Here in New England, we are all convinced that Spring will never come. The calendar tells us it has arrived today, but looking out of the window everything is snow and mud and gray and cold!
So yesterday on our free Wednesday Craft Day, we thought we would add a little green to our lives by making trees out of pom-poms. We love pom-poms–making them, playing with them, glueing them together to make bigger poms-poms, on hats, on mittens…you get the idea. We had seen such a tree during our visit to the NY Toy Fair in February, on the stand of the folks who invented Loopdedoo (you know, the cool bracelet machine–if you don’t know it, check it out!) Anyway, they were crazy about pom-poms too, and we just thought it would be fun to make our own.
The first thing we did was dig through our yarn and fiber stash for all things green.
Pretty good selection! It really doesn’t matter what you use or what weight it is. We liked using a variety of different yarns in various colors, that made differently textured pom-poms (note: the big, full, round pom-poms take a suprising amount of yarn).
We then wound them around our niddy-noddy to form a long skein (winding it around a big piece of cardboard or some chairs would work just as well), which we then tied at intervals tightly.
Then we cut into the center of each section (between the ties) and look–a pom-pom!!
You can make them larger, smaller and trim them to every shape and form.
Then we cut out some cardboard to resemble a tree top, chose a small branch as a stem, and started glueing the pom-poms onto the cardboard with hot glue.
Finally we made a base with some cardboard and a small piece of thicker branch with a hole drilled through, adding some Leicester Longwool dyed curly locks to the base to cover the cardboard.
Done!! We did another, smaller version and added tiny little red pom-poms–an apple tree!!
And look how great they look on the piano:
It was an incredibly fun afternoon spent crafting, and today we are getting out our Ostheimer figures and playing with the new trees in front of the fire since…guess what?…yup, it’s snowing outside!
Judging from this blog, you would be justified in thinking that we had an incredibly lazy summer–but you would be wrong!
A great deal of it was spent looking for and choosing lots of exciting new things for the shop for you for the upcoming holiday season. A lot of them have started arriving in our warehouse and we have been busy playing with them…eh…product testing them for you.
One new company in our line up, that we are particularly excited about, is Uncle Goose, a family owned company that have been making alphabet blocks for over 30 years in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In their company’s mission statement they announce:
"We labor over our products with the work ethic and artistry of midwestern elves from the 1800’s. Other than Santa, very few people you know personally still hand manufacture wood toys. We seem to be pressing against an invisible boundary that lies between what is possible and what is practical."
Well, that seemed just up our alley and so we checked them out and were so excited to find updated, innovative designs to delight both children and the kid in all of us grown ups as well. And their collection has expanded to include alphabet blocks in many different languages as well as striking (and fun!) stacking sets.
As a trial we ordered a few of our absolute favorite (it was super hard to choose) and here is a preview:
You can check out our complete selection on our New Arrivals page, and we hope you’ll let us know your thoughts. We would love to expand the line as much as possible but we need your help with that. Because, really, how cool would it be to own Cherokee language blocks??
You know summer is truly here when it’s Strawberry time.
Strawberries are so wonderful and versatile, but our favorite thing here is Strawberry Jam. Strawberries are great for jams because they already contain a certain amount of pectin naturally, and so even when using only half the sugar other fruits need, in order to set, it will still jell quite nicely.
Add just a hint of lemon for an extra kick and the citric acid makes the jam wonderfully bright red.
But watch out…it goes quickly. We are one jar down already!!!!
Spring is a funny thing. First you think it will never come, then it comes and goes away again, and then it rains ALL the time and then all of a sudden you have a heat wave!
And in a blink of an eye you have this
turning into this
Which leads me to the conclusion that, although Spring started very late this year, it somehow always manages to get back on track and we are going to have blueberries by the first week in July. Just like every year!
When we think of the toys that inspired us to start The Wooden Wagon, the wooden trucks by Fagus are among the first to spring to mind. It was the gift of a Car Transporter to our eldest son that introduced us to these trucks: the truck is now on its third owner, and shows no signs of wearing out!
Over the years, we have seen slight changes to the Fagus line. Models have been introduced or retired, designs have been modified to make the toys even more fun for their users. This year is no different: many of the utility trucks have had their cabs reshaped—there is more of an angle to the front, and a larger opening means even easier access to the peg figures; the peg figures have similarly been modified, becoming larger and given painted heads that contrast with the natural tones of the peg bodies. The change in the basic truck Unimog is shown below.
But the newest trucks remain compatible with the older models. They are designed on the same scale and (peg figures aside) integrate seemlessly with the other trucks. And the quality of these trucks remains of the highest standard: they are made under strict supervision, with a concern both for the environment and for children’s wellbeing. As the company itself writes:
"Everything… becomes tangible when you hold a fagus product in your hand - for instance our closeness to nature: fagus products are manufactured with particular attention to conserving resources, solely using German beech wood from forestry enterprises that guarantee sustainable management of their forests. fagus toys are also ultra-durable and naturally meet national and international safety standards.
It’s against this background that the products’ uniqueness comes into its own: toys that stimulate the imagination, at the same time encouraging creativity and motor skills and are also multi-dimensional, positively drawing children away from computer and video games. Experience it for yourself… browse through these products to whet your appetite and then experience the products ‘in person’.”
The social consciousness of the Fagus line extends beyond a bond with the children they serve: the trucks are all made in a charity-supported workshop for people with disabilities, providing them with training and employment, as shown in the video below.
We are proud to continue our long association with our friends at Fagus, and look forward to bringing their trucks to your homes for many years to come!
The boys came back from visiting their grandparents with this box of lebkuchen, each side of which shows a scene in the story of Hansel and Gretel.
It’s a rainy Saturday today–more fall than spring–and the boys are upstairs reading (or listening to) books. A perfect day to drag out the fairy tale collection, or to make up your own story with the kids. A few Ostheimer figures can prompt many imaginative adventures: use a familiar tale as the base, and see where the story takes you!
Every year we prune the blueberries just a bit. Cut out the dead wood, the annoying buckthorn, give the new sprouts at the base some more space and light and trim the height a bit so they don’t grow too tall.
Our patch has 6 varieties of blueberries, and even in bud form you can tell the difference. Big buds equal big fruit later on and the little buds turn into intensly flavored little blueberries. The buds appear at all different times too. The larger ones are the first to come out when the sun gets warm, and the little ones were just appearing when we went out at the beginning of May. Those will be the ones to give us blueberries as late as September if there is enough rain over the summer.
So the timing has to be just right - early enough that the larger buds don’t bloom yet but late enough for the smaller ones to develop. And this year that time came quite late. Last year we were pruning by the third week in March, and this time is was almost 5 weeks later. But just when you think Spring will never come, it does, and there were all those lovely fruit buds showing us what to prune and what not.
Play is to create, to discover, to proceed in half-playful, half-serious mood to experiment with one’s culture.
Play is to recreate one’s environment; to rearrange it in accordance with one’s own dictates.
Play is to master one’s own physical self; to develop physical coordination and control; to cope with any kind of sport or physical activity.
Play is for exploring and adventuring in nature and science; for grappling with ideas.
Play is for mastering materials and tools; to work in a disciplined manner, allowing materials to suggest wholly new ideas.
Play is a way of verbalizing about one’s world; of establishing physical images and patterns that relate.
Play is for construction and for achieving new forms; for artistic and aesthetic expression; fo reworking one’s creative faculties. Play is for children what brain-storming is for adults.
All creative adults play. The scientis plays, the artist plays, but they play on a higher level towards more exacting goals. They play with ideas in science, in art, in music. Out of this play they get the strength, ability, and courage to tackle the impossible; to discover new worlds.
Play, an essential of childhood, is wholly a creative activity requiring the careful selection of materials and tools; good toys are its tools.
Parents have an obligation to enrich and enlarge each child’s horizon with a wide variety of creative playthings suitable to his particular attention span, interests, dexterity, and general capabilities.
There is no doubt that the Cuboro Marble Runs are among our Top 10 Favorite Toys. They are marvels of engineering, with the tracks precision-cut above, around and through each beech cube. There is something sculptural about Cuboro as well, the curving channels contrasting with the right angles of the blocks, the unique grain of each piece of wood set off against its neighbor as the marble run grows. And more than anything, there is the play value of the sets: Though the Cuboro Standard set has a relatively advanced starting age of 5 years (due to the spatial thinking that building requires), it continues to fascinate builders well into adulthood. There are even Cuboro building clubs and competitions worldwide!
Matthias Etter developed the forerunner of the Cuboro blocks in 1976, when he was working with special-needs schoolchildren in Switzerland: the first pieces were made of clay. Over the ensuing years, Etter redesigned the pieces in fir and later beech wood and extended the game with additional elements, introducing it to the family market in 1985 (the original design featured 12 different elements; there are now 82 elements and counting in the various sets). In 1986 the assistance of the “ingenious” joiner Hans Nyfeler allowed Etter to truly realize the possibilities of manufacturing the tracks, and the first official “Cuboro” designated set appeared that year: in 2011 Cuboro celebrated its 25th anniversary. Along the way, many new combinations have been introduced, and the Cugolino sets were developed to allow younger children to experience the joys of marble play.
To this day, Cuboro is still manufactured from FSC-certified Swiss beech wood in the family joinery Nyfeler, following stringent ecological and qualitative standards. And the result is truly “The marble track for a lifetime.”
Cuboro represents the values of The Wooden Wagon completely - the highest quality, beautiful design, and fun forever!
We have a lot of blueberries. A LOT! 85 bushes to be exact, in 6 varieties that give us blueberries from the beginning of July to late September (if we are lucky with the weather). We thought that it would be fun to chronicle a year with our blueberries and thus share them with you in a small way.
This is what they looked like just a few short weeks ago
The snow has melted for the most part, and the bushes are starting to come alive.
On the bushes that bear our earliest blueberries, you can already see the fruitbuds forming.
It will be time to go and prune out the dead growth in a week or so!