Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Garden for the Children

I was no taller than my grandmother's orange Cannas growing along the house next to the driveway. 
In fact, some of them towered above my head.
I pretended it was my jungle and as I carefully wandered through the plants watching not to step on any of the plants, I picked off the ugly seed pods that formed when the flowers withered and died because  I wanted my grandmother's flowers to be pretty. 
It was cool in the shade and seemed a perfect place to explore. 
Mama was concerned I would hurt the flowerbed but Grandmama just laughed. 
A few weeks later Grandmama told me that her Cannas had bloomed again and were more beautiful than ever after I had plucked off the seed pods. 
I was so pleased. 
Many of my childhood memories surround the outdoors, my mother or grandmother's gardens or flowerbeds, exploring my grandfather's pastures  or the rocky hillsides at the lake where the family built a cabin, tasting the sweet nectar of honeysuckles and playing under the jasmine bushes.  

It is no wonder that as a grandmother now, I plan my gardens to please the children.  
So Andy and Amy now in your "grand" years here are the things I have found that have enhanced imagination and play in my gardens.  

Pathways: My pathways are not expensive pathways but most of them are simply an area I cleaned off the grass and laid a weed barrier and covered with mulch.  The kids love the pathways. 

I had to laugh one day as Kristen and her mother and I were walking in the grass around the back side of the house and we came upon one of the pathways.  Kristen squealed in delight as she dropped our hands, "A path!" 
And off she ran.
Wagons: The perfect companion for the path is the wagon.  My wagon has three cars and we make chug-a-chug-a- toot-toot
noises as we go.

A Place to Gather:A place to sit or swing or drink iced tea.  If there is no shade you just have to make one.  Maybe a big umbrella but you must have places where you can sit and talk.
Mysterious places: Tall plants or shrubs that leave space to walk behind or under or fun, thornless plants  that soft-slap the kids as you drive by in the wagon.

Color: And if at all possible, color!  Yellow zinnias, purple flocks, red roses, sweet williams, and pink begonias.

Seed Collection Expeditions:
Seed collecting at the end of the growing seasons.  Teach the kids how to pick off the dead seeds and collect them and not only are you teaching them to love plants and grow them themselves, they are deadheading your plants and extending your blooming season. 

Oh, there are so many things to do outdoors if the outdoors are inviting.  

......Sand piles, Blowing Bubbles, and of course, a place to splash! 
My gardens expand every year and it makes it more fun every time they come.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Search for the Perfect Garden

I am always on a search for a more perfect garden. 
I love the creative process of designing the gardens, choosing the most impressive plants and visiting places that inspire my creativity in the garden. 

While I can not enter Walmart through the main doors, always opting for the garden center doors so I can browse the newest selections, I have grown tired of the old selections only occasionally finding a true gem of a new plant there.  There are plenty of the tried and true plants in various colors and sizes and a variety of different textures and my gardens are full of those plants, also.  But I am left still searching for something different.

On trips into San Antonio I can not leave town without stopping off at the garden center in a Lowe's or Home Depot finding a wider selection of  plants including some new varieties I have never seen before occassionally.  Last time I found a variety of Black-eyes Susan I had never seen and even though I dislike Black-eyed Susans this was not a typical variety.  Not only was the flower twice the size of the typical wild variety,  the color was a rich golden yellow, the center was yellow with a lime green ring around the edge instead of the dark brown protruding center, the petals did not hang down but rather straight out.  It was so perfect  looking I thought it looked more like a good quality artifical flower than a Black-eyed Susan.  I could not leave the garden center without a specimen of the plant.  That and a Queens Palm tree. 

Having come by this love of gardening honestly from our mother, Linda and I  decided to treat our mother to a day out, visiting an impressive garden nursery.  We found  the Antique Rose Emporium.  the nursery of choice for the day. Beautiful Fairy rose shrubs line the entrance  and around the parking area.  Instead of rushing into the center we lingered looking and smelling the fragrances of the roses.  One of the wonderful aspects of the nursery is that you can grab a little red wagon and wander on gravel pathways throughout the center's perennial gardens planted all around the grounds and see the plants in their mature stages while deciding on the look you like. Garden structures are everywhere:arbors, pergolas, outdoor rooms and pathways wander throughout the gardens.   We arrived early and wandered the gardens until the heat began to slow us down but not before we each had a wagon load of beautiful plants.  I came home with a shrub rose bush in a sweet pink color, "Gabrielle Privet" that will bloom all summer long, a Lady Baltimore Hibiscus that has deep red flowers the size of a large dinner plate (or bigger), several purple coneflowers to add to my windmill garden bed, a small bay tree and the inspiration to get out and get my hands dirty.  Each of us had rose bushes and the ride home in the car loaded with the plants reminded me of the sweet smelling southern Magnolias, Gardenias and all those fragent plants you find blooming in the Southern states. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Nanas Doodle Bug

When I first started a blog my goal was to communicate with my grandchildren and having reaching the "older woman" time in my life, a secondary goal was to communicate to parents of little children. 

It did not take me long before I just got into blogging, sometimes, it was aimed at the parents but seldom did it aim to the children and forgot what my goal was.  Now, nearly three years later I have a renewed interest in getting back to my original idea so I have started a new blog geared to children and their parents. 

I have not posted much so far but I have a skeleton of the blog now.

I would love your input. 

The new blog is Nanas Doodle Bug

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Zoo's Crews

Hanging out at the zoo is the coolest!

Good things about the zoo!:
You can scream like a hyena, run like a cougar, and monkey around and no one comes out and tells you to leave.

You can get all hot and stink to the highest heavens and no one knows it is you.
Everyone blames the hippopotamus!

Ice cream at the end of the trip is not optional...it is mandatory!

You're never too old for the zoo! Strollers for the little tots and Electric Wheelchairs for the older folks.

The Lookout Tower...carvings on the old bamboo stalks....kissing birds....and nesting in the trees....air conditioned caves....and shade!

Contented kids, the quiet trip home and the power nap at the end of the day.
But most of all....getting to spend time with family!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rainy Day Projects

I can not believe the amount of rain we received last night. When Papa came to the house the gauge had five inches and it was splashing out and then it kept raining all evening until the electricity went off around 10:00 PM. Luckily we had anticipated this and had the candles burning before it happened so we seamlessly moved on to bed at that time.

And me with two grandsons visiting.

Homemade Slime:
Joel and I got in the kitchen and whipped up a small batch of Homemade Slim in just a few minutes.
He poured 1/4 cup of liquid starch into a small ziplock bag, then we added a few drops of green food coloring, then when I poured 1/4 cup Elmers School Glue into the bag and we began to squeeze the bag a strange substance began to form. It looked pretty disgusting in the bag. We could see a solid forming when the glue and starch came together.

We took it out and began to squeeze it with the remaining starch until a pretty solid substance was formed.
I washed off the excess starch in a bowl of water and we began to play with our homemade slime.

I did find the substance mellows to a smooth consistency and we stored it in a mini container. Not only was it fun to stop and have a little 3 oz cup of Blue Bell ice cream but the container was the perfect size for our slime.

Homemade Glue:
Before we started our second project we searched the house for more glue but it had all been used for our Slime project so we made homemade glue for our next project.

In a small saucepan we mixed 1 1/2 cups of water with 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch, 2 Tablespoons Vinegar and 2 Tablespoons Corn Syrup. Then we turned on the heat and stirred until the glue stopped looking cloudy and became clear. We stored our glue in a jar with a lid and found an old small paint brush to use for application of the glue.

We wrote out Joel's name on a large paper or poster board. Using recycled magazines or colored construction paper or even colorful candy wrappers we tore the papers into about 1 inch pieces. We applied one color in the negative space and another color in the positive space. Using the small paintbrush apply the glue on the paper, place the magazine piece on the glued area and then reapply glue over the top. Continue to add glue over the top as often as needed to get the pieces to lie flat. The glue dries clear and has a matt finish. This project will take a good bit of time so we plan to work on it again later.


I think the Oobleck has been by far the most fun for Joel and it is so simple. When the kids get tired of it just turn it into sidewalk chalk and you have two projects from one.

Use a large plastic bowl, nothing breakable because the kids are going to want to be punching oobleck.
If you have the Dr Suess book, Bartholomew and the Oobleck this would be a good time to read it and then make the Oobleck. Oobleck is a liquid, but when you quickly slam your fist into it, it a solid. It can pour from a spoon but if you try to whip it with the spoon it will crumble to pieces.

1 1/2 cups cornstarch,
1 cup water with a few drops of food coloring

Put the cornstarch in the plastic bowl and using your finger make a hollow area in the middle to pour in the water. Pour in the water and begin to stir until all the cornstarch is moistened. Resist the urge to add a lot more water but if you can not mix it at all add just a little at a time until it is moistened.
It all cleans up with soap and water.

Let the kids punch away.

As the Oobleck begins to dry out it looses it's "power" so it can be put into ice trays or some small container to make sidewalk chalk. Let it set up until it dries out.

The kids will think you are the smartest person ever.

Joel's prayer today at lunch....
".....and thank you, God, for this day, it has been the most fun ever...."

And it was a rainy day!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day Two Summer Vacation

Rainy days don't get us down.

The sunny atmosphere of El Mercado and lunch at Mi Tierras turned out to be a good choice for this rainy day. How could you not be happy here?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day One of Summer Vacation

Vacation has finally started. Sometimes you just get lucky and get to start off with grandchildren on day one. Being a teacher I am against letting the kids sit in front of the television watching their brains turn to jello when there are a ton of things to do here that they can not do elsewhere. So we are scheduling activities.

Ideas are welcome.

Our day started pretty early. Now as I look back on my day I think it started at 6:30 with Eric at my bedside telling me to wake up. Most mornings I am up between 5:00 and 5:30 but since the gramdkids are here, Caleb and Gaby were here visiting and some of us sat up talking to really, really late.

I would have gone on to bed but I had 20 pages left to finish off "The Help" and had to get it done. I was nearing the end when I heard one of the grandsons yell out and then moments later Joel was standing next to me in the living room. He asked me where Eric was and said something about how he was standing in the middle of the room and something... something... He snuggled up next to me and then in a minute got up and left to go back to bed. I have seen it before in all of the males in our family. I recognize sleep walking when I see it. Once I knew he was settled back in his bed I wasted no time in getting myself to bed and that was the last I knew until I heard Eric calling my name. How did that time pass so quickly?

So that was the start of my first week on vacation.

The first activity for the day once all the meds, and the mandatory coffee had been taken was to feed the baby calf. Poor little guy, his mother rejected him and he is bottle fed. So this is a morning and evening activity for the week.

Then a "quick" trip to Walmart took place to buy all the reinforcements for the week. It ended up lasting all morning because we had to split our trip to meet Papa at the nursery where he picked up the compost and gardening soil I needed for our evening activity.

Lunch was simple.

Then our big project for the day: making the candy sundae.
Starting with a plastic glass, a Styrofoam disc, a 3 lb bag of hard candies, a white silk carnation,
a red tootsie roll pop,
a little crinkly paper
a bunch of straight pins
and a little bit of time in the middle of a hot afternoon
will produce something as deliciously delightful for both the little ones and the big ones. Joel was really pleased with the finished product and once I jumped in to help him it took us about an hour.

Then on to more fun stuff but nothing was sweeter the rest of he day.

We did a quick trip down our Royal hill to Grandmama and Granddaddy's house for coffee and conversation.
By the time we returned home the long shadows were beginning to cover our new flowerbed we were going to plant. Once it was all planted and we stood back and looked we were satisfied.

A quick cool down for the kids and the plants. A little time in the hot tub previously set to the summer temperatures a bit cooler for us and a little time on bicycles and the day was nearly over.

Supper was simple.
And before baths and bed we made photo cubes with the pictures of the days activities.
And sleep came easily.

Friday, June 4, 2010

For Everything There is a Time

Reading is a part of our lives from the time we are just babies and sat on our mothers laps and felt the rhythm of her breathing and heard her voice telling the story . We associated reading with comfort. It is no wonder so many of us continue to love to read as adults.

When I was a young girl I loved to read.
We made it to the library a couple of times a month. Two lions flanked the concrete steps of the downtown library. I lingered at the steps reaching as far up as I could, running my hands across the ominous looking lions until Mama rushed me into the building. Inside the building a Tom Thumb display was set up on a huge square table in the center of the room. I walked all around the table taking in every angle of the display. I could hardly take my eyes off of it. I was so intrigued by the idea of a tiny little person. I asked one question after another until my mother finally convinced me to move on to the next room where Linda had ventured ahead.

By the time I was in junior high some years later the mobile library started to come to the parking lot of the new Spartan store on Goliad Rd close to my house. It was not as big as the downtown library, nor as grand but it gave me a more limited choice and I could find something every time and each book was better than the one before it. I missed the big library but I got used to it and we were able to check out books in less time than before.

By the time I was in high school a branch of the downtown library was built just a few miles from our house and we became regulars there. By then Bobby was little and I would help him find Harry the Dirty Dog to check out or George the Curious Monkey but Harry was his favorite. Once he was settled and looking at books I headed straight for the mysteries and immediately looked for Victoria Holt. I read every book by her that I could find until I had her formula down and knew how to predict the ending before I got there. There was comfort in the familiar and when I could find no more books by her I felt lost and did not know where to go to find a good book.

Today I ventured out and ordered myself an electronic reading device, a Kindle online. After browsing through the shelves in Amazon I can now purchase and download in a matter of minutes to my Kindle and I can keep about 1500 books on this small device. I'm not sure it will completely satisfy the feel of a book in my hands or the smell of the aging paper or will allow me to flip through the pages to see how much more there is before the chapter ends but I believe it is the future.

Soon students will have an electronic reading device issued to them instead of tons of books and each device will be able to hold every book they could possibly need throughout their school years. Backpacks will be smaller, less heavy and will carry snacks instead of books.

Change is inevitable. Change is refreshing.
You either learn to embrace it or you continue to find yourself unhappy about something new.

If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.