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)

The Lincoln County Animal Shelter

For months now my oldest has been begging for a dog.

We just aren’t in a place (both physically and generally) where a dog makes sense for us. Although, having grown up with a dog, I’m with her. I miss the happy and abundant joy of arriving home to a dear face that has missed you and will happily smother you with licks.  My husband and I remind my dear little one that she has a cat that equally needs her love and would love to be the focus of this unbridled attention (well… maybe…) but she says, “Yeah, but SHE has claws and doesn’t like to play the same way a dog does. And she bites me when I try and pet her.” Too true. Our cat has an affection for bare feet and unguarded legs that is…well…unnerving.

After a calm quiet morning at home, both girls had a bit of cabin fever. The sun was shinning, and I was trying to dream up some fabulous homeschooling adventure. (Hard work when the biggest thing you planned on all day was going into the kitchen and mixing up the ingredients for home made coconut milk ice cream… and then putting it in the ice cream maker and walking away. SIGH.) So, with out a real agenda, I bustled two little girls into the car and backed out the driveway without a real plan. Where were we going? Hm…

As we pulled in and parked, she could barely contain her bouncy joy. We’d talked about this possibility a few times, and we had never quite gotten the day together.

A chorus of barking ensued as we neared the doorway, much to both girls’ joy. The youngest squealed in excitement and pointed with her crooked little pointer finger saying “OOOOH…..ABBY!!” (Abby is our kitty’s name, and funny enough, the word she uses to every animal we come across. Sheep, Abby. Chicken, Abby. You get the idea.)

We walk in the door and greeted by an incredible group of very happy and friendly people who work there. We tell them we’d like to volunteer, and they sign us right up and are quite sure of the perfect dog for us when I say “Probably no one who is too jumpy and nervous with two little girls…”

When they bring Brooke out, I have to laugh. She is a Saint Bernard with drool dripping off her chin. I check myself in the mama-sense that we all find ourselves doing ten zillion times a day and act like this is a walk in the park. I coo. I pat her giant head and puppy talk to her. I take the lead and off we go. My daughter holds the “extra” leash they gave her so she can “help,” but without a  doubt, Brookey weighs more then the two of us together and quite honestly it is she who is taking us for a walk.

Down the road we go, chatting and trying to manage walking with a dog this huge. A hilarious and adventuresome task, and not without a huge amount of excited joy. My daughters are thrilled. We talk about how dogs have a very alert sense of smell, and Brooke must check out each nook and cranny of this road as we walk down it. We talk about how she spends a big chunk of her day in a wired in cage so it is very important to let her enjoy this walk. The wired in cage is not uncomfortable, by any means, it is definitely large enough and has her food and water in it. A soft place to lay down. Without a doubt, the animals at this shelter are loved and cared for in a way I haven’t seen too many shelter pets be. They are not miserable, which is a relief. I have been witness to too much animal sadness in my life, and this is a breath of fresh air.

The workers are kind, respectful and loving to their animal compatriots, as well as the volunteers who come at regular intervals. From what they told me, the volunteers who come to this shelter in Edgecomb are plentiful and regular.

When we returned Brooke to the staff, my girl spent a good fifteen minutes playing with the kitties. She threw the ball and giggled and chased them around. Many of them hid. (My daughter has a bit of squirrel energy in her….) But the kittens thought she was wonderful, watching her and the ball with wide and curious eyes.

We left with promises of returning soon.

“Can we come every week, Mama? Every day?”  She asked and I smiled.

Lessons learned for each of us.

(For more information on the Lincoln County Animal Shelter, visit their webpage. They encourage volunteers and visitors at any age. Donations are also accepted in the form of pet food, dishes, leads, or other goods.)

in the cat room…

(ida)

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)

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 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.

Damariscotta Shell Middens

Years and years and eons ago, on the coast of Maine there lived a group of oyster eating Native people. (And this is how I begin the story to my seven year old who asks the question, “How did all these shells get here, Mama? And stacked up on each other? And what about those ones across the river?”)

And right then and there, I realize that I have a library trip in my future, and some reading to do. Not to mention going to the Maine State Museum and taking explicit attention when I get to the section on the shell heaps.

All my life I have been fascinated by the people who lived here literally thousands of years ago. When I was my oldest daughter’s age (gulp…23 years ago…) the house we lived in in Phippsburg had the remains of a small fishing encampment in the bottom of the meadow near our house.  These remains were hard to date, some were believed to be prehistoric (not exactly sure how that is possible, but all the same…). When my stepfather was a child the remains of a woman was found- and her ancient bones taken and documented with the state. This was a famous finding- and since many such places have been found. When I was a child a research team came back and worked on the land at the bottom of our field. I spent literally days watching waiting and expecting with baited breath. I knew that they would find something incredible. They did find animal bones, arrowheads, ax heads and other tool pieces. It’s been years since I thought about this, and when my daughter asks about the shell heap remains not ten minutes from our home, I realize my fascination has only barely waned. I make a promise to find out.

And so, low and behold, what I find is that this area, as beautiful as it may be is a dump. Essentially. But in all truth, this is a kind of a dump that I can handle, it’s massiveness  is what is truly impressive. Not only are the heaps enormous, but they are on both sides of this river, which leads one to wonder if the river was the same in structure then as it is now. Or was it smaller? Cross-able by foot? Was at some point in time this dump all the same?  Not too long ago, when Maine was truly a booming industrial site, this land was discovered and the shell heaps were owned by a company that used them for chicken feed.  There are black and white photos of the giant hillside being mined away- a thought that baffles me even further…

A part of me simply loves the mystery. And doesn’t want to find out the gritty details about this sight. About the people who lived here… and the misfortunes that might have come to them. I especially don’t think I am ready to explain to my daughter that the Maine coast was once filled with such villages, and it was only when the English settlers came and brought diseases that the numbers diminished practically over night. (In what was called “The Great Dying,” – a small pox epidemic- about 3/4 of the population of peoples living here died in a two year period.) My white person guilt is just overwhelming and as much as I wish to tell my daughter this, I don’t. Not yet. But I will. Instead we  (I) decide to enjoy the moment, letting her run through the muddy fields, chasing her sweet little friend until they are out of view.

(Whaleback Shell Midden, on Business Rte 1 in Damariscotta, across from the Great Salt Bay school, and next door to the Round Top Farm. Parking is available, and then a short walk down the hill through the field and orchard leads you to the river. Watch out for poison ivy!) (For more information, check out the DRA (Damariscotta River Association).

(ida)