Sunday, July 25, 2010

Your Message Here...

I love the 'Your Message Here' project from Something's Hiding In Here. They had this storefront in Philadelphia, PA and accepted suggestions for messages, which were changed daily. I read about this a long time ago and then couldn't remember for the life of me where I'd seen it... so glad I stumbled across it yet again. I think of it often when we venture out into the Texas country side where these message boards abound (usually saying things like, "Need no Teef to eat our Beef") and I have a total yen to get one for Austin Tinkering School when we have a real brick and mortar location. Of course it all probably just tickles my fancy because it reminds me of the famous Lusty Lady marquee and it's racy puns that I used to love to see in downtown Seattle (and yes I know it's closed it's doors.... sad). OK, no more of that. This is a family blog, don't you know! Go do something wholesome... crochet some cookies, bake some felt, off you go...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rope-making machine!

I know what you're thinking. Rope is pretty cheap and plentiful these days... need we really a machine to make it when it can be bought for about 2 bucks at the store? Yes yes, you'd be so right about that, but where's your sense of wonder, my nay saying friend? Kids squeal with delight when they see the rope machine in action. At a family reunion for my husband's family last summer, a rope making machine was brought out and the kids found it all just the height of excitement. That gave me the yen to make one just like it. I've started out with this very easy, starter version found in (my favorite book ever) Making Things: A handbook for creative discovery (really, it's the one book I consult over and over... so many great ideas). But I want to graduate to one like this guy built (the first version, at least at first...)( and I'd like to make rope out of plastic bags like he did sometime, too). Anyway, this is a start....

And apologies for the hasty, somewhat shoddy little video here... I asked my friend to hold the camera while I performed like a rope-making monkey and she was being devoured by mosquitoes, so I was performing as quickly as possible before they drained her completely of life-giving fluids. Normally rope making is a much more leisurely pursuit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

true tinkering!

One of the main goals I had this year was to give myself more time to play. It sounds great but I, like almost all adults, am still hardwired to 'make good use of my time' or whatever: run errands, cross things off my list, I'm sure I don't have to tell you how it is. Making things just for the sake of the making (and not even for the end product so much as the experience), pursuing projects purely for curiosity's sake.... is what I'd call true tinkering, and it ain't as easy as it seems. But I've been cracking the whip on myself of late. And of course come to find out I'm mysteriously refreshed AND I often come up with some great new idea or solution to a problem that's been plaguing me, when I let myself do something totally frivolous and fun. Here's a few photos from tinkering mania.
This first photo is a tower of condiment cups made by Jack, not me. Because of my involvement with Austin Creative Reuse, people are often giving me their interesting odds and ends (we haven't even opened our doors and people are already champing at the bit to give away loads of good stuff... making the need for our reuse center even more crystal clear!) and I just love playing around with the goods.

I just thought of making this jumbo glider today.... Matt had stuffed a whole bunch of leftover pieces of this insulation in the trash. I thought I could try to make an XL version of those little foam or balsa wood toy planes that the kids love so much. I'm glad I toyed around with this idea because I think it would be a FANTASTIC project to do with kids. I need to find a good source for this insulation stuff.... I bet construction sites throw out a TON of it.
And last night was when I was REALLY having a delightful time. I've really been becoming aware of how much I strive to just stuff my brain with all manner of delightful distractions and new information. At the end of a long and trying day I just love to watch movies or listen to podcasts or radio shows... anything but be alone with my thoughts. Well, I'm not going to give that stuff up anytime soon. But I did make the effort last night to just have some fun tinkering after the kids went to bed... and to do myself the service of not turning on any other form of distracting entertainment. And wouldn't you know it... I had so much fun.

The first thing I did I don't have any photos of... I've been really interested to experiment with dyeing, figuring out some really cool dyeing projects that I can do with kids and not have to worry about the toxicity of the dye. I did a really T-shirt dyeing project with my kids recently and I have to admit I was panicking quite a lot because we were using your average clothes dye. Because supposedly you need it to dye cotton. But what about stains? They don't wash out. If you spill koolaid or tea down your front... it usually stays put. And when I washed this sheet in the washing machine... that paint sure didn't come out. I experimented with koolaid dye (which I've often used to dye playsilks with kids) and tried adding salt as a fixative.... well sure enough, the white piece of cloth I was using washed out just as lily white as the day it was made! I'll try using the tempera paint next time... I think that will do the trick.

Then after that I got a wild hair and started experimenting with some different concoctions. This was incredibly fun! My hair was standing on end, I felt so electrified just dabbling around like some sort of mad scientist. There's only a few books for kids projects that I find invaluable and one that I think has lots of great projects in it is called Kid's Concoctions (and yes that couple is completely creepy). I looked in my cupboards and the cornstarch was staring me right in the face. I started thinking gee, how did they come up with THEIR recipes? And I have a HUGE quibble with their silly putty recipe (I'm sorry dudes, that is NOT silly putty... call it something else). I decided to pull out some of the standard ingredients and see what I could come up with. I experimented with cornstarch, salt, gelatin, koolaid powder, sugar, vinegar, and dish soap. Did NOT come up with anything earth shattering but I DID come up with a really great idea I think... maybe next time instead of going to the kids with some recipe to make, I'll just present them with a table of these ingredients. I bet they would be pretty excited to do some recipe tinkering. And who knows what they might come up with... maybe something really great. I'm a-gonna try it, I certainly am. Which reminds me, Jack has been SO inspired by Dangerous Thing #42: Break the Recipe Rule Book (create and eat your own confection) from Gever Tulley's invaluable book, 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do). He totally approaches cooking in a different way now and as a recipe-addicted person myself, I'm totally in awe.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mais oui

I know you've all watched this a million times (and rightly so) but have you seen this one?

OK Go - Here It Goes Again from OK Go on Vimeo.

My kids don't like it, but that's just 'cause they're lame. And also they probably don't know what treadmills are. It's brilliant.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mini bow and arrow

Fun quick and easy, and these arrows really zing!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Actually good summer

These past few weeks have been treating us real swell. I feel like (knock wood! knockwoodknockwoodknockwood!) we're living my dream of what summer could be (well my REAL dream would include a lot more of myself just lying around by the water reading my book... maybe in a few years). The past few summers have been probably particularly hellacious because reality never matches up to my fantasy of wonderful relaxed times and outdoor times and playing with friends and swimming lots and watermelon and popsicles and corn on the cob... you know the drill, that dreamy, Tom Sawyer meets Martha Stewart type of kid summer. And what I've gotten mostly is some little bits of fun here and there but still LOTS of fighting and screaming and tantrums and craziness that basically make ME break down in tears (of joy on the first day of school when I realize I won't have to face it all again for nine glorious months). I seriously have been really worried and upset at times, wondering why we couldn't be living the Slow Family dream that I want to be living, so much. This year it's going so much better and I realize now, well DUH. Now that I have just a tad of perspective on the situation I realize that my kids have been incredibly YOUNG. And they're still incredibly young but thankfully just not quite so young as before. I've had to tote one baby or another around for the last 7 years.... FINALLY, I've got this really cool little crew who can do loads of things for themselves... I don't have to be in charge of every single little last thing. And we can go out and do things and it's more likely to be fun than completely harrowing. I am super psyched about this turn of events. We have been having a really dreamy, lazy, fun, wholesome time. Riding bikes to the pool every single day. Playing in the creek with friends, going on other excursions to some of the extra rapturous swimming holes of Austin, TX. Ahhh. Looking forward to many more summers just like it.
Haven't managed to take any photos of it all, really, but on a hot tip from a friend we made it down to the river last night for the hatching of the Mayflies. It was really cool. Bruno just loves bugs. I think they bring out his maternal side.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Diet coke and mentos explosion

Well in SOME circles this might be old hat, but in other circles it's still kind of exciting, so Watch and Learn....

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

More camp!

SoooOOoooOOooo.... we also made moon sand.... which the kids ended up adding water to but it was all so incredibly absorbing and messy and deeply fascinating that of course I let them have at it. Then in a kind of ode to our wonderful friends over at Filth Wizardry we did three projects I've found over there (an unceasing fount of inspiration over there, it seems): light sabers, a giant geo board, and then, unpictured (as you can see, it's nearly impossible for me to snap good photos, being a miserable phototographer under the best of circumstances and then usually there's a sad toddler clawing at my leg and ooblek flying left and right and it's suddenly starting to rain [oh the RAIN that threatened to fall during this camp, not at all what I envisioned when I scheduled this camp 2 months ago... since when does it RAIN in central Texas in late June??? Though, you know, thank God for the rain, we need it) and the photos get REALLY slapdash]), a kind of riff on Filth Wizardry's ultra cool glow in the dark wall. They painted a wall in their house with glow in the dark paint, and then made UV light pens with which to 'draw' on the wall. I was able to turn this into a take-home project by having the kids paint a piece of foam-core board with the glow in the dark paint (which you can buy for just $8 or so at Home Depot) and then make a super easy light pen by attatching a UV LED to a 3V coin cell battery. I had ordered a bunch of UV LED's but you can actually buy them at Radio Shack for about 2 dollars for a pack of two if you're so inclined....
Anyway, bla bla bla.... this was such an ultra cool group of kids and I miss them already!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Just a whole whole lot of messy messy fun

We did splatter painting and painting-painting (which of course disintegrated into full-body painting and everything-else painting), a kind of communal collage, playing with shaving cream (which I could have pretended was some sort of art project or something but I'd just be kidding myself... it was just pure messy fun... and it was very very fun), and turning the gigantic pile of dirt I just happened to have in my backyard into, as Arlo called it, "Mt. Everest Volcano Island" complete with roads, trucks, trees, cars, little people and bridges strategically placed for the truly epic baking soda and vinegar volcanic explosion... the kind you only hear about in myths and legend. SO, this was some of the stuff we did... nothin' fancy, but I do believe the kids had themselves a time.