Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An action-packed weekend with Gever Tulley!

Wow. What a whirlwind weekend. Tinkering extravaganza! Friday night was the big talk with Gever, Carrie Contey, and Bernadette Noll... but I believe I'll fill you in on that in another post.
Saturday we met at this beautiful spot on the Sri Atmananda Memorial School campus. Gever did a really great job of capturing the arc of the story of how we built this organic, locally grown play structure, which you can check out here. We used this simple but incredibly strong lashing technique (which Gever just happened to have written about recently in Make magazine) which is totally versatile... once you get how to do it you could really build anything... a house, a chair, a swing... a Fred Flinstone-type car.... the sky's the limit. And all with this raw material (sticks) that are usually just out at the curb for the garbage man to chuck in the wood chipper (or elsewhere... I believe you know where to find sticks).

This is Julia... she tore a hole in her pants which was a little upsetting but she quickly recovered and made them into a flag, with great aplomb! She's also the girl who told me near the end, when we were enjoying a quiet moment up top the gigantic wonky stick-structure, that, "You know, it's really satisfying sitting on something you built." She said it so sincerely and with such great clarity... I thought it was really amazing, the kind of thing you might hope the kids were thinking, but she was able to articulate it, and it felt so good to hear, and she was right, it DOES feel so good to sit on something that you built! That's for sure!
Another really beautiful thing happened while we were building. This kid Will was bored and was asking me if I would call his parents to come pick him up. Which of course I would have done, we weren't going to hold anyone captive, but I decided to just give it a little time. I heard him say something about a ladder, and then a while later, I noticed he was working intently with a group of kids. They were building a ladder! I thought this was so amazing, because not only did he successfully move through his boredom and re-engage, but he had an idea, put it into motion, and even found other kids to help him with it! Beautiful!

This is Gever teaching Jack to lash. Truthfully Jack was only there for the last bit and I didn't know if he would be into it. Turned out, he LOVED it, and was completely captivated by the structure, and had a great amount of concentration and interest in the lashing and the building. And something that I thought was really amazing was that later that evening, after we had all gone home, he said, "Triangles are really strong." This is something the spatially challenged among us (me) and others I think really began to get as we were building. And not 'get' as in we immediately said that to ourselves. It was more of a hands-on, deep down knowing that you get when you're learning something from seeing, feeling, and doing it. But still, Jack had only been there for an hour or two, and I asked him, "Did Gever tell you that?" Which Gever wouldn't have done, because part of the Tinkering School technique is letting kids figure things out for themselves. And he said, "No, I just know it." That was another awesome moment of articulation that really wowed me.

As you can see, they loved it. They loved it they loved it they loved it. And us adults that were lucky enough to get to stay there and help loved it too. Not to say it didn't have it's difficulties... there were surely times when we started to feel it was maybe something of a minor disaster that would not be turning into a usable structure at all. But having learned from Gever the evening before to be failure-postive we pressed on. And created a playstructure that can be more than played with... it can be built upon and changed as part of the play... that's something pretty cool, don't you think? What an amazing experience.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Updated Flier with new events!

There's still a few spots left in the adult workshop so if you want to do it you better jump on it. Doesn't it sound like an insanely FUN long weekend of happenings, ideas, and inspiration?!? Seriously looking forward to it. See you all there!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tin can-tastic

I have been super obsessed these days with interesting new reuse ideas. It means giving myself time to play, without a specific goal in mind... and it has taken me a long long time to let myself have this play time, and I am LOVING it. Whether some fantastic idea is born or not, it feeds my soul and that's for sure, so I'll just keep on with it, I do think I will... Anyway.

This is ultra simple but could be a cool alternative to disposable cups at a party.

This other idea is VERY simple and I guess I should advise you to wear gloves if you're trying this at home (you mad daredevils, you!) but just between you and me, this aluminum was surprisingly easy to work with and not at all dangerously sharp.

Take your sharp tools and snip off the top, and then cut lines all down the sides with your exacto knife.

Kind of squish it down, and your done! A sweet little candle holder. I think you could attach a little handle of some sort and use them as little hanging lanterns at an outdoor party in the evening...

I poked some holes down the sides with an embroidery needle for a little added flair. Also surprisingly easy to do. The needles goes in just like buttah, as they say in the east.
I had a lot of fun playing around with this can. I look forward to experimenting with this material even more. I guess you could say I'm a can-do kind of girl (please strike that pun from your memory, won't you? It's horribly embarassing).

Saturday, March 20, 2010


For those hard-to-reach moments....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

50 Dangerous Things.... the BLOG

OK, OK, I know what you've been thinking... what the world needs now is YET ANOTHER BLOG. By ME. What could I do but oblige you all. And sorry to say it's not just by me but I share the glory with a friend who is co-writing it with me. I actually even have a whole 'nother blog I co-write with a friend that I keep forgetting to mention to my get-yer-mess-on friends. Will introduce that soon. But now, without further ado:

Jack and Sam's Fifty Dangerous Things

In which: my son Jack and Jennifer's son Sam tackle all fifty dangerous things in Gever Tulley's fabulous book, Fifty Dangerous Things (you should let your children do). Play with fire? Lick a 9V battery? Throw a banana out the car window as it's zooming down the highway, just to see what happens? These crazy kids do it all. Don't miss a single thrilling episode!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hamster-wheel stock tank

This might be awfully ill-advised, but the kids thought it up and as you can see they were having quite a fine time.

Lashing practice

Wow, 3 posts in one day ?!? What is up with that? I guess I am feeling a need to update you all on my every move. A particularly newsworthy day. In which, among other things, I worked on my lashing-together-of-sticks technique that we are going to be using with Gever Tulley and 15 kids to build a 2 story structure. I need to have the lashing really down pat so I can be of help and not a nuisance. It's a really cool technique... as you can see, once you have it down, the world is like a giant set of legos... anywhere, anyhow, just grab some sticks and start building anything you'd like!

Modern dollhouse inspiration!

I'm so psyched! Just discovered this blog (and it's a really great blog) and then discovered this post about a modern dollhouse this guy made. Just the kick in the pants my little modern dollhouse needs. My dollhouse has fallen on hard times because, well, among other things, my dollhouse-building buddy who I was meeting on Tuesday nights for a while for dollhouse tinkerin' and beer drinkin' (good times!) went back to school and had to nix most extracurricular activities for awhile. This blog has inspired me to press on on my own, though... The dollhouse is built, it just needs some groovy furniture, and this gives me lots of ideas...

THe Lost City of Z

I'm so excited about this book. A few years ago I read the article from whence this book sprang in the New Yorker and it was one of the best articles I ever read. I remembering prattling on about it at great length to anyone who would listen. I guess I really kind of flip for jungle-y adventure stories (was obsessed with Indiana Jones when young) and this one is super intense and actually TRUE. Here's an excerpt from the preface:

"At times I had to remind myself that everything in this story was true: a movie star really was abducted by Indians; there were cannibals, ruins, secret maps, and spies; explorers died from starvation, disease, attacks by wild animals, and poisonous arrows; and at stake amid the adventure and death was they very understanding of the Americas before Christopher Columbus came ashore in the New World."

Sounds kinda good, don't it?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reuse dollhouse

This idea is just a riff on this wonderful tutorial over at Bella Dia. I have been put somewhat in charge of cooking up fun ideas for Austin Creative Reuse and I thought this could possibly be a good one for something that we could whip up quickly and sell in our store. You could put some colored pencils and/or some scissors, glue and a few old magazines inside and give it to some crafty little person for their birthday Don't you think they would just faint with delight? It would be so fun to design it all and draw on the walls... make tiny furniture and little people... I get dizzy with excitement just thinking about it. I think I know what I'm doing tonight.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Free Range Kids

I know you probably know all about Lenore Skenazy and her book and great blog, Free Range Kids. If you haven't already, check out these thoughts and insights from a sane (and very funny) woman on an insane (and getting insaner by the minute) world. And listen to this interview she did on NPR.

I agree wholeheartedly with Lenore and we let our kids do all sorts of 'dangerous' stuff... most especially climbing-related, as they have all demonstrated that they are really adept physically and (I think) make really good choices about what they can and cannot do, because they are given the chance to explore those boundaries. But reading her blog also makes me see where I need to grow a little. I do tow the party line in some ways that I haven't been aware of, and I do (I'm a bit embarassed to admit) feel extremely fidgety at the thought of my kids going out into the world on their own, in the not-so-distant future. When I was a kid I could be gone for the whole day and I don't think my mom would even bat one eyelash. We spent the summers in this tiny town in Oregon and would ride our bikes all over... to visit friends, to the river, to the store to buy popsicles... and it was all hopelessly idyllic and completely normal. It's weird that it is up to us to normalize something that was normal only 25 years ago...but there you go. It's up to us. Free range them children, y'all.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ron Mueck

In some after dinner bloggy wanderings I came across this guy:
I just think his work is so strange and beautiful... and don't get me wrong... very, very disturbing. But very cool.

It reminds me of this, which I also am so completely enamored with:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cute kids out at the farm

Gosh but we always have such a good time out at Johnson's. What a great bunch of folks. And Beth gave me delicious fresh organic eggs to take home! They're having a transplant sale this weekend, don't miss it. Lots of heirloom tomatoes, squash, cukes, melons, flowers... oh my gosh, can you believe spring is on the horizon and all those delicious vegs are coming our way? It's about this time of year that one finds themselves never wanting to look another beet in the face ever again.

Neat free print out for YOU!

I like to check in at the blog, Just Something I Made. She's a graphic designer and often pops stuff she designs up on her blog for her readers to use. Labels, book covers, even widgets for your blog (my God, did I just type that?). Or vintage things she finds... she really has a taste that appeals. To me, at least. She just posted this cool thing above. It's an I Spy game you can play with your kid... "I spy the monkey", you say, and then they try to find it... and so it goes. You can print it out here.

Dave Eggers

I had the glory of getting to see this incredibly awesome person last night at Bookpeople. I had just watched his TED talk a few days before, and then I was at Bookpeople and saw that he was coming and thought, well, it's a sign. Any time I have gone out of my way to see someone I admire I haven't regretted it.
I was a bit of a spaz about it and I feel slightly embarassed... I read that you had to get there at 4 to get a wristband and I assumed it would be mobbed and I better get there an hour early... and find childcare for my kids for an hour in the afternoon, no easy feat... as it turned out, the literati were fired up about ol' Dave but not fired up enough to like storm Bookpeople and it would have been perfectly fine for me to just show up at 7:30 for the reading like half the other schmoes.
Also I bought his (fur covered!) book, The Wild Things. Normally I would not do the signing thing. I'm too shy in the face of people I revere, I'd rather admire them from a distance. But since I'd gone to all that trouble I decided to get it signed. For my brother, and then I'd get some real brownie points from him to make the agony of having to go face to face with Dave Eggers worth it. As it turns out, it was rather agonizing and the pang that won't go away is exactly why I don't like to do things like that. He was such an amazing guy. He really was willing to chat for a few moments and really have a moment with each person who went up to him to get their book signed. Even though there was a huge long line and I wouldn't have faulted him at all if he'd rather rush through a bit. But I rushed myself through and now looking back I realize he was about to say something more to me but I cut him off because I was afraid we were having a moment of awkward silence. So, note to self: Be Here Now. Let celebrity authors finish their thought without letting your fear of uncomfortableness get in the way.
Anyway, this guy is really unbelievable. Aside from his writing which I think is great, it just seems like he spreads the love around in a major way. Instead of clinging greedily to fame/fortune and attempting to ensure he never gets pushed off his pedestal by steadily churning out safe and predictable books, he's like, "Well, if all these eyes are turned towards me, I'm going to use that spotlight to make sure these other things get attention, too." His just amazing amazing work with 826 Valencia etc which I could rave on and on about... encouraging people to go out into their community and give of themselves... support your local bookstore for god's sake (which I'm SUPER embarassed to say I need a big kick in my lazy ass to do, and I got one from Dave himself last night)... and also just giving some of his spotlight to other authors, spreading the love around as I said... last night he introduced and raved about two local Austin writers, one of whom had published a novel with McSweeney's (which accepts unsolicited manuscripts!!), and had them read before him. Bestill my beating, breaking heart. Staggering genius.
Of course on top of it all, he is SUPER cute and funny and really wanted to engage with the audience and just talk about interesting stuff, and kept asking the audience to give him a relationship question rather than a writing question. Sad to say almost no one obliged and I wish I had had the balls to do so, or just ask him any more interesting question that he was looking for. Everyone just wanted to ask him (mainly) about how to get published, it seemed. Oh well. I'm glad he was there to encourage everyone to volunteer at Austin Bat Cave (and live life and experience something, anything, a whole bunch of things) alongside trying to get yourself published. Getting published is great and all but let's spread some of this love around.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I'm working on this little bristlebot birthday party. The kids will also be making one of these fun obstacle courses for their bristlebot. Isn't he a cute little guy?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gever Tulley of Tinkering School visits Austin!

I'm rather absurdly excited to announce that the fabulous Gever Tulley, founder of Tinkering School and author of the above book, will be visiting Austin at the end of March, and these are the events we have lined up for him while he's here.

March 26

An evening with:

GEVER TULLEY Founder of Tinkering School (tinkeringschool.com)
and author of Fifty Dangerous Things (you should let your children do)
CARRIE CONTEY, Ph D. Co-founder of Slow Family Living (slowfamilyliving.com)
prenatal and perinatal psychologist, parenting coach, educator and consultant
and BERNADETTE NOLL Co-founder of Slow Family Living and
Future Craft Collective (futurecraftcollective.com), writer and mother of four

speaking on the topic of
Sri Atmananda Memorial School, 4100 Red River

Gever will be signing copies of his book after the talk. Bring cash or a check if you'd like to buy one.

March 27

A day long Tinkering School workshop with fifteen kids at Sri Atmananda. We will be designing and building a two story structure out of sticks using a lashing technique which Gever recently wrote about in Make magazine.

March 28
5 pm
A screening of the film, Race To Nowhere: The dark side of America's achievement culture.
A panel discussion will follow with Gever Tulley, Bernadette Noll, and others.
A blurb from the film's site:

"Director Vicki Abeles turns the personal political, igniting a national conversation in her new documentary about the pressures faced by American schoolchildren and their teachers in our achievement obsessed public and private education system and culture. Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.
Race to Nowhere is a call to mobilize families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens."

Location TBA. $5. Visit the website to watch the trailer. Book signing to follow the discussion.

March 29

UT talk to design students... this is open to the public, but I don't yet have the deets. I will update this posting when I have the specifics, including the location for the film.

Oh, it's all just going to be a real shebang, I can't wait! I mean, the guy was just on Good Morning, America for goodness sake (if that's not evidence that you've arrived I don't know what is)... this is our big chance to see him before he's just WAY too famous. And vision Tinkering School: Austin... let's make it happen. Wouldn't it be cool??