Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Things I Love Thursday: The Library

I love the library. I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge this obsession. I first really discovered the library when I had kids. Not that I didn't use the library as a kid; I remember checking out books, especially in my early teen. But I didn't love the library back then. Now it is clearly an obsession.

When we lived in Princeton, my friends with kids would talk about story time and other events at the library. At that point, I could hardly get to the store, let alone to the library. But when Joshua was a little older, I started to understand how wonderful these programs could be.

It started small. We would go to song and story time once a week. Then we started ordering books ahead online to pick up at the front desk. Eventually we would actually take time to browse the children's books on days that didn't even have events.

When we first moved to Aberdeen, it took a little while to get acclimated, but we eventually found our way to the Aberdeen Central Library (pictured above) and have been hooked ever since.

The Central Library has a great set up. The children's library is a separate, entirely-enclosed room. I don't have to worry about my kids making too much noise in a quiet place. And they have a little more freedom to wander and look at their own things.

They also have Reading and Rhyme time every fortnight (every two weeks) for little kids. They don't break up the age groups as well as the Princeton Library use to, but they do a good job. Joshua and Abigail are always a little hesitant to get involved with the activities, but later in the week I often hear them singing the songs they learned at the library.

The story and song time normally ends with some cute little water songs. The kids all hold onto this sparkly material, shaking it to resemble water. The little stuffed animals are tossed around and around. It end by bouncing all the animals into the air. The kids love it.

They also have computer games and activities for older kids (which my kids haven't really gotten into yet), and they have coloring pages and other games for younger kids. Below the kids are playing some sort of Bingo or alphabet game, while Abigail colors her masterpiece.

My kids love looking through all the books for the ones they get to use this week. They also have free movie rentals, so I normally let them pick out a few DVD's for the week. We also discovered that the small, neighborhood library (Tillydrone) has educational games and toys. On our last visit, Joshua and Abigail each picked out one toy and one game to bring home. Very cool!

More than anything I am thrilled that my children love books and the library, almost as much as I do!

Check out more things people love at The Diaper Diaries.

Coloring Easter Eggs

Today at play group, Rachel hosted a Easter Egg Coloring party. The kids had great fun. Joshua and Abigail both came home with their names on their beautiful colored eggs.

One thing you may not know ... they don't have white chicken eggs in Scotland. The common chicken breeds here lay brown eggs. So Rachel went in search of white eggs to make our colors brighter. She found beautiful, white duck eggs.

Duck eggs are a little different than chicken eggs. The shells are much smoother and less porous. They don't soak in the dye in the same way. But our eggs turned out wonderfully.

Joshua, of coarse, was all about the tongs. He just wanted to removed the eggs from the bowls with the wonderful tongs. Although he did take a break long enough to color on an egg and dye it in both the blue and red bowls.

Abigail took a little more convincing. She watched closely as I colored a flower on my egg using a white crayon. Then I put my egg in the red bowl. Soon you could clearly see my white flower on the little pink egg.

Below you can see Joshua dropping an egg into the blue dye. Too bad his friend was not quite ready to dye her egg. We had to pull out the egg and dry it off so she could finish coloring it.

Abigail enjoyed playing with the small, foam eggs that she was coloring with markers.

Thanks, Rachel, for all your work to make this a fun time for the kids. I am so thankful to have creative friends who plan these wonderful times for my kids.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crathes Castle

This weekend we visited our first Scotland castle -- Crathes Castle.  This is a beautiful 16th century castle that was owned and occupied by one family for over 350 years. We were not allowed photography inside, so you will have to enjoy the external shots.

The inside of the castle is well preserved. The furniture is beautiful, especially the canopy beds. With the kids running around, it was a little tricky to look at everything, but we did enjoy the well preserved details. Some of the rooms were set up with history details of the family. There were also displays of swords and a wonderful music room with an antique an harpsichord and mandolin.
The kids had a wonderful time on the grounds. There is so much open space to run around. Because this is technically before the tourist season, there were not many people there either.

To the left of the castle are these huge rhododendrons. They must be hundreds of years old to have reached this size. There is a small opening where kids can go in and play.

Darren took some beautiful shots from the top floor of the castle. The view was amazing!

The door in the picture below is closed to the public, but it leads into the old guard room. The walls into the main tower are about six feet thick, for defensive purposes.

Those vines growing all over the exterior walls must be beautiful when they are in full bloom. We are excited to visit again during other seasons.

This castle has incredible gardens that are hundreds of years old. The plants and colors are just beginning to wake up, and in a few more weeks it will probably be in full bloom.

They have beautiful trees and plants in the gardens, including old Japanese maple trees that looked truly ancient. 

Joshua loved exploring all the little "secret" spaces that existed around every corner.

And the views of the castle from the garden are stunning.

Abigail loved the freedom to run around and climb all the strairs in the gardens.

And did I mention the fountains and ponds? The kids loved the water. There was only one fountain turned on while we were there, but we saw several others that are just waiting for spring. 

We didn't have enough time to go into the green houses to see all the exotic, tropical plants. There was also the rose garden that we didn't get to (but all the roses are still dormant anyway).

This is a wonderful castle to visit, especially if you are a lover of gardens. I think Darren will be more excited about ruins, though. I hope we visit again this summer when the gardens are in full splendor.

Check out more pictures from our trip at: Crathes Castle - March 2010

I am thinking about writing a post with details about visiting this castle, especially without a car. What do you think? Does anyone have any specific questions?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Maritime Museum

Saturday before last, we decided to visit the local Maritime Museum just south of Aberdeen's downtown strip. We want to give Joshua more opportunities to walk; so instead of pushing the double buggy all the way downtown, we hopped a bus with the single pushchair (umbrella stroller).

As we got off the bus, Darren caught some shots of the beautiful buildings in the downtown area. Behind Joshua is the Town and County Hall, containing the courts and government offices.

While the kids take a moment for snacks and drinks, Darren catches another great picture. In the background, you can see Castle Gate at the eastern end of downtown. This is where Aberdeen's only castle once stood many years ago.

After wandering around a little bit (I forgot the map), we finally arrived at the Maritime Museum. We were not allowed to take any pictures inside (trade secrets, I guess), but if you look closely you can see a wonderful ship model in the window behind Joshua.

The museum was very enjoyable, and entrance is free (always a good thing). There are exhibits about fishing and ship building, but the heart of the museum is the oil rig running up the open center of the building. Joshua was most excited about the models of both boats and oil rigs. They also enjoyed the remote controlled model of an underwater explorer unit.

Just outside the museum is the harbor when the ships are docked. We watched the boats from the top floor of the museum for quite sometime. Once back outside, we walked down as close as we could to the ships.

The new mall, Union Station, is only a few blocks from the museum, so we headed over for some window shopping. The first stop was primarily for Darren and I ... Costa Coffee.

A little caffeine later, we were off walking the mall. Of coarse, this mall is a little weird and doesn't have much besides clothes and sit-down restaurants. Eventually we decided to walk up to the other malls where they have shops with games and toys.

What a great day we had as a family, exploring and learning more about this great city we live in!
Check out more pictures from our day at: Family Fun - Spring 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

This week we really enjoyed the Hash-Brown Quiche, which basically uses hash browns as the crust for the quiche. I just need to remember that our pie dish is too small. It was such a hit, I need to make a bigger quiche next time.

Menu for this week:

Check out more great meal ideas at Organizing Junkie.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Free Tea

I have been a complete slacker posting this week. I used all my creative energy last week with all my posting, and now I can't think of anything to post about. Except...

My friend is hosting a give-away this week for some very yummy tea. We had this unique Japanese Green Tea with Cherry at a tea-tasting party last week. It was amazing, especially coupled with shortbread (I also really like it with chocolate). I have been waiting for a chance to get to downtown Aberdeen to pick up some of this amazing tea.

Miss Mommy is giving away some of this tea, a diffuser and some Scottish shortbread biscuits.  To enter, just leave a comment at The Adventures of Miss Mommy, and let her know I sent you! Good luck.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Last week our favorite new recipe was the Loosemeat Sandwiches (thanks Miss Mommy for the recipe). We used mince (ground) turkey instead of beef because it is a much better price. And I added a slice of cheddar cheese under the meat (so it would melt nicely) at my husband's request. This was very tasty and easy to make!

You may also remember that I was trying a Chinese Stir Fry recipe from a magazine. It didn't quite turn out as I hoped, but we did find a new sauce that I like and I have some recommendations that would make the recipe much better. I'll post about that as soon as I can.

Menu for this week:
  • Monday -- Crock Pot Rotisserie Style Chicken
  • Tuesday -- Hash-Brown Quiche
  • Wednesday -- Pasta and Red Sauce
  • Thursday -- Chicken and Mushroom Pie - from a magazine, to use the leftover roast chicken.
  • Friday -- Tortelloni with Prawns and Mushrooms
  • Saturday -- Jacket Potatoes with broccoli and cheese
  • Sunday -- Indian Curry (Korma)
Check out more menu plan's at Organizing Junkie.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ferns and Bridges

The last indoor garden we visited on our trip to the winter gardens was the beautiful Fern House. This was, by far, the favorite greenhouse on our tour. The Fern House is filled with arched bridges over streams and pools. Joshua loved all the bridges and never tired of crossing them over and over.

Some of the pools were filled with huge carp, others had large animated (not-real) frogs that would poke their heads up and shoot water from their mouths. On the bridge above, the are watching the carp swim around. In the picture below, the animatronic frog has captured their attention.

Abigail enjoyed the freedom we allowed in the gardens. Doesn't she look like a little girl always on the go?

Joshua enjoyed the freedom to wander back and forth across the bridges. Neither kid stayed still for long.

The last green house was closed to the public for a wedding (actually we saw three different wedding groups while we were there for the afternoon). It was not quite time to leave for home, so we decided to let the kids run around in the deserted outdoor gardens. As you can see, the outdoor gardens are far from ready for spring. This rose garden was still completely dormant.

Abigail loved the height of these walls. She found that if she stood up on her tip toes, she could just peak over the wall at us.

Abigail's hiding and peaking launched us into a game of hide 'n seek. Mommy was counting, but Abigail was not quite understanding that she needed to hide.

But finally Joshua encouraged her to join him on the other side of the wall, hiding on the benches. They were so excited when I finally found them. Aren't kids so wonderful!?

Then Mommy and Abigail explored all the passageways in this English-style garden, while Daddy and Joshua played another game. Joshua would run to the other side of the garden and Daddy would choose a random bench to sit in. Joshua turn back and run to catch Daddy, all the while not really knowing which bench Daddy would choose. It was so funny to watch.

Joshua was laughing so hard he was crying. Darren has such a wonderful way with Joshua... He really understands Joshua's developing sense of humor and can make him laugh harder than anyone else.

Next we headed to the memorial garden where they have these beautiful reflecting pools.

Joshua was nervous about crossing the "incomplete" bridges...

But together they conqured the fear. Joshua was so pleased! Abigail decided this was no big deal and started across, only to immediately fall between the steps (luckily mommy had her had and she didn't get hurt or too wet). After that, she was a little more timid and a little more excited about making it all the way across.

We also visited the Japanese garden, but the camera batteries were completely done. The outdoor gardens still need a few months to wake up and proclaim their beauty. This gives us good incentive to visit in the summer months as well.

If you are even in Aberdeen, I would recommend a visit to the David Welch winter gardens at Duthie Park. Well worth the visit! We had a wonderful time and will be back again soon to watch the outdoor gardens awaken to spring.

You can see more pictures on Facebook at Duthie Winter Gardens - March 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sharing A Shell

Joshua's school has the great program for sharing books. It is to encourage parents to read with their kids. For a week at a time, your child receives a bag to take home containing a book and sometimes some props to accompany the story.

This week Joshua was given the "Sharing"  bag. His bag contained the book Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson (the author of the Gruffalo, which we really enjoy). The bag also included a real sea shell and a little toy crab.

This book is written in the sing-song rhyme style of Donaldson's other books, which is very fun and develops language skills for kids. The art work is colorful and quickly engaged my children (ages 4 and 2). But it is the story that really grabbed me.

A sad little hermit crab quickly needs a new home to protect him from the seagulls. No one will help him or share, but finally he spots an empty shell. Through no act of his own, he ends up sharing his shell with two unlikely friends - a purple anemone and a yellow bristle-worm. As they help each other through challenging situations, they learn lessons of friendship, sharing, forgiveness and peace-making.

I love this little story and the lessons it teaches kids. We had to return the book to school today, but it is one we will be investing in soon. I was even more excited about this book when I heard Joshua talking about sharing something with his sister "just like the Sharing Shell," he said. Beautiful!

Check out more wonderful books for your kids on Feed Me Books Friday, hosted by The Adventure of Motherhood.

Tropics and Cacti

The kids were hesitant to leave the ponds and waterfall, but we soon discovered there was fun to be found in the Tropical House.

Abigail was immediately drawn to the fountain peacefully dripping at the back of the green house. Joshua immediately found that the fountain had left puddles on the stone walkway that were great for stomping and splashing. I love this shot; Darren caught him in full action.

Abigail wanted to see if she could catch a drip from the fountain in her hand. It is wonderful to see how such simple things bring such pleasure to children.

Then, of course, Joshua had to join the fun. He was equally pleased with the drops and caught four or five before he was satisfied and could move on.

We were the only ones in the Tropical House for few minutes. We all stopped our talking and walking to listen to the music of the fountain. I was surprised that even the kids enjoyed the sound enough to remain silent for almost thirty seconds.

Abigail carefully explored the foliage of the Tropics, especially enjoying the huge leaves right at her level. She was so gentle with all the plants after the yellow flower incident.

The next house in the garden provided a huge contrast to the tropical house, the very dry Arid House. Joshua and I have a fun "teaching" moment talking about how there was so much water everywhere in the tropical house (even on the floor making stomping puddles), but there was very little water in with the cacti; he observed that the sand and pebbles in the arid house were very dry.

Abigail was greatly intrigued by Joshua's comment about the dry rocks and had to check it out for herself. See, Daddy, they are dry!

Then we learned about cacti and how pokey they can be. We looked closely at the spikes, but were careful not to touch (for the most part). There were huge cacti and little cacti; I even spotted a few that I recognized from my mom's window sills. The kids and I all gently pet the "old man" cacti they had on display.

We paused for a break on the rocks, enjoying the view of huge cacti in front of us. Some of these plants had reached the greenhouse ceiling at least 30 feet up.

After our break we strolled through the Victorian corridor lined with beautiful flowers, and encountered a wedding party in formal attire. Sorry, we didn't catch any good shots of the kilts. It is hard to discretely take pictures with our big camera; that would be the time to pull out a camera phone or something.

Tomorrow we'll close our visit to the winter gardens with some outside shots (those gardens were still asleep for the winter, but the kids needed a good place to really run around), and then the favorite Fern House. You can see more pictures on Facebook at Duthie Winter Gardens - March 2010.

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