I have a hard time saying goodbye to even the smallest bits of fabric from my stash. I just posted an easy project on Dwell Well for putting those pieces to use.
I have a hard time saying goodbye to even the smallest bits of fabric from my stash. I just posted an easy project on Dwell Well for putting those pieces to use.
I have nothing profound to say. I'm only here to report that I love summer.
Who doesn't, right? I love it so much I want to make out with it in the back seat of a car. I want to tattoo the word "summer" on my right bicep (the left bicep is reserved for the imaginary tattoo I have designed in my head but will never get). I want it to last for-ev-uh.
Here are some reasons why:
1. The new bakery at Chaps called Cake, and eating lunch with my girls in the grassy outdoor seating area.
I believe we were there for almost three hours the other day. That place is heaven on earth for a mom because the kids can just play in the sandbox while I read the paper and drink delicious coffee (Bumper Crop, of Coeur d'Alene).
Inside Cake, you can see how owner Celeste Shaw found amazing new uses for old objects. Can you tell what this round blue thing is?
Celeste's creativity never ceases to amaze me. Here's some eye candy (or should I say "eye cake"?):
My pictures don't do it justice. You must see it in person. Perfect opportunity: The Latah Summer Market, organized by Celeste and happening July 10 and 11 in the parking lot in front of Chaps and Cake. Artisans, antiques, produce, baked goods, flowers, more. 4241 S. Cheney-Spokane Road off Highway 195.
By the way, Cake pastry chef Gina Garcia made my birthday cake this year. Lemon chiffon. Delish.
2. Backyard camping.
You know we're getting ready to go camping bananas around here. Well, J and his close friends decided to celebrate the Great American Backyard Campout with a night of practice camping with the kids. (OK, they had no idea there was a national effort to promote backyard camping yesterday, but we were pretty impressed by their good timing.)
Hot dogs, s'mores, an outdoor movie and nine kids with their dads in tents. Does it get any cuter?
Apparently the picture below was taken during a hilarious game of hide and seek. Our friend H was "hiding" behind a tree, and it took Bo forever and a day to find him. It's not even an old oak tree or anything. It's more like a cluster of thin branches with a big dude behind them.
For breakfast, they grilled French toast kebabs.
So much fun I almost wish I'd been there instead of out to dinner/drinks with the wives and then on a long run in the morning with one of them. Darn. Maybe next year. (But probably not.)
3. Nature crafts.
I'm working on those eco kid crafts I mentioned the other day (prepping for the make-and-take craft booth at the county fair).
Here's our take on Maya Made's nature crown:
Bo opted to draw pictures of nature objects instead of taping them to the crown, (although I was not aware that Sleeping Beauty counted as an object of nature):
Do they look more like rubber duckies than birds? Oh, dear.
A bit of advice if you're doing newspaper crafts with kids. Do your best to use articles with nice words. This little bird snuck in somehow:
Damn media. (Wink, wink.)
Tags: backyard camping, Cake bakery, Chaps Spokane, eco crafts for kids, Great American Backyard Campout, green crafts for kids
Poor Penny. She's been pushed aside again. I've been hustling to get a bunch of work done before camp-a-palooza 2010, and this little blog has suffered as a result.
I do have a bit of stuff to say, though, so please accept this random wrap up of thoughts and experiences. There's no theme here, unless you care to find one?
1. First, congratulations to Spokane seamstress and Etsy seller Cherie Killilea, who recently landed a licensing deal with Simplicity patterns. Simplicity will begin selling her patterns for duffel bags (remember mine?), clutches and luggage tags next year under the name Studio Cherie. What a thrill, huh? You can read my blog post about it (including some comments from the designer at Simplicity who discovered Cherie) over on Dwell Well.
2. Also on Dwell Well, I posted a roundup today of links to several eco crafts for kids. I'm gearing up for this year's make-and-take craft booth at the North Idaho Fair, which you might remember from last year. There are some neat projects there from Kayte Terry, Maya Made and others. Check it out if you're looking for something fun to do with the kids.
And by calling them "eco crafts," I'm generally talking about projects you can make from stuff around your house or stuff headed for the trash bin. In other words, they're the best, most creative kinds of crafts.
3. Speaking of all things eco, have you seen this video yet? It's excellent. It's 20 minutes long, so grab a cup of coffee, and the start is a little slow, so hang in there.
4. We are going on four different camping trips this summer, one of which involves visiting three different campgrounds within one week. In other words, we will be living out my mother's worst nightmare.
A few weeks ago, in a moment of irritation, Bo turned to her little sister and snapped, "Get out of my campsite!" instead of "Get out of my sight!" Hilarious.
A big part of planning a camping trip is preparing the menu. I'm sure I'll post photos of our camp-food successes and failures when that time comes, but putting all this thought into meal planning has reminded me that I never wrote about some of the wonderful meals we ate this spring.
For the last few months, we've been spending two weeks with a particular cookbook (like Almost Meatless), a stack of magazines (like Sunset) or a blog (like my friend Sarah's, called In Praise of Leftovers). We pick two weeks' worth of meals from each, grocery shop for the main ingredients on one day and leave a few last-minute items on the calendar so we can pick them up fresh, as needed. The system has worked beautifully, and here's a sampling of what we've been enjoying:
Some of our other favorite dishes were:
Bruschetta Steak Salad (uh-mazin')
Almond Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu (although I must admit we used plain, store-bought gnocchi instead of making it from scratch, which--when you have two young "helpers"--can get quite messy)
5. Besides love, family, children and sex, running is the key to happiness. You don't have to go fast. Just go.
6. I turned 36.
My plan was to do 36 random acts of kindness, like Robyn of Mix Mingle and Glow did on her birthday. I even had appointments scheduled at the blood bank and a nursing home (we were going to help with an ice cream social). But Magpie woke up sick, so I only got to squeeze in a few things, like buying coffee for the person behind me and bringing grocery carts inside from a parking lot.
My wonderful friends on Facebook picked up the slack, though, and completed their own acts of kindness as a birthday gift to me. It was so fun to read throughout the day about the things they did, like my friend JoNelle, who was buying a candy bar for her son and decided to buy one for the cashier, too, because the woman mentioned it was her favorite treat.
Facebook gets a bad reputation as a time waster and all, but how else could I spend my day at home with a sick kid and see friends I've known since grade school and friends I've made just recently spreading joy to other people in my honor?
7. Like any family, we get caught up in the go-go-go-ness of life. Rush to preschool so we can rush to work so we can rush back to preschool and rush to get dinner on the table. Every once in a while, we have a day that stops me in my tracks and reminds me of who I am and what is important to me.
It's never any big, major deal. Tonight, for example, we decided to go out for ice cream. As we passed the market near our house, we realized they were hosting one of their outdoor music nights. Very low key--just a bunch of neighbors sitting in the parking lot drinking beer and eating cookies.
There, we ran into the parent of one of J's former students. She (the parent) is running for office, so we got to catch up with her and talk about that.
Then, we saw a teacher J knows and his wife, who just had a baby. Had a wonderful conversation with them as the girls ran around in circles to the music.
By that time it was 8:30--way past bedtime for us, but J decided pizza sounded good, so we drove to another neighborhood we love and ate a pie on the patio, struck up a conversation with the sweetest 4-year-old boy you can imagine, and then got to talking with his parents, who we hope to bump into again.
Yes, the girls were tired, but happy, like us. They won't remember this night, but maybe somewhere deep down they'll make a connection. Meeting new people + building relationships with neighbors and old friends = happiness + love.
8. Thunder and lightning out my window right now. Life is good.
Tags: community building, eco crafts for kids, Facebook, green crafts for kids, meal planning, random acts of kindness, running, Simplicity patterns, Studio Cherie, The Story of Stuff
I hope you didn't read that title expecting me to have some answers here.
We keep our house relatively clean, but picking up toys, shoes and princess costumes is an ongoing battle.
Magpie used to be our tidy child. Not anymore. Tonight, as she helped me make tortilla pie, she got all Julie McCoy on me, tearing up the corn tortillas and throwing them in the air like confetti.
I've always intended to start a system where, at the end of the day, whatever is left out gets put away or donated. (I hate associating something negative with donation, though, so I don't think I'd ever do that.)
Ohdeedoh featured a brilliant and hilarious idea for this last week. Meet Gunny, the toy-eating sack.
It's the brainchild of Cheri Heaton, of I am Momma Hear Me Roar.
Gunny's mouth opens up and he eats toys that get left out.
I explained the concept to Bo today and told her I was going to make one (except a goat instead of a person since goats eat anything and since we have a garbage-eating goat in Spokane).
At first she thought it was funny, but as she started to think about it she decided she didn't like the Gunny Goat.
She said, "Don't make it tomorrow." I said, "OK, I'll give you a few days to prepare (i.e., tidy the frig up!!!)."
Then, after I put her to bed tonight she came out of her room to tell me she didn't want me to make one at all. I promised her I wouldn't as long as she put her toys away. If things get messy, I said, I'm sewing me a goat. (Only I used proper English. She has enough problems with pronouns, past tense, overuse of the word "poopy," etc.)
So, you see, I haven't even threaded my needle and that thing is already working. Thanks, Cheri!
Next project: a chores chart.
I have a couple different designs in my head. Stay tuned. That could be a tutorial soon.
I'm still trying to figure out the allowance thing, too. I don't want to tie it to chores. In other words, I don't want to give the kids a dime every time they do something they should be doing anyway.
But what happens if they don't do their chores? Do they still get their allowance? If I don't write my articles I don't get paid, right?
And how much do you give a 4 year old? A friend said half her age in dollars per week (so $2 per week). According to J, it should be more like 25 cents. I think he figures that if we did that, by the time she saved up for the Barbie doll she's always wanted, she will have outgrown Barbies altogether.
Considering she has decided that this year's birthday theme is "Barbie Goes Camping," I think we're kind of screwed on the whole keep-the-Barbies-out-of-the-house thing anyway.
Unrelated ... check out this beautiful greenhouse made from salvaged windows.
It was at the Red Barn Lavender Farm, which I visited while part of a culinary/agritourism trip last week.
The tour took place in and around my hometown of Bellingham, Wash. I'm planning on writing a visitor's guide to Bellingham here soon, as well as one for Spokane (you know, just in case you ever stop by). More details then.
Also coming soon ... How to make birthday badges:
I'm supposed to be packing right now for a trip to my hometown, where I'll be taking part in an agri/culinary tour of local-foods restaurants, lavender gardens, bison ranches and shellfish farms this week. It's a work thing, but I'm certainly not complaining about eating in some of Bellingham's best eateries and staying in a beautiful hotel.
My master plan was to lose five pounds before this tour started (in order to compensate for the expected weight gain and, you know, for the baby-weight gain from five years ago that I'm always asking to go away), but like that ever happens. Did I ever write on here about my wedding day? About how we couldn't get my dress to zip up? I seriously thought we were going to have to go buy something at Nordstrom at the last minute. I don't know if they just altered my dress too small or if I couldn't lay off the cream puffs in the weeks leading up to my wedding. I've never been good at pressure dieting. Dear Food, I love you.
We did manage to zip it up eventually. Never underestimate the power of my mother when she is in full-blown panic mode.
So just a quick note to direct you to this post on my Dwell Well blog, where I'm asking readers to give me some burlap craft ideas. I was given 15 coffee sacks from Doma, a top-notch organic coffee roaster in our area. My plan is to craft up those sacks and then write a tutorial or two so others can do the same, should used coffee sacks land in their hands one day, too.
Here are the sacks:
Feel free to share any ideas you might have here or over on Dwell Well. Thanks!
On an unrelated note, look at this adorable book sling Sarah over at Trixie's Table made following my toot. (P.S. I realize other bloggers spell that word "tute," but deep down I am really, really, really immature.)
I'm always so humbled when readers follow my tutorials and love to receive photos of the projects. To do so, either leave a comment with a link or shoot me an e-mail at megan.cooley (at) comcast.net.
Thanks for sharing, Sarah! I'll add it to the, ahem, t-u-t-e soon.
Lots more happening and that I want to say, not the least of which is THANK YOU for all the wonderful comments lately. Must pack, though. Note to self: include a wide range of clothing sizes.
J and I are on a kid-free trip to Portland, Ore., which is pretty much the perfect U.S. city. I lived here in the late '90s and have to get my fix at least twice a year.
Here are a few of the many reasons why:
1. Food. Beautifully presented food. Around every corner. I wish I had a month here so I could eat at all my old favorite spots and discover the new ones. This lovely bread was at St. Honore Bakery, 24th & NW Thurman.
And, my old stomping ground for breakfast ... Besaw's.
2. Drinks. And more drinks. Did I mention that the kids are with Nana and Papa?
Drinks with views (those lucky drinks):
So many drinks the photos start to get fuzzy (which means, like, two drinks. For me anyway).
3. The many mustached men of Portland. I haven't built up the courage yet to ask one if I can take a picture. Mustaches are to Portland what cowboy hats are to Texas. Somehow, the dudes here can get away with it.
4. People going green, everywhere you turn, even in the side yards of urban neighborhoods.
5. Dear old friends who make me laugh until my belly aches.
6. Mid-century modern at the coffee shop ...
7. Coffee at the coffee shop ...
8. Coffee in the hotel lobby, which is adjacent to the coffee shop ...
You can see for yourself:
Reduce, reuse, repurpose:
We miss our girls like bananas but they're in excellent hands, and I strongly believe all of us parent-folks need to do this getaway thing now and then.
OK. Time to go find tonight's dinner.
I was just reading my last post (about the Story Starters game we've been playing) and noticed I fell into "that thing" again.
At the end there, I mention how doing the story prompts might just buy you a few minutes to get your dishes done ... or your nails filed ... or whatever. And that's true.
But I catch myself sometimes falling into that exasperated parent voice, like, I could tackle the world if it weren't for these pesky little kids who keep wanting me to feed them and wipe their noses.
Don't get me wrong--parenting can be exasperating and I laugh out loud reading witty blogs like Motherhood in NYC and listening to my friends tell hilarious stories about mishaps at the grocery store.
But I tend to have a lot more success with my kids when I'm just plain silly instead of dwelling on the overwhelming moments in our day. Silliness has kind of always been my schtick. I just forget it sometimes. Especially when I'm tired.
I just started reading the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen, and he's confirming some things I already felt deep down, as well as opening my eyes to how important it is to play with your kids. Seriously important. Like, if you want them to grow up to be kind, healthy, and balanced, get down on the rug and play with them, for Pete's sake.
I remember playfulness coming up when I was a teacher. For the first several months of my first year, I was drowning. I was 22 years old, overwhelmed and shorter than half my students. They were eighth graders, and a lot of them gave a rat's butt about wanting to be at school.
I attended a conference that winter that changed everything. I can't remember who the speaker was, but he basically told us to loosen up and have fun with the students. At the very least, you'll have more energy for yourself at the end of the day.
I started stressing less and letting the silly side of me show. I remember one kid not getting any work done one day, so I put a box of Kleenex on his desk and tucked in his pencil so it could take a nap.
"It must need some rest," I remember saying, sympathetically.
The speaker at that conference also advised us to casually point two fingers while talking to a student who was being particularly difficult. The index finger was for the kid. The middle finger was the teacher's little secret to sanity, he said, holding up his and giving us all the bird.
So back to the Story Starters post ... What I failed to mention is that the first time the girls played it, we did it together. Wholeheartedly. I was a princess, a ballerina, a pig on the farm oinking on the floor alongside them. I'm not sure the girls would have been able to take over the game like they have, if I hadn't modeled it with them.
And thanks to Cohen's book, I've been barking fewer orders at my kids lately. Instead of harping on Bo (our dilly dallier) to get dressed in the morning, for example, I have her stuffed animals place bets on how long it will take her to get ready.
I'm only about a third of the way into Playful Parenting, but I can tell it's going to rank up there as one of the most important books on parenting I've read.
On an entirely different note, check out these handmade party decorations that hung at an event I attended last weekend.
The celebration was in honor of the first anniversary of a group here called The Shrinking Violets Society. It's a group of (mostly) women who meet once a month for breakfast, they host craft nights, have a book club, do community service, etc. The name "shrinking violets" is tongue in cheek, because they're anything but. They care about our city, each other and the earth.
I'm technically a member, but I'm ashamed to say I've never been to an event (besides the birthday bash, but I really just popped in to take photos for a story I wrote about them). Maybe I'd be involved if I didn't have those pesky little kids running around ... just kidding.
Those Violets sure made some cute party decorations, huh?
Look: these tissue paper pompoms are made from old sewing patterns.
You could make some yourself following my tissue paper flower tutorial.
Happy birthday, Violets.
Tags: earth friendly, eco friendly, green, green party decorations, Lawrence Cohen, paper flowers, party decorations, Playful Parenting, playing with kids, pompoms, The Shrinking Violets Society
Happy New Year, my friends!
I've never liked to hear people say they "survived the holidays." I love the holidays and much prefer to enjoy them than endure them. This year, frankly, was about survival, though. I was working 80 hours a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas and didn't even have enough time to fully decorate the trees (yes, we do two trees. Maybe that's one place I could have cut back).
Without going into too much detail, I took on a special assignment for my local newspaper covering a Christmas charity in our town. One front-page story per day for 30 days (on top of my regular work). It was rewarding and heartbreaking and it deepened the meaning of Christmas for me, but I'm glad to be easing back into our family's normal routine. My heart goes out to families who have to keep that pace throughout the year just to put food on the table--or who would be grateful for any form of employment right now.
Yesterday we took part in one of my favorite traditions. For almost a decade, our good friends here in Spokane have gathered for a New Year's Day lunch. We took a break for the last couple of years because we all had kids at that crazy age where, when you throw too many of them together in a small space, there's a meltdown around every corner and a few doors get knocked off their hinges. Literally.
But we decided at the last minute to bring the New Year's Day lunch back, and it went quite well. The grownups even managed to squeeze in a round of Cranium.
The party was also an excuse to see the house our friends Brian and Danica just finished building. Holy gorgeousousness. It was liking walking into the page of a magazine--a tranquil, modern, soft, warm, cozy, beautiful magazine.
The house was built (most of the construction done by Brian and Danica themselves) using an ICF wall system, which basically means that the walls have a concrete core and are wrapped in an insulating foam. Super energy efficient! Plus the thick walls mean your window sills are deeper than normal, as you can see here:
The best thing is how family friendly the layout is, which I hope you'll be able to see from these photos.
There's a shower behind the tub:
My favorite room--a mudroom with a cubby for each family member. Dreamy:
Underneath this bench seating are drawers that hold the kids' coloring books, Crayons, playdough, etc.:
Their sons' rooms are identical ...
The happy homeowners:
I love the stain color they chose for the doors and baseboards, not to mention the wall paint colors: