We haven't been letterboxing since November but the girls were inspired to create a new box for Wolfe's Neck Farm with some of their 4-H friends. L. was put in charge of designing and carving the stamp and just finished it.
Keeping the design simple helped L. when it came time to carve out the stamp. She also had to remember to write the letters/numbers backwards so the impression came out correctly. She decided to make a second stamp because she enjoys carving them so much.
We're headed back to the farm in a few weeks to hide the letterbox (and a geocache) and we'll let you know the details when that's done. But this weekend we're plan to go hiking in the mid-coast region (still working out the details today).
In preparation for our first hike of the season, the kids just went through our backpacks to restock the first aid kit and inventory our various supplies (binoculars, GPS, candy/gum, etc.). They also included an extra pair of socks in their packs so we don't run into the same trouble we did last spring (L.'s not interested in wearing gloves for socks again).
Spring hiking in Maine requires a sturdy pair of boots and the acceptance that you're going to get a little muddy. But the best part of hiking at this time of year is --- there are not that many bugs!
We went to Merrifield Farm in Gorham yesterday (they have maple sugar cotton candy and it's our favorite maple treat) and several different family members took photos. It's an eclectic mix of shots from our time at the farm. (G. and I also took some video ... including the muddy mess and clean-up.)
The first order of business was picking up our free ice cream topped with maple syrup.
Then we listened to a farm staffer explain the process of boiling sap in the "old days." (see video below for part of that explanation)
The oxen wagon ride.
Then G. got a hold of the camera ...
'Taffey' and 'Bell'. G. took a photo of their name plates above their stall so I'd be sure to get their names correctly.
Hopefully Toddy won't be too jealous that G. was photographing another cat.
It's not suprise that G. likes animals, Fino was playing with them at the farm too.
Then Fino had his turn ...
The long line I waited in to buy some maple syrup and other sweets.
We went to the Pirates game last night to take Seen Team pictures and enjoy the game. We also recorded some video so we could fulfill the request for a video clip of the the P-I-R-A-T-E-S chant from SVRA (or at least I think we did). I didn't have the best vantage point to record the guys but with kids in tow, you can only do so much moving around at a game.
L. helped me out with the pictures for Seen Team which I very much appreciated. It was a little tricky at the last game for me to manage the roll of stickers while taking pictures walking through the Civic Center stands. Well, and I chat with people too so it gets tricky to multi-task. Basically, I'm spoiled having L.'s help with Seen Team most of the time.
Seen Team pictures
(BTW, we had several people ask us to take their pictures for Seen and we LOVED that so keep on asking when you see us -- we'll be at the April 1 game next).
G. had the video camera most of the time and we have several new video clips on MaineToday.com's YouTube channel. We caught a few of the shoot-out goals at the end (we caught 3 out of 4 before we had a memory card "full" message) and some goalie saves by Coleman. G. got a little carried away with the video and I'm still sifting through it all.
I wanted to mention the "Pirate for a Day" poll that is underway. There are 3 Pirates fans hoping to win the contest and be a real Pirate for a day so take a minute to watch the videos and vote! Vote for your favorite Pirates fan
Yesterday the kids and their friends were learning about aerospace and made several paper airplanes to learn the theories of flight.
The kids had fun but I admit that I chickened out with taking the crew (there were 7 of them) outside. It was way too slushy and muddy to deal with 2-3 airplanes per kid when they had varying degrees of throwing accuracy and tolerance for mud. I think it was ultimately a good call for my sanity.
Anyway, I took some photos and videos of them working on the project and when I sat down to make a quick video for YouTube, I was given some unsolicited advice from G.
"Mom, that song is not good," she told me looking over my shoulder when I was experimenting with music for the photos (she's not a fan of U2 or other "rock" music).
"Yeah, Mrs. Almeida, that one isn't very good," her friend A. replied.
So we did some searching through our iTunes music list and G. chose a song from "Lilo and Stitch."
"That's a much better song Mom."
(She also offered her thoughts on my choice of transitions between photos which were "kinda boring" so she suggested an alternative for that as well. Stars were "a lot more fun.")
But what her chosen song has to do with paper airplanes is unclear to me yet A. approved of her choice so ultimately I was out-voted.
When A.'s mom saw the video she gave a puzzled look and then said, that it "sort of grows on you after a while."
This is what 21st century kids are like now ... computer back-seat drivers.
We had some half-eaten pieces of ice cream from G.'s birthday party to throw out and Fino suggested we feed it to the chickens. It didn't take much to convince me to go outside in the snow storm with him to "record" the experiment. There were 9 girls running around the house playing games that required a lot of imagination and even more jewerly, shoes and accessories not to mention the "excited chatter" (a.k.a. screaming) that was going on.
So Fino and I braved the driving snow with the heaping plate of ice cream cake to the chicken coop to test our hypothesis that chickens will eat anything.
The experiment results were clear in about 3 seconds ...
They like it and they don't care what the temperature outside is when they eat it (about 20 degrees with driving wind and wet snow).
One variable we didn't take into account was the flying mess. It seems chickens feel the need to vigirously shake their heads from side-to-side to remove the ice cream stuck to their beaks. Yeah, being in the middle of a chicken ice cream feeding frenzy with all the splatter wasn't so great. But in the name of science, I guess it was worth an additional load of laundry.
Do chickens eat ice cream cake?
And if you're looking for more action, check out our YouTube playlist of chicken videos from the past year, including our first chicken feeding frenzy that involved one of the girls' gingerbread houses.
And even though they didn't win, it was quite a game. The fans for both teams were really enthusiastic. Actually, I don't think I've ever seen so many visiting fans as I did last night. There were Bears shirts everywhere I turned.
Since I didn't have L. with me I decided to talk to one of the Bears fans (which I NEVER could have gotten away with if she was there) while I was walking through the stands taking photos for Seen Team. I found out there were 6 bus loads of Bears fans that came north for the game and that there were lots of other "local" fans in attendance too. I took pictures of some of the visiting fans simply because they had a lot of fun paraphernalia.
But last night that song came on and Grandpa and I had a good chuckle. I told L. when I got home that although they played it, the team still didn't win. She wasn't willing to give up her theory just yet though. She still thought maybe she'd have to go to the next game and hear the song to make sure that wasn't the reason the team hasn't won lately.
The team did play well last night during the second and third periods (well, in my new'ish-to-hockey humble opinion). And Caron made some great saves in the goal. There wasn't a fan in the stands on either side of the rink that wasn't cheering on their favorite team. It was definitely one loud night at the Civic Center.
As I mentioned, Seen Team will be at a few more games this season so if you see us taking pictures in the stands come over and say hello. We're always looking for an enthusiastic fan for our "Fan of the Night" picture on the scoreboard!
Seen Team at the Pirates: Friday, March 23Sun., April 1Sun., April 15
[Update: video of kids' reaction to songs at hockey game shot last season] Sweet Caroline
It's a sleepy song, not a hockey song -- well, at least that's how it seems to the kids.
The kids and I are working with a group of 4-Hers volunteering to do some trail work at Wolfe's Neck Farm this spring. We attended a meeting yesterday at the farm to walk the existing trail system to get a sense of the work needed to be done and what the kids could do.
Of course the meeting was planned a while back and we didn't anticipate at that time that yesterday would be one of the coldest days of the year.
But we were prepared wearing all our warmest cold weather gear to hike the trails and the temps didn't bother the kids a bit.
Laying down on the icy snow wouldn't have occured to me, even wearing my snowpants and warmest mittens. But hey, they're kids and they simply couldn't resist goofing around in the wooden structure.
They also did a lot of sliding - intentionally - down the hills when the adults stopped for a minute to talk about a particular area of the trail.
Who needs a sled when the snow is frozen solid?
This got the top score for sliding hills yesterday.
Sliding fun on the icy snow
And being 4-Hers, they couldn't resist spending some time in the barn. They used a pole to break up the ice in the goat's water trough. And after discovering that the cows had heaters to keep their water from freezing it didn't take G. long to wonder if we could get a heater for our coop. There's no question she has a tough job in the winter with our chickens and ducks' water.
The kids also enjoyed feeding the cows and sheep hay.
"Cow king of the hill!"
And the kids spent some time communicating with the sheep the Babe way. They did a pretty good impression of "BaaRamEwe."
We finally made it to Shawnee Peak with Fino yesterday (he took the afternoon off from work). It's taken us all winter to coordinate the family schedule for us to downhill/board together.
It was windy when we arrived around 4 p.m. (love the Monday Madness special) and the wind chill temps plummeted by the minute. But that didn't stop us from having a good time. And in what seems to be tradition now, I took some video of the kids while I was boarding down the mountain myself. I'm beginning to think I'm pretty good at multi-tasking on the mountain while not hurting myself in the process. But there will be no video of me getting off the chair lift; I still can't master that one.
But L. was still a little hesitant about downhill skiing again on this trip. She hasn't forgotten her fall earlier this season and it took me suggesting she had "magic gloves" to get her to loosen up. Actually, I was in rare form on the chair lift with the girls yesterday.
I know, I was being weird but I had worked all morning so I was a little tired...
And as I said, I fall a lot getting off the lift (more often than not I must admit). I really wish other skiers and riders would heed the signage at the top of the mountain that asks them to move out of the way once they are off the lift. I get myself so worried I'm going to plow into someone (with only one boot strapped in, I don't have as much control -- and I'm not the best boarder to begin with ...) and hurt the people who stand right at the base of the lift. Instead I end up trying to stop before I have control off the chair and trip myself up. But it's not always other people either; sometimes I fall when no one is around - I'm special that way.
On one of those falls I managed to knock one of my bindings out of whack. But luckily Fino had a penny in his pocket and managed to fix things up well enough for me to get down to the bottom of the mountain.
My handy-man hero.
He nearly got frostbite trying to fix my binding because the wind chill was so strong and cold and he couldn't manage the penny and bindings with his gloves on. But it turned out that the penny was more worse for the wear than he was.
A couple of years ago I wrote a column about sugaring season and decided last week to compile my video clips from that sugar house visit. It's pretty interesting to learn about the process of boiling sap - and eye-opening at the labor-intensiveness of it all. It seems to me to be more a labor of love by the people I've met who do it.
Maine Maple Sugar Sunday is March 25 this year. That's the day sugar houses around the state open their doors for visitors. You can see how the process works for yourself and sample (most sugarhouses offer free samples) all kinds of tasty treats. Find a sugar house near you
I've had one of those weeks, the kind that are so crazy busy I wonder what the heck I was thinking when I agreed to all the things on my family's calendar. My time management skills - and those of the girls - were put to a serious test this past week. It all started last Saturday....
I had to work until 12:30 and Fino had to be at work at noon that day. So the plan was that the kids were going to hang out at Fino's work until I could get there to pick them up. But before going to work he and the girls were stopping by the Engineering Expo because they all really wanted to go (Fino had as much fun as the kids did there). So although the morning was going to be hectic, it was do-able and pretty typical for us.
But no, that was only the first part of the day, there was more.
We had scheduled Ski Club on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. because we couldn't make our regular meeting time on Sunday (I'll get to the reasons why in a minute). So after picking up the girls from Fino's work we had to get home to put on our ski gear, load up the car and meet up with the Ski Club.
But we could only ski for 90 minutes on the trail because then we had to get back home so the girls could change into their dance clothes for their Snow White rehearsal at 5 p.m.
Well, we've had crazy days like this before but I didn't get enough sleep the night before (I have to be at the office at 5 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) and I got really frazzled at home picking up our ski gear.
And when I get frazzled, I do stupid things. So what did I do this time? I backed the van into a snow bank in my driveway.
And no, I couldn't push myself out of the snow even with some help from the kids. So I called Grandpa and he helped us out and we made it to Ski Club about 10 minutes late (yes, it could have been worse but since I had changed the day and time of the meeting I was really worried everyone would leave thinking they misunderstood my schedule change).
I find exercising helps me to re-focus and by the end of Ski Club, I was feeling a little less stressed. I drove the kids home so they could get changed into dance clothes and then dropped them off at rehearsal.
I called Fino afterwards with a plea to pick them up at 8 p.m. when the rehearsal was over. I just needed to go to bed and get some sleep; Sunday was shaping up to be just as crazy.
Armed with spray bottles mixed with food coloring and cold water - along with cake molds from the kitchen - the kids and their friends spent a fun afternoon outside creating works of art in the snow.
The kids used cake molds to create snow "sculptures" and then used the spray bottles to make them more colorful. The kids loved the "paint." And it was quite amusing to realize that they didn't realize my friend Meg had recycled the bottles. L. thought it really was window cleaner at first (see video).
One of the girls preferred to make her own design in the snow.
The KEY to making the snow "paint" is putting the mixed recipe (see below) into the spray bottle and putting the bottle into the fridge for at least an hour before the kids are going to use it. I've tried snow painting before with less than ideal results but by keeping the mixture COLD, it works a whole lot better.
And while the others were painting, G. discovered the perfect snowball maker - a kitchen laddle.
She scooped them out quickly and every one came out perfectly.
Snow Painting Fun
Snow Paint Recipe
* spray bottle
* Food coloring
Fill each spray bottle with COLD water Put several drops of food coloring in the bottle (the more drops, the darker the color) Place bottle in refridgerator for an hour or leave outside for a while so that the mixture will be cold. This ensures the "paint" won't melt the snow. Spray the snow with your colors to create a fun work of art!