Tag Archives: bird lover

A Rainy Get Away: The Bloedel Conservatory

IMG 6103It may be another rainy, miserable day in Vancouver today, but Miss G and I got away from it all by spending our morning at the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park.  Warm, humid, green, and echoing with the calls of birds, it’s the perfect get away from the gloom and grey of yet another rainy day. 

Just see for yourself…
IMG 6108IMG 6118IMG 6111IMG 6123IMG 6124IMG 6131IMG 6129IMG 6146IMG 6152IMG 6139IMG 6119Beautiful, right?  Not to mention that Gracen adores searching out birds, smelling flowers, and trekking along the paths.  

 

During the winter months, the conservatory is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. seven days a week.  Adult admission is $6.50, children’s admission for ages 3 to 12 is $3.25, and children 2 and under are free. 

♥ 

For extra fun, like us on Facebook here and find us on Instagram here. 

 
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Cookie Cutter Bird Seed Feeders {A Toddler-Friendly Method}

I must admit, I’ve seen many recipes like this one from Under the Sycamore floating around the internet, and I’ve been skeptical. Very skeptical, in fact.  I guess I was envisioning some sort of jello-y bird seedy concoction and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that a hunk of seedy gelatine could last more than a few minutes (especially in the summertime) when tied to a string and hung from a tree.

But when Gracen woke up from her nap today and immediately announced “All done sleeping!  Nice nap.  Grae Grae wants to MAKE some ping!”, then suggested bird feeders, I decided we’d give it a shot.  I had two goals in mind – first, seeing if gelatine +  bird seed really does equal cool bird feeders, and second, figuring out a way of making them without having to have Grae stand at a hot stove to stir a pot of water.  
 

Cookie Cutter Bird Seed FeedersI’m happy to say, our experiment was a success.  Not only do we have trees sprinkled with pretty bird feeders (thus some very happy birds), but Gracen was able to do almost all of the steps on her own at our butcher block and there was no stove required.

IngredientsHere’s what we used for the project… Bird seed, gelatine, boiling water, straws cut into 2 inch pieces, some baker’s twine, and some cookie cutters and pancake moulds.

IMG 2276We started off by emptying two packets (not boxes – the above photo is misleading) of plain gelatine into a very large mixing bowl.

IMG 2277Then I carefully poured in a little bit of boiling water (this is one of the only jobs I did for the project).

IMG 2282Gracen then stirred the mixture very gently until all of the gelatine was dissolved.

IMG 2284Next, we measured out our bird seed.  We used a “wild bird” variety, but I think pretty much any type would work as long as the seeds and bits are not too big – I think a finer blend works best in this case.

IMG 2286Then Grae poured the bird seed into our gelatine/water mixture.

IMG 2292We stirred it for a few minutes, making sure that all of the seeds were evenly coated and that there was no longer excess water at the bottom of the bowl.

IMG 2294Next, we covered a tray in parchment paper and laid out our cookie cutters and moulds.

IMG 2295Using a teaspoon, Grae filled each cookie cutter with seed, one by one.

Here she is hard at work…

IMG 2299You want to make sure that they’re a little bit overfull, so be generous with the seed.  (This recipe made these five feeders, plus a large bird seed “cupcake” too).

IMG 2305Because the mixture gets really sticky, we covered the cookie cutters with a layer of parchment and Grae pressed the seeds down into the moulds.

IMG 2306You want to make sure the seeds are packed very tightly – it’s part of what makes the feeders stay together well.

IMG 2309Next, we took our straws and carefully inserted them into the cookie cutters, making sure to not place them too close to the edges.  Once the straws were in the seed, we pressed the seeds down around them to make sure everything stayed tight.

IMG 2314Next, we popped the entire tray into the fridge and let them set for a couple of hours before taking them out and letting them dry out on the counter.  We left them for most of the evening, and before I went to bed for the night, I flipped them over so that the bottoms could dry out too. (It’s a bit awkward to flip them with the straw sticking out the way it is, but you could trim the straw if you liked.)

IMG 2319The next morning, we gently popped the shapes out of their moulds.

IMG 2321Then we plucked out the straws and made sure that the holes were clear all the way through.

IMG 2323For the last step, we took some baker’s twine (ribbon or jute would be perfect too), put it through the holes, and knotted the tops.  Voila!  Pretty little feeders for the hungry birds in our yard.

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Cookie Cutter Bird Seed Feeders (a toddler-friendly method)

Adapted very slightly from this recipe

  • 2/3 cup of boiling water
  • 2 packets of gelatine (a box has 4)
  • 2 cups of bird seed 
  • parchment or wax paper
  • cookie cutters or silicone moulds
  • straws cut into 2 inch pieces

Pour the water into a very large mixing bowl.  Add two packages of gelatine and stir until it’s fully dissolved.  Add the bird seed and mix well until everything is evenly coated.

Place cookie cutters/moulds onto a parchment-lined tray and scoop seed mixture in until heaping full.  Place another piece of parchment on top of the cookie cutters and press down firmly to pack in all of the seeds.  Remove the top parchment layer and gently poke straw pieces all the way through the seed shapes (be sure not to put them too close to the edges).  Pop the tray into the fridge for a couple of hours to allow the feeders to set.

Later on, remove the tray from the fridge and let sit on the counter to dry out.  Flip the cookie cutters over a few hours later to let the bottoms dry out too.  Let sit for at least 3 – 4 more hours (overnight is best) until the feeders are completely dry.

Gently remove the seed shapes from the moulds (they should be fully dry and hard to the touch at this point – if not, allow to dry longer).  Carefully remove the straws and tie a twine loop through the holes.  Hang in a tree. 

 

 
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A Painting Project

The other day, while shopping for craft supplies, Miss G spotted a shelf of mini wooden bird houses and immediately got excited.  Having painted her own bird house before, she knew exactly what these unfinished little bird homes meant – getting messy and having fun, painting-style.  Knowing that her cousins would be arriving in a few days, we decided to pick up four.  Gracen was very serious about selecting four different houses and was just as excited to choose paintbrushes, paint, and bird seed.  Upon returning home {to Grandma’s house}, I quietly tucked the bag of goodies away until the cousins arrived and we were in need of an activity.

IMG 5975With an hour or so to spare this morning and a little drizzle falling from the sky, we decided it was a good time to bring out the supplies.  We set up shop out on Grandma Sue’s patio and let the kiddos dive in.

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IMG 5990Grae was an old pro.  She very seriously collected paint on her brush and stroked it onto her house, trying to fill in all of the spaces.

IMG 5980IMG 5993Korbin had a plan. Each side would be a separate colour. And when he had finished that task, he brushed some white over top to “make it look cooler”.

IMG 5972IMG 5986Miss Kins had never painted before, and although she dived in eagerly, she wasn’t thrilled about getting paint on herself.  She painted a little bit of the roof, and then called it quits.

IMG 5991IMG 5995Chay didn’t join us immediately, but once he saw what was going on, he was up at the table in no time and was all about painting the inside of his house.

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 Taa-daaa!  The finished products.  I’d say the birds will be flocking to these little masterpieces, wouldn’t you?
 
 ♥
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Father’s Day 2.0

Because we didn’t really get to celebrate the real Father’s Day properly last week, we said we’d set aside a little time to do something special during our Okanagan vacation. So this morning, after Bradley had a chance to sleep in, we all got ready, packed up some things, and made our way to Polson Park.  Once there, we played at the playground, explored the park, had a little picnic, opened the gift G and I made for Brad, and visited with the ducks.  Despite the fact that much of the park was covered in a generous layer of water due to the recent rain, it was a gorgeous morning.  The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect, and the park was as green as could be.

Here is our morning in photos…
IMG 5725Swinging with Papa.

IMG 5727Soooo happy.

IMG 5732Snuggles and sandwiches.

IMG 5740Checking out the water park.

IMG 5743Grae and Mama.

IMG 5747A little gift.

IMG 5760Checking out Papa’s 2nd annual Father’s Day photo book.

IMG 5763“High! More high!”

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High fives while swinging. No big deal.

IMG 5769Hungry ducks.

IMG 5772Sprinkling seeds.

IMG 5790Headed home.

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Granville Island: Favourite Places & Today’s Disaster

I got this question from a local mom last time I posted about Granville Island, and I thought I’d share…

It looks like you guys go to Granville Island a lot. This summer my son will be at the age where he can enjoy these sort of outings, but the trouble is, I usually only go to the Public Market when I go to Granville Island. Where are all of these cool little spots you take your daughter to? Any tips?

I’m actually really happy to answer this question, because although I’ve always loved Granville Island, the truth is, up until we moved back to Vancouver from the Middle East, I was a Public Market and boardwalk kind of girl too.  Here’s what our normal visit looks like now:

1. First off, free parking!  I know that many of my friends pay for parking off the island and walk on, or park in pay lots on the island. Not necessary!  If you park in the lot right beside Bridges restaurant (near the public market, but not in front of it – off to the side) you can have a free stall for 3 hours!  And as long as you arrive before 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. (even on weekends) you shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot.  

2. Public Market.  We normally stop and get a little treat for Mama and a little treat for Grae when we visit.  Grae’s treat often comes from Terra Breads.  They have amazing fresh-baked bread of all sorts and can quickly tell you the ingredients in any of their homemade goodies as they keep a recipe binder on hand under the counter.  Grae’s favourites are the cheese flutes (an extra special treat because they are made with white flour) and the walnut bread.  If not bread, we normally stop at The Grainry.  They have all kinds of natural and organic goodies for purchase in small quantities, and Grae almost always ends up choosing their no-sugar-added/unsulphered dried mango or apple.  For me, it’s coffee!   My newest stop of choice is Nons.  They’re quick, they accept debit, and they’re located right beside the bank machine if you need to take out some cash. 

3. Public Seating Area.  After gathering our goodies, we almost always head outside to enjoy the seating area in front of the Public Market.  Gracen watches the birds (while I put on my brave face and try not to pass my ridiculous fear of feathery friends down to my daughter), we watch the boats come and go, and enjoy the musical performances that are often happening.  The only thing I don’t enjoy about this part of our day is the incredibly greedy/aggressive small dog-sized seagulls who are always trolling above head.  Although it has gotten much better now that the crowds are out, we’ve been swarmed twice and let me tell you, it is FREAKY.  The first time actually resulted in blood after Gracen’s finger was bit by a seagull desperate for her bread, and I’ll tell you all about today after this list. Best advice – keep all food completely tucked away.

4. Boat play structure. After our fill of aquabuses, birds, and bands, we normally stroll over to the Kid’s Market.  While the Kid’s Market itself is not my favourite place, Gracen does love all of the  at-toddler-eye-level toys for sale in the shops, so sometimes we take a quick browse. Most days, however, we head straight out back to the little boat play structure.  Gracen rotates between the role of captain and passenger inevitably makes a new little friend or two.

5. Water park & playground. After finishing up with the play boat, we walk along the little path to the water park and playground area.  The water park is still fairly new to us because we weren’t here last summer and it’s not been quite warm enough lately, but she did experiment with it a little today, and I can tell that it’s going to be a summer favourite.  On the other hand, the playground is an old favourite.  Between the saucer swing, the climbing structure/merry-go-round, the slides, the sand pit, and the kid-operated river, we can easily spend a couple hours there. The plus is that the False Creek Community Centre is right next to it, and we almost always duck in for a quick potty break.

6. Ron Basford Park. After coaxing Grae away from the playground, we head along the little seawall to Ron Basford Park.  I personally think it’s Granville Island’s best kept secret.  It’s a basically a giant grass-covered hill that is has a little path that leads to a Canadian flag at the tippy top.  It’s the perfect place to let your little one run off some energy, and even better yet – it’s the perfect place for a snack stop or picnic.

7. Seawall. After leaving the park, we usually follow the seawall in front of the Granville Island Hotel and past the Sea Village.  I’m not sure who loves the Sea Village more – me or Grae…  How cool would it be to have your house on the water?!  By the time we reach last one, without fail, Gracen’s request is loud and clear, “More home! More home!”

8. Performers.  On the way back to our car, I always try to scope out one or two performances that are live in action.  Grae normally gets out of her stroller so she can let loose and dance or sway to the music.  After a few songs, we head back to our vehicle, load up our things, and make our way home for some lunch and a nap. 

Now onto today…

What’s worse than being attacked by greedy dog-sized seagulls?  Being shit on by said seagulls first, then being attacked.  True story.  Ugh…

Grae and I were minding our business while watching the aqua buses come and go this morning when I felt a series of warm, goopy plops hit my arm and hand. Sick. As I’m one-handedly attempting to open the diaper bag and retrieve a handful of wipes, 3 giant seagulls start swarming us.  Globs of shit still all over me, I abruptly grab Gracen’s bread flute out of her hand, chuck in into the bag, and start fending off seagulls left and right.  Grae’s now crying, the bird crap is dripping off of my hand, and the best part? I realize that this is all taking place in front of a row of busy window seats.  I look up to see 3 people waving.  Oh, let me die now…

Even worse? Me literally washing my sweater with hand soap in the bathroom sink, then ringing it out and putting it back on soaking wet because it was chilly, I had a strapless dress on, and didn’t bring anything else. FML. One thing was for sure, I wasn’t going to let a large load of bird crap ruin our morning. We had driven all the way there and Gracen was excited to explore, so on our way we went, albeit dripping wet. Here are a few photos from the better parts of today’s Granville Island adventure…

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Bird-Themed Sensory Bin

Always looking for new, fun sensory bin ideas, I stumbled upon this webpage last week.  Since Grae is such a little bird lover, I knew that a bird-themed sensory bin would be a total hit.  We already had huge bag of bird seed on hand for our feathery friends who live in the backyard, and throughout the week, I went about collecting little extras.  Everything needed was very inexpensive and was found at our local dollar stores, but would be available at craft stores too. The little birds are called ‘Mushroom Birds’ (I have no idea why, but they are) and can be found where fake flowers are sold. The nests are formed with faux moss (also found in a fake flower section), the flower branches are held in place by folding the branch over and anchoring it in the seeds, and the pinecones were borrowed from one of Gracen’s many collections.  The little wooden bird house was painted by the little lady a few days ago, which was a fun activity in itself. With all of our items collected,  I assembled everything during today’s nap and had it ready to go as a fun little afternoon surprise.
IMG 4583IMG 4585IMG 4587IMG 4588Gracen literally couldn’t get out the door fast enough when I told her I had something fun for us to do outside.  And when she saw the birds? There was a serious squeal of excitement. She immediately set about exploring the nests, moving the birds from place to place, and filling the bird house with seed.IMG 4591IMG 4594

Shortly after, the birds started flying!  Accompanied by little ‘whooshing’ sounds, they zipped through the air doing dives, spins, and figure eights.  Hilarious.
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Then it was time to empty the bin so that there was plenty of space for hand burying.

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After selecting the very best peanuts from the mix, Gracen took the time to hand feed each bird.  She tapped the peanut onto the birds’ beaks, and naturally, each responded with an enthusiastic “nom-a-nom-a-neh”.IMG 4622

With all of the birds properly cared for, it was time for the real fun.  Gracen’s sensory bin finale of sorts.  Off came the shoes, and in went the munchkin! Needless to say, we had seeds everywhereIMG 4632IMG 4634IMG 4638
And then this happened.  Perhaps she’s working on a new grand finale?  I don’t know, but all I can say is that I’m happy she chose to break me in with this new maneuver on a bird seed day instead of a cloud dough day.  IMG 4647

Feathers, small pretend eggs, and anything found around the yard (sticks, leaves, flowers, etc.) would make great additions to this sensory bin.  
 
You can see Gracen’s beachoceangardening, moon dough, and construction-themed bins by clicking on the links.
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A Granville Island Playdate

Let me tell you, it’s not easy coordinating the schedules of 5 busy mamas, 3 on-the-go toddlers, and 2 adorably smushy babies. But we finally did it. And on a gorgeous day no less. Gracen and I met up with several of my good friends and their munchkins at Granville Island this morning and it was wonderful.

Grae and I arrived early, grabbed our usual Terra Breads treat (her) and coffee (me), and headed outside to visit with the birds.  I don’t know if it’s because of the increased traffic or not, but since the weather’s picked up and the island’s been busier, the seagull situation has been much better than this winter when the bird incident happened.  In fact, they were so scarce today that we took out a little bag of bird seed I had tucked away and Grae fed the pigeons.  It was the first time she’d fed birds and she was beyond excited about it.  She’d shove her little hand into the bag and slowly pull out a fist stuffed full of seed.  Food in hand, she’d carefully walk to an open area, crouch down, release the seeds, and purposefully brush her hands against one another, ridding her palms of the extras.  Then she’d take a few steps back, wait anxiously, and when the pigeons would start feasting on the meal she’d provided, she’d proudly run back to me shouting, “Bird!  Eat, eat, eat! More! More!”IMG 3570IMG 3574IMG 3576IMG 3588

Once our friends arrived, it was off for a little stroll along the seawall.  We made our way to the playground where the “big kids” had a blast getting filthy and soaking wet in the sand area.  Gracen went down the slide on repeat and playtime ended with all 3 toddlers smushed together on the saucer swing.  Adorableness at its best.IMG 3591

IMG 3596IMG 3595IMG 3598IMG 3604IMG 3605IMG 3610Gracen loved the fact that they were setting up for the upcoming Children’s Festival…  Especially because it meant serious chats with a bookworm and a fist-clenching ride on a pirate ship.IMG 3616IMG 3621

After a picnic lunch under the shade of a tree and a little more playtime, it was time to head home.  There’s really nothing like a day filled with friends, fresh air, and sunshine…IMG 3625IMG 3627

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