Bye, Bye, Butterflies

After hosting our caterpillars and watching them transform from chrysalides to butterflies, it was time to let them go into the big, wide world. We did our butterfly release in the early evening on Earth Day. Yes, I know, what perfectly adorable timing, right? I actually had nothing to do with it - we had planned on releasing them the day before but it was raining, so we postponed and it ended up being perfect (also, there's no real way to "plan" when the release will happen when you are originally ordering because each stage of the butterfly cycle can go anywhere from 7-10 or more days depending on the caterpillars and chrysalides - you can "ballpark" it, and our entire process went about four weeks). Anyway, Earth Day arrived and we were set for the release. 

I kind of thought that the habitat would be unzipped and the butterflies would escape right out. This was not the case for us (Parker even poked his head in to check what was causing the delay, ha!).

Two did make their way out and flew off, but the others were content just hanging around. Finally, Daddy got involved and stuck his hand in. He must have been the butterfly whisperer because one hopped right on.

The variety Insect Lore uses is The Painted Lady Butterfly. They are found almost everywhere, so they are well suited to survive once released.

 Parker was positively enchanted. 

Max insisted that I try the same thing. I'm so happy I did because having the little guys jump around on my hand was the neatest thing! Our little guy, however, wanted none of it and was happy to just watch.

The entire process, going from caterpillars to chrysalides to butterflies, was nothing short of amazing.

We had one slow-poke butterfly (we called it the "Mande Butterfly" because as you know, I'm slow, ha!) that Parker loved chasing after. 

It just sort of hopped from place to place, resting on the grass. It eventually flew of over the fence, and just like that, we were butterfly-less. For the next couple days, every time I walked through the craft room (where we had been housing them) I got a little pang of sadness that they were no longer there. 

We decided growing butterflies needs to be a spring tradition for us, so we'll be ordering our caterpillars once again next year! Once you purchase the complete set (that includes everything you need including the netted habitat) all you need to do after that is order the Cup of Caterpillars (and you can re-use the habitat).

With a happy face like this one, I just can't wait to do it again! 


Spring is for Strawberries

I can't believe that we have now lived through all four seasons here in the South, and that we are now on repeat! Repeat adventure number one: Strawberry Picking! Last spring, Parker and I made the half-hour trip up north to Brown Farms, the first time strawberry picking for both of us. It was a bright, sunny day, and my then two-year-old had so much fun running around and munching on the sweet fruit. This year, once we got word that the strawberries were ready, we headed out first thing the next morning. Parker could barely contain his excitement when he woke up and I told him our plan. He exclaimed "Brand new day, time for strawberry picking!" He's seriously the happiest little guy.

Drive-through Starbucks on the way up to the farm was a must: a Double Tall Cappuccino for Mama and a Tall Whole Milk for Sweet P. 

Once we arrived, Parker ran to the fields, wielding our bucket as he squealed with excitement. He went to town, picking strawberry after strawberry, filling up the bucket as he made his way down the rows. 

What a different experience from last year! And oh my word, my baby looks twelve years old in the photo above!

His favorite part might have been tasting the strawberries!

We filled up our first bucket, and had so much fun we got another one.

We ended up with two pick-your-own buckets, a tub of local honey, and a hanging strawberry plant. Fingers crossed it will last!

We headed home and read one of our favorites, Jamberry! We always seem to gravitate toward the older books, and, true to form, this one was published in 1982. It's full of fun rhyming text, and of course, strawberries!

Our strawberry craft was sponge painting. I shaped the paper after the paint dried, and then let Parker add letter stickers to spell out "Strawberry" on the bottom (he's obsessed with how words are spelled!).

The next day we decided to make a strawberry dessert. Parker wanted strawberry pie (after hearing about berry pies in the book) so I found this recipe on Pinterest. 

I think I prefer the texture of other berries for pies, but the taste was spot on. 

I had high hopes of freezing a bunch of the strawberries, but we have pretty much finished them all off already. Perhaps we will have to head back before the season is over!


Happy Earth Day!

1. It's so perfect that Earth Day falls in the spring - it's the best time of year here in the South! Spring also means gardening! Last week, I hit up the Botanical Gardens Spring Plant Sale for the second year in a row and returned with this haul...

I had the best little helper to plant with! Parker really got in on it this year, placing all the starter plants in the holes we made and helping to cover them up. 

2. We also did some seeds! Parker specifically requested carrots, which we haven't done before.

We followed up with a carrot-themed craft to show how carrots grow, and to point out that we eat the root of the plant (as opposed to other veggies like lettuce where we eat what grows above ground).

Can you tell this sweet guy loves the garden?

3. He also just loves being outside in general...

So we've been taking advantage of our sunny, warm and humid-free days (while they last, ha!). 

 4. And a perfect Earth Day Meal? A colorful vegan one! 

Find the recipe for this dish on my Instagram (@sugarmande). While we are definitely not vegan, we do enjoy everything in moderation and I think that includes the occasional meatless meal (and as a former vegetarian of nine years, this still comes pretty naturally to me). I really dislike the word "healthy" because I feel it's thrown around by whatever fad is going on at the moment. In the 80's, "low fat" everything was "healthy" and currently there are entire eating plans that contradict each other. Tofu might be labeled "healthy" by a vegetarian, but the Whole30 Program would argue that it's not because it's processed. My point is that "healthy" is a relative term and very personal. So I won't say that this dish is "healthy" but I will say that I never feel bad after eating a big bowl of veggies ;)

5. If you are looking to add more options to your diet to make you feel your best, I was inspired by the most unlikely of places...

I picked up this book completely out of curiosity (and my love of reality television). I actually found myself agreeing with a lot of what was said! I'd say that the diet outlined in the book is extreme, but it was interesting to get a glimpse into how different families live their lives (and good motivation for incorporating more whole fruits and veggies which I don't think anyone can argue is a bad thing). 

Happy weekend and enjoy your Earth Day!


Butterflies, Butterflies

Yesterday, I shared about Parker's cup o' caterpillars and our caterpillar study. After about a week as chrysalides, our caterpillars made their transformation into butterflies! Y'all, this was the neatest thing. 

They emerged very, very tired and in need of rest (I imagine that growing wings is quite taxing). As per the instructions from Insect Lore, we added fruit to the butterfly habitat for a food source. 

Our butterfly craft involved painting little man's feet - his favorite! 

I did one foot at a time, adding more paint after each foot stamp (we made several of these so we could send them out to family). Then, I cleaned up the first foot (using baby wipes) and repeated the same steps with the same colors on the other foot, making the other side of the butterfly. After they dried I added the body and antennae myself. 

Lunch that day was butterfly-shaped quesadillas! I folded two tortillas and shaped the wings on each side with a knife before stuffing with cheese pocket-style, but you could also just do one big quesadilla. Pear and watermelon radish made up the flower, and I added Bitsy's Brainfood brand "Smart Cookies" to spell "Butterfly" (Parker is all kinds of obsessed with how words are spelled these days). 

All five of our caterpillars successfully transformed into butterflies. We have one more day with them, then they will be ready for the great big world! 
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