A House in the Trees

This summer we had two new structures built on our property. One is a garden shed that I promise to show you soon, but today I’d like to give you the tour of our new tree house play structure for the children, which was finished in June, and has already seen many hours of play.

Nestled within four oak trees, and shaded by their branches, this new structure sits, ready for the children. As you walk up to the steps you’ll notice three personalized mail boxes. There might be stickers, a small toy, bubbles or a love note inside. You just never know!IMG_0808IMG_0137 Up the steps, here we go.
IMG_0171Hold on to the tree branch hand rails for support.IMG_9918Don’t forget to check the little fairy house on your way up the stairs. There might be something special in there.IMG_0368Open the wee door. This time there’s an acorn and a shell!IMG_0370Now we’re up at the top, about three feet off the ground. Excuse the mess; children have been busy playing here!IMG_0800IMG_0806IMG_0802

IMG_0803

IMG_0805

There’s plenty of room for running, climbing, butterfly chasing, playing with toys, doing a little chalk art, or steering a “ship”. Most recently we traveled to the ocean to see the whales!

In the coming years I can imagine camp outs and tea parties, star gazing and moon viewing. And I, for one,  can hardly wait to see just what other discoveries will be made here!

Trees of Love

It’s tree planting time around here! We have a tradition of planting a tree on our property to honor each of our children and grandchildren. Yes indeed, our new little one who is due in July now has her own tree.

It’s a Mt. Fuji Flowering Cherry with such beautiful and delicate white and pale pink double blossoms. IMG_3781I knew the tree would go into a bit of shock when it was planted and so I left it in its nursery can and waited until it was finished blooming before putting it into the ground. Here it is.
IMG_8979We added three low growing ceanothus and three spirea around the tree. I’m really looking forward to seeing this new garden bed in all its glory come next spring.IMG_8980And just look what we dug up while planting! Five of them! The heart rock that is third from the left was right in the hole for the tree, and the other four were found while preparing and digging the six other holes for the other plants in the new garden. What a thrill!IMG_8977We didn’t live in this house when my children were born, and didn’t get around to planting trees for them until their high school years when we were working on landscaping much of our property.

This is a variegated dogwood planted for one of our sons. Aren’t those show stopping leaves?
IMG_9079And this is the sweet leaf of the Eastern Redbud that we planted for our other son. Both trees have spectacular blooms in early spring as well as stunning fall color.IMG_8885This gorgeous dark leaved Japanese Maple found a permanent home here as we waited for our grandson’s arrival.IMG_9125And here is the graceful Japanese Maple that was planted for our first grand daughter two years ago. Each of the lovely Japanese Maples puts on its own spectacular show in the fall.IMG_9123Walking through the gardens I can’t help but feel the great sense of connectedness, comfort and love that each of these trees of love provides. Oh yes, and nearby each special tree are heart rocks! But you already knew that, right?

Back Where It Belongs

IMG_8990 Many years ago when I was pregnant with my first baby, a friend and I had gone out shopping. We were at World Market when I fell in love with a simple, natural wicker bassinet. That dear friend bought the bassinet and surprised me with it for my baby shower, and together, she and I made the bedding for it.

It was Mother’s Day thirty three years ago, the day I came home from the hospital with my newborn son, when I first put my little love in this sweet nest. It was so light that I could easily pick it up and move it around with me throughout the house and yard, wherever I needed to be. Three years later that bassinet was ready for my second son, and after that went on to be borrowed by countless friends and relatives throughout the years. It then sat empty in our garage for many years, too special for me to part with. Waiting for grand babies.

Three and a half years ago when our son and daughter in law were expecting their first baby, I dusted off that treasure, took it in to a furniture repair business to have the wicker re-tied, and then had it sanitized. I stained it and had a seamstress make a new mattress and bedding for it. Our first sweet grand baby was born and out it went to be a comfy nest for him during his first few months of life. Sixteen months later, it was there for the second child. This time a grand daughter. When my son and his wife decided that their family was complete, I was asked if I wanted the bassinet back. At that time my other son and his love had decided that they weren’t going to have children, and so, as difficult as it was to say goodbye to it, I took comfort knowing that other newborns would be using it. The bassinet was sold through a Facebook group for parents and I was assured that it was exactly what the new owners were looking for!

A few months ago we learned that we would be welcoming our third grand baby in July. Yep, our other son and his love announced that they were expecting their first baby. Surprise!

Imagine my complete and utter shock when this past weekend, Mother’s Day weekend, my son and daughter in law opened the back of their SUV and presented me with my gift. The family bassinet had made it’s way back home! IMG_8959Through tears of joy, I listened to their story of how my daughter in law put out a plea on the Facebook group to try and track down and buy the bassinet back. I’m told they’d been working on finding it for a month, and that once the couple who bought it heard our story, they graciously sold it back.

The beloved little baby bed has been cleaned again, re-stained, and is now at my other son’s home waiting to hold another of our babies.  The story of finding it and bringing it back home makes the bassinet that much more special and meaningful. My thoughtful son and daughter in law, that much more precious to me. My heart is overflowing with love and gratitude and appreciation, and did I say love? I know it’s meant to stay with us. Its traveling days are through!

 

 

Some Sensory Fun

I’m so grateful for the bountiful rain we’ve been getting here in drought stricken California. What a difference a couple months of normal rainfall make. The sound of water rushing through our seasonal creek is absolute music to my ears! When we have little ones spend a day at our home during these cold, wet months we still have plenty of outside time, wearing rain boots and coats. There are puddles to be splashed in and the creek to wade through, lots of running and exploring still to do, but of course, we spend much more time indoors than out. Here are some simple recipes to make for some indoor sensory fun with children.

My play dough recipe is the same one I used when my own boys were young and the one I made when I taught young children. There are many great recipes for play dough, but I prefer this one, perhaps for sentimental reasons.

Play dough

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

1 cup water

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1/3 cup salt

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

food coloring

IMG_7622

Directions: Measure all ingredients and place in a saucepan on medium heat. I use a wooden spoon that I’ve designated just for play dough (It will get stained from the food color) and stir the ingredients together until a ball forms.IMG_7623This is the play dough straight out of the pan  and cooling on parchment paper. Once cool enough to handle, begin kneading.IMG_7624 I added 4 – 5 drops of essential oil and kneaded it a minute or two longer once the dough was cool to touch.IMG_7625And here it is, so pliable and smooth, silky and soft. Just perfect for little hands.IMG_7626On this occasion I placed it in a Rubbermaid tub, along with pinecones, seed pods, sticks and other bits of nature and just let the magic happen.IMG_7696

IMG_7682

Cloud Dough

Ingredients:

Four measures of all purpose flour to one measure of oil. Baby oil adds a lovely scent, but vegetable oil works well if your little one might be tempted to taste. Grate in chalk if you’d like to add color.IMG_7299No cooking and so easy, just mix the ingredients together. Add a drop or two of essential oil if desired (I used lavender). The texture is like pastry.IMG_7301IMG_7303Playing with the dough with our hands felt quite therapeutic as we squished and crumbled and raked it with our fingers. Add child sized rolling pins, small kitchen utensils, cookie cutters or small toys. And as soon as you can, get back outside again!

Store each of these doughs in ziplock bags and each will keep for a few weeks.

Autumn Leaf Placemats

Here’s a quick little project that I made yesterday for the two youngest loves of my life for the Thanksgiving table. I’m not sure if they’ll last more than a week, but these placemats are fun, festive and wipeable, made with just a few materials.

Here’s what I used:

  • a variety of leaves
  • glue
  • poster board, cut to size
  • clear Contact paper

Directions:

I gathered leaves from the yard, cut one piece of poster board into two, penciled in the names of my grandchildren, and then glued on leaves over the writing.IMG_6706IMG_6708IMG_6707I set them aside and let them completely dry for the day as I got busy with cleaning and cooking. That evening I cut two pieces of clear Contact paper about two inches bigger than the poster board on each side. I peeled the backing off the Contact paper, and carefully adhered it to the poster board, rubbing to smooth as many of the bubbles out as I could.IMG_6711IMG_6713The finish on the poster board allows you to lift the Contact paper a number of times to get it fairly smooth. IMG_6710Once you get the front of the placemat smooth, fold the extra inch or so that is on each side over and secure it to the back side.IMG_6714And here are the finished placemats.IMG_6717IMG_6716It’s a fun and quick project to make for a special event. I can envision different types of conifer needles to make Christmas themed placemats and flower petals would make pretty ones any time of the year, as well.

Hoping your day was filled with loved ones, delicious food, happiness and gratitude.

Autumn Wreath for the Little Ones to Make

This is a simple and fun activity that my grandchildren, ages 18 months and two and a half years, and I made last week.

Gather leaves, flower petals, seed pods, acorns and small pinecones with the children. Some of the nature items from our collection came from my yard and some from theirs.

IMG_6693Ready to begin, we covered the table with our trusty vinyl tablecloth, and while I cut out the circles on two Chinet brand paper plates, the toddlers got to work choosing which treasures to glue on. IMG_6559They each enjoyed squeezing the glue out and pressing leaves on. We chatted about the different colors, smells, and shapes of the leavesIMG_6560IMG_6561Once the creations were dry, I tied a bit of twine in the back to hang and added a twine bow in the front. So easy. Such fun!

One for Mama and Daddy’s house and one for Grandma and Grandpa’s.IMG_6567 (1)A perfect added touch to welcome Thanksgiving guests.

Fairytale Town Fun

 

IMG_6032Fairytale Town in Sacramento has provided families great fun for over fifty years. This storybook park featuring live farm animals, gardens, and playgrounds, all beautifully maintained within two and a half acres, offers safe and unlimited enjoyment for all.

We brought our toddler aged grand children here to play a week ago and had such fun.

There are a number of gardens within the park, each one lovingly tended to. In Mr. McGregor’s Garden, Beatrix Potter’s long loved Tale of Peter Rabbit comes to life. The hands-on garden features raised beds full of seasonal vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers. What a great sensory experience! IMG_5945Child sized watering cans hanging from low hooks invite young ones to water the gardens.IMG_6031IMG_6034IMG_6033Further inside Mr. McGregor’s Garden is the Alphabet Garden. Each colorful letter of the alphabet sits alongside a plant that starts with that letter. Plants include annuals, perennials, shrubs and a few trees.IMG_5926IMG_5927IMG_5929IMG_5931IMG_5932Here is the plant list for the Alphabet Garden: Agapanthus, Bird of Paradise, Cherry Tree, Daphne, Escallonia, Feverfew, Geranium, Hummingbird Bush, Ice Plant, Jasmine, Kniphofia, Lamb’s Ear, Magnolia, Nandina, Orchid Rockrose, Pomegranate, Quince, Rose of Sharon, Sea Pink, Thyme, Umbrella Plant, Verbena, Wisteria, Xylosma, Yarrow, Zebra Grass.

What a delightful morning of wonder, magic and discovery we all had! Here’s to many more fun filled visits.

Note – Some of the photos in this post were downloaded from the website.

Toadstool Seating Area

 

A few months ago I was in a public children’s garden in San Luis Obisbo and I came across these enchanting toadstool seats made out of tree rounds. About the same time, we had a Gray Pine that came down on our property during a storm. Wanting to create something similar for our little ones here at home, we set to work. I am so pleased with the results.

First, I cleared a path by removing large cobbles under some oaks. We chose pieces from the trunk of the pine that had the least damage to them and cut each down to size with a chain saw, and then placed them in the setting under the oaks.IMG_5416Next, we added gravel and raked it in for the path. During a trip to Home Depot we found this circular piece, and once home, my husband nailed the circular piece to the center round to make a table. I then brushed a coat of primer over the table top and the tops to each chair.

IMG_5479IMG_5418

Once the primer was dry I added three coats of exterior red paint, and then to make the white dots, I used a round make up sponge, painting directly on the sponge and then stamping each polka dot with that.IMG_5445 A clear protective coat was brushed on the finished table and chairs to try to protect it from the elements, but I also plan to cover the area with a tarp during storms.

Our dear grand children, ages two and a half, and fifteen months spent two days with us over the weekend. This little toadstool table and chairs was definitely a hit. For snacks, climbing, and exploring, it’s a special place just their size. Pull up a toadstool and have a seat!