The Big 4, Oh!

As the end of March nears, the weather is generally still cold and crummy, but we are in full celebration mode at the Cleaver household. 

When I was a kid, I was big into birthday parties. As early as nine, I would plan my own birthday party, devise games, and make decorations (usually modeled after a recent issue of American Girl Magazine) and thrill at the thought that I'd get to see all my friends in one place. So it's strange that when it comes to Little Miss Cleaver, I'm all about the simple. And fortunately for me, she seems to be pretty content with that as well.

I took the day off work for her actual birthday, which was a Wednesday. We opened presents and then headed into Portland to visit the dinosaur exhibit at the Portland Science Center. The animatronic dinosaurs were a bit loud, but she enjoyed the exhibit overall, then we had a lovely lunch with a great view at RiRa's. Then it was home for nap and then cake and more presents with Memere in the afternoon. 

On the weekend we headed to Gorham to celebrate our other March tradition, Maine Maple Sunday, with some ice cream, maple cotton candy, and a strangely large amount of cows. We did have a small friend party at the house this most recent Saturday, but even that was limited to our neighbors because of a major April 1st snowstorm. But kudos to LMC, who didn't skip a beat and played party games with her parents anyway. 

And honestly, for as much as I loved big birthday parties as a kid, as a parent, these are moments I love. So while I'm sure we'll follow the lead of the other parents we know with a shindig at some third-party location where the kids can run wild, I will treasure the turning of this year, the big 4, as something oh so special..

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Happy Birthday TWO you!

Little Miss Cleaver is officially two! And as timing would have it, her birthday fell on Maine Maple Sunday - so it was a BIG day for a big little girl.

We kicked things off with cards and presents from Mom and Dad in the morning. She decided to open the books first, with Nothing Like A Puffin eliciting a demand for Daddy to "Read it." But as great as books are,  it's hard to say what was the bigger hit, her new tool box, or the new playhouse.

Follow my trend of Pinterest-inspired projects, this playhouse tutorial worked out pretty well. Two extra-large moving boxes from U-Haul, one roll of colored duck tape and about 40 minutes of cutting and taping, produced what can only be called a new favorite hangout. I wanted it to be big enough for her to stand up in and this just barely made it. It's a tight squeeze when I'm asked to go in, but it's a perfect fit for her.

As we have for the past few years, we drove up to Sebago for a pancake breakfast at the town hall and then a quick jaunt to Grandpa Joe's Sugar Shack for the warm syrup on ice cream and sugaring demonstrations. It's always cold on Maine Maple Sunday, but this year it was really cold, so we spent most of our time huddling by the evaporator. And since it hasn't really warmed up yet, there wasn't much sap to boil, and we picked up the last pint of syrup they had (sorry everyone else!).

If we weren't sugar-ed and present-ed out from the morning, we had applesauce cake with maple buttercream frosting and more presents with Memere after naptime. LMC's uncle made the stuffed monkey, which is entirely hand-stitched and amazing.

I'm a sucker for traditions and in moments like these, those traditions really bring to the forefront how much LMC has grown and changed since last year and how much I've grown and changed over the many years I've been visiting sugar shacks and eating pancakes. 

When my mother moved out of her house a few years ago, my brother, at my request, tossed 2 milk crates of my journals and sent about 8 years of my scrapbooks from my middle and high school years. I shelved the scrapbooks and have only recently been looking at 1998 a lot, because LMC likes the Winnie the Pooh cover.But looking back at that year, i doubt that girl would have any inkling who and where she'd be now and how she'd be so different in some ways and how very much the same in others. 

With LMC its such a fascinating process as a parent to watch her grow and become more independent and opinionated and more herself and to wonder, which of these things will stick and what will change? Will she always love fixing things or will it go away along with the preference for pink socks? Or will the pink socks be a signature style? I can only hope that as a parent, I give her the room and support to explore and find out for herself.

I've packed away the birthday crown for another year, but I look forward to seeing who LMC will be when she wears it again.




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Epic Birthday Weekend























Little Miss Cleaver turned one this weekend, and it's hard to believe it's been a year already. The days can be long (3:30 wake up calls, anyone?) but the weeks and months, and now year (!), just speed by.  It seems not so long ago she was just this tiny squishy thing and now she's walking and babling, and has opinions and is just a tiny little person.

To celebrate her first birthday we made a weekend of it. First on Friday, Mr. Cleaver and LMC met me at work and we went out to lunch at the Olive Cafe, picked out some birthday presents at the local toy store, and LMC tasted her first ice cream - Gelato Fiasco of course!

For her actual birthday on Saturday we kept it fairly low key. She wore a new mom-made birthday dress. There was breakfast and cards. Then we went to LMC's very first swim class, the first half of which involved a wet baby clinging to me like a barnacle, until we got to the picking up and splashing into the pool part and especially the singing part. During the singing she clapped her little hands with joy and looked at me as if to say, you didn't tell me there'd be singing mom, I'd have been more open to this whole thing if I knew there would be singing! The swim class totally wiped her out and resulted in a nearly two-hour mom lap nap.

In the afternoon Memere joined us for a few balloons, a few presents, and a cake. In honor of her birth on Maine Maple weekend, I made a applesauce cake with maple buttercream frosting. I modified the original recipe to use 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour, less sugar in the cake, and no nuts/raisins. I'd probably cut back on the whole wheat flour next time, as it got a bit dense. I also added a bit of water to the frosting to get it to a spreadable consistency, but it was otherwise delicious.  The frosting tasted almost exaclt like maple sugar candy. The cake decorations I made myself out of some scrapbook paper. The birthday crown was a free pattern on Ravelry that took about an hour to make.

Later in the day our neighbors, who watch LMC two days a week and are like second family to her came over for a while.  Then we ate some pizza, gave LMC a bath, and everyone went to bed about a half an hour early and slept in late.

Today was Maine Maple Sunday itself, and we made our usual jaunt up to Sebago for a pancake breakfast and sugar shack visit. All in all it was a sweet time with a sweet little girl and a very good first birthday/first year of parenting celebration.

Maine Maple Sunday 2012

I feel like I had a whirlwind of a weekend: we had friends over for dinner Friday night, I spent Saturday running errands, and Sunday we took our annual Maine Maple Sunday trip, which I followed up with an up-close viewing of the Hunger Games with some of my knitting buddies.

One of the things I love about Maine is it's seasonality, there's a time for syrup, and a time for apples, a time for shrimp, and a time for blueberries.

So in spite of the unseasonably warm weather we'd had the previous week, Maine Maple Sunday stayed true to form and was cold (and rainy!), but it didn't dampen our spirits as we drove to Sebago for a pancake breakfast and some sugar shack tours. (Though a bad map did cause some frustration).

We picked up a pint of syrup and a bag of maple candies, but the variety of maple products is always fun to see.

I'm thinking I need to make a batch of my maple walnut granola soon - do you have any favorite maple syrup recipes? Or do you save it for pancakes and waffles only?


P.S.: Check out this preview from the upcoming Knitscene summer issue - it hits newsstands April 17th, but if you live in Portland be warned, I'm so excited about my first print publication that I may buy all the copies. ;)

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Roadtrip: Maine Maple Sunday 2010

Pretty Pints all in a Row

Every year, the 4th Sunday in March is celebrated state-wide as Maine Maple Sunday. Which is yet another reason to love Maine. Last year, Mr. Cleaver and I visited Merryfield farm in Gorham. This year we cast our syrup-seeking net a bit wider and drove out to Sebago to get our sap and sugar fix. And boy did we ever!

Town Hall

We started off our morning at the Sebago Town Hall for a tasty pancake breakfast benefiting the local fire department. The fire chief himself served Mr. Cleaver his coffee. The hall was packed to the gills with locals, with a few sundry outsides like ourselves.

Pancake Breakfast

No Mrs. Butterworth here!

After we'd filled our bellies we drove about five minutes up the road to Greene Maple Farm  - where six generations have been turning sap into syrup.

Generations of Syrup Makers

Outside the Greene sugar shack I overheard the following exchange:

It's always cold on Maple Sunday!

Teenage boy in shorts: "It's cold"

His sister: "It's always cold on Maple Sunday!"

And indeed it was chilly, but it's nice in the sugar shacks next to the evaporators: )

Syrup Makers

At Greene's we sampled warm maple syrup over homemade vanilla ice cream and picked up a pint to take home.

Maine Maple Syrup sold Here

Sap Taps

A pile of tree taps.

Next we stopped at Grandpa Joe's Sugar House over the line in Baldwin., where the Murch's have been in residence since 1916 and making maple syrup since the 1980s.

Buying goodies

They had a plethora of goodies at Grandpa Joe's and we came out with some more samples, some maple sugar candy, and, Mr. Cleaver's favorite, maple cotton candy.

Making Maple Cotton Candy

Though some strange weather patterns (mostly a string of unseasonably warm days) has significantly cut back on the sap run this year, everyone was proud to demonstrate their craft. And visitors were glad to stand by the fire, which runs around 214°F/101°C.

The syrup making-inferno!

There may be no more beautiful sight than the stea rising from a Maine sugar house on a cold spring morning.


I can't wait until next year, but at least I got syrup to tide me over :)

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Maine Maple Sunday

Today Mr.Cleaver and I went to our first Maine Maple Sunday - for those unfamiliar with syrup production, when it first starts getting warm sugar maple sap is running high, trees are tapped, and on the 4th Sunday in March, local sugarhouse open their doors for tons of syrup-seeking locals.


We headed out to Merrifield Farms because I told Mr. Cleaver I don't care where we go as long as there are pancakes. We did get some delicious pancakes and sausage and hot dogs and maple baked beans after about an hour wait. It was cold, but it was worth it. 


And while Mr. Cleaver patiently waited in line I got to run around the grounds taking pictures of other people's children's enjoying the day. We didn't pick up any syrup sadly, because one long line was enough, but I hope you enjoy my photos of our little jaunt!









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