Sunday, May 31, 2009

"tumbling triangles"

This is another pop-up from the Magic Books and Paper Toys book that I'm obsessed with. Maybe it won't impress you, but I just think this is kind of mind boggling.

If this lights your fire, don't forget I have a bookmaking camp coming up in July!

Making paddle boats

This involved sawing, hammering, using a hot glue gun, and even painting and decorating. It was a lot of fun, and as an added attraction The Montessori Center has this neat water table in which the students were able to try out their newly minted water vessels. This is a boat in which a little paddle is wound up in a rubber band at the back to create a little splash and a push of forward motion. It's pretty cool.

We can't believe the carpentry class is almost over... it has been such an interesting and absorbing and exciting class!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Summer vacation...

... has been giving me the willies. But I'm entertaining the possibility that it might not be as horribly awful as my worst imaginings... it could actually be, dare I say it, FUN.

This is the end of our first day of summer vacation and it was actually completely great. How is it that I feel way more relaxed and happy after a day wrangling all three kids than I usually do on a day when my bigger son is at school half the day? Less transitions... just plain happy that kindygarden is over and done with... whatever the deciding factor was, I'm just feeling very grateful that I'm able to feel grateful and loving towards my kids because I'm not blistered and raw from all the fighting and hurting and hollering that has been going on quite a lot lately for quite a lot of months here. WHEW.

A huge part of why I'm starting to feel more open to the wonderfulness of the upcoming summer months is this fantastic project over at Future Craft Collective that I started working on. A big clear calendar with all your summer fun and activities laid out... really helps you get a handle on it. And Jack has been gazing up at it eagerly and already anticipating many happy future events... and it has cut down so very much on the "When? When? When?" questions...

Another utterly fantabulous resource is this little blog put together by Rachel Hobson confabulating a big bunch of great things to do in Austin in the summer... so wonderful. You may feel yourself getting a little excited about these lovely lazy days to come.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

If you don't already know about this...

... you're going to be sooooo happy. This is the kind of resource that can make or break your summer. A total treasure trove: hundreds and hundreds of recordings... all one hundred percent free. Here's the description:

Kiddie Records Weekly began in 2005 as a one year project devoted to the golden age of children's records. This period spanned from the mid forties through the early fifties and produced a wealth of all-time classics. Many of these recordings were extravagant Hollywood productions on major record labels and featured big time celebrities and composers.

Over the years, these forgotten treasures slipped off the radar and it became our mission to give them a new lease on life by sharing them with today's generation of online listeners. Each week throughout the year we'll add a new recording. We took a break in 2008, returning in 2009 for one final year.

Rock out!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Making paper

Why leave recycling to the professionals, when you can do it in the comfort of your own home??? Just kidding, you probably should leave it to the pros for the most part, but for an interesting diversion you can whip some up in under an hour.

I would say the part of this process that held me back the most was the making of the screen. Most tutorials you find online will tell you to build a little frame, but don't bother with that... you can easily find empty frames galore at thrift stores around town. You can find some screen at Home Depot or keep your eye out for some old battered window screen someone tossed out on Bulky Collection and use that. Cut to fit and then staple it onto your frame.

Now, go soak the paper you wish to use until it's thoroughly soggy. You can use some interesting colors and textures, if you wish.

Now, fill your blender halfway up with water. Add the soggy paper and whizz away. At the very end, you can add any other interesting accoutrements you think might spice up your paper. We added some mint and our paper really did smell delicious.

Now take your pulp and pour it over your screen, over a container so the water doesn't go everywhere, and press gently until most of the water has squished through. Then gently peel your paper off the screen and put it in the sun on an absorbent towel to dry.


The River

All summer long we go down to our special spot on the Colorado River, at least once a week, to while away the hours. I still find it hard to believe that such an idyllic little wonderland is only ten minutes away from my house by car. It feels like a place you'd drive at least three hours out of town to get to. It's got it all... rocky beach, sandy beach, beautiful trees and tall beach-y grass and flowers (it feels like the beach to me), and beautiful clear gently rushing water that most of the time is only about knee deep (though at certain points they open the dam for the rice farmers down river, and that happens once or twice a day, though I think you may be able to check online when it's going to happen) (and the water rises and it all gets pretty deep).

We had a bit of a boy festival down there, as you can see. Except for just one spunky little soggy-diapered girl.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Today in woodshop... the magnet pole. This is a devilishly easy little project that nonetheless has an exciting and interesting end product and introduces a new skill: sawing. The kids were so excited when they completed their first cut, it was really adorable. What you see Finnon and Dorte using together is a mitre block, which guides the saw to make a straight cut and kinda just keeps the saw from waving all around...

Obviously this project is oh-so basic but it really is fascinating and magical and (dare I say) educational. You know how one side of the magnet attracts and the other repels... so when these doughnut shaped magnets are placed on the pole repelling each other one actually 'floats' above the other...just messing around with the magnets is pretty addictive, I must say...

I'm baa-a-a-a-a-ck...!

Geez Louise that took a long time. Mercury retrograde in all it's glory has savaged the many electronic devices and appliances on which our modern lives revolve. At least our cd player still works and we've been using it to listen to the Little House books (read by Cherry Jones, LOVE 'em!) and thanking our lucky stars that although we are sulkily doing without blogging and email for a week and a half, at least we are not buried roof-deep in a 7-month-long blizzard, and there are potatoes and wheat (and anchovy pizza and blueberry lemonade!) for all.

(I mention anchovy pizza because we went over to an Argentinian friend's house for supper last night, and her four year old likes anchovies on his pizza, and it turns out Jack does too! Who knew! And blueberry lemonade... we made this as part of a supper we brought to our friend Jen Arnston who just birthed baby Hiro two weeks ago... 12 lbs, 8 oz... she's a birthing hero(ine) is what she is...)

I've been working on so many interesting little projects, and devising long lists of fun ideas of things to do in these upcoming summer months (alright, I'll admit I made the list just yesterday after having a complete and utter freak out at the prospect of having to deal with all three of these little demons for the next 2 1/2 months without the daily, restful 8 hour breaks that school provides... oh beautiful school, how I love thee... how I will miss thee.... )... and I've been SO missing this egocentric little endeavor of mine, this blog, and looking forward to sharing some of these cool little ideas and projects with you all... here's one, I got from Steven Caney's Play book (this book was utterly fantastic...)'s a knitting loom, but can you see how it's constructed? It's so easy, but really brilliant. Even my 5 year old (who's not really given to crafting, not at all) got into knitting with this thing. It's the perfect obsessive/repetitive little project to while away those long summer hours... stock up on scarves for those upcoming winter months (all 2-3 of them that we have here in Austin) though you never know... we could with all this wonky weather, we could end up with a long, Long winter...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

la, la, la

Hmm, not only have I not been able to shrink down the giant baby, but our computer more or less had a hissy fit and lay down on the floor and refused to cooperate (as if we needed more of these episodes) so anyway, that's the reason for the long silence. Life has been good over here, though, for the most part. Yesterday was a rainy, rainy day and we made a giant web in Jack and Bruno's room. We just used a big ball of string and then got out some clothespins and all the playsilks to make a kind of fort/web/jungle. I think a really neat kid birthday gift would be a little case with some old bed sheets and a bag of clothespins. String optional, but you could say it was a fort building kit and maybe make a really cool label for the box, if you wished. Anyway, the web making was kind of a glad/sad parenting moment for me because for the first ten minutes while we were doing it they kept exclaiming about how this was SO fun and I was feeling like the best parent ever... but that was unfortunately such a very very VERY short time before some tiny, tiny insignifcant (to me, I guess) thing set Jack off into a giganto emotional thunderstorm and the whole thing went very, very awry. OH WELL. This is still a fun, inside project and you can cut down the string very quickly so clean up is less gnarly than it looks.

My other project that I worked on this week was a homemade sprinkler. It seems kind of pointless, I know, don't it, but it was merely interesting in that I had this idea in a dream and I think it was one of the first things I've ever dreamt that at least was workable. I have woke up so many times with a fabulous idea for a screenplay, just SUREFIRE, only to have it sink in as the minutes wear on that it's completely ridiculous and nonsensical, purely a dream. So anyway, the homemade sprinkler really does work, but, it doesn't really work any better than sprinklers that are easy to buy anywhere and everywhere, extremely cheap, and it's really not any more fun than just playing in the hose (which is really what this turned into) but hey, I do take it as a sign that perhaps my brain is becoming more independently inventive... after devouring all these toy making books, activity books, things to make and do with children, maybe this hodge podge that's in my head will start churning out some new ideas. That would be really cool.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be rabid consumers...

Ooh I'm excited... my friend Jane just emailed me. She and some friends are organizing a screening of the documentary 'Consuming Kids' and she asked me to be part of a discussion panel that will take place afterwards. It's going to be at the Hideout in mid-June... I'll let you know when the details firm up.

Though I hope I don't disintegrate into a puddle of goo after the film... watching this preview makes me want to cry for forty days and forty nights....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spare yourself...

and don't even click on this, or this, or this either... if you do, you run the risk of dying from cuteness and the inability to bear the sorrow of not being able to justify the hundreds it would cost to deck your kid out in the cutest duds known to man...

I am not one to complain... we have a closet full of the cutest Ramonsterwear clothes in the universe... because in working for Kathie over these last few years, I find it hard to accept any money from her, when I could instead trade for clothes... they are seriously THE BEST...

Still, I'm tellin' ya... don't check out blogs like smaller unless you want to drown in a pool of your own drool...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Slime is fun....

Solution A:
1 c. water
1 c. white glue
2 tbsp. liquid tempera paint or 7-10 drops food coloring

Solution B
1 1/3 c, warm water
4 tbsp. borax

Mix ingredients for solution A in a medium bowl. In a second medium bowl, mix the ingredients for solution B until the borax is completely dissolved. Slowly pour solution A into solution B (do not mix!). Roll solution A around in solution B 4-5 times. Lift solution A out of solution B and knead for 2-3 minutes. Store in airtight container or plastic ziplock bag.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bertram's Fish Camp

We're freshly back from a refreshing stay at this marvelous spot on the San Marcos river in Fentress, TX. Our friends Paula and Mateo got married here 11 years ago yesterday and in honor of that fact they rented this
place out again and invited all their friends. It was really a magical place. This huge pecan orchard, right on the river, and all just so quiet and still... nobody else around for miles, it felt like. Our kids got on famously with the other kids there, and everybody just swam and played and feasted and had themselves a time. And the kids even konked at a decent hour so the adults could sit around the fire sipping fine tequila and hearing stories about Paula and Mateo chasing each other around the Honduras twenty years ago (they met in the Peace Corps). It was such a cool story... totally like the classic romantic comedy where the hero and heroine fight and fight and hate each other until suddenly they realize they're in love...
Also Paula asked us all to share some secret we believed contributed to longevity in a relationship and that was fun to listen to, too. But when we woke up nobody could remember the secrets... we're afraid they might not return to us until we reach the tequila saturation point some other day...

Jack took the extremely blurry picture of me, since nobody else ever remembers to take pictures of me I thought I'd include it. And don't you love that gigantic SWING? That's not even a fixture there... a friend brought it and swung it up... it was so fun. I could sit on it with two or three children (and once even Etta on my back in the Ergo) and get ourselves going so incredibly high....

Fish Camp!!!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hammering work and a Mother's Day gift

Another fun carpentry class in which we introduced the magic of hammers and nails. Quite fun. We made the fun pegboard and also a gift for the mamas... 'MOM' spelled out in nails... just what y'all always wanted, am I right? Anyway, it was quite cute and they were all very proud.

All the mamas in the house say , "Yeah!"

So, Mother's Day fast approacheth, right? Y'all probably already know this but I just wanted to issue a quick reminder that today, Mother's Day Eve, would be a great day to take ten minutes of your time and sit down and think about exactly what you'd like for your special day. I don't mean gift-wise necessarily, more like: do you want time alone? or special family time? a picnic? a movie by yourself? a kid-made gift? breakfast in bed? fresh flowers? What's your deal that really rings true for YOU? I'm just sayin', if you wait around for the other occupants of your household to make it happen with no word from you, there might be some disapointment going on. Mothers, seize this day, make it your own, get what you want, have it be fun fun fun! The mates and kids in our lives just might not be that good at anticipating our desires (and in knowing that they're no that good at it, might awkwardly drift away and do nothing, causing even more angst) but if you can take charge in a positive, happy way and make your wants known... that's boffo, that's brilliant.

Mostly what I want for Mother's Day is blessed alone time. Is that sad?? I just want to saturate my self in silence, beautiful silence... and I feel like I love to get this day which is like a free pass for me to go out to coffee by myself, go on a long walk through some beautiful be-gardened neighborhood by myself, pleasure and please myself every which way I can (because I'm the Mama and I DO deserve it, as do you...) and then, oh glory of glories, home to a clean house and beaming children and dinner already made.... well I'm not totally sure about the last three things, but there you go, that's my fantasy.

If you feel so inclined, share, share! What's yours?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Austin Rock Gym!!

This place never even occurred to me, until in desperation last week I googled "Austin rainy day activities" and this plum of an idea hit me upside the head. It was perfect for a day when it was barrelling down rain and my kids are quite literally climbing the walls... and of course in Austin Rock Gym that's what you're SUPPOSED to do. And they were totally cool with kids. It cost 5 dollars per kid who was actually climbing, so, they did not charge for me and my babesy, who just merrily crawled around on the spongy bouncy floor.

This place would be great in the dog days of summer, too. A bonus was that we were at Gus Fruh this week (where many rock climbers hang out and climb on the cliffs) and Jack was completely star struck watching them, and then one of them remembered seeing us at the gym, so that was like superstar contact to the extreme, for Jack.

Carpentry class!


Yay! My computer and printer are finally speaking again, after giving each other the cold shoulder for quite some time. I finally get to share with you some pictures from the carpentry class I am teaching with my friend Doerte, which is going quite swimmingly. Our first class we simply sanded a piece of wood, oiled it, drilled a hole, inserted a leather string, and created a key ring or a bracelet or whatever they wanted to use it for. It might sound a little boringly easy but I am so glad that we started with such a basic project, because the kids LOVED it, and were so excited, and just kept exclaiming about how beautiful and smooth their piece was.

Our second project was a spinning top, that was quite fun, too.