Category Archives: Green

DIY – Word Blocks

A little while back I came across the idea of using megablocks to help with phonics skills and fluency.  I thought it was a great idea.  I’ll try to find the website where I first saw it, and will share it when I do.  For now though, here’s our take on it:

Seeing how the girl has outgrown her megablocks and generally is using lego for building, I loved the idea of repurposing her old blocks.  So today I pulled out my label maker and her box of blocks and set to work.  This should give new life to all her old sets, that haven’t seen the light in several months.

I decided to put both a capitalized and lowercase version of the same word on each block.  This way, when we start worrying more about proper capitalization her blocks will still be useful for her.  Eventually I’ll be adding a whole lot more words – including many she has requested herself – as well as doubling up some blocks with words like is, was, it, and…  as many of them can be used twice in the same super silly, extra long, sentence.

We also decided to use many of her blocks with stickers on them.  You know how some sets (like Kai Lan and Diego) have themed stickers that get applied to some blocks?  Well, we’ve labeled those too – with Kid kid’s choice of words.  It can be nice for early readers to have visual hints when still working towards reading fluency.

So, here are our blocks.  I ran out of tape in my label maker, so had to stop a little earlier than I’d have liked.  But we still had enough finished to have a bit of fun.  Lily-Ann loved my “Dad was stinky” sentence, and I loved that her very first one was “Lily-Ann is cute”.  😉

 

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DIY Thrift Store Advent Calendar!

This year, our first in our new home, I figured we should do something different, something special for the holidays.  So I decided to put together a thrift store (second hand or previously enjoyed) advent calendar.  Thus far, it’s been a really big hit!

We’ve all had those store bought advent calendars with the icky pieces of low quality chocolate behind each window, counting down the days to the holidays.  Well, the thrift store advent calendar may count down the days to the holidays, but it’s WAY more fun, and really wasn’t all that expensive either.  It may be a little late for you to make one for this year, but I’ll talk you through the process anyway.  I have a feeling it may be one other kids would enjoy too.

Step One:  Collect the Goodies!

Every kid, or kid at heart, has something little they really enjoy.  For Lily-Ann I knew I could find a ton of little My Little Pony and Littlest Petshop items in thrift stores and from my fellow collectors at the MLPTP (an online forum).  Used toy cars, and other collectibles would also be great, and for the bigger kids in your life I’m sure there are all sorts of things you could find – think about their favourite things and just go from there.

Step Two:  Decide on Packaging!

You’ll also need packaging for your advent calendar.  We went cute and inexpensive with these little craft baggies.  I actually found them in the baking section at Michael’s, and they were only a few dollars a pack.  I bought two packs, one in red and the other in green.

Step Three:  Organize your Finds!

Next I poured all the goodies out on my bed and grouped them by theme.  In the picture above you can see that a bunch of the LPS items actually made a pretty good “camping” collection.  You can see how easy it would be for the girl to pretend that a kitten and a hamster head out for a weekend retreat with everything they might need.  Arrange and rearrange everything you’ve purchased until you’ve got 24 (or however long your countdown will be) piles of goodies.

Step Four:  Label the Bags!

Labeling the bags is the next step, and while there are lots of cute ways you could do this, I’m about keeping it easy.  So if you feel up to it you can use glitter and glue, beads, or stickers, stencils or cut outs, and any number of wonderfully crafty-good items…  but I simply grabbed one of the girls markers and wrote right on the bags.  As long as you have one bag for every day of your countdown, you are good to go.

Step Five:  Fill the Bags!

Deciding what goes in the bag for each day is a fun part.  Well, at least I know I enjoyed it…  I staggered things so every few days there would be a toy, and it would alternate with a crafting item, or maybe a dress-up item for one of her ponies, or collector’s cards.  Of course, you could just dump any old thing in any old bag in any old order, but I had fun with it.  LOL

Step Six:  Close and Place!

Then all that is left is taping the bags closed and putting them around the tree, leaving them out to be pondered over and opened with relish and the joy of discovery.  Enjoy your countdown!!!

A cornball view of spirituality and a patch of dirt.

There are few things as truly good for the soul as dark rich soil and all the life contained within.  Of course, there are few things as jarring for the body as cultivating a yard gone to meadow and then planting said yard with perennials.  So while my mind and heart sing out a blissful YES, my body wimpers, sobs, and groans in protest – but it’s worth it.

One of the greatest tools for ripping apart the surface of a yard yet to become garden is the Garden Claw.  And for my parent’s purchase of said tool years ago I am grateful.  It takes some work; jabbing it into the ground, twisting and wrenching, ripping up that tough top layer filled with root and unwanted growth.  My arms were already sore from the previous begun cultivation, but without this particular tool?  I can’t imagine the work it would have been.  With all the tree roots in our yard, there was no mechanized way to really dig in – and I don’t mind having the chance to feel truly involved with this process.

There isn’t much that’s all that gratifying about jabbing, twisting, and pulling up clumps with the Garden Claw…  nor is there much to take joy in while you use your hand fork to rake through the mess pulling out unwanted plant and root – inch by inch.  Shaking loose the dirt held within each clump.  But the next step?  It makes it all worth the effort!

Feeling that dark rich soil that waited for you, hidden just beneath?  It’s pure heaven.  Watching and discovering the infinite life contained within stirs the soul in ways nothing else does.  Connecting with the Earth at the most basic level, on your hands and knees as you commit each tiny plant to it’s home.

I’m not a gardener.  I don’t know the names of all the crawling creeping things within the soil, nor do I know the names (common or proper) of the perennials we planted the last couple of days.  But I do know that we all need to find a way to connect to our Earth.  If you ever need to see deity, to feel the Earth breathe life and to know that we are all connected?  There is no simpler way to do so than to pick up a trowel and go find a patch of dirt that has been lying in wait for someone to tend it – to turn it from dirt to soil.  To create with it something amazing.

A bit cornball?  Maybe.  But that’s me.

How-to Start a K-cup Starter Garden

A couple of years ago now, the girl and I talked you all through creating a toilet paper tube starter garden.  Now, I’m going to share another little crafty way of reusing some household waste to start your seeds this Spring.

I don’t know about you, but I LURVE my Keurig.  Seriously, freaking, LOVE my Keurig.  We use the reusable filter a great deal of the time, but it can be hard to resist some of those specialty drinks that only come in those wasteful little k-cups.  So this blog post should come as good news!  You can reuse them!  So go ahead and indulge from time to time – and then save your k-cups to make seed starters in the Spring.  😀

How-to Start a DIY K-cup Starter Garden

 

Step 1:  Gather your tools

  • scissors
  • k-cups
  • soil
  • seeds
  • spoon
  • bakery take-away containers

Step 2:  Strip down your kid(s)

Seriously!  Strip them down and put them in an empty bathtub.  They will get dirty, and a contained mess means an easier clean-up, and an easier clean-up means happy parenting.

Step 3:  Start cutting!

Using the scissors, cut a star shape into the top of each of your used k-cups.  Like so:

cutting up the top of a k-cup

Step 4:  Peel away the tops

Now, this really is optional, but it’s a great way for the little one(s) to be involved.  As you finish cutting the top of each k-cup, pass them to the nekkid kid in the tub.  Let them pull off the little metal bits (make sure to tell them NOT to use their teeth).  If they miss some, no biggie.

Step 5:  Dig a hole in the coffee grounds

Be careful with this one, use the back of the spoon or one of those EXTRA small spoons for stirring tea.  Dig out a hole down the center of the coffee grounds.  The grounds do not go all the way to the bottom of the k-cup, there is a hanging coffee filter in there so try not to puncture it or knock it down.  If you do, it’s not the end of the world…  it’s just not as nice for transplanting your seedlings later.

digging a hole in the coffee grounds

Step 6:  add soil

Hand the k-cup back to the kid(s) and let them fill the hole with soil.  Are we starting to appreciate the bathtub and the contained mess?  I thought so.  😉

Step 7:  contain your containers

Just like in the guide for the toilet paper tube starters, we’re going to use some more would-be garbage to hold our little starter garden.  Those crunchy, transparent containers you get whenever you get swayed in at the bakery by the yummy all ready made goodies are perfect little greenhouses!  So pop them in!

Step 8:  add seeds

Another great step to let the kids help out with.  Just add your seeds.  This go-round we’re doing a variety of lettuces so I just let the girl sprinkle them on.  They didn’t even need to be covered over with more dirt.

lettucy goodness - in seed form

Step 9:  water

Ummm..  yeah…  just water them.  😉

Step 10:  bathe kid(s)

Now let the water wash everything in the tub away, and enjoy the thrill of watching your new seeds sprout over the coming days.

President of the Green Party, No More.

Come Saturday afternoon, I’ll no longer be the president of the Green Party of Saskatchewan.  I’ve occupied the role for the last four years, since I was placed into the position by the board as the interim president in the Autumn of 2008, and was then elected and reelected by the party membership.  It may not sound like a long time, but it feels like it.  And come Saturday I’ll be stepping down not just from that particular role, but from the board in general.

I do have to admit, the decision has come with some mixed emotions…  and it really wasn’t much of a decision really.  The party has a requirement that members not serve on the board any longer than three years.  I stayed on longer as there was no-one to fill the role except for myself.  This year though, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to serve with Vicki Strelioff who was elected as my VP.  And after working with her all this past year, and seeing how wonderfully she has handled herself through what proved to be a rather difficult year for the board, I have EVERY confidence in her ability to serve the membership as party chair.

I now have to decide if I do my one last duty, or if I step aside and allow Vicki to chair our AGM.  It would seem an obvious decision.  I attend the AGM, and chair one final meeting.  The only reason it is a choice at all, and not just a given, is I know how difficult I will find it.

There is no glory in being the president of a political party.  You hold all the responsibility, for everything that happens within the party, yet hardly anyone even knows your name.  The leader – the figurehead – gets the all the prestige (and in some instances, without nearly the work).  But if something ever goes wrong, that shifts very quickly.  The president is the scapegoat, the one who’s head hits the chopping block in any scandal.  However, if you’ve done your job well?  Life continues on normally, no-one even realizing you are there – navigating the rough water, keeping an even keel.  Ensuring your ship and her crew are safe and at ease.  …it’s not a perfect metaphor, but it works.  😉

The GPS has been such a huge part of my daily life for the last half decade…  There is some relief at no longer having to shoulder the burden, but there is also a very large sense of loss.  I know myself, and know how prone to tears I can be.  I’m not sure I’d make it through that final meeting without coming apart – and that’s hardly befitting the chair of the board.  I don’t know.  I very honestly am not sure what I want to do.

At first it didn’t even enter into my mind that attending was a choice.  It’s part of the job description.  I call and chair all the meetings…  but the closer this meeting gets, the more I’m finding I’m dreading it.  I feel kind of silly over the whole thing, but part of me knows I’ll have to say good bye, and if I avoid the meeting, I can avoid doing so.

I guess we’ll see.  I don’t have long now, and one way or another I need to make the choice.  It really is the end of an era for me, and to be honest I’m torn over how I feel.  Relief and sadness…  they make for odd bedfellows.

Goodnight iPad (a modern bedtime tale) & We Give Books

Two things to share tonight.  🙂  One is the We Give Books website/program.  It’s simply too awesome NOT to share.  And the other is a book we stumbled across while there.

Goodnight iPad screenshot from We Give Books

"Goodnight iPad" screenshot from the We Give Books website

We Give Books is an incredible website where you can read new, classic, and popular Penguin Books titles to you children…  for free.  That’s right.  FREE.  We only discovered the site this afternoon and have already gone through seven titles that were brand new to us (the girl loves the Ladybug Girl books).

You can sign up for free (there’s that word again) using your FB or Twitter account, or the old fashioned way by filling out a form.  Then you choose a campaign to support…  which is where We Give Books gets even better – yep.  Better than free!  Can you imagine?  What happens next?  Just pick out a book and start reading.  When you get to the end, a button will show up that says “give a book”.  Click it.  Know what that means?  It means a book has just been donated to whichever campaign you chose to support.

Check it out!!!  Seriously!

We Give Books – www.wegivebooks.org

Now while you’re there, you have to look up “Goodnight iPad”.  It’s way too freakin’ awesome.  A parody on the classic bedtime story “Goodnight Moon” for those of us who are plugged in.  It really is fabulous, and, no joke, it had my husband and I laughing out loud as we attempted to read it to the kid.  😉

So, there you go!  Two fabulous discoveries!

Now get reading!

Leave of Absence from the Green Party

Tomorrow I will officially announce my one month leave of absence from the Green Party of Saskatchewan.  I am not leaving the party, so no worries there what-so-ever.  Now that the busyness of election time has begun to calm, I know that I can take some time for myself and my family.  It is something I’ve needed to do for a little while now, but would never leave the party without a capable captain at the helm.

My second is Vicki Strelioff.  She was voted into the roll of Vice President at the Party’s AGM this past Spring.  And quite honestly, it’s the first time in my years with the party that I’ve had a capable second… someone whom I felt I could trust to handle my duties and lead the party in my absence.  I’ll admit, having Vicki around has considerably lessened the stress involved with my role.  I will still be around during this month off, and will help Vicki wherever and whenever she needs me… but I think she’ll do just fine.  😉

This last year I have found a shift in my priorities.  A shift in my focus.  And I need to take some time away from my political work to really examine my role within the party.  I need to ensure I’m serving the Greens in the best possible way without sacrificing my many other responsibilities.  And I need to do so without the daily pressures associated with running the party.

So…  a leave of absence.  I have to admit, it will probably feel a little odd not to have my duties and responsibilities constantly on my mind.  But I think it will be a good thing.  We all need a little time to recharge, and I’d say it’s high time I took that time for myself.

Shame on the city of Regina!

The girlie has been sick today, so I’m too exhausted to write much…  but I can’t let this go without saying something.

SHAME ON YOU REGINA!!!!

The city of Regina has turned off the power to the park where the Occupy encampment is set up.  Now, I don’t live in Regina – I’m proudly in Saskatoon…  but really???  Does the city even have the authority to turn off the power to the park when they aren’t the ones providing said power???

FOR SHAME REGINA!!!!

The Occupy encampment is a peaceful demonstration.  And not only are they not hurting anyone, they are educating people, and providing for the homeless of your city as well.  This is a difficult time of year for the homeless of Saskatchewan.  It’s getting colder, and the risks are getting greater.  The demand for overnight beds is increasing, and there simply aren’t enough places for everyone to go.  The Occupy encampment is providing a safe, welcoming space.

SHAME.

City officials take note.  Give back the porta-potty.  Give back the power.  Allow this small group of people who are doing nothing but good to continue their protest, to continue educating, and to continue providing for those that many of you would rather forget.  The folks who are involved in Occupy Regina should be supported, not torn apart.

Wow…  okay.  Perhaps I had more energy than I thought.  But really, this should be a no brainer.  Leave the people at the Occupy encampment in peace, and with what few amenities they have.  Turn the power back on.  It’s not costing the city a darn thing.

#SKVotes is now #SKVoted

Time to update your 2011 Saskatchewan election hashtags: #skvotes is now #skvoted.  And honestly?  I feel pretty good about my results this year.  Every election I’ve ran in has given me something new to be proud of.

In my first national campaign my message resonated with youth, and I came in second place (by a small margin) in the mock youth vote done throughout Canada’s high schools.  I also heard from a number of individuals who chose to vote for the very first time in order to vote for me.

In the provincial by-election I accomplished something no other Provincial Green had ever done before.  I actually won a poll (in a landslide I might add).  And in a very strong NDP riding too.

This last election saw me running in my home riding – which was pretty amazing.  And as before, I encouraged people to vote who had never done so in the past.  I also stuck to my campaign messaging (equality and anti-bullying) in spite of a narrow focus on corporate politics by the media.  But here’s the big one:  I came in third, beating out the Liberal candidate.  And I have to say, it feels pretty good not being last.  😉

Saskatchewan isn’t ready for a Green MLA yet, an I knew that going into this election.  But I’m in this for the long haul…  slow and steady and all that.  And when ya’ll are ready, I’ll be here then too.  We need an alternative voice in the Legislature, that much is clear.  And I’m ready to be that voice, when you’re ready to have me.

The Green Party of Saskatchewan fielded candidates in every riding, 43% of which were women.  I’d say it’s high time the other parties took note.  They may preach gender equality, but they hardly practice it.

For those of you who enjoy a look at hard numbers, here are a few for you:

Party Candidate % of votes Votes
SP Parent, Roger 53.9 3,767
NDP Quennell, Frank 42.0 2,934
GRN Smith, Tobi-Dawne 2.3 159
LIB Jeffries, Nathan 1.8 128

That’s up from 1.66% of the vote in 2007.  Small steps?  Maybe, but they are steps forward just the same.  And I am proud knowing that the message is getting out, and it’s bringing voters out too.

Today I got a message that read:

Hey Tobi! I live in the River Heights area and your name was on my ballot when i went to cast my vote. I wasn’t voting NDP as I usually do. And Sask Party was out of the question!! So, when I saw your name for the Green Party I smiled to myself and put my X to the right of your name!! :-) Just thought I would share.

My thanks to Tom Fournier, both for his vote, and for writing to share.  It’s not too often than casting a vote brings a smile to a person’s face, and I’m glad to know this particular vote did just that.  I have to admit, letting my daughter find my name on our ballot, and marking our X beside it, made us smile too.  🙂

Congratulations to all my fellow candidates.  You all ran excellent campaigns.  The life political is not an easy one.  Thank you for all your hard work during this election, and for all the work yet to come.

Saskatoon Meewasin, MY riding.

This is my third election.  And I’ve had ties to each riding I’ve ran in…  but this is the first time I’ve had the honour of running in my home riding.  Saskatoon Meewasin is my riding.  So when I was asked to take part in a bit of a photographic essay, sharing sights from within the riding, it was an easy task.  Four of the five images were taken within a three block radius of my home.  The other is in Meewasin Park – where I spend a lot of time working.  So, have a peek into MY Meewasin:  http://www.leaderpost.com/news/5661216/story.html

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