Tag Archives: nature

four pictures of a bookq

A Colourful Review

In the recent past, I received a beautiful book for review.

It’s called The Colour Book and it’s by Sophie Benini Pietromarchi (her name has such a lovely ring to it, don’t you think?)

Like with all reviews, I started out by sitting with the book and just taking in its cover and artwork. This is a hardcover book, and so the weight and feel of it was very nice in my hands.

The cover artwork drew me in. As I sat with it, Little Brother came by to see what I was doing (it’s not often my kids see their mother sitting down, looking unoccupied).

Fotor_144560724599084Little Brother was instantly intrigued by the ants that ran across the cover, dipping themselves into what looked like pots of different coloured paints and changing their colours.

The cover is a wonderful indication of what is to come in the pages that follow:

Colour, alive and moving around the pages and taking the reader on a journey.

We opened the book together and followed the path set out by the author through colours and words.

The Colours

Each page is bursting with colour and description and beauty. Colour in nature and colour in faces and in feelings. The author talks about smiling colours and naming colours and personal colours, and then she covers the basics of colours like primary and complementary.

Fotor_144560735037992She talks about shades of colours and yellows and reds and blues and making colours from scratch.

She then invites you to collect and arrange your colours, whatever they may be: crayons, paints, markers; asking you to dive further in and make colour personal.

Fotor_144560729653292The Words

I’ve touched on the beauty of the colours and illustrations. But the words. Oh the words.

Never have I encountered such a wonderful story about colour. The life Sophie brings to the colours and the light that she brings to your imagination as you read…pure joy.

Let me show you:

“Hmmm…don’t colours in a box seem like birds shut up in a cage? The poor creatures don’t know where to go, they know nothing outside their cage. So let’s free them, and see where they go.”

“Beauty is very fleeting. It is there for one moment, and then it glides away swiftly, like a cat.”

She carries this narrative of colour having its own life throughout the book; moving and reflecting and changing.


She describes emotions in colours and even lays out some basic instruction for the new artist to become acquainted with colours and to bring them to life.

She teaches us to look for colour in everything, because everything is full of colour or shades of colour.

Little Brother and I poured over this book for over an hour, talking about the pictures, the colours, the author’s collection (or shrine, as she calls it) of colour.

She ends her beautiful book and the story of colour with this simple instruction…

“…keep looking!”

A more beautiful book in every sense I have not had the pleasure of reading.

Should the desire to make some space for a little calm and beauty in your life take hold, find yourself a copy of The Colour Book, pour yourself a cup of something warm, break off a small piece of that dark chocolate you’ve been hiding at the back of your cupboard and…indulge.


I received a copy of The Colour Book on review. I was not compensated in any other way. The opinions stated in this post are my own.


Fall Creativity and Self-led Projects

Monday is knitting day at our house.

Since I’ve been off my feet, I’ve taken up knitting and crocheting again. I started out my recovery time thinking I would do a lot of reading, something I hadn’t had much time for in recent years. But it turns out, I can’t read for eight hours a day. Especially at the beginning of my recovery, I found it made me sleepy. What I needed was something that kept my hands busy—and cooking was out of the question because of mobility issues. (It’s hard to move liquids from table to counter when you’re hopping on one foot…trust me.)

I used to crochet, and from time to time in recent years I’ve worked on the odd little project. But while I was still mobile, and on one of our frequent library trips, I saw a posting for a knitting club that would be meeting at the library Monday afternoons. “Great!” I thought. All I have to do is figure out how to get us to the library and we can learn to knit and crochet together! So we signed up.

And after lunch each Monday, we get a ride to the library, spend an hour in the company of some really great women and we knit and crochet together. I have knit and crocheted slippers, hats, blankets and sleeping bags for dolls. Big Sister has crocheted a sleeping bag for her little doll and Little Brother has discovered the fun of spool knitting (he loves to see the “snake” coming out the bottom of the spool).

Once we get home from the library, it’s homework and reading time (because, of course, the kids have picked out a dozen new books at the library).

This past Monday, Little Brother picked some leaves on the way home (while waiting at the bus stop). Because I’m on crutches, I try to discourage my kids from carrying too much (I need them to keep their hands free to help me since my hands are helping me walk right now). Generally, I would encourage the collection of many bits of nature to bring home and discuss or create with. But things are a bit different right now. Anyway, Little Brother claimed that his handful of leaves would not prevent him from helping me get on and off the bus and into the house, so I let it go. (And he was right. He was his usual, very helpful self.)

Turns out, it was a good thing that I let him bring those leaves home, because he had a project planned in his mind that occupied the rest of his afternoon. And all the struggle that I may face to get them to and from the library each Monday was worth his dedication to his afternoon project.

And isn’t that we want for our children?

We want them to be passionate about something.

We want them to want to do something so badly that they figure out how to do it themselves.

We want them to enjoy their learning and to really be engaged with it.

We want them to grow up and mature and grasp initiative and self-led learning so that it doesn’t have to be forced on them and they don’t have to feel like learning is painful and without pleasure.

If we engage them and guide them to follow their passions and allow them space to create and discover, they will learn everything they need to know.

Little Brother brought those leaves home, got out his paint set and brush, found some colourful paper and set himself up at the dining room table to work on his project. While he worked, he told me about different types of trees and leaves and how you could tell the difference between them. He talked about colours in the Fall and the greens from the summer. He explained to me how to mix colours to make new colours and did a few experiments on the paper towel he was using to dab the water off his brush. All of this without a prompt from me.

After over an hour of creating and designing, he quietly cleaned up his paint, washed out his brush and laid out his creations to dry.

Leaf painting

Normally, I would supervise Little Brother’s painting project in an effort to avoid a painting disaster. Because of my current mobility issues, I’m generally more tired by the end of our knitting club days. However, all went well without one bit of overseeing on my part. He was inspired by nature, planned his project, collected what he needed, completed the work and cleaned up after himself…and though he didn’t say anything, I could tell he was quite proud of his accomplishments.

And for the rest of the evening, we were privileged to experience the effects of his self-led learning and the confidence it gave him. Where we would sometimes see an upset little boy because he was not allowed to take his own path, we saw a well-behaved five-year-old settle a small dispute with his sister. Being allowed to plan, develop and execute a project of his own choosing filled him with accomplishment.

A young boy painting

He was confident in his abilities and it overflowed into everything else he touched that night.

two kids by a pond

A river in the city – some Time for Nature

Originally published August 27, 2012

My family and I live in a city. You might be picturing a concrete jungle without much opportunity to connect with nature. Yet our neighbourhood is teeming with nature and my kids love it.

We live not far from the Humber River and spend many a lazy day sauntering along the path enjoying what nature has to offer. We have met deer, frogs, snakes, geese (always geese), chipmunks and squirrels. I think we may have even spooked a beaver by accident once.

On a particularly beautiful day, we went to a local park to do some climbing, sliding and swinging. At the edge of this park there is a path that leads down to the Humber River. Thinking our kids would rather play at the playground, we settled on a park bench to enjoy the sun and to watch them play. Continue reading

The Walk and Talk Recess

In an age where families are crunched for time because both parents are working and the prevailing parenting mentality is to register kids for as many extra-curricular activities as possible so that they experience different things and are constantly supervised, some schools in my area have decided to institute what they call a “walk and talk” recess and limit the amount of good ol’ fashioned physical activity that kids get during the school day.

This type of recess prohibits running, chasing games (which include running), ball playing, touching, playing with any kind of equipment, and basically, fun.

So what’s a kid to do?

Act out and be rambunctious in class the minute they hang their coats up back inside.

And is it any surprise? Most teachers aren’t surprised, from what I can tell. The administration seems shocked, though. Odd.

According to one website, walk and talk recesses (in their varying degrees) “IMPROVE the behavior in the classroom”. Maybe, but only because prior to implementing the walk and talk recess at that school it sounds like the students were denied recess altogether.

I’m more of a free-range mom myself. Say what you will. But I grew up in a time when we played outside on the street (for all you helicopter, bubble-wrapping parents, I grew up on a dead-end street with very little traffic, so calm down, my parents were excellent parents (my mom especially)). We played in the neighbourhood…somewhere, usually not within sight of our parents (or any other parents). We had freedom. We learned how to get along, how to sort ourselves out, and how not to complain at every little scrape or booboo. Now, if someone was gushing blood, we sent one of the kids to get a parent. We knew how to take care of each other. And we learned that from each other, from our group. Because that’s what we were; a group of kids who played together and stuck together. We had our own lives away from the adults. And that’s important. And my kids have that, too.

Back to the recess thing. Kids develop that group mentality when they are engaged at recess as well. But we have to allow them that space to create the group and to engage their creativity. The walk and talk recess in my opinion is not the way to do that.

This article from columnist Anne Jarvis at The Windsor Star talks about a school in Auckland, New Zealand that does recess right.

And this is what was learned from doing recess this way:

“And after recess, “when kids have had the opportunity to have heaps of fun and be engaged and motivated in what they’re doing, they come back ready to learn,” he said.”

And what about current playgrounds in general? One word: boring.

Do you know what my kids do on the standard issue, colourfully designed, but super safe playgrounds in Toronto? They climb as high as they can on the outside of the structure and then either swing by their knees from an available horizontal bar or jump off to see if they can stand the thrill of the drop to the ground below.

And once they’ve conquered that height, they look for the next challenge. They are just being kids.

When they were really little and discovering their natural instinct for climbing and testing their limits, I let them go. And do you know what I discovered? Kids will never push themselves beyond what they are comfortable with at any given stage.

If I stood under them, ready to catch them if they fell, they would climb higher, yes, but it was obvious to me that they were not comfortable with their newly attained height. If I told them to try it on their own, eventually, after many park visits, they made it to the top of the climber…when they were ready.

And with all those attempts under their belts, they could own it. They had accomplished the climb themselves. It’s a confidence builder, a skill builder, a strength builder, and a bravery builder.

Did they fall? Yes. Did they get hurt? There was the odd scraped knee; maybe a few tears. Did they learn how to fall to limit the impact? Yes. You cannot get through life without falling. Falling teaches us how to limit the impact for the next time we fall. And we will try again. It’s in our nature.

As stated by Globe and Mail columnist Alex Bozikovic in a recent article, “Given today’s hyper-protective parenting norms, changing playgrounds means changing the culture.” Newer designs for playgrounds are making child’s play fun again. But our culture still has a long way to go to get to a place where kids can just be kids.



Vote for the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary

Just hoppin’ on the blog quickly today to let everyone know about this fantastic little place called Change Islands tucked away in Newfoundland (my mother and husband are from there). The island is a beautiful spot full of history and wonderful people…and the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary.

And right now, you can vote (quick registration required) for the Pony Sanctuary in the Aviva Community Fund to help them get funding for a new barn to house the ponies and continue the work that they have been doing to maintain the Newfoundland pony population and revitalize the community of Change Islands, Newfoundland.

Did you know that Elizabeth Taylor owned a Newfoundland pony as a young girl?

And that the Governor General of Canada visited the ponies and his wife named one of the ponies “Kate” after the Duchess of Cambridge?

“Kate” still lives at the Sanctuary.

The woman who runs the sanctuary and cares for the ponies is my husband’s aunt (shown below with my daughter).



That’s my daughter when she was two with her grandfather and her great aunt (the lady who cares for the ponies).

The Changes Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary has made it to the Aviva Community Fund Semi-Finals.

Please VOTE and help them win!

Newfoundland pony

Big Sister getting to know a Newfoundland Pony with her Poppy on Change Islands.

If you ever have a chance to visit Newfoundland, a visit to the ponies on Change Islands is something you won’t want to miss!

Carrying a Heavy Load

It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.

Isn’t it funny how some days we can handle what life throws at us and other days we hang on by a thread and no matter what we do, we just can’t pull through? Continue reading

Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary

My mother and husband are from a small town on a small island in Newfoundland. The island is called Change Islands. It’s a beautiful spot full of history and wonderful people.

I didn’t appreciate it when I was young and had to spend my vacations there, away from my friends in the city. But as I get older, I can see the beauty and peacefulness that that rock in the middle of the ocean has to offer.

I can’t do it justice in my writing (at least not yet). So I will share with you an article about a pony sanctuary that has been built on the island to help increase the quickly dwindling  numbers of Newfoundland ponies. The woman who runs the sanctuary and cares for the ponies as if they were her children is my husband’s aunt.


Big Sister visiting the ponies on Change Islands with her Poppy and Aunt Netta.

Newfoundland pony

Big Sister getting to know a Newfoundland Pony with her Poppy on Change Islands.

If you ever have a chance to visit that part of Newfoundland, a visit to the ponies on Change Islands is something you won’t want to miss.