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Book Review: Autumn Story

We got this beautiful book called Autumn Story out of the library the other day.  It’s by Jill Barklem and is part of her Bramble Hedge series.  The illustrations are just amazing and so detailed!

 It begins with the mice collecting nuts, berries, and roots for the winter.  Soon they realise they can’t find their little girl, Primrose.  No one has seen her, not even the mice collecting berries in the blackthorn and hawthorn trees.

 It turns out Primrose was wandering around exploring on her own.  She visited some mice high up in a house in a cornfield.  They gave her dinner and showed her their family photo albums.  Afterwards, she found some tunnels to explore, but got lost.

She finally made her way out, and didn’t know how to get home.  Soon her family and friends walked by, searching for her, and they were reunited.  She was taken home and put into cozy warm pajamas and into bed.


What a sweet book!  Our new favorite pictures to draw are mouse tunnels and homes under the ground!



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A witch’s Halloween

I once had a sort of argument with another mother on a parenting forum. She posted about how much she disliked Halloween and all the dead things that go with it. That celebrating death was a total nonsense. Somehow it hurted my feeling.

As someone that is celebrating the Cycle of the Year and try to teach it to my children, Samhain, the witch’s Halloween, is very dear to me.  It’s a time to turn inward and think about the year that have passed. For us it’s the last day of the year. In celebrating Death, we celebrate something that first was alive. In Fall, we celebrate our mother earth that gave us her bunty and now takes a well deserved rest. We celebrate the shortening of daylight because it was once delightly sunny all day. Like in the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the shortest day of the year for it can only go up from that point, Samhain is the deadest point of the Year and while the land will freeze and the animals will hide, everything is still alive, just waiting.

Celebrating Death dosen’t take anything out of Life…Death is not the opposite of Life, it is it’s rightful companion. Most of religions and spiritual paths consist of finding one’s balance. People wants and need to be scared a little, they need to listen to sad songs even when they are happy. Ignoring all the skeletons, vampires and zombies is ignoring a part of ourselves.

Samhain is also a wonderfull time to look back to where we come from.Take some times to teach about your ancesters. Talk about your parents, grand-parents, great-grand-parents if you were lucky enough to know them or if someone told you about them. Create a family tree to display if you don’t already have one. Find pictures of them, younger ones are especially special to kids, frame them and display them along with your Halloween decorations.

This is the opportunity to slow down and rest. Enjoy what you already have at home, and the people that are in it.


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Reford Gardens/Les Jardins de Métis

Please let me lead you into a little piece of heaven on Earth from my region. It’s a beautiful garden that became a prime touristic destination in the area. In the summer of 1926, Elsie Reford began transforming her fishing camp on the Metis River into a garden. Located 220 miles north-east of Quebec City, at 48.51º N. latitude, the gardens she created over the next thirty years were the northernmost in the eastern half of North America. Known to some as Les Jardins de Métis, to others as Reford Gardens, the gardens have become famous since they were opened to the public in 1962. It was our usual end-of-year trip at my primary school and a favourite place to go when we had family coming over the summer. Last June was it’s 50th anniversary and the entry price was only 50¢ (the price from 1962!) so I grabbed the occasion to show the garden to a friend that just moved into the region and I also grabbed my camera, hoping you’ll enjoy the photo tour!

Gardening was by no means Elsie Reford’s  first calling. From the early 1900s she had come to Grand-Metis to fish the pools on the river. She also rode, canoed and hunted. She continued fishing until 1926 when an operation for appendicitis intervened. Ordered to convalesce following surgery, her doctor suggested gardening as a genteel alternative to fishing. She was 54 years old. During the summer of 1926, she began laying out the gardens and supervised their construction. The gardens would take ten years to build. The construction would extend over more than twenty acres. When she began, with the exception of a flagpole, a cedar hedge and a tree-lined driveway, the property was barely landscaped at all. The hay was cut to provide feed for the horses. Flowerpots were arranged on the veranda. It was, after all, a fishing lodge.

Note from Elsie Reford, July 13, 1954:

“Lilacs were marvelous, azaleas very brilliant but I sometimes wonder if the sweeps of blue poppies are not the most satisfying, for apart from their great beauty they outlast everything else for length of time of flowering. They have now been giving much delight for almost a month.”

The Blue Poppy Glade was so named because it was where Elsie Reford displayed one of her rarest and most enchanting plants. The Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia) is one of the marvels of the plant world. Native to the Tsangpo Gorge in the southeast corner of Tibet, it grows at altitudes of 3,120 to 4,000 metres (10,200 to 13,100 feet). These blue poppies are the progeny of the first plants that Elsie Reford grew from seed in the 1930s. Intrigued by the enthusiasm it generated, she was among the first gardeners in North America to try the seeds, obtained from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland. Nestled between martagon lilies (Lilium martagon var. album) and maidenhair ferns (Adiantum pedatum), the blue poppies bloom from the middle of June through the end of July. Notoriously difficult to grow, part of our success is due to the climate of the Lower St.Lawrence, which provides the plants with the humidity and cool night air that the Meconopsis enjoy.

This flower became an icon of the region, and it really is beautiful to see! Hope you liked the visit, and if you ever come into the beautiful region of Mitis, you’ll find that the people are as charming as the landscape.

Information and facts taken from the Reford Gardens website. All pictures by me.

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Dragon Wings Tutorial

My children are really into slaying dragons right now. If you come by our house in the middle of the day, you’re most likely to find them, sword in hand, running around screaming at dragons. And if you saw my toddler’s face when I handed him his very own pair of dragon wings to wear… It lit up! He put them on and off he went…With mama trying to get a good picture of this little beast!

To make one for your little dragon you will need:

  • A strong fabric; I used wool.
  • Jewerly wire, but a hanger could work fine
  • Two bands of elastic (those in the picture were too short, I advice you to go longer)
  • Tools: wire cutters, fabric scissors, safety pins

Make your wire frame. I went with a simple, small baby dragon style.

Double your fabric and cut along your frame, leaving enough clearing for sewing.

Sew the bottom part of the wings, leave to top open so you’ll be able to insert your wire frame.

Flip your wings outside out and insert your frame.

Close the top with an overstitch and, if you feel fancy, overstitch details.

This is also optional; Make cover for your elastics.

Flip right side out and inset elastic.

Sew both elastic in the middle of the wings.

Use wire to give shape to your wings and you’re done!

And see your little one fly away, away from the camera!

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Make a Jacaranda Seedpod Gnome

It’s the time of the year where the Jacaranda tree is starting to get its summer blossoms here in the Southern Hemisphere and the seedpods are starting to fall.  The Jacaranda Tree is a beautiful subtropical tree with gorgeous purple flowers that bloom two times in a year, in early spring before the leaves return, and then again in summer after the leaves have grown.

The seedpods are perfect to craft with and create cute little gnome ornaments.  They are perfect for the Nature Table, Christmas tree, or just as a playful ornament around the house.  Here’s a brief tutorial for a craft you can do together with your kids.


Items needed: jacaranda tree seedpods (remove the seeds if the pod is opened up) that have some of the stem still attached, wooden beads (14/15mm), felt, thread/embroidery floss, needle, scissors, craft knife and craft glue.


First, select a seedpod that you want to work with and check if the bead fits over the little stem.  Shave some of the stem off with the craft knife in case that the joint is to think (be careful though!).

Cut a piece of felt in shape of a triangle that will be the gnome hat.  We made a long pointy hat, but you can shape it as you want.  Thread a needle with embroidery floss or a few strands of thread and sew the hat.  We used the blanket stitch to do this.

Put some craft glue on the stem of the seed and slide the bead on it.  Let it dry.


Take another piece of thread – this will be the loop from the head on which the gnome hangs – and thread the needle.  From the inside of the hat, find the top and stick the needle through, pull the thread through and then stick the needle back into the top of the hat again – a loop had formed on the top of the hat.  Take the two ends on the ‘inside’ of the hat and knot them securely together a few times so that the knot is large enough to not slip through the top of the hat.

Put some craft glue on the top of the bead and place the hat on it, let it dry thoroughly and you are ready.



In case you have no Jacaranda Seedpods available, you can also find the ready made gnomes in the ziezo shop

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Tutorial: Bubble Wands

One of summer’s biggest outdoor fun is to blow bubbles. But when you have little ones around, loosing the tiny plastic bubble wands is a very easy thing to do! Plus, they only make tiny bubbles. I decided I would try my hand at making wire ones like I saw around on the internet and I was pleased at how easy they are to make! Let me show you how we (me and my 4 year old) did!


You will need:

  • Cooper wire, like the one we use in jewelry
  • Wood dowel, or found sticks. We used drift wood like in the Solstice wand tutorial
  • Cookie cutters of various shapes
  • Cutting tools (jewelry ones works great)

Wrap wire around chosen cookie cutter. Take care to leave some loose so the wire overlaps itself.

This the excess around itself, and leave a good length of the other end before cutting. Wrap your shape around your stick.

That quick, that simple! and you have an awesome magical bubble wand! Now you only need to mix one part dish soap with one part water and pour the mix in a plate. Dip your wand in it and blow, or wave you hand!

You can let your creativity go from the basic shape, and even choose not to use cookie cutter as a guide. Kids like them so much better then the little plastic ones. Go try to make one, but I warn you, it’s addictive and soon you’ll have tons in stock- perfect for summer birthdays!

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Tutorial: Felt Lettuce Tutorial

When my daughter got in age of playing with playfood, I became obsessed at making them. She now has a bin filled with various food I made her from vedgies to dessert to sushies. Today I want to show you how I made a lettuce!

Cut 3 vague peanut form. Run stitch an inch at the bottom. Gather.

See how they look together, edit the cut if needed.

Cut 3 smaller pieces, pin together. Sew following the piece on top untill 3/4 up.

Cut a rectangle, square or circle (I used a leftover) And push it inside.

Sew at some corners, so that you don’t see any edges from the top.

Should look like this. Stuff with wool.

Attach the biggest leaves to see where you place them.

Sew them on with an overcast stitch.

Cut a circle, Blanket stitch it to the bottom so we don’t see any stuffing.




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Bunnies in the Forest (Toys on a Walk series)

On a crisp, spring day, Hungry Bunny went out for a walk in Tryon Creek State Park in Portland, OR. I am so lucky to get to work in this beautiful park and I was able to capture his adventure with my camera.

Hungry Bunny decided on a trail with waterleaf lining the edges and sword fern arching overhead.

The forest is coming to life thanks to spring’s sunshine and the fiddleheads are like starting to uncurl above the bunny’s head.

Did you know that violets aren’t always, um, violet colored? These are yellow wood violets and the young leaves and flower buds are edible. Our bunny friend stopped for a little nibble. His name is Hungry Bunny after all!

Hungry Bunny passed under some salmonberry plants and decided to take a break to play dress-up with the buterfly-shaped wings.

Every hiker knows they have to share the trail so he stopped to let a banana slug pass by. There’s nothing icky about these creatures. They’re decomposers that do great work in the forest. Watch out for the slime!

At the base of a huge western red cedar tree, Hungry Bunny met up with his pals Love Bunny, Woodland Bunny and Pretty Bunny.

From their low vantage point the tree seemed to go up and up forever!

The friends frolicked in the forest and climbed the roots of a fallen Douglas fir tree.

In the soft, decomposing wood of a western red cedar stump the friends had a picnic of candy flower, also known as western miner’s lettuce.

Happy and finally no longer hungry, Hungry Bunny made his way back home, careful not to linger too long next to the huge skunk cabbage plants with the smelly flowers.

He ended the afternoon with a nice nap on the broad leaves of a trillium. These pretty flowers take 7 years to bloom and the petals start out white then turn pink and, finally, magenta as they age.


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Photo Tutorial: Summer Solstice Sun Wand

The Summer Solstice might be my favorite holiday.  The earth is at last warm again and the lilac trees are full of flowers. School is over and pools are opening!

To celebrate the longest day, I made this very simple wand that takes no time to assemble.

You need

  • A twig of any sort. I used driftwood from our beach.
  • Yellow, red and orange felt
  • Lace, strand of yarn, ribbons….

What to do:

  • Cut a sun shape in your yellow felt, double it. I went really pointy with this one, but you can make a rounder one.
  • Embellish it to your imagination
  • Blanket stitch all around, but leave one point open

  • Cut your stands of lace and ribbons the length of the twig

  • Attach it to one end of the twig.

  • Place inside the Sun.
  • Here I blanket stitched over the lace to firmly attach the Sun to the stick

And you’re done!

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Living on a land (Toys on a Walk series)

Please let Albus and Victoria, our resident dolls, give you a tour of our little part of earth.

For this year we decided to rent the grand-parents house of Papa, which is located on the family land on the shore of the magnificent Saint-Laurent river, in the Province of Québec, Canada. There, my in-laws cultivate potatoes and all sorts of vegetables.

Here the land takes longer to wake up. When we took our walk, only green moss and some dandelions were at sight.

But there are lots of winged friends around!

Of course, the kings of nature here are the evergreens. Cedars, Pines, Firs are what’s green all year long.

Buds are just appearing. Roses, Maples, Birch are cautious here. They don’t want to get caught with frost!

We will plant potatoes soon, as now’s the time. But the lettuce, carrots, beans, squashes and broccoli will have to wait until the end of the month; they are much more fragile.

On the land, there are ponds to sit by and watch trouts. Sometimes a heron great us there too.

Fields waiting. Oh, the possibilities!

Back to the house is one of my favorite view. A swirly earth road borded with trees, looking at summer cottage transformed into all-year home, to the river so huge we people here call the sea.

In the sand we can find many treasures; seashells, urchins, crabs shells, special rocks and tons of drift wood.

Underwater lies more treasures, and all the activity of tiny things living in it!

With the sea and the forest so near, we feel very fortunate. It is a perfect setting for a slow-paced life and a wonderful theatre for us to witness the cycle of the seasons.