Sunday, April 25, 2010

Busy at work and play

I was lamenting the first lawn mowing of the year, because it marks just the beginning of a long season of lawn mowing whether we like it or not. Today was actually a perfect day for it, though - sunny with a little breeze. I also find lawn-mowing to be rather therapeutic once I'm into it, so it ended up not being so bad. :)

This is the first year since we had kids, that Mark and I could actually get a fair amount of work done outside. Up until now, one of us would have to mind the kids while the other worked, so we'd end up taking turns. Today, as I was mowing the backyard, Mark started Kira up on weed-pulling from our planter box on the back deck, while he worked on repairing our fence (Calvin held the screws for him and dispensed them one by one).

Of course, to do any significant amount of weeding, you need to wear a tiara!

Once I finished mowing the backyard, I helped Kira plant some seeds (I took the kids on an "outing" to the gardening store last weekend when it was miserably rainy out). She wanted to watch her plants grow, but I had to warn her that it could take several weeks before we see anything!

Meanwhile, Mark started pruning the trees. Calvin helped collect the fallen branches. Here he is, sporting his new & cool shades to do the job:

Off to continue on the front lawn, where we managed to mow, prune, and weed some more. The kids had to run across the street (with Mark or I, of course. No heart attacks, please!) to talk to the neighbours, and they needed a little popsicle break for all of their hard work. Oh, and Kira also needed a wardrobe change by then:

Sure it takes double the amount of time it would normally take in our pre-kid years, but there's far more entertainment value in yard work with the kids!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Butterflies galore at the Botanical Gardens!

After several years of wanting to catch this exhibit, we finally made plans to see the Butterflies Go Free! exhibit at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. The kids and I met up with one of Kira's ballet friends and her mom. It was a perfect spring day, somewhere around 15 degrees max, with a little breeze.

Due to a labour dispute, the Biodome and Insectarium were closed, but no matter. The exhibit and the gardens filled the day. Here are some miscellaneous shots from the indoor exhibit, followed by a little video of the butterflies! Beautiful!

Butterflies snacking on a plate of fruit. :)

Cocoons, some with butterflies emerging!
And here is the video that only partially captures the beauty of butterflies:

I was surprised to see how crowded it was. Then again, Montrealers are great about converging to special activities and events, and as said, it was perfect weather! We lunched outdoors and then took a walk through the Chinese Botanical Gardens.

This is the last weekend for the exhibit. Hope you can catch it, and if not, there's always next year!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ecomuseum: awesome outing yearround!

I've been meaning to blog about the Ecomuseum for such a long time! Luckily, in postponing this post, I've amassed a nice collection of photos over the various seasons at my all-time favourite "regular" outing.

The Ecomuseum is a beautiful retreat in Ste. Anne de Bellevue. It cares for a wonderful variety of wildlife, and its focus is on education and protection of animals in a natural habitat. We started going there last summer, when I discovered it online somehow and was intrigued. We've gone 5 times since then, and have enjoyed it immensely each time!

For $20 a visit ($12.50 per adult, $7.50 for children 3 to 15 years, free for children under 3), we've made a full day outing of our trip to the Ecomuseum each time. In general, we arrive in the morning, set out on the trails for about 1.5 hours, stop for lunch (there's an indoor lunch room, or outdoor picnic tables so you're set no matter what the weather), then go downstairs to visit the reptiles, fish, and nocturnal animals for about a half hour. A 10am to 2pm outing is perfect timing here! The bathroom is equipped with a change table, and there is a stepping stool at the sink for young hand-washers. The staff are friendly and courteous. And the experience is always a bit different. Oh, and they are open every day of the year except Christmas Day, so it's a great place to plan an outing any time of year.

Here are views of the pond during the summertime and the wintertime:

We have seen a snowy owl (particularly beautiful in a snowy environment), a red fox, crows and ravens, a lynx, coyotes, a black bear, caribou, otters, butterflies in the butterfly garden, turtles, porcupines, turkeys, deer, and more! And on each visit, Kira has a new question ("Do bears have tails?" "How do fishers catch porcupines?") and walks out with new knowledge about the animals she saw that day. Calvin on the other hand, just enjoys the nature and the walk.

This winter we went to an Animal Apprentice workshop for 3 to 5 year olds, and it was a very enriching experience. Kira got to prepare food for the animals, along with the other participating children. The animator was excellent, and made her talk interesting and relevant to this age group. She separated the children into groups, which - with the help of the accompanying parents - made "toys" out of food for various animals to claw or peck or poke at to get to their snack. We discovered just how clever ravens are when we went to hide our group's "toy" in the raven's enclosure. We went for a long walk along the trail, while Jennifer our animator, shared all kinds of facts and interesting tidbits about the animals we were visiting. We fed many of those animals from the food that we prepared during our workshop. And upon our return to the warmth of the indoors, we were treated to more reptiles and animals that the kids got to meet up close. I highly recommend this experience for all nature and animal lovers!

Most recently, we went back to the Ecomuseum this past Saturday, for the first time with Mark! I was so excited for him to experience it and to see why I kept raving about it. Being Easter weekend, it was packed! But we had a wonderful time and perfect weather for this family outing. We even stayed in the area afterward, and went for a long walk along the river. We enjoyed ice cream, supper, and each other's company.