Homemade Finger Paint = Perfect Summer Fun

It’s amazing that July is slipping away from us — and we’ve been busy busy busy. Making new gardens at our new home, putting together chicken coops, hanging (and re-hanging) art on the walls, shoving those last un-packed boxes into the attic, seeing old friends and visiting with out-of-state family, teaching, cleaning houses, having housewarming parties, birthday parties, just-because parties, going to the farmer’s market, picking berries, going to the beach. So, when the girls and I had a rare opportunity to be home, ALL DAY, alone, we found our old rhythm again and decided to do something a little bit crafty and a lotta bit messy.

Enter homemade (edible) finger paint. I figured it was something the 5 year old and the 15 month old would both enjoy. They did!

First step, find the recipe. I used this one:

I believe this originated from the easie peasie blog, but there are so many, many versions of this around the interwebs. I chose this one because it didn’t include soap, making it ok for my toddler to eat, if she chose.

Ours came out like this:

Emmaline and I decided on basic colors because she was determined to mix them to make her own, but I’ve seen some beautiful variations on other blogs. Sort of looks like crazy pudding, eh?

Here was my set-up for them. I love doing art projects outside in the summer. With a proximity to the hose.

I would show you the pictures of my girls all covered in paint, but I had them stripped down to their underdrawers…. Just trust me when I say a lot of messy fun was had.

It amazes me, always, when children think outside the box so naturally. Emmaline got creative with shells and leaves. And Tess painted her beach ball but I didn’t get a snap of that one, as I was too busy running after her.

I can attest to the fact that this is completely washable….

(White pants for this project? Ha, yeah.)

It was highly successful, all in all. I’m told it tasted “okay,” and felt “itchy” when dried on the skin but the best part of painting outside in the summer might just be running through the sprinkler to wash off.

What are you waiting for? I’ll bet you have all the ingredients in your cupboards. And some eager children just waiting to get creative. And messy. Enjoy!

(Erin)

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The Edge of Land: Cove Dreams

Drive down Route 129 from Bristol far enough and you get to Rutherford Island in S. Bristol. It’s a beautiful place — frequented by lobster boats and summer renters, it’s not exactly a tourist hot spot but it is exactly what you want Maine to be in the summer. There is a feeling of exclusivity there, exuded by those lucky enough to own a house on the island and those who fish the waters around Christmas Cove. But feel free to go anyway. I’ll let you in on a secret spot there. You can bring a lunch and nonchalantly drive into “town” knowing where to go.

Let me take you on a little drive first…

Down Route 129

Over the swing bridge (closed for the moment).

Packing his catch.

Yeah, did you see that sign? That’s what you’re looking for. Drive past beautiful stately homes, the boats of Christmas Cove bobbing at anchor, and a tennis court and you’ll see this sign when you feel like you could drive no more. When you feel like you’ll drive off the edge of the land, hang a right and go down a steep hill and find this little jewel of a beach…

It really is the perfect place for admiring the sea, sweet baby feet in the sand, and the ripening beach plums, signaling summer’s peak.

You will feel like you are in your own little world — your private piece of the Maine coast. And it is yours. Shhh. Don’t break my reverie.

(Erin)

The Alewives Return

No, not married women who drink ale. Fish. Specifically, this fish.

The  alosa psueodoharengus. Read more about the alewife here.

We are lucky enough to live close to Damariscotta Mills, which is technically located in Newcastle. Every year the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder plays host to thousands of migrating alewives. It’s the oldest alewife fishery in the state of Maine! Watching the alewives return is an amazing sight. The water literally goes black with the fish and the gulls and other birds of prey have a grand time with an easy catch. So, we caught a break in the rain and decided to go welcome them back as they make their journey upstream to Damariscotta Lake.

I really wish I had caught a picture of the bald eagle we saw swooping down to pick up a fish. It was majestic. In a purple-mountained sort of way. Nature at her most impressive.

This makes an awesome field trip for any child fascinated by nature (wait, so any child!), but my one year old was also thrilled by the circling seagulls. We incorporated a study of the alewife into our lessons this week, so Emmaline recited fish facts while watching the action.

Memorial Day weekend will be a perfect time to go visit, as it’s the annual Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder Restoration Festival. Their website promises a great time: “Join the fun as local cooks create special food–a pig roast on Saturday, homemade donuts and a chicken barbecue on Sunday, and lobster and crab rolls on Monday. There will be live music, activities for kids, demonstrations…probably even some smoked alewives to try.”

We attended last year and can attest that it IS a great time. There was a fantastic fish-centric puppet show and delicious food. Our favorite fabric store, not-so-coincidentally-named Alewives, also located in Damariscotta Mills, always joins in the festivities. According to their website, “Here at the shop, we’ll be painting faces, showing the Alewife documentary, selling ice-creams and sodas, and helping to raise money for the Fish Ladder Restoration Fund. A wonderful time is had by all on this very special weekend, and we can’t think of a better time to visit the shop!” I couldn’t have put it better myself! Any excuse to pick up some new fabric….

So, get yourself over to the fish ladder and mark the festival on your calendars!

(Erin)

Country Road

The rain in Maine falls mainly on the… everywhere. Is there an end in sight? Despite the general dreariness of late, we did get a bit of sun last weekend and I found myself reveling in the particular luxury of only one baby, one stroller, one Sunday afternoon and one lovely coastal road to meander.

Is there anything lovelier than a country road in the springtime?

The sun-dappled shadows of trees on the road, the stone walls, the green grass, the smell of apple blossoms… balm for the soul.

In springtime in Maine, there is no shortage of newly sprung wild vegetation and flowers along the roadside to entice even the most novice of naturalists. A good Wordsworth-like walk is not complete without noticing the green and growing delights of the countryside. I found emerald moss, trout lilies, bluets (or “Quaker Ladies”), dog violets, blueberry blossoms, apple blossoms, and fiddleheads. And stone walls and old romantic farmhouses.

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I hope you find your  own country road and wish you many peaceful miles.

(Erin)

Greenhouse Happy

With the genial warmth of April fully upon us, greenhouses and growing operations all over Maine are opening. We ventured out to one of the largest around — Moose Crossing Garden Center on Route One in Waldoboro. We resisted going on opening day, but only barely. And we were delighted and amazed by all they had to offer so early in the season.

We went in search of pansies and strawberry seedlings, but found a wealth of variety and color in the warmth of the large pleasant greenhouses.

It’s a wonderful field trip for kids who love to pick out their own plants and ride between fragrant rows on wagons. And for color-deprived mamas at the end of winter.

wagon riding

violas

happy faces

in the cart

greenhouse

strawberry babies

english rose

perennial view

geraniums

Now we truly love starting plants from seed here at Your Midcoast Mama. Nothing is more wonderful than seeing seedlings unfurl in their little starting pots or trays; there is no better lesson in patience and nurturing. But there is something luxurious about the instant gratification of buying trays of gloriously colored flowers and sturdily-started reliable seedings. After the longest week of spring, getting my children back to health, it was oh-so-necessary to bask in the tropical warmth and bounty of these greenhouses.  This mama highly recommends a visit, if only to gawk at the incredible variety of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, bushes, vegetable starts, and herbs. Especially on a dreary, drizzly day. Is it supposed to rain next week? We might just have to return to be enveloped in bright and fragrant warmth.

Moose Crossing Garden Center is located at 3033 Atlantic Highway (Route One) in Waldoboro. Drive north of Moody’s Diner and you can’t miss it. They welcome children (even those who find plucking flowers irresistible) and their friendly staff members are eager to answer questions (including about which fairies live in which flowers) and will even listen happily to incessant yodeling between the rows of flowers.

(Erin)

A Blessing

I had planned to write a post about wonderful Easter preparations. About dyeing eggs naturally and alternatives to candy and a glorious egg hunt filled with laughing children in the sunshine by the sea. About felting sweet handmade gifts and crafting elaborate egg trees. About how Mamas are Easter Bunnies and Santas and Tooth Fairies and maybe have magical powers and stuff.

But the craft day we’d tried to plan fell through. Twice. Kids were sick, mamas overtired. It never happened.

Now my girls are sick.

(Oh, isn’t that a sad face!)

A couple of days ago they started sneezing and hacking. Then last night they spiked fevers and coughed all night and woke up crying several times (but never at the same.) Today, the day before Easter, dawned chilly and cloudy. I looked around my bedroom, mounded high with laundry piles, the girls with their fevered pink cheeks and glassy eyes and knew I had to let my expectations go.

I felt lame. Exhausted. A little depressed. Sweaty from tossing and turning with a nursing fevered baby. I forgot to make coffee and eat breakfast. Couldn’t get the day jump-started.

This is not a post about miracles. It’s not a post about the impending Christian holiday. It’s a post about uncanny coincidence. About how people are wonderful and human after all. About how something small– a gesture, an object– can hold meaning and beauty and inspiration.

When we checked the mail today, there was package from an old friend. A very lovely and sweet lady who I knew when I was a young girl but haven’t seen in years and years. Not since I “grew up,” really. But thanks to Facebook we’ve reconnected, even across the years and miles and she has seen pictures of my girls and followed our happenings online. (Social media at its best, really.) I had no idea this lovely little package was coming or what it contained.

I’m not really sure how she knew. I don’t even think I had posted about the crafting I’d wanted to do for Easter. But look what she made and sent to my girls….

(A baa baa ball for Tess!)

whooo are ewe?

(Whooooo are ewe?)

(The chicken or the egg? Who cares, they’re both lovely!)

(Doesn’t this lamb seem to skip from her egg?)

(Emmaline exclaimed, “Look! A child of the forest! And I marveled over the tiny details of an acorn-cap hat, blanket-stitched hem dress, sweetly painted bead face, “shooting” star on her collar, and how my sweet friend could possibly know that Emmaline’s favorite color is red.)

What beautifully handmade joy! What incredible timing after the long night we’d had and how uncanny that felted hollow eggs was the exact project I had wanted to get to before this weekend.

I take it back. This was a mini-miracle. A bit of fate. Almost-magic. A blessing.

Have a beautiful Easter or simply a Sunday full of unexpected joys.

(Erin)

A Garden Party

It’s hard to believe that just a week ago I was writing about the beach. Or actually, I was AT the beach. As I type this, there is snow and sleet coming down outside my window. The crocuses are now covered in a thin layer of “poor man’s fertilizer” and I’m thanking my instinct/experience/laziness for not putting seeds into the ground yet.

But almost two weekends ago, we celebrated my sweet girl’s fifth birthday under cloudless blue skies and in unusually balmy March temperatures at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. We were delighted to hear that we were welcome to use the space in the Children’s Garden and pay only a nominal fee for use of the bathroom facilities. (The garden is “closed” until April 1st and there is no charge but also no use of the indoor spaces until then.) So we set up a lovely feast under the covered picnicking area and the children quickly spread out around the grounds, with the birthday girl leading the charge.

(all photos are copyright of Michelle Garner Photography, 2012)

We were very fortunate in the weather, the company, the accessibility of the gardens, and in our photographer friend, Michelle Garner. As you can see, Michelle does excellent work, especially in capturing the spirit of children at play! She is located in Central Maine but is willing to travel. Check out her work!

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens actually does “host” birthday parties during the “on” season. I had no idea until I started exploring their website. The staff are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable so I can only imagine how much fun it would be to have them take care of the party for you. I really love their themes too: Miss Rumphius, Stone Wall Dragons, Fairy Houses, and Blueberries for Sal. But we were just as delighted with our off-season venture. There is something magical about feeling you “own” the garden for a couple of hours. The pirate girl certainly thought so!

There is plenty of space at CMBG to have the most piratical of treasure hunts, as well as to open presents.

And when you’re ready to rest with some sweet babies, there is a place for that too.

Hope to see you at the gardens this spring! (Erin)

A March Beach?

What a week we’ve had on the coast of Maine. The Vernal Equinox arrived with unusually high temperatures (60’s, 70’s, um, 80’s?) and bright blinding sunlight. Everywhere the crocuses have opened their cups of violet and gold. It seems like we skipped over mud season, maple syrup season, and spring thaw and went straight into summer. This isn’t really a good thing (drought, bugs, poor sap harvest) but there’s one wonderful thing about summer in March: the beach.

We decided not to fight it when, for the fourth day in a row, the day dawned bright and warm and as bright blue as anyone could ask for. I packed my car with blankets, buckets, snacks, and children and headed for Pemaquid Beach. We met another mama and her girls and enjoyed the sun and sand and off-season quiet and freedom. When else can you be on your favorite beach in seventy degree weather with no one else around?

Even though there were babies enjoying the sand….

And mamas enjoying the sun…

… this story belongs to two little girls reveling in a seaside adventure of digging for treasure…

and exploring “far out” beyond the reach of their mamas…

and getting thoroughly soaked and sandy and happy in the process.

The day belonged to the children as they reminded us mamas that smelly mussel shells are as good as gold, that waving to our shadows is magical, that getting wet in the sea is a vital part of a hot March day. It was almost too good to be true.  (Erin)

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Pemaquid Beach is technically “closed” from October 15th – May 1st (after May 1st a strict “no pets” ban goes into effect), but if you’re hearty, you can park outside the gate and walk in. Just remember you’ll have to fend for yourself restroom-wise! In the “on-season,” there are restrooms, a snack shop (with darn good french fries), ample parking, bathrooms/changing spaces, picnic tables galore, sand chair/umbrella/toy rentals, though no lifeguard on duty. Fees are $4/person, children under 12 free. For more information, visit the Bristol Parks and Recreation page.