mama scout lab e-course

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

meet me in swappy town

With all the dialogue on buying local, handmade, or not buying at all, I am hearing very little about swapping, trading, and bartering.

I love to trade! I trade tons on Etsy - mama merit badges for bags, shadow puppets, knitted hats and slippers and more. I also trade locally when I run my produce co op. Seriously, how great is it to trade cucumbers for haircuts? Mangoes for fabric? And tomatoes for errands?
So, I send this message to you - if you want to swap anything for badges, let me know. I am usually open to most things - comics, e-courses, tshirts, sponsorships, cool bug specimens, mugs, zines, etc. 

I think of swapping as a whole different type of economy - one that bypasses mega stores, franchises, and even money (for the most part). We can trade our creativity and passions with each other - and that is much more appealing to me that sleeping in a tent, or fighting crowds.

Monday, November 28, 2011

lazy advent envelopes

There are a million advent activity projects out there. From little stockings to wall hangings to amazing sculptures made from toilet paper tubes.

 This is not one of them! 

If you have been around here long, you know we are about process and ease

So, our yearly advent activity countdown looks something like the picture above. We use humble letter envelopes (we have also used little brown coin envelopes and homemade magazine envelopes), with the date stamped on the front, and many times a kid who is learning their numbers will stamp the appropriate number of stars too. 

That is it!

The kids love this tradition more than any other. They remind me of it starting in October and have great fun helping to make the envelopes and opening them each morning.

some of our activities include:

getting out all the holiday books and reading many
ice skating
gift making session with friends
several homemade movie nights
ornament making
making and hanging coffee filter snowflakes - everywhere
yearly parties
bonfire and hot cocoa
fondue dinner
driving around to look at lights
cookie decorating
making dog biscuits 
making pinecone bird feeders

What are some of your holiday countdown activities?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam

If you look at it, you see a dot. That's here.

 That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you 

ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, 

lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our 

joys and; sufferings, thousands of confident 

religions, ideologies and; economic doctrines, 

every hunter and; forager, every hero and; 

coward, every creator and; destroyer of 

civilizations, every king and; peasant, every 

young couple in love, every hopeful child, every 

mother and; father, every inventor and; 

explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt 

politician, every superstar, every supreme 

leader, every saint and; sinner in the history 

of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, 

suspended in a sunbeam

Carl Sagan (reminded of long ago by Kind over Matter)

Friday, November 25, 2011

{this moment} :: hike

image(s) from the week. no words. via soulemama.

black friday, rainbow saturday, cyber monday...

I am horrible at promotion, coupon codes, email blasts, marketing plans, etc. So here it is:

Buy some mama merit badges. 

You can do that here.

I will mail out badges as soon as I get the order. And if it matters, I use the money on good things: like books, music, art supplies, good cheese, and my kid's many interests (one son can not have enough mason jars for bugs and the other is a fledgling ballerino, and my daughter is whipping through fantasy/girl adventure/dragon books quicker than I can keep up). 

So, buy one for yourself, or better yet for a mom friend to brighten her day through this hectic season. 


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

make quills for writing

This just might a perfect activity to keep kids busy while you are cooking cranberries and chopping pecans this week. 

How about making some quills and natural ink - and then letting the kids make the place tags for Thanksgiving dinner?

We have a big collection of feathers because we live near a very populated duck lake. If you do not have any access to feathers, you might need to buy some at the craft store. 

To make a quill you simply cut the end of the feather into a point and then split the point a bit (this allows some of the ink to store so you can write a few letters before having to re-dip it). That is it really. Half the fun is experimenting with different tip shapes to see which works the best for you. If you need better instructions, you can look here.

For ink, simply mash some berries in water and boil a bit, then strain. Add a splash of vinegar and salt to impede nasty bacterial growth and mold and you are ready to write. Experiment with blueberries, cranberries, walnut shells, coffee... again, the experimenting is the fun part. You can even just used watered down paint if you do not want to make homemade ink.

This is one of those childhood crafts that once learned, will continue to pop up in children's play. It shows up here a few times a year, always for different purposes and with different results.

Have you done this? Any spectacular tip to share?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

one day vacation :: Gainesville, FL

We had a wonderful day trip to Gainesville, FL this week. We have not been to Gainesville for a dozen years, since before having children, and we have been missing a lot!

This trip was initiated by a homeschool co op trip to the Florida Museum of Natural History at University of Florida (thanks Kim!). The museum was really good. In the last year or so, we have been to the natural history museums in Washington, DC and New York City and while obviously not as big as either of those, it was pretty impressive.  For us, it was destination worthy and we highly recommend it for natural history buffs. We enjoyed the beautiful butterfly garden, even managing to locate the elusive Atlas moth, but even more interesting to our family was watching research students in the entomology lab pinning butterflies. 

I was personally impressed with the fossil collections, especially the huge megashark jaws and the mammoth and mastodon skeletons. We studied the ice age a few years ago, so it was fun to see the fossilized bones of the giant sloth, saber toothed cat and glyptodont (an armadillo as big as a VW bug). 

A special music exhibition captivated everyone for an hour or so. The stone xylophone was a hit!

Lunch was at local institution, Burrito Bros. This is my kind of place! Owned by the same family for 35 years, the burritos are fresh and filling. I loved the red rice and just spicy enough chicken. And what is not to love about a place that lights its neon sign when they have guacamole!

We had to work off that huge lunch, so we headed to Devil's Millhopper State Park for a hike.  At this ancient sinkhole, visitors can walk down a few hundred steps to the bottom and be surrounded by a mini rainforest. Small waterfalls, and lush vegetation, make you feel like you are far removed from the bustling city. 

Our last site to see on this jam packed day was the bat houses at University of Florida. Apparently, at dusk at least 100,000 bats emerge in a very dramatic exit. Unfortunately, it was a bit chilly, so the full explosion of bats did not happen. We did see a few hundred and the camaraderie among the others waiting for the event was fun. 
 This lake across the street from the bat houses was full of alligators and huge soft shelled turtles - all of which have been fed a lot by people, so they were keen to see us. Other than that, this would be a great place to hang out before watching for the bats. Just keep your eyes open :)
On our way out of town, we loaded up on warm, cheesy pizza at another local institution, Leonardo's by the Slice.  The line was snaked all the way through the restaurant, but the pizza was great and well worth the wait. With a big variety of toppings and very friendly staff, we will definitely stop by again when we are in town.

This was such a great day trip from central Florida. And a good reminder, that my wanderlusting soul does not always have to get on a plane to be inspired, amused, educated and sated. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

when my children decided to built a cave in the backyard

The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible - and achieve it, generation after generation. 

Pearl Buck

This project took many hours on several days last week.

These kids worked together and got filthy. They chatted and dreamed together and would then pop in to let me know what was changed and what new ideas were brewing.

Plans were made and revised, work loads were divvied up, and observations were shared (how the shovel worked best, what sort of bugs they were running into, how the little artifacts (midden) they uncovered got there). At one point, Indian brave costumes were made and worn.

We even learned about sewage systems when we hit 2 different pipes - one new (PVC) and one old (clay).

Some days we do really typical things; like take a science class, write some poetry  or play math games on a hundreds chart.

But the days where we learn the very most are when we are just digging holes.

This post is my reminder to say YES and let my kids fully pursue their projects, as often as possible and with whatever support they need. 

If you are a family of free range learners - I would love to hear your stories of how you support open ended, dirty projects. Just leave a story or link in the comments.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

lake morton :: day 20

wood storks followed us 
circling through the tree tops
too many to count

Thursday, November 17, 2011

nature swap

We recently sent off a nature exchange box all the way to Canada. We when looked up photographs of the city they were going to, we were astonished! There could not be a more different environment than ours. Where they have snow capped mountains and beautiful glacier lakes, we have swamps, beaches and mosquitoes. 

It was so fun collecting items from the forest and sea. I really hope this family of 6 enjoys what we have sent along. Their package includes feathers, urchins, barnacles, welks, sand dollars, spanish moss, driftwood, cattail seed pods, coral, shark teeth, giant snail shells and sweet gum pods. 

My kids are hoping they send us some snow.

Have you ever done a nature exchange with friends from far away?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

i won't grow up

So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned.  Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!

                                                                    --Peter Pan

We are in the midst of a little love affair with Peter Pan. I admit, I think I like the story more than my children for its bittersweet sentiments about growing up and the passing of time. The best children's literature seems to speak to the secret thoughts of both young and old.  

We read the novel every few years and this year's reading was amazing. The kids were just the perfect ages to get really wrapped up in the adventure. The creative play that dominates our days now is inspired by lost boys and Peter and Tiger Lily. There is a huge hole in the back yard where an underground house is being built. 

The energy of possibility and adventure in Peter Pan is so infectious; I highly recommend this classic as the perfect sort of bedtime book...the dreams it will spark!

After we read the book, my daughter and I were lucky enough to see the musical (with Cathy Rigby!). To see a nearly 60 year old woman fly through the air, do cartwheels and headstands, while singing beautifully was inspirational. The audience was vibrating with excitement - booing Captain Hook, clapping to restore Tinkerbell's life and smiling and laughing while Rigby flew over the crowd showering us with pixie dust. 

You can watch the entire musical on Netflix streaming - which the boys did to catch up with their sister. They loved it as much as she did. 

So, here is to a youthful and joyous day - full of inspiration and energy and story!

Have you read the original Peter Pan? Do you love it as much as we do?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

make a gratitude garland

Each November, we make a gratitude garland and it has become a special tradition that we all look forward to. We string a long piece of twine across a window, under the kitchen bar or around a fireplace.

Each day, we write one thing that we are grateful for and add it to the garland. Our thanks go to the big and broad things like, the earth or stars. And our thanks goes to little things like my husband's great scrambled eggs or triops eggs that hatch perfectly.

We have a cigar box full of leaves, sharpies and tape near the garland so we can add to it when the mood strikes. We also encourage visitors and Thanksgiving guests to participate.

The leaves are made from shaving cream marbled paper, watercolored paper and paper grocery bags. I cut many of them by hand and also used the Ellison machine at the library.

Does your family have special gratitude traditions? What are they?

Monday, November 14, 2011

make a drift wood tambourine

Inspired by a project in Made to Play by Joel Henriques (which I will reviewed here), we spent some time making a cool tambourine out of found objects. It was surprisingly satisfying and had something for each kid to do.

First, we pounded holes into bottle caps with a big nail.

Then the demo crew moved in and flattened the caps with hammers.

We strung them on a thin nail.

And hammered them into pre-dilled holes on a great piece of driftwood. This would work on whatever kind of wood you can scalage in your area.

Some yarn wrapped on the handle, added to the ceremonial aesthetic.

It makes a great, soothing percussive sound. I might add more caps, but it really does not need it. And I do not really need to drink more beer.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


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