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Monday, May 30, 2011

burn your prom dress into flowers

OK, these burnt taffeta flowers are all over the internet. I made them with my crafternight friends and with my kids. Both groups seemed to like this project. So, here is a mini tutorial on what we did, but really just consider this an endorsement of the craft! It is fun and the results are pretty great.

1. Cut a bunch of circle-ish shapes out of any synthetic prom dress material. Ten is a good number to start with.

2. Burn the edges. A little or alot. It is interesting to see how the different materials burn and curl.

3. Definitely let your kids do this! Kids love to burn things and supervised activities like this teach them a healthy respect for fire. Check out this video for more inspiration. My 5, 7, and 9 year olds all did this with minimal melting of their fingers.

4. Stack the pieces together. Then decide if you need to make more or trim some them.

5. When you have the look you want, sew them together, from the middle, using some seed beads if you want. That is it! You can attach this to a barrette, pin, headband, tote bag, scarf, curtain, get the idea.

We even forayed into making seaweed, leaves and carnivorous plants. None of which turned out too great, but it was fun and open ended learning!

p.s.These make great teacher gifts. My kids are making them for their swim coaches this summer.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

homemade peppermint spray for super powers

I am addicted to this super easy, super cheap, uplifting peppermint spray. I have been a fan of peppermint essential oil for years. It cured my pregnancy nausea, eased migraines and pepped me up. I used to just apply the oil straight from the bottle to my head or neck, but this way is better and still packs a zing.

what you need
2 oz spray bottle
peppermint essential oil

what you do
fill the bottle with water
add 10-15 drops of oil

Spray it on your face, back, neck, feet..... it will wake you up first thing in the morning, help you through the afternoon, and relax your achy muscles. My kids even love it and do not find it too strong.

Some aromatherapy books might recommend that you use distilled water, but you know what? I use tap water, and it is fine. And then, of course, you can customize it with .... eucalyptus when you are sick, lavender to sleep, rosemary to help you concentrate.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


This is how I will spend about 4 hours of my day for the next month. What will you do this summer?

Monday, May 23, 2011

10 tips from the deep south to keep you cool this summer

It is becoming hot and humid here and despite a sweet, late spring, cold snap (hello low 70's!) things are going to be unbearable soon. In the south, we (I) see summer much like people in the north must see winter; extreme weather that is challenging, sometimes keeps you inside and is a major deciding factor in your daily schedule.

When I see blog posts and magazine spreads about fireflies and evening picnics outside, I know those are not reflective of our season. The air is still like limp pudding at 10 pm. And where fireflies might be sweet, we have killer mosquitoes. And nothing less than toxic DEET works to bring relief.

 Here are 10 things that we do to stay cool and happy in the summer.

1. Eat popsicles for breakfast. No, really. First of all, it is really fun and seems so decadent. But in reality, all I do is keep the freezer stocked with frozen orange juice pops and pass them out each morning. My kids think they are living it up. *see the specks in the popcicle? They are chia seeds - full of omega-3's, protein and fiber!

2. Make friends with a pool owner. Well, this might sound obvious or like I am a jerk. But, you might have many friends who do not even know that you would love to swim in their pool. Offer to watch all the kids, while the other mom does her shopping or takes a nap, and bring watermelon and a fun game or toy and you are in!

3. Move all cooking to the grill. In the summer, if the meal is to be hot, it is cooked outside. Kabobs, pizza, even pancakes and eggs can be cooked on the grill. We have our grill hooked up to the natural gas, so there is never a issue of being out of fuel. We just flip it on and cook on it several times a day. Inside, we make salads galore, gazpacho, veggies and dips, juices and smoothies.

4. Keep a master list of free and cheap summer activities. There are so many summer activities and camps around here that I can not keep track of them. So, I literally keep a list (or file folder) full of them. In the beginning of summer, I rarely need it because we are so jazzed about all that we have going on, but by the end we need some new ideas. I am part of a small home school co op that plans fun things for our kids to do, and we usually continue in the summer. I have schooled friends who do the same thing and even plan their own summer camps. A little bit of organization can make for a fun and action packed summer. Some of our favorites are free bowling, ice skating, free theatre movies, outdoor movies and concerts, flea markets and late afternoon beach trips for a bit of play and dinner before bed.

5. Stock up on sprinklers, water balloons, and kiddie pools. I budget a certain amount of hose time into each week. It is amazing how long my kids love to play outside in the hose. When they were very young, just the idea of being wet was thrilling enough, but now that they are older, their creative games fuel the fun. Kiddie pools become oceans for paper boat battles, dolls have swim parties, complex battles  are invented with water balloons and mama can sit on the deck and focus on number 6.

6. Invent your summer 2011 cocktail. I always need to have something I am working on, and a summer cocktail takes on a certain significance for me each summer. Something fun to sip on in the late afternoon before dinner when all is flowing as easily as the water from your hose. For several summers it was freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, Bombay gin, and a sprig of rosemary. Some summers are margarita summers; this might be the year I perfect my sangria. My kids also like fun drinks while they are playing outside. This is the season for curly straws, paper umbrellas, and homemade Orange Julius'.

7. Turn your bathtub into a pool. If you have worn out your welcome at your friends' pools (hopefully it did not have anything to do with number 6) you can always swim in your own bathtub. Bath tubs are great fun when the object of the bath is not to get clean. One of our favorite things to do is to tint the water with food coloring and scent it with essential oils. So, a blue bath with peppermint and big ice cubes becomes an arctic bath. And a green bath with a handful of herb sprigs from the yard is now a swamp bath. Do this at night, turn off the lights and throw glow sticks in the tub. Your kids will be amazed at how beautiful it is - and so will you.

8. Change your rhythm  Maybe most families already have a later bedtime in the summer, but you can adjust your rhythm even more. For instance, we tend to go wake up and go to sleep with the sun, which in the summer makes for much longer days. We usually do our outside playing or working in the early morning and late evening. Afternoons are reserved for some downtime, siesta style. So, laying around reading or watching a movie allows the kids to recharge for act two when the set begins to set.

9. Host indoor movie nights with friends Most of our play dates tend to revolve around the outdoors. However, in the summer, if there is not water involved kids are hot, sweaty and cranky. An alternative idea is to host movie nights. We have done this a few times and it is always great. You can make it super easy and have everyone over after dinner. You, the host, can have popcorn and maybe something a little sweet (this is one of my kids favorite party treats). Kids can watch the movie and then play a bit and all go to bed happy. 

10. Freeze things. Turn your freezer into a laboratory. We freeze water into as many shapes as we can and then play with the ice, either outside or in the bathtub. Balloons, milk containers, yogurt containers, and  medical gloves make great ice shapes. For extra fun, float items inside. Try flowers, glitter, rocks, cars, plastic animals, ribbons, gold coins, fake jewels, Lego creations and even glow sticks (they are preserved in the freezer even if they have already been activates).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

new badge::fatherhood

The newest badge is not for mothers - but for fathers. I have had many requests for this over the years and it makes sense. Mothering has changed so drastically over the past generation, so has fatherhood. It is pretty much expected nowadays that a dad can jump in and change a diaper or get dinner on the table. So, in honor of the men who get up in the middle of the night, can clean up vomit with out batting an eye, and willing play beauty salon with their daughters...this one is for you!

It is in the shop tomorrow! Just in time for Father's Day!

Friday, May 20, 2011

{this moment}

image from the week. no words. via soulemama.

make a cape

To wrap up my month organizing activities for my co op, I made Super Me capes for the kids to decorate. The idea was that they could depict what was important to them, or what made them a hero. I am not sure if that was the outcome, but it was fun.

A few years ago, my friend made my son a bunch of cool capes out of different materials. I used that shape as a pattern, which was pretty brilliant because you can cut out two out of standard yardage folded in half. That made this project fast and reasonable.

There is not real tutorial needed for this project. Just cut out 2 pieces of material (you can sketch a pattern on a piece of butcher paper, or draw on the fabric.) in the shape you see above. It is a rectangle with a scoop out for the neck. Sew up the sides and top, right sides together, and turn inside out. Adhesive velcro closes the neck and that is it!

I made 10 capes with a black side and a white side and it only took a few hours. In fact, all 3 of my kids were able to help sew the capes together while I cut them out! I left the bottoms open for ease of embroidery or in case anyone wanted to sew buttons or sequins on. They can be hand or machine stitched when the designs are completed.

We used fabric paint to decorate the white side and plan to do some iron ons and patches on the black side.

My daughter's is a good reflection of her personality.  Cheerful and optimistic!

And so is my son's cape. He is entertaining and

very proud of his strength!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

we can do scary things

an update to yesterday's post.
The scary thing was not for my daughter to climb so high in this tree (can you see her?) but me allowing it and even praising her, when all I wanted to do was throw up.

we can do hard things

Sometimes I think we need to hang a sign for ourselves and kids. 

We can do hard things. 
We can be hungry.
We can be bored.
We can fail. 
We can share. 
We can be disappointed.
We can cry or feel sad. 
and sometimes

We can just be.

and it is all normal and okay.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

homeschooling for failure

"Life is trying things to see if they work." 
Ray Bradbury

Not long ago, I realized that one of the most important things I share with my kids is how to fail. Alot. To even look forward to failure. What? That sounds so counter-intuitive to many current models of education, where mastery is the goal. While I am not against knowing something inside and out, I do think there might be a better way of getting there than by drilling and memorization.  I tell my kids, if you are not failing at least some of the time, you are not trying anything new or pushing to grow. While failing because of carelessness is not championed around here, failing because of bold experimentation and creative play is.

A recent interest in knights and medieval fighting led us to trying to make our own bit of chain mail. We read how to make it, watched a video on how to make it and eventually tried many of our own methods. None of them worked. Or I should say, none of them produced a final piece that we were happy with.

What I was happy with, was that we were not attached to a perfect final product as the goal. Perfectionist tendencies melted away because there was real and deep engagement with the materials and the idea of how to join them into a pattern. We worked for an hour joining, rejoining, questioning and experimenting and in the end moved on to some new ideas that were inspired by the tools and materials.

I guess you could say we failed at making chain mail. But it is exactly the kind of failure I encourage! The kind that opens your mind and leads you in new directions.

What have you failed at recently?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

design your own birthday, part 2

A while ago I wrote about how we have switched from parent-led themed birthdays to child designed ones. Well, we are still at it. Mr. 5 wanted a guitar cake with lots of color and sparkles. He really likes drawing hearts, so a big one on the guitar was a must. He wore his new astronaut suit while eating a special dinner of homemade chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese and salad. A trip to Disney, to ride all the rides the older kids have supposedly outgrown, rounded out the celebrations. The theme was perfectly, "Oliver."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

sharing:: fun, inspiration & thought

a great new comic by Hathor the Cowgoddess. 

These sculptures blew my kids and me away. The poetic expression of physics and wind.... I literally almost cried. Check out Strandbeest here. And make sure to watch the videos - really, really amazing.


I am embroidering this, soon.

pattern available for $3.00 at The Floss Box


And finally, the really interesting idea of DIY college. I think there is alot to be said for this approach.

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

live like everyday is a vacation

After returning from a weekend beach trip, I am relaxed,  invigorated and motivated to recommit to some lifestyle changes. 

I have been reading about the notion of "entrainment" in Stephan Rechtschaffen's book Time Shifting.  Rechtschaffen writes that entrainment "is the process by which the rhythms (of the world) fall into synchronization with each other." 

So basically, your body and mind reflect the rhythms of your environment. I believe that without a doubt. As a wife, mom, individual, microbusiness owner, community member, homeschooler and any other myriad of titles you can imagine - I regularly feel my mind seize up like a motor with gunky oil as it is fragmented, scattered and unable to focus. 

It is when I am camping, hiking or especially at the ocean that I literally feel my body reset itself, or entrain to a more relaxed state. 

Hearing the trees blow, or the ocean crash it languid breaths upon the shore while I sleep, re-establishes my natural rhythm.

At the beach, with sparklers and shooting stars illuminating the night air, I wonder, how can I have more of this calm for my family? Can we achieve a more balanced and fun life without having to leave home and enter "vacationland?"

Seth Godin writes, "Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don't need to escape from." 


 I drink the Koolaid that he is serving whole-heartedly. In many ways my family works to create our life, not just fall into expected norms. But still, the basic maintenance of life takes its toll. 

So, with Godin's quote in mind, I brainstormed three ideas that might help us stay on track.

1. Decommission treasures (doesn't that sound better than "decluttering"?).  Get rid of stuff, then get rid of more stuff - even if it means just packing some of it up for the time being. One of the best things about vacation is that we have so many fewer items to take care of - so we have MORE TIME. More time to interact, be creative, and even get bored.  
I have experienced the phenomenon of less many times in my travels, both by myself as a young adult and with my kids. In my early twenties, while traveling overseas,  the thing that shook me was not cultural shock, but how my American self had learned to identify so strongly with things. The house I lived in, the CD's on my shelf and the art work on my walls, all gave out information about who I was and what was important to me. I am not suggesting not enjoying stuff, but stripped of mine, my "self" had to fit into luggage that I could literally carry myself. It was liberating and scary to depend on my mind and personality to build relationships.
Similarly, I have been stuck in small hotels in different countries with 3 kids, a handful of books, no tv or internet, some journals and colored pencils and maybe some recyclables. Guess what? We had a great time and learned to create, play and invent our fun out of limited resources.
I will donate more, give away more, pack up more, and live with less. Because, when I live with less, I have more of my life to live. 

2. Conquer the food beast. Food is such a big part of our lives; we have kids in our house all day and both my husband and I love to cook and eat. So, at any given time we are cooking, loudly proclaiming our hunger, eating, cleaning up, or making the perpetual grocery list. 

The meal planning that we do before leaving for a camping trip or a rented apartment somewhere makes eating simple and easy. So, I will meal plan, but not elaborately. I will pretend like I am on vacation and need quick, healthy, basic meals. Breakfasts of granola and yogurt or scrambled eggs, power kids up and are easy to do. Bowls of fruit, hummus, premade bean/rice/quinoa salads can be prepared every few days in the evening and used as lunches and snacks. And for dinners, we have a pretty good schedule that I will share in a later blog post. Just a bit more planning completely changes this area of our life.

3. Play hard, be present, sleep great. Maybe it is just me, but generally, I seem to engage with my kids in fun more when we are on a holiday. I am more likely to fly a kite, play a board game or just act silly when I am freed from all the roles and responsibilities of home. 

At home, I have a hard time moving away from the busyness of cleaning, computer, homeschooling, computer, food prep, computer, and always planning for the next thing. Playing more would help in the most important aspect of this step - being present. To play well, you really have to be present and in the moment. I feel like this area might be especially difficult for stay at home moms and certainly homeschooling moms. We are with our kids all day, but that does not always mean we are connected at all. Just as we are busy, we keep them busy. And so we are all swirling around in our self-created twisters of activity. The organic flow of the day does not usually move us towards play, so I am going to schedule it everyday. As in, I will write it on my calendar. It will be an appointment for fun that we will stick to just like a doctor's appointment. During that time, I will be present and will not have any distractions.
When my kids play hard and have real connection with me (and their dad) during the day, they sleep more soundly and feel more secure at night. So, another added benefit to switching to everyday vacation mode - is better sleep and health, for all of us.

*** bonus idea***
Think about your very favorite parts of vacation (great linens, trashy novels, cold ac, watching tv in bed, going for ice cream while wearing flip flops...) and incorporate them into your life on a more regular basis, while "pretending" you are on a holiday. This step is important! The pretending will recreate the feeling, I promise!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

the days are nouns

Happy Mother's Day to you all! I love how this poem speaks about how what we do makes us who we are. Our lives are made up of the small, mundane and magnificent minutiae. 

These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips
These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares
These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl
This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out
This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky
This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it
The days are nouns:  touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world
Naomi Shihab Nye

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

florida peaches

These are the peaches I bought, the market where I bought them and the orchard where they were grown. All within 10 miles of each other. This makes me very happy; they are good and sweet and local. Another new Florida crop. I am wondering if peach blossom honey will be next.
I grew up knowing the taste of strawberry season, watermelon season and to a lesser extent citrus seasons. My children will have those seasons, plus blueberry and peach season.

What is new and exciting and growing in your region? What are the seasonal tastes that will accompany your children into their adulthood? Is this phenomenon less salient because we can buy most produce year round? Or has it intensified as we search to find and maintain the natural rhythms of our ancestors?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Sick children....send reinforcements (or at least more citrus). I will be back soon......


Sunday, May 1, 2011

real fast food::gazpacho

This is my adapted gazpacho recipe. It is inspired by Mollie Katzen’s version in Moosewood Cookbook (which is probably my favorite cookbook ever). I have experimented with all sorts of combinations of blending and chopping and found this to be the best. It is very versatile, so taste along the way and add or subtract anything. I don’t add any salt but I do sprinkle sel de mer right before I eat it. This is the perfect summer/fall food and most kids seem to like it too.

I store it in jars in the fridge and grab one when I am out running errands - it is the perfect fast food!

Amy’s Gazpacho
6 tomatoes
1-2 cucumbers (peeled and seeded)
1/3 sweet onion
1-2 clove of garlic
green bell pepper
red bell pepper
olive oil
lemon juice/vinegar
fresh herbs (I like to use tarragon, basil and parsley)

Blend tomatoes and garlic in blender or food processor until smooth (also, if you have extra red bell pepper puree one of those to add to the “stock”). You can leave one tomato out to hand chop for chunkiness if you want.  Pour into a huge bowl. Finely hand chop the remaining tomato, cucumber, onion, garlic, bell peppers and throw them in the bowl. Add a couple of glugs of olive oil, a splash of something acidic (lemon juice or a mild vinegar), some chopped up basil, tarragon and parsley, a wee bit of honey, a shake of cumin and cayenne. Let chill if you can bear it and eat it up! This is pure nectar from the gods and will make you healthy and happy!


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