I am completely drooling over the Family Summer Center featured on Craft. The basic idea is to have a family camp of sorts, and to plan out your summer activities. I love the organization and the planning, plus the beautiful crafty calendar center. The thing is, though, I totally don’t have time to put something like this together. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized we don’t really need anything this involved.
I use Goodreads to keep track of my books (the Craft thing has a section for books you plan on reading over the summer), and while I love the thought of a three-month calendar where you can see everything that’s scheduled, we have all kinds of calendars (including a good one-month one that lives on the fridge and gets updated frequently). I think the most important part of this, to me, is the pile of planned goals and activities.
Since we have somewhere around a million jars, I got a jar and a cardboard envelope from the recycling, and wrote a whole bunch of potential activities onto cardboard strips. Here’s what I came up with, in about ten minutes:
- What sinks? What floats?
- Various local trips: to the woods, the marsh, the beach, the farm, the playground, feeding the ducks. These will go back into the jar after we do them, since they can be repeated happily.
- Make popsicles.
- Tie-dye t-shirts.
- Bake bread.
- Bake muffins.
- Bake cookies.
- Bake pie.
- Felt beads.
- Try a new food.
- Leaf rubbings.
- Visit the Portland Museum of Art.
- Visit an art gallery.
I started to realize that pretty much everything I was listing was a very mom-centric activity, and while I do of course want to spend time with my children, I want them to do plenty of independent time too. So I think the plan will be this: every morning we’ll pull one thing out of the jar, and that will be our morning activity. The afternoon will be for free play. That way we’ll all get moving, and it will give the day some structure, so we don’t suddenly realize that it’s 2:00 and everyone is still in pajamas (not that there’s anything wrong with that, really, but it’s nice to know you did something at some point during the day). Plus I’m hoping that the morning activity will inspire the independent play for the afternoon, like if we go for a walk in the woods in the morning, they can gather sticks for a craft or pretend to be birds or something.
My other major thought here is that if we pick out, say, cookie baking, that we’ll pick a new cookie recipe and learn a bit about where it comes from, and also continue our food chemistry lessons. Or if we go for a walk in the woods we’ll identify some trees and birds.
From now until school ends, I’m going to add items as actively as I can, and hope to get 60 or so by the beginning of summer. Any ideas?
My other task will be to make up a big list of home improvement goals for the next few months, both so Dave and I can have a tangible list hanging in the kitchen to look at, but also so the kids (even though they can’t read), will have a notion of what it is we’re doing what with the table saws and pneumatic nailers and all.
Let’s say that you go to the dump, and then on the way back you suddenly have a mild panic attack because you realize you hard boiled all the eggs for egg salad sandwiches, meaning there are no eggs, and you were thinking of making brownies. Because you get no sleep and chocolate is your only form of caffeine intake. So your husband says, “Let’s just stop at Amato’s” because you were driving by, and Amato’s is the last business establishment before you get home that might sell eggs.
So you go inside and don’t see any eggs, and you ask someone behind the counter if they have eggs. He says, “We don’t, but I can sell you some,” seeing the brownie panic that is causing worry lines to crease your forehead into canyons. So he goes into the back and returns with the eggs in a little metal tin, like they’d give you take-out lasagna in or something.
And then you are cracking up all the way back to the car and you get in and your husband says, “Can I get sauce with those eggs?”
And then you don’t actually end up making brownies. But you could have.
I was completely inspired by Michelle Slatalla’s recent column about cleaning out her closet. The idea is to try on every single item in your closet, get rid of things that don’t look good, and then I guess reconsider everything that does look good, so that you think about wearing that fancy velvet blazer with jeans (that was her example; I don’t have a fancy velvet blazer).
And so, while Dave was occupied ripping siding off of our house, I attacked the closet. I pulled out absolutely everything and tried it on. The big surprise was that everything fit pretty well. I guess I know what looks good on me, because I didn’t have a lot of duds. I thought for sure that some of my party dresses would go, especially the hot pink silk halter dress with shiny beading, but that actually looked a lot more classic than I remembered. There’s a lot I’m not proud of from my shopaholic days, but at least I was obsessed with Banana Republic and J. Crew, so that the clothes I’m left with now are all cut really well and are all fairly timeless.
Here’s what I learned:
- I randomly look best in party dresses. It is certainly not any life of mine where I’d wear party dresses on a regular basis, but they were the only things I put on that made me think, “That looks GREAT!”
- I look best in brown.
- All of my t-shirts have a small stain on them somewhere.
- I look best when the waistline of pants hits right below my belly button. Surprisingly hard to find these days.
- We have moths in our closet.
- Never take someone else’s cast-off clothing. Or at least think really hard before doing it. Most of the clothes I got rid of were ones someone else was getting rid of.
- There are a lot of clothes in my closet I don’t wear, but should. Like a cute grey fitted 3/4-sleeve button down that looks good with jeans. And all those twinsets. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to wear my silk sweatersets while parenting, but I might. And the navy blue printed polyester button-down (Anne will know this as the “coffee bean shirt”). I regret that I rediscovered it now, when the weather’s a bit too warm for it.
The whole exercise (which took about four hours with continual interruptions) was also a great motivator to finally get back on the fitness horse. I’m almost there, but I need to reacquaint myself with Jillian Michaels and get shredded and all that. I stopped exercising when I was working on my final project a few weeks ago, and I need to get started again. Standing in front of a full-length mirror, trying on outfit after outfit, I could see how if I tightened things up a little in the general ab area, everything would look a million times better. So it was a worthy activity just for that extra (needed) motivational push.
In the end I only got rid of one big bag of clothes, and my closet didn’t look any sparser or more organized afterwards, but it was extremely helpful to remember what’s in there. Next step is to do the same thing with my dresser (jeans and pants, mainly). I should have done it at the same time, but I had closet fatigue and needed to move on to something else.
These cherry shortbread cookies are from a December Rachael Ray Everyday magazine I picked up at the free magazine table at the library. There is a whole spread of holiday cookies (Julie’s motto: who needs a holiday to make holiday cookies?). These cherry shortbread cookies have the tagline “least likely to screw up.” While I was making them I actually had to go back and check to make sure it didn’t actually say “most likely to screw up.” If these are the least likely to screw up out of all the cookie recipes featured, there’s no way I’m trying any of the others. Trying to pat them into a cohesive shape was only slightly easier than trying to pat raw sugar into a cohesive shape. But the boys helped by greedily shoving all the crumbly bits into their mouths, and we managed to get the rest to stick together until we were able to cut out something cookie-like.
I will say that, despite the difficulty in the execution, the final result is delicious. They’d work with cranberries too, I’m sure, though we had a bag of dried cherries from Target, which I think probably give these a much better flavor (the cherries, I mean, not the fact that they were from Target). This is another cookie recipe that only makes 12 cookies, which, again, is probably a good thing.
How Robin Saved Spring by Debbie Ouellet, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
This is a completely lovely modern folk tale, one of those “how the zebra got its stripes” kinds of books, but with better illustrations. Lady Winter lives in a house with Sister Spring. When one of them is having her season, the other one is sleeping (there’s no mention of where the other two seasons live). Lady Winter is understandably a little attached to her own season, and looks out over the snowy landscape, knowing that spring will come soon and she’ll have to succumb to a dreamless sleep. And so she devises an evil little plot to keep her sister from waking, by knitting a special sleeping blanket. The robin sees all this happening and comes up with some plots of his own with the help of the other animals and the maple tree, and ultimately manages to wake Sister Spring himself (as you’d guess from the title).
There were several points during this book when I’d think things like, “Oh, so that’s why there’s no berries on the bushes in winter, and why the bears hibernate.” Which is a dumb thing to think, because the reason those things happen is not because Lady Winter got pissed off. Or is it? Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that this book is fairly entrancing.
I also really appreciated the subtleties in there. Lady Winter is mean and spiteful, but you know what? I get where she’s coming from. She likes her thing and has the power to try to keep it going, and you can’t really blame her. She is annoyed with the animals’ meddling, but somewhat gentle with them. Well, not really that gentle, I guess, but she’s not really wrathful either.
I know the rest of you have had Spring for a while now, but it really just did get to be Spring this past week in Maine, and it was lovely to read this book a few weeks ago and remember that Spring is coming.
Oh my goodness, I just love that there are people on Etsy who are tooling leather belts, and especially that Eternally Chic is doing them in these gorgeous 1970s designs that I seriously think I’ve been searching for in thrift shops for roughly my entire life. I am in love with these belts. (What is wrong with me that I’m in love with belts?) They are fairly pricey ($99 for the butterfly one on the left above) but she is, you know, hand tooling a leather belt, which I’m sure you can’t crank out in 20 minutes or anything. Check out the belt above on the right, also, which is a kid’s belt — how great is that? I love these.
All my shirts are now back home after their brief vacation in the Rise Gallery Wearable Art Show (where, thankfully, a few of them did find new homes). And so now I’m actually working to get every last shirt in my inventory up in my Etsy shop. Hurray! Huge huge thanks to my family (Dave, Henry, Eli, and Zuzu have all been forced to model) and also most especially to Stacey for running over here to model in exchange for a loaf of homemade oatmeal maple bread.
[Preliminary note to Anne: prepare yourself for capers.]
Zuzu is obsessed with the refrigerator (in the manner of all crawling babies since refrigerators were invented) (before that crawling babies were obsessed with the root cellar). If I open it, she moves across the room in half a second, flings the door wide, and starts exploring. Sometimes I move her away and close the door, which of course causes her to whine and shriek at the indignity. Other times, I’m sorry to say, I am too tired to deal with it, and I just leave the fridge door open and watch the ozone hole erode further while she investigates the door condiments.
It was on just such a day when I not only let her explore, but, I believe, actually left the room for a while. When I returned I found her sitting proudly on the floor, having opened the capers and spilled out a small snack pile (see photo, by her right foot, the thing that looks like a lizard turd). She ate them all and never made a face or anything. That’s my girl!
[Postliminary note to Sarah: do you like how I took all the clothes you gave me and put them on Zuzu at once, in a way that makes no sense? I'm still figuring out how to dress a girl.]