Monday, November 30, 2009

Anne Frank

I was flipping through a catalog for Montessori products last week (have you seen this one? I really love it) and I read that Anne Frank was a Montessori student. For some reason I got so excited and emotional about this odd little fact that I posted it on Facebook (which I then felt kind of dumb about because I forgot that you're not supposed to be overly earnest on FB, and I am so very often overly earnest and I try to keep all that in check) and even started crying a little bit while in the backyard setting up for my giftmaking class. Why the histrionics, you may ask? I dunno. Good question. In my senior year of high school we moved back to Eugene, OR and I almost immediately landed this plum part of Anne Frank at the local community college. It was kind of an extra big deal because there was some sort of Anne Frank exhibit touring the U.S. and hmmm I can't really remember the details, but I actually met Hanne Pick-Goslar, who was in Bergen-Belsen with Anne at the end.

All this just kind of hit me or re-hit me hard last week when I thought of Anne being in a sweet little Montessori school, that such a place could exist only years before the complete and utter insanity descended over Amsterdam. It also made me wonder if this great child-centered Montessori philosophy which I appreciate so much had anything to do with her clarity and thoughtfulness and strong spirit. Actually if I had to wager a guess I'd say that was just her, no school to thank for it. And if she wasn't so herself and so fun and spunky and smart and going through all the normal girl teenage stuff even while locked in an attic with seven other people, she wouldn't have been able to put a face on the events of that dark time. Otherwise it's just another bunch of facts to memorize for history class, not something that really happened, to real people. Or at least there's a chance that some self absorbed teenager will identify with her and not just grudgingly plow through the required reading.
At the time when I was doing this play, I thought a lot about Anne, and I really really wanted to do a good job and to do her justice, but I was distracted. I was the self-absorbed teenager. I had just moved to Eugene, I had real freedom to move about the town for the first time as it was easily walkable and bikable, and I was also completely and totally consumed with my first love. I remember each and every night that we performed that play wishing I would cry in the last scene, but I could never do it. I can cry now for her though, easily. There I go, getting all earnest again. They should call me Earnesta. "I really believe, in spite of everything, that people are good at heart." It's so amazing that she was able to write that. It gives us so much to aspire to. I love you, Anne Frank. You'll always be more than 8th grade required reading to me. Thank you for putting your words on paper, for sharing your story, for giving us so much.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

More gifties!

This time we made pumpkin-spice cake-in-a-jar, which is this really hilarious phenomenon in which you can bake a little cake right in a little mason jar, then pop the lid on right when it comes out of the oven and it will seal, and then it's perfectly preserved for at least 6 months.... a fun way to send a little baked goodie to someone far away. We also made fizzy bath bombs, which is REALLY exciting and they do fizz quite excitingly and dramatically as we observed when we tried them out in the water table. The only trouble is it's a bit hard to find the balance between making the mixture wet enough so that it will hold the shape of the mold, but not quite wet enough to start reacting (if it's too wet the citric acid in the bath bomb will start fizzing, not what you want). I used this recipe but I feel there is probably a better one out there. Last year I did this project with my gift making class and it worked out perfectly... need to search out the recipe I used. Alternatively you don't need to shape it into a 'bomb' at all.... just put the dry mixture in a jar, maybe with a little essential oil mixed in for delicious smells.... add a few spoonfuls at bathtime for fizzy delight!

By the way, citric acid can be found at Fiesta in the kosher section, also known as Sour Salt. Someone else said they saw it at Central Market in the bulk section. You can also easily order it online.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hawk Talk

Way back when in the late eighties, I was the editor of this cutting edge, junior high publication. I don't really remember it as such, but looking back it appears I was really trying to push the envelope. Whereas prior to my editorship I believe headlines were mainly about the Lakeridge Hawk's sport triumphs and other such predictable fare. These issues from my reign feature attention-grabbing articles on the possibility of male pregnancy, teen drug testing (these students are supposedly posing with their urine samples (actually empty dixie cups)), and abuse of newbie seventh graders (that's 'sevie' to you). These were incredibly touching to discover in the annals of Kami history.... I remember my junior high years as such complete and total misery... it's nice to see that my creativity had an outlet, and that I was maybe shaking things up a little bit more than I realized. Rocking the suburbs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Yeah, I got one of those. And oh he is a good one. My wifeliness, I'm not so sure. These photos... all these precious, adorable photos of Matt... were left inside a book that I was selling at Half Price Books. Lucky for me, someone came and sought me out and gave them back. I don't even know why they were in there... some long forgotten Matt memorial project. But these little moments in time are so heart-stoppingly adorable. Baby Matt, young Matt in the lawn chair looking very suave and professional, teenage Matt with a ponytail and dashing white jeans striking some sort of fabulous pose, blue Matt dressed as a smurf at a Halloween party, and of course the most dear photo of all, which I would have been crushed to lose... holding tiny, tiny Jack, with the most tender expression on his face.
Matt and I have been kind of on the outs for a month or so, just mad at each other, not getting along, blaming each other for everything that's going wrong in our lives. I should make a little collage of these photos, and stick them up somewhere... remind myself of what a great guy he is, and remind myself of the stages and phases of life, and how fleeting they all really are. We just happen to be in this time of life with really little kids, and we're both here pointing our finger at the other one saying, "You, there, should be making sure the house is a lot cleaner and there's a lot more money and the kids are being parented perfectly. It's all YOUR fault." Of course, reality check, this is a very imperfect and stressful (and completely impermanent) time in our lives. We're all just passing through, soon enough we'll look back and it'll all just be a few photographs, that's all that's left. You're a baby, a kid, a smurf, a dad....all we can do is try to enjoy it while we can. And cut each other a ton of slack.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sweet Spiced Pecans, among other things...

Today in our gift making class we made these delicious pecans (an ideal Texas gift by the way to send to relatives who don't live deep in the heart of Texas where pecan trees abound), also peppermint and sweet orange bath salts, and some fun playdough for good measure. Here's the recipe for the pecans... so easy to make, and delicious. A good sweet treat for youngsters, because if they're going to eat the sugar, at least they'll be ingesting a little protein, too. And put these on a salad for some real good eatin'.
1 lb. pecan halves
1 egg white
1 tbsp. water
1 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
Beat egg white and water until frothy, not stiff. Stir in sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add pecans, stir well until pecans are completely coated. Spread nuts on large baking sheet. Bake at 200 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven when "dry" and toasty. When cool, store in airtight container.
Pecans SHOULD be refrigerated or frozen (up to 2 years) in order to keep their freshness.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Making cocoa

We made cocoa in my gift making class on Wednesday, among other things. Of course we had to sample our wares. And of course I have to share these photos with you, because kids with hot chocolate moustaches are the cutest things ever.
We also made beautiful lacy golden crowns, as modeled by Violet in the pictures below.
Here's the cocoa recipe... it's the absolutely most divine recipe I've found. So easy and fast to mix up with your toddler or kid to give to to a teacher or auntie or friend. And it's so unbelievably good.
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
Hot water
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water.
Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water. Stir to combine. Seal the rest in an airtight container, keeps indefinitely in the pantry. This also works great with warm milk.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rockin' out with Miss Staci

Feeling very very luckily fortunate today to have been able to host a Miss Staci show in my backyard. We had traded a show for an art class that she and her son Rand took with me this fall. The show was SO fun... the kids had a ball as you can see. Bubbles, tunes, and lots and lots of fun friends... quite frankly a friday morning made in heaven.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gettin' all Celtic on your Festival

I love this time of year in my neighborhood. It makes me freak out with love for Austin. First we have the Dia de Los Muertos parada right down E. 6th St.... then we have Celtic Festival down at Fiesta Gardens (a stone's throw, quite seriously, from my house... or perhaps we should say, more accurately, a frisbee's throw from my house), and then the East Austin Studio Tour, which has expanded to TWO weekends this year! Yippee! Nov. 14th through Nov. 22nd. That's good because I always go out on Sunday it seems and then have so much fun that I'm kicking myself for not having been out since Saturday in the a.m. seeing all the awesome art and cool cool spaces for making art and rubbing noses with some really awesome people. This time I plan on taking full advantage. But back to the Celtic Festival.
First let me assure you that I am not a Fest kind of gal. I'm kind of claustrophobic and not really as social as you might think and I do have three rather young, unpredictable children who could be enjoying themselves perfectly well one moment and then on the ground in a foamy-mouthed rabid rage the next.... so we have to kind of exercise caution as far as attending events goes. But ever since I stumbled upon Celtic Festival whilst on a walk when Jack was but one years old and we had just moved into the 'hood... and I observed from behind the chain link fence the sheep herding demonstration and the Strong Men in Kilts chucking huge tree trunks and all sorts of lads and lasses all Medieval-ed out... well, I was hooked. So now we go every year and it's really quite perfect for, uh, how shall I put this... I don't quite want to label my boys as 'aggro'... but for the discerning young chap who enjoys some crashing and banging of metal objects and weapons... it's pretty darn exciting. We watched some sort of wonderful Viking group battle each other and afterwards we got to get up close and personal... talk to them and try on their helmets and hold their shields. There was also this great archery set-up where you could shoot ten arrows for three dollars... hellz yeah! Jack was all about it. We ran into our friend Max (in the red shirt) who shared his cotton candy with us... I do believe that was Bruno's favorite part of the experience. Max bought that tiny cross bow there, that shoots a little nerf arrow... I want to think how to build one of those... would be a great project to do with kids, potentially.
Anyway, Celtic Festival! Also going on tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 8th (my birthday!) Happy birthday to me, and check it out....

Friday, November 6, 2009

Austin Creative Reuse... our first event!

This was so exciting... putting our idea out to the good people of Austin, turning people on to this awesome vision and igniting this little spark of excitement that's going to keep this project blazing on towards completion!

This meeting was to kind of to explain more to people what this reuse resource center is going to be like, how it's going to operate... and telling people more about how this model is very well established in places like Oakland, Chicago, New York City.... there's at least twenty of them in the U.S. Austin is so ripe and ready for a place like this.... it's pretty much a no-brainer.
Our event was really well attended and people were excited! My assignment was to lay out a simple reuse project. I decided to do this marble labyrinth game.... I can't even tell you how excited I became seeing what people came up with. So excited that it's a little bit ridiculous. But there it was, what I have been dreaming of this whole time... people creating, having fun, and using all these scraps and odds and ends to boot... well, there just ain't one thing wrong about that. Austin Creative Reuse in action.