didn’t get one, but I still wanted one. And one year I watched a movie called The March Sisters and loved that one too – and I have been looking for it to watch it again ever since. 

What about you? Any movies you must watch?