Get Out and Bounce!

OK.  I’m calling it.  Yes, it snowed in Toronto last night, but winter is over.  Officially.  The calendar and I both say so.  It’s now just a matter of mind over sub-arctic winds.

As hard as it may still be to imagine a summer’s day, the sunny weather IS coming, and with it, the chance to gather outdoors for your parties, fairs and assorted extravaganzas.

Adventure Mania has a great range of bouncy castles for your events, with products to suit toddlers to teens.

A brand new offering for 2015, they’ve just brought in a movie screen bouncer, so that you can transition from daytime bouncing to night-time movie theatre.  The rental comes complete with a PS3 console, a loud speaker, and a projector, with a movie screen that is 9 feet long, and 5 feet high.

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There is a huge selection of bouncers with movie and game tie-ins, and you can combine them with various things, like slides and basketball hoops.  For your little Frozen fans, one of their most popular rentals is the line of Frozen bouncers.

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There is also a bouncer that operates rain or shine, so if you want your bases covered for your event, this is a great, safe bet.

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Haley Chiappino is the Event Specialist at Adventure Media, and she is a delight to work with.  Such a friendly ally in what can often be the stressful process of event planning.  You can reach her at (905)864-3290 or info@adventuremania.ca.  Best of all, if you mention this blog post, you will get a 10% discount for your rental.  They rent everything from bouncy castles and slides to sno-cone makers and carnival games.  All you need for a fun day in the sun.  Based in Milton, they serve the entire GTA, and you can check out their full range of offerings here.

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*Adventure Mania offered 4mothers1blog a rental for review consideration.  The opinions expressed are our own.

Children’s Artwork from Minted: Help Me Choose!

I love stationery and pretty paper products. In fact, one time I was in an elevator and met a stationery buyer for Indigo and it was akin to my son meeting the garbage collector. I peppered her with questions and basked in envy the entire 8 flights down. A stationery buyer, I thought that was a job of lore.

I spend hours searching out the perfect invitation, be it for a baby shower or a birthday party, and I love every minute of it. If I am in a store, I handle each card with care, weighing the paper in my hand, my fingers taking in the texture of embossed letters or fine linen grids. But I can’t always make it to a store, and the boys don’t seem to share my passion for loitering among note cards so, on-line must suffice.

My newest obsession is Minted. Minted is an on-line stationery and paper art store that allows artists to share their designs, all of which can be customized, to fellow paperphiles. The site is a visual delight tempting me to throw a party, get in touch with long lost friends and update my wall décor. It’s a beautiful rabbit hole to fall down and I recommend that you get lost!

My first order from Minted was my Christmas card for 2014. I was able to play around with various colours and tweaks to the design before settling on my favourite. An easy to use spreadsheet allowed for me to upload all of the addresses and when the cards arrived, all I had to do was stuff and seal.

My brother and his wife are expecting their first baby early next month and needless to say the entire family is very excited. My sister-in-law has spent the past few months agonizing over every detail of his nursery. She chose a gender-neutral palate of grey and white and the walls are decked out with these adorable animal prints. All that remains to do is find the perfect print to add to one remaining wall.

Aly has agreed to let me choose the final piece of art, and Minted is where I intend to find it. Perhaps you can help me to narrow it down?  The pictures that I pulled are a bit small, so I have include the links if you want to look at the artwork in closer detail just click on the title, or click here for the entire art collection.

An alphabet print is always a safe and classic option that can work for many years.

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Paper Cut ABCs by Ampersand Design Studio

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Animals Alphabet by Alethea and Ruth

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These hearts by InkDot are precious and will serve as a reminder of how much he’s loved.

I completed an extensive family tree and the idea of incorporating his ancestry into his room décor tugs at my heartstrings. A few of my favourites:

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Family of Oranges by Heritage and Joy

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Folk Family Tree by Heather Francisco

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The baby will be the second addition to their family. Molly, a yellow lab, was their first and this print It’s a dog’s world by Sheila Sunaryo would probably be her pick.

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Dogs may not be the best choice since the other animals featured are decidedly more exotic than domestic. This map of the animal world by Jessie Steury would tie everything together nicely.

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If only this was goodnight Toronto instead of goodnight New York.

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Since he remains to be named, this one may have to wait for his first birthday. The other prints allow for customization with his name that I have to forgo.

The selection of frames is swoon-worthy and the preview option allows for a complete once-over before committing. The turnaround time is 5-7 days, enough time for it to arrive before the baby shower.

Help me decide! Sound off in the comments and let me know your vote. Follow us on Instagram for the big reveal.

DIY Kids’ Birthday Parties: Looking for Inspiration

We are about to embark on Silly Season: that time of year when my little chickens hatched, one after the other, in April, May and June.  Three months of birthday planning and parties are ahead of me, and I am already behind!

I really enjoy hosting the kids’ parties at home.  Beth-Anne recently posted this list of tips from Alyson Schafer to our facebook page (via The Mabelhood) about hosting a party for kids at home.  It’s got lots of sound advice, and I especially liked how Schafer spelled out present etiquette: decide ahead of time if you will open presents at the party or after.  If you open them during the party, make sure the birthday child thanks each guest individually; if you open them after the party, make sure the birthday child sends a thank you note acknowledging the gift.  I like my kids to open the gifts after the guests have gone home, and I’m glad to know that it calls for an extra thank-you.

In the past, we’ve had parties at which we put on plays, parties with a fencing instructor, and, of course, sleepovers that featured very little sleep.  Beth-Anne has hosted a fabulous Ninja Party, and Carol has written about a horrible birthday party and the perils of trying to make everybody happy.

As I cast about for ideas for this year’s crop of parties, I keep coming back to the loot bags for inspiration.  I love putting loot bags together, and I usually find a book that works with the theme of the party: knights, magic, fairy tales.  My kids make bookmarks with a drawing and a note of thanks, and that goes into the book with each guest’s name printed at the top.  Add a sweet treat, bundle it up, and you’re done!

This year I’m putting the cart before the horse and looking at books that have inspired me recently and that could give me a theme:

charlieCharlie’s Dirt Day

written by Andrew Larsen

illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli

We could get the kids to paint flower pots, fill them with dirt and a plant and send them home with a good read and a green thumb.  Between the painting of the pot and the planting of the plant, there could be the kind of birthday chaos that is best enjoyed with a short shelf life.

lifeLife Doesn’t Frighten Me

by Maya Angelou

Paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat

We’ve been twice to see the Basquiat exhibit at the AGO.  Both times, Littlest and Middlest got busy getting their art on.  The first time they sketched, the second time they sculpted, getting inspiration from the art on the walls.  We could do an art activity and get the kids to create their own signature motif, like Basquiat’s crown.

 

birdsOur Woodland Birds

written and illustrated by Matt Sewell

I can’t get enough of Matt Sewell’s bird illustrations.  They are an amazing balance of being entirely his own style while being reliable enough representations to help you identify the bird.  Littlest and I sat down yesterday to paint, a luxury afforded by the slowly tapering end of hockey season, and he painted an homage to Matt Sewell.  We could give the kids sketch books and pencils and make bird art.

 

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Holiday Hair: Keep It Minimal

I met Jason Lee, celebrity hairstylist and owner of Salonière (and oh ya, he’s danced with Madonna!), back in July when the air was humid, hair was frizzy and nary a thought of the holidays was in anyone’s consciousness.  Unless of course you were like me, and soaking in holiday preview week in architectural lofts decked out as cozy winter wonderlands.

Lured by the offer of a hair fix-up, I ended up in Jason’s chair.  Within minutes my hair had beachy waves that put Gisele’s to shame.  As Jason worked away we chatted about what looks would be hot for holiday parties.

Jason, aware that most women are running on all-cylinders, said that this year hair should be minimal.  Sleek.  Sophisticated.  Easy to do.

He had me at easy to do.

Jason has shared his three go-to holiday hair picks with us today, along with some tips on how to flawlessly achieve these looks.

Tight and Right Bun

Melissa Gorga would be a fan of this look.  It’s a severe look that really highlights your face so spend an extra few minutes grooming those brows and perfecting your smoky eye.

How To:  Pull your hair back into a centre parted low ponytail.  Anchor that ponytail with either a bungee elastic (which has hooks on either end), or an elastic that won’t tear your hair.  Then, tease the ponytail and smoothen it out for added volume.  Finally wrap the pony into a cool bun and anchor with bobbi pins or hair pins.

Jason’s Pro Tip:  A trick that celebrity hairstylists use to create a slick look for the root area when shooting for magazines and red carpets is to simply use conditioner!!  Apply a little conditioner to the centre parted area and you will instantly have a slick super fashionable style.

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I’m No Soccer Mom

The neighbours will do a double take.  Where’s the messy pony?  The nest of tangles?  The hat hiding the bedhead?  Make way for Ms. Sassy pants!  This look screams chic and confident, but be careful to execute correctly or else the neighbours will be wondering if you’ve neglected to wash for your hair for a month.

How To:  Jennifer Lopez just wore this sultry look at the AMA’s last week. The style is done on clean blown out straight hair and then combed back with a little coconut oil!  Just remember that a little goes a long way and don’t forget to warm the coconut oil in your hands before before applying to the hair.  Comb the coconut oil through the hair allowing for the mid length and ends to still look dry.

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Here’s lookin’ at you, Rita Hayworth:

In contrast to the first two looks, the swooping waves are undeniably feminine.  A little bit retro, a lot a bit glam, but still simple and minimal these tresses are a statement.  Admittedly, this one is not so easy and requires a few tools. Warm up that barrel curling iron!

How To:  The most important step here is setting the hair first.  Jason suggests using a 1 1/4″ curling iron to curl the hair away from the face and then anchor the hair with clips.  Heating up hair and then letting it cool down holds the hairstyle much longer which is why we set the hair.  Once you’ve allowed the curls to sit for 5-10 minutes, then take out the clips and brush the hair out completely.  Jason uses a Mason Pearson brush for this step and then uses just his hands to place the waves into a 40’s Old Hollywood wave, hairspraying as he goes.

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Visit Salonière at 2470A Yonge St. in Toronto and follow his Instagram for hair-spiration.

Tips For DIY Fall Floral Arrangements

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Oh, the Fall! Be still my heart! Nature’s display of oranges and reds almost makes up for the dull, dreary winter that is looming before us and what’s better than bringing those colours into our homes to brighten up the day?

I remember reading somewhere years ago, when North Americans seemed hungry for everything French and their je ne sais quoi, that French homes often have fresh flowers throughout. While I am not a fan of foie gras or mass transit strikes, I can firmly assert that I side with the French on two things: champagne and flowers.

Lured by the vibrant colours and clusters of blooms, I stopped into neighbourhood florist Gilded and Green where I met owners Nancy and Charlotte.

If ever you’ve wondered why arrangements from florists cost more than corner store bouquets wrapped in cellophane, I can tell you. Nancy and Charlotte are artists. They agonize over every detail of each arrangement: the perfect vessel, the balance of blooms to greenery, the length of each stem and the overall composition. With their discerning eye and unwavering dedication to quality, they select only the best for their shop. Like curators of a museum, each vase, plant and flower is part of a larger story.

On the day that I was in the shop, oranges, reds, yellows and purples prevailed. And oh, they were just so pretty!

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I was amused by these whimsical moss sculptures that I was assured were low maintenance.

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I said that I thought they would make for lovely gifts and Nancy was quick to offer some other suggestions for thank-you or hostess gifts that are not the traditional bouquet.

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I couldn’t leave the shop without asking if they could share a few tips for budding wanna be florists (pun intended!) like myself.

  • Keep it simple. Stick to 1-3 different varieties of flowers.
  • Always add some greenery.
  • Don’t be afraid of using colour but keep the colours in the same family, or go monochromatic.
  • Cut the stems! Lop ‘em off! Very few arrangements actually look their best in tall vases. Tall arrangements are a tough look to pull off and you need the perfect space in your house to display them (think: hall foyer, large dining room table)
  • Think about the vessel. If you have a vessel that you want to use, make sure that the flowers are cut down, and there are enough to fill it.
  • Hire a professional. You may pay a bit more but a professional brings an understanding of the flowers as well as an artistic eye.

Want to see more of Gilded and Green’s work? Check out our Instagram here, and Gilded and Green’s website here.

Have an arrangement you want to show off? Send us a tweet, an Instagram or Facebook message – we’d love to see it and we like to share!

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How-To: Fall Tablescapes Made Easy

Toronto has a plethora of great restaurants. Whatever you’ve got a hankering for; chances are you can find it among the city’s thriving foodie scene. In the past few months I have eaten out a lot and with November looming and the holiday parties about to start, I want to change gears, simplify and return to the “dinner party”.

I love eating at friends’ houses and hosting at ours as much as I do patronizing Toronto’s finest restos.   It’s fun to play the host, decorate the table and fuss with the menu. My partner-in-crime is a fabulous cook (thank goodness one of us is!) and so while he handles everything in the kitchen, the table is left up to me.

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Here’s my take on a casual dinner setting. I never buy “all new”, instead I prefer to buy versatile pieces to add to my collection and re-purpose what I already have in my cupboards. The napkin is 100% linen and adds some whimsy to the table. Ideal for Thanksgiving, but it works for any meal because aren’t we always thankful to break bread with loved ones?

The chalkboard napkin rings work double duty as place cards and writing the guest’s name is the perfect job for little helpers.

I love fresh flowers on the table, but we all know the cost of larger arrangements can quickly burst the budget. A trick that an event planner once taught me was to create several smaller arrangements using cheaper flowers (think mums, carnations, baby’s breath, daisies) for the bulk of the display and then add a few stems of a more expensive bloom. Baby food jars, mason jars, small glasses are all easy, affordable vessels that can be dressed up with spray-paint, ribbon, twine or left as is. I am crushing on these green mason jars!

My glassware is a mason jar with a handle and instead of a traditional wine glass I opted for a terra cotta wine chalice.

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I swapped out my everyday flatware for a gold set that works well with this ivory plate and matching “thankful” bowl. I like the weight of this dinnerware – it’s rustic and reminds me of the harvest.

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To increase the “wow factor”, I traded the dinnerware for a bone white plate and an inexpensive gold charger from the party store. Here’s a tip: share! My sisters-in-law and I shuttle serving dishes, chargers and linens back and forth from each other’s house whenever one of us is hosting a dinner. It cuts down on the cost, and you can have more fun setting the table.

The stem-less wine glasses go well with these liqueur ones that add a pop of colour to the table. Indigo has a collection of reasonably priced linen napkins in a variety of colours. This barn-red reminds me of the autumn leaves but will work on a holiday table too.

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For a centerpiece I took a pumpkin from my son’s collection (where does he keep getting these from?), a pinecone from our Christmas stock and a stem of hydrangea. I grouped them together on a white cake plate for a more polished look, but I really like how the cluster looks earthier on this wooden pedestal.

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My grandmother’s china is one of my most favourite possessions and it has taken me a long time to get over my fear of shattering a plate. Every time I use it, I think of her and I know that she wouldn’t want me to keep it the cupboard like some sort of shrine, so I use it. I am sure there will be a day when a bowl gets chipped, and I am sure that I will feel a pang of sadness or guilt, but at least the set is being used.

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Here’s a more glam setting complete with a silver charger and matching napkin ring. My best Waterford crystal red and white wine glasses (not many have survived the ten years since my wedding registry) and champagne flutes (that I trekked home from a European back-pack adventure more than 12 years ago).

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Instead of a cake plate, I used the same cluster and placed in my great-aunt’s crystal bowl – that usually holds oranges on the kitchen table.

Here are some tabletop accessories that would make a nice addition to any collection.

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Linen napkins from Madderroot via Etsy

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Linen napkins from RecoverMeDesign via Etsy

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Linen napkins from Rosyeco via Etsy

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Copper napkin rings from Indigo

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DIY Hand-dotted glassware via 4Mothers

Thank you Indigo, for sending over the plate, bowl, gold flatware, linen napkins and wooden pedestal. We sure do love your store! Indigo didn’t pay me to write this post or to use their products . . . yup, I just really like ‘em.

Elderflower Everything

st gI am obsessed with Elderflower.  Obsessed.  I discovered it a few years ago in a pop I found at Winners.  Do you know, I sometimes go to Winners just to shop in the crazy impulse buy aisles they have you weaving through miles of just to get to the cash register.  Seriously.  Just for that.  I find the best stuff in those aisles!  It’s where I found this elderflower pop.  It’s where my elderflower adventure began!

From a rare find at Winners to England, where elderflower pop is readily available at Tesco, and a habit was formed.  I drank a lot of it in England and brought home a bottle of elderflower cordial in my suitcase.

From elderflower softdrinks, I moved on to a discovery of elderflower liqueur.  St. Germain is available at the LCBO, and mixed with a splash of soda, it’s a little taste of heaven.

Also available at the LCBO is Rekorderlig elderflower and pear cider.  Serve very well chilled.  See above re: heaven.

Finally, a friend, aware of my passion, brought me a bottle of elderflower cordial from Ikea.

If you are feeling ambitious, you can make your own!  Recipe here from the Tree Council.

So, I’ve got several ways to find it, and now I’m working on ways to mix it.

Elderflower Bellini

A really indulgent cocktail that’s perfect for summer, is a simple mix of Prosecco and St. Germain.  Pour half an ounce of St. Germain into a champagne flute, fill with chilled Prosecco and feel the bliss.

rekorderElderflower Elvis

I made this cocktail for my Mad Mums’ Martini afternoon.  It was incredible.  At the time, I left out the beer from the original Bon Appetit recipe because I’m not a big fan of beer cocktails.  I’m thinking, though, that the Rekorderlig cider would be a delicious substitute for the beer and would amplify the elderflower flavour.

I also adapted the recipe by substituting vodka for gin and soaking segmented grapefruit in the vodka for a few hours.  I then used this flavour-infused vodka to make the cocktails and used the grapefruit for garnish.  Delish!

Virgin Elvis

Just add Elderflower cordial to pink grapefruit juice and add a splash of soda water.  Yum!

Please tell me about any other elderflower drinks you may know about!!

 

Mad Mums’ Martinis

I hosted a Mad Mums’ Martini afternoon for some other half-day Kindergarten kids and mums.  This is the aftermath:

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Note that the jello salad is almost all there, the spam is untouched and the vodka … well, not untouched.

One of us wore pearls and heels.  One of us wore a twin set.  One of us wore one of 200 dresses in her closet from the fifties.

All of us had fun.

Because sometimes in this crazy journey we call motherhood, we have to make a detour for the carnival.

How to Cast, Rehearse and Perform a Play with 30 Preschoolers in Three Hours

kiingYoungest celebrated his sixth birthday this weekend, and when I asked him what he wanted to do for his party, he said, “Put on a play with my friends.”

A full three years ago, Middlest had chosen to do a play for HIS sixth birthday, a fact that I had all but forgotten.  So what was surprising about Youngest’s request was not so much that he wanted to put on a play but that he remembered that such a thing could be done with friends at a birthday party.

I guided Youngest to the theme of medieval knights and castles because he loves to dress up and do sword fights, but also because I had a dozen copies of Castles: How They Work on hand from a previous party!  The book has since gone out of print, so I had to shop for the rest of the books that would go into the guests’ loot bag.  I found Marcia Williams’s retelling of the stories of King Arthur, which was perfect, but I couldn’t get enough copies of that book, either, so I also picked up her retelling of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Now, The Canterbury Tales are not exactly every child’s cup of tea, so I read Williams’s version to make sure that this book would be a good pick to send home with the kids at the end of the party.  Not only was it a great pick, it became the foundation of the three plays that the kids performed on the day.

Youngest is mightily fond of farts.  Honestly, I have never met a boy who delights in the gas we pass more than he does.  The Canterbury Tales is well-stocked with stories with farts, but I stayed well away from those for the plays.  Instead, I adapted The Nuns’ Priest’s Tale, The Franklin’s Tale, and The Knight’s Tale to be performed by 6-10 kids in a 10-minute performance.  Thirty kids; three plays; thirty minutes.  That means stripping the story to its bare bones, making sure that there is plenty of action for the kids to perform, and including as much humour and audience participation as possible.

I learned this technique of performing plays with young kids from their fabulous playschool teacher, who regularly works with the kids to perform plays as part of her playschool programming.  Briefly, here’s how it works: the Narrator tells the story, and the kids act it out.  It’s that simple.  In this way, the Narrator has (theoretical) control of the action (this came in handy during the sword fighting scene), and the kids have close guidance of what to do and say.  The kids can create their own characters and story, which is what I did for the party three years ago, or you can narrate a story that you have prepared.

 

canterburyHere is how I stripped down and adapted The Nuns’ Priest’s Tale:

Chantecleer the Rockstar Rooster

Pertelote the Rockstar Hen

The Fox

The Chickens

In the courtyard of a castle there lived a rooster, Chantecleer, his wife Pertelote, and a brood of happy chickens. Chantecleer was very proud of his very fine voice, and the whole castle depended on his morning call. He and Pertelote would greet each day in perfect harmony, and at the end of the day, all of the birds would curl up to sleep.

One morning, before the sun rose, Chantecleer began to moan and groan in his sleep. The noise woke Pertelote, who then shook him awake. He had had a very bad dream. He dreamed that an orange monster with pointy ears, a long, pointy nose, white, sharp teeth and a bushy tail had chased him around and around and tried to eat him!

Ask Audience: What could it be?

He was sure that the dream had a meaning and that it meant that he should not sing his beautiful song that day.

Pertelote told him that was nonsense. She said his bad dream was because he had eaten too much the night before. She told him not to worry and to hurry up and get ready for their morning song. She gave him his microphone, and they both got ready to sing.

Ask Audience: Are you ready for their song? What will it sound like? Sing along if you know the words.

PLAY first verse and chorus of “What Does the Fox Say?” (heh heh)  Chickens dance and sing.

Well, the Fox did NOT like this song, not one little bit. So he hid behind a bush to watch for his chance to eat Chantecleer and put an end to this nonsense.

Chantecleer saw the fox hiding and was very afraid. Pertelote was afraid. The happy chickens were afraid, and they all crowded together. Chantecleer began to run away, but the clever Fox said,

Stop!

He told him he had come to make friends and to hear his singing, which was famous even all the way to the forest. Chantecleer was very proud of his voice, so he was easily tricked into trusting the fox.  The fox said that his voice would sound even better if he did one special trick. The Fox showed him exactly what to do: close his eyes and stretch his neck way, way up.  So Chantecleer closed his eyes and stretched his neck way, way up.

And the Fox snapped him up and carried him off to the forest. He ran this way and that. The chickens ran after him, trying to save Chantecleer, but they could not keep up.  They stopped to catch their breath.

Oh! Poor Chantecleer! It looked like his goose was cooked, but Chantecleer was not just any pretty chicken. He had brains and he planned to use them.

He said, “Stop, Fox! You have outrun them now. You can slow down and tell the chickens that they might as well go home.” The Fox, who was not the sharpest crayon in the box, was quite happy to boast of his success and he opened his mouth to reply.

FREEZE

Ask audience: what will happen next?

Chantecleer flew free and flew to the top of a tree.

Poor Fox. He tried to flatter the rooster back to ground, but Chantecleer was older and wiser now, and crowed triumphantly at the monster from his dream.

Actors take a bow.

Beautiful literature, it is not.  However, it was a whole lot of fun to rehearse and perform this story with a group of 4-6 year-olds.

Here is what we did to prepare:

1.  Invite guests to attend the party in costume and tell them that they will have a chance to perform in a play.  Have extra costumes on hand.  (We have years’ worth of Halloween costumes.)  Lots of knights and princesses came to this party.  One child came as a dragon, so I added a dragon to one of the plays.  I needed a brood of chickens, so Youngest and I made chicken masks from egg cartons ahead of time.  All of the chickens wore princess dresses.  No problem.  The play is large; it can contain multitudes.

2.  After all the guests arrive, gather them in a circle and tell them, very briefly, the story for each play.  Then ask for volunteers for the roles.  Kids can also choose to just watch the plays.  The first stage of casting is done.

3.  Work with groups of 6-10 kids at a time.  Rehearse in a space separate from the rest of the kids so that there are no distractions and so that the final production will be new to the kids in the audience.  Tell the story briefly again, and finish assigning the roles.

4.  Now begin rehearsing.  The Narrator stands “on stage” with the kids and narrates the action of the play from downstage, nearly in the wings; the kids act out what is being narrated.  As you go, elicit what their characters would say.  Some kids will be eager to say lines.  Some will not.  You can narrate for the kids who would prefer not to speak.  Some kids will decide that they don’t like the role they chose.  Switch roles.  Some kids will decide they don’t want to perform.  That’s fine, too.

5.  Rehearse each play separately, then assemble all the kids for the Final Performance.  I invited parents to return for the last hour of the party to watch the plays.  Each group takes a turn performing its play.

6.  Have fun.  Expect hiccups.  Roll with it.

The party was a three-hour whirlwind, and while I rehearsed with the kids, my husband and the parents who had stayed for the party supervised those who were not rehearsing.  They grazed at the food table, they played, they did not kill or maim each other with their toy swords.  I knew we would not have time for cake, so after the performance, we sang “Happy Birthday,” then each guest went home with a book, a bookmark made by the birthday boy, and a birthday cookie made by the amazingly talented Christy at DolceDesserts.

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And then I sat down and did not get up for a good, long time.

A Perfumed Evening

imgres-4I hosted my neighbourhood book club this month, and my choice was Chandler Burr’s The Perfect Scent.  It’s a wonderful account of his year following a perfumer and a celebrity as they create new fragrances: Claude Ellena, who makes Un Jardin sur le Nil, his first as the in-house perfumer for Hermes, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who embarks on her first fragrance for Coty, Lovely.

We often do food and drink that’s linked to the book in some way, so I got rose Turkish Delight, Chowder’s violet candies, lavender jelly for the cheese board, and I made a cardamom and ginger dressing for the cantaloupe and a rosewater-flavoured yogurt for the strawberries.  Yum!  For drinks, I had spiced rum punch and Elderflower pear cider and Elderflower liqueur.  All highly recommended!

As part of the evening, I got samples of the perfumes Burr discusses in the book, and I asked everyone to bring their favourite perfume: a smell and tell component to the evening.  We had a tour through all the samples, and it was striking how polarized opinion could be on some of the perfumes.  My favourite perfume, Dzing! by l’Artisan Parfumeur, makes me deliriously happy because it smells like hay and animals and, yes, a bit like manure.  Two other women who smelled it smelled, wait for it, electrical fire!!  One of them had had an electrical fire recently and said it smelled exactly like it.  Obviously not a happy connection.  We rounded out the night by discussing the book and told stories about our fragrance memories and about how we came to love our favourites.

imgres-5We all had our memories of heavy perfumes we left behind with our youth, like Rive Gauche, Poison, Anais Anais, Obsession and Ralph Lauren.  Do you remember those?   We all had memories of women in our lives who are inseparable from their fragrances.  For me, it’s my mother and Youth Dew.  Inseparable.

My fascination with all things perfume truly began about five years ago when I discovered that there exists a perfume called In the Library, made by Christopher Brosius for CB I Hate Perfume.  It turned out that the only woman in Toronto to carry his perfumes was right around the corner.  Sadly, I really did not like the smell of In the Library, but two of the notes in it, Tobacco and Old Leather, were available as individual scents.  I bought them on the spot, and gave them to my husband to wear.  They are simply scrumptious, and it gives me a profound sense of calm and pleasure to smell those scents on him.  I have since bought about six of his perfumes, each with its own wonderful story and unfolding pleasures.

His In the Library started me on a quest to find other perfume that smelled like books.  I’d get very strange looks when I asked about it, but one store owner who really knew his stuff said, “Nothing like books, but what about hay?  Some people think this one smells like paper.”  And he introduced me to my beloved Dzing!  His store has since disappeared, so my favourite scent remains elusive.  All the better to make you yearn, my dear.

What perfumes have you forever left behind?  What are your current favourites?