Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I was over at a friend's house yesterday and we were looking at a Robert Sabuda pop up book and she happened to be an artsy type so when we were exclaiming over the utter coolness she also whipped out a How-To book about pop ups. I didn't really have time to peruse what with the feral young running rampant, but later that day I found myself at the library so I grabbed a similar book and then took myself out on a date to the coffee shop to madly dork out with paper and scissors.
I think this is clear enough without me adding additional confusing words but if anything is unclear just let me know. I thought it was so astounding that you could make something so amazing and 3-D and beautiful in just a matter of minutes. It made me feel quite excited about the possibilities, the possibilities, oh the endless possibilities! I'll be back with another cool pop-up that I learned, maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


A few moons ago here on the ol' blog I believe I prattled on about a visit from my long lost babysittee, Antonia. I was a nanny for her and her little brother like, uh... a long damn time ago. I guess I was 19 when I moved in with them, gee whiz. And she was a little spit fire, that one, she was so much fun. She was more like a fun little sister than a charge, and I didn't get to see her nearly enough, as she spent half the week with her dad. I was mainly there to hang with two year old Kilian, who was quite a fun little lad, himself.

The parents were a little heavy on the teevee, though, and I took it upon myself to amend their (teensy tiny) library because it was me, after all, who was doing most of the reading to the book-starved young 'un (not Antonia, she was 11 and an avid reader.) This book, Stay Up Late, was a book I bought for him. It totally blew me away when I saw it, and of course the song just can't be beat. Of course Maira Kalman is well known now, with her Max books and Elements of Style and 'New Yorkistan' New Yorker cover.... but gee, back then, what an excellent find! And lo these many years gone by and this book long out of print... and I have thought many many times that I wished I could hold the book in my hot little hands once again, I did love it so... and I told Tonia this, when she visited.... and what do you think she's gone and did?? This amazing person... now a totally advanced and full grown person... found the book and sent it to me!! I know, you're thinking, in this day and age, can't you just find the book for pennies used somewhere, but it has not been like that... this is a really truly out of print and hard to find book that is super cool and now I get to share it with my kids. That Tonia, what a whippersnapper!! What a peach! What a pearl! Just LOVE that girl, I gotta say! I completely busted up crying when I opened it. You know what a bookhead I am, and this one meant a lot to me, and that someone went and sought it out for me.... well, shucks.

She also sent Chicken Soup, Boots which we all read and cracked up all the way through... I'm feeling profoundly blessed, with my new Maira Kalman treasures, and otherwise. Tonia, you are such a beautiful and kind and creative and cool person, I am SO lucky to know you (and really thankful to facebook, I have to say, that I get to know you a little better!)
And for a treat, click here for a talk Maira Kalman gave on And check out Tonia's awesome blog, The Veganesque Life, too!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New classes for the New Year!

*TINKERING CLASS* ages 5-12$150 Learn to make a bristlebot, a burglar alarm, a rocket launcher, a radio, and more... take apart old electronics, learn, tinker, think, create! WednesdaysJanuary 13th through January 17th 4-5:30
Learning hammering, sawing, sanding, drilling and nailing through simple but satisfying projects that your child will love. We'll build a spinning top, a special box, a peg board, and more. Fridays January 15th through February 19th, 4-5:30
*WOODSHOP FOR CHILDREN, part 2 ages 3-7 $150 (co-taught with Doerte Fimke of Austin Montessori Center)More simple and satisfying woodworking projects for children who alreadyhave some experience hammering and sawing. We'll be making a specialbox, a knitting loom, and other handmade toys, games, and projects thatyour child can really take pride in. Fridays March 5th through April 9th 4-5:30
ART, SCIENCE, AND COOKING ages 1 1/2 through 4) A smorgasborde of the most fun projects from my repetoire. Science experiments, art projects, and cooking and baking... a whole lot of messy, interesting, hands-on experiences that your toddler or preschool will be sure to enjoy. Baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, stomp rockets, building a worm farm.... Making popovers, pesto, and pizza.... painting, playing with clay and dough, and collaging.... this class has it all!
ART CLASS ages1-3 $135 Inspired by the book Young at Art by Susan Stryker, this class is achance for toddlers to have early art experiences that are messy, fun,and tactile. We explore one color per week through painting, drawing,and salt dough sculpture, and throw in some water play, books, andsnacking to round it out. This is a low stress and truly fun environment for toddlers to meet new friends and have a weekly art adventure! Tuesdays February 2nd through March 9th, 10-12

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Candle dippin'

I'm so sad that my gift making class is over... it was the sweetest little group and I feel like there's so many projects left to do! For our last class we made beeswax candles, which in all honesty I was a mite bit frighted to try with such young folk... you know, hot wax and all. I had a revelation, however, when I thought of buying a crappy old crock pot at a thrift store and devoting it solely to the melting of wax. This way I can bring the wax down to the level of the toddlers, rather than trying to do it up on a stove top, which would be very ill advised. Also new was the idea of dipping the candle in a glass of water after dipping it in the wax. While it's not necessary, I think it helped the toddlers get a rhythm going... dip in wax, then water, repeat. So they were each able to make two little candles which they thought was quite neat. We then kicked back and relaxed with some mulled cider and kettle corn.... mmmm, so very cozy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Schmristmas

Last year, my husband's siblings came to visit for the holidays. They came in the house and after all the hugs and hubbub they noticed this really adorable letter that was taped up to the refrigerator. It was to me, from Jack (who had JUST learned to write) and it was super adorable, "Kami You are my cupcake You are my clementine You are sweet and I love you." They all fainted with cuteness but I knew the flip side and summoned them all outside where Jack in a fit of pique earlier in the afternoon had written in chalk this scathing remark: "Marry Christmas Stoopid Kami". Of course we all died from laughter. Quite a low blow on his part. I was thinking about this today because it seems like we walk such a fine line during the holidays. It's supposed to be SO fun and exciting and joyful. But it's also SO hyper-stimulating and sometimes stressful and add some candy to that and.... KABLOOEY. And of course a major part to all that is your (the parent) expectations and stress... today I was trying to get the kids to put the finishing touches on some gifts for their teachers. The last day of school is tomorrow, the stuff had to get done tonight. I did have a major hope that they would really feel involved in the gift-giving. These teachers are such important people in their lives. Anyway, I'm sure finishing up the school year is stressful. And they had a party in school, they had candy. And in all honesty I had some sweet stuff today too and I was so aware of how edgy and impatient it made me feel. All this added up to major tears and drama. And I'm just taking it as another reminder to chill about the Christmas, yo. And thanks to my kids for reminding me. I am kind of stoopid about these things, after all.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


This is the Year That I Gots to Get Organized... I just feel like my lack of organizational skill is holding me back in a major way. I mean, it's held me back in the exact perfect way that I needed at the time, but I think I've learned lessons enough on how to stay afloat on the sea of chaos, and am ready to have things just flow a lot more nice-n-easy. Ahhh, won't that be nice.
My friend Raini offered to do a trade with me: She'll help me get organized in return for some this-and-that that I can offer her. In fact she pretty much insisted that we get started straightaway whipping my disorganized butt into shape. Who am I to resist this whirlwind of organizational prowess. A total lucky blessing falling in my lap and just in time for the new year. If you'd like your 2010 to be super swell, hire Raini to de your clutter...... it's the best feeling ever, and you free up SO much space for the things you DO want in your life... F this clutter, man... and by 'F' I of course mean, 'forget'... No es necesario... Clutter is finito.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Peppermint candies, sugar scrub, and dyeing play silks.

So much fun stuff we did during our gift-making class, I couldn't hardly manage to snap but one or two photos. We dyed play silks (and a nice tutorial about it all is here at the Artful Parent) though we did it a bit differently. We dip the silks in warm water, then sprinkle plain koolaid powder all willy-nilly over the silk however you'd like it, and you can also kind of get all finger-paint-y if you so choose (and the toddlers do choose) though I must warn you that your fingers will probably be pink or orange for the next day or so. Also the tutorial tells you that you should microwave the silks to really affix the color, but in my experience that kool-aid is powerful stuff. And I don't have a microwave. So I just let them set off to the side for several minutes, then we rinsed them and hung them outside to dry. You can buy the silks for cheapie cheap cheap at Dharma Trading Company. You know from some nice Waldorf-y store they cost like 8 dollars apiece if not more... plain silks from this place (average size) cost about $1.50, and you could also buy one of those long long long ones and dye it like a rainbow... you could also be all uber-natural-y and try to dye them with blueberries and pine needles and butterfly wings (butterflies who died from natural causes, of course)... there's a multitude of choices, and all of them fun. Do try it, won't you?
We also made these delectable peppermint candies from this fabulous cookbooks, The River Cottage Family Cookbook. I absolutely love this book: the recipes are divine, the photos are fabulous, and it's English so they're always making things like jellies and lollies and bangers and stuff like that. It's also got lots of really fun cooking activities to do with your kids... like having a pancake relay race on Shrove Tuesday .I don't know, that just sounds so fun, I've wanted to do it ever since I got this book, but Shrove Tuesday just keeps passing me by. I'll have to try to do it this year, for sure.
We also made this completely simple, satisfying (and softening!) sugar scrub, orange-lavendar sugar scrub to be precise.... it's a breeze to make and I was truly amazed when I tried it out on my rough, dish-pan little hand.... suddenly soft as a kitten. I think my boys and I will make some for their teachers.
Here are the recipes... maybe I should sit on them in the hopes that you'll take this class with me next year, but I don't care... all this is so fun and easy, and I just want to spread the homemade-gift love around.
Orange-Lavendar sugar scrub (copied directly from )
OK, folks. Get ready for almost unbelievably soft skin (even for those of us with older skin).
The other day I was speaking with Larry Pleasant, CEO of The Vermont Soapworks, and he mentioned that he and his staff had spent the morning testing homemade sugar scrubs, and that everyone was commenting on how incredibly soft their skin felt. Aware that sugar cane produces glycolic acid, one of the natural alpha hydroxy acids that exfoliates the skin, I was immediately curious about his recipes.
50 percent white cane sugar (note that organic sucanat, while the best choice for food, doesn’t work as well for this recipe)
50 percent vegetable glycerin to moisten the sugar (I used avocado oil since I was out of vegetable glycerin and it proved to be a successful substitute)
Small amounts of aloe vera gel, vitamin C crystals, or anything healing that dissolves in water
1 or 2 drops of essential oil if desired (Larry recommends combining orange and lavender)
Enough ground hibiscus powder for pink color (if desired)
Combine the ingredients in a bowl. Scoop some of the scrub onto your hand and massage gently onto your skin for a minute (the scrub will actually tighten onto your skin like a masque). Leave on for 3 to 4 minutes before rinsing.
Let me warn you in advance that you’ll want to use this sugar scrub on your entire body. I started on my face, returned to my desk, and my skin felt so baby soft that the skin on my neck felt like sandpaper, so I needed to use the sugar scrub there, and on and on.
PEPPERMINT CREAMS (copied straight from River Cottage Cookbook)
This is probably the easiest bit of cooking you'll ever do. Not that anything actually gets cooked. You're really just making edible, mint-flavored Play-Doh.
Powdered sugar, 2 c. and a little more
Egg white
Peppermint essence
A few drops of cooking oil
Green food coloring (optional)
Sift about 2/3 of the sugar into the mixing bowl.
Lightly whisk the egg white in a cup with a fork. Should be well mixed and lightly frothy.
Pour the beaten egg white and a few drops of peppermint essence onto the sugar in the bowl, then use the same fork to start mixing the liquid with the sugar.
As the mixture begins to stiffen, scrape it off the fork and start using your hands to work it into a paste. It will probably be very sticky, and you'll have to keep adding a shake or two of sugar.
Keep kneading the mixture and adding sifted sugar until you have a smooth paste you can mold like Play-Doh. Keep your hands dusted with sugar all the time.
Now prepare the sheet of waxed paper by rubbing it lightly all over with a few drops of oil.
You can shape your peppermint creams in various ways. First roll out the dough to about 3/8 inch thick with a rolling pin-- but dust the work surface first with powdered sugar first or it will stick horribly. You can then cut the dough into squares, triangles, or diamonds. Or you can use small cutters to stamp out any shape you like. Then squish up the leftover mixture, reroll it with a fresh dusting of powdered sugar on the work surface, and make more shapes.
Or, if you don't have a rolling pin, you can simply roll little balls of the mixture between the palms of your hands (also dusted with powdered sugar), then flatten each ball a bit with your finger or thumb.
Place the finished peppermint creams on the lightly oiled sheet of paper. Leave them uncovered in the kitchen to dry out for a few hours. Keep them in a plastic container.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The low-down on my birthday party offerings!

ART PARTY $150 for two activities and supplies for all children to decorate cupcakes. $50 for each additional activity. Activities include making playdough, decorating birthday crowns, dyeing play silks, decorating craft aprons or T-shirts, and more.
DOLLHOUSE PARTY $175 Each child will make and decorate their own simple wooden dollhouse! Also includes supplies for all children to decorate cupcakes. Other otions include a Tiny tea party with miniature snacks and goodie bags with tiny treasures.
FAIRY PARTY $150 Make fairy wands, crowns, simple tutus, or even pixie dust. Supplies for all children to decorate cupcakes also included. For an additional $75 you can get a visit from the most magical and beautiful fairy you could ever wish to meet... your child will be enchanted.
SPA PARTY $150 Make a homemade facial mask, paint fingernails (with non-toxic polish, of course), and make a wonderful homemade body care product to take home. Options include Foaming Lavendar Milk Bath, Beeswax lip balm, Fizzing bath salts, Chocolate-lavendar bath oil, or Glitter Gel. Also includes supplies for all children to decorate cupcakes.
TINKERING PARTY $175 Build a bristlebot, a burglar-alarm protected treasure box, flashlight or radio. Also includes supplies for all children to decorate cupcakes.
MARSHMALLOW SHOOTER PARTY $150 Each kid will get a chance to build a marshmallow shooter and will receive their own pair of goggles and marshmallow-ammo belt. Also includes supplies for all children to decorate cupcakes.
MIX AND MATCH: You can mix up any of the above elements to create a fantastic party that is custom-made for your kid! Other options include Egg-drop Challenge, Giant Water Balloon catapult, making a Zombie or other Monster Movie, Diet Coke +Mentos Explosion, and Much Much More! I'm full of ideas and I would love to hear yours, so if you have something in mind, let's talk and figure out how to make magic happen.
For an additional $100, Spiderman, Batman, a Jedi Knight, or any other beloved character will make an unforgettable appearance at your child's party.
For an additional $75, I would be happy to host the party in my very fun and kid-friendly backyard.

Birthday parties!

I had the HUGE honor recently of being hired to do a birthday party for this sweet sweet family and their little girl who was turning 3 RIGHT in the middle of a new baby brother's first few weeks on the planet so they (very very smartly, I thought) decided NOT to soldier through and to just hire me, instead. It was really neat also because we had never even met but she was just operating on a hunch that my offerings would really be right up her daughter's alley and I must say her instincts were spot-on, because her daughter was definitely a crafty sort and so were her friends and they were so totally absorbed and delighted by the projects that we did, it was really a joy to behold. We decorated lacy golden birthday crowns with feathers and sequins and other pretty bits, and we made playdough and played with playdough, and then we gave all the kids frosting tubes with pink and purple frosting tubes and a few canisters of rainbow sprinkles and let them have at it with the cupcakes. It was all very good wholesome messy fun and I think everyone had themselves a very very fine time, and I really did too! Especially working with such friendly relaxed nice and cool people... about as close to a dream job as you could possibly get. So anyway... it was quite a fun new opportunity and chance for me to stretch my skills and try something new, and I've been positively bursting with lots of other ideas for all different sorts of parties.... I'm planning on posting more about that soon.

But never mind all that.... Happy birthday dear Freya.... happy birthday to youuuuuuuuu!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gingerbread pancakes and beeswax lipbalm

I found this lip balm recipe and I was so excited to try it with these kids, ages 2-3. Last year when I did this gift making class we made beeswax lip balm but it involved standing at the stove with a double boiler and the kids couldn't be super involved, because of the heat and the hot wax etc. I had to do the melting and the pouring, and then even after all that, the mixture separated after pouring and was basically hard wax with a puddle of nice-smelling oil on top... not really what I was going for. This recipe is awesome and totally interactive. You put the ingredients in a ziplock bag and then the kids can massage them around while submerging them in hot water... they all melt together and then you snip a little hole in the tip of the bag and squirt it into your container. Voila! And it was completely soft and delicious, balm-y for the lips. The only thing is you may have to grate your beeswax. If you bought your beeswax in that pellet form, I'm not sure if the water would be hot enough to melt it all the way down, so your best bet would probably be to buy a block of it and grate it. Here's the recipe:
1 teaspoon grated beeswax
2 teaspoons solid vegetable shortening (I actually substituted coconut oil and it worked great)
1 teaspoon pure petroleum jelly (In further experiments I think I will try to substitute this out as well)
1 drop candy flavoring (we used peppermint essential oil, seemed to work fine)
Place ingredients into new zipper-style plastic bag and close shut. Immerse bag into bowl of warm water. Squeeze the bag with your fingers to mix together the contents until the mixture liquifies. Cut bottom corner of bag and squeeze contents into a small sanitized (boiled)container. Let set.

We also made gingerbread pancakes... to give this as a gift you can just mix all the dry ingredients together and include the directions to complete the recipe on the container. Makes an awesome Christmas/Hanukah/Chrismukkah/Kwanzaa breakfast, I must say!

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup molasses
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
lingonberry preserves (optional)
1In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Set aside.
2In large bowl, beat together egg and milk.
3Stir in molasses, then oil.
4Add flour mixture and stir just until combined.
5Pour a quarter cup of batter per pancake onto griddle.
6Cook on first side until puffed, full of bubbles and dry looking around edges.
7Turn and cook until second side is browned.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

East Austin Studio Tour

Oh bloody 'ell, I meant to keep a record of the folks I really dug that I had the good fortune to check out on this tour that I love oh so very much, but now that the time has come I see that the cards I so carefully gathered have been scattered to the four winds, courtesy of my three children or perhaps my oh-so-very-lazy lack-of-any-organizational-skills-whatsoever... And anyways I was surprised to find that some of the folks I especially liked had no web presence whatsoever, which I find kind of impressive in this day and age. Anyway I had a very very VERY very excellent time out at E.A.S.T. and as always it made my heart pulse with big red love for all the super cool people who are out there making the magic happen. I kicked myself for not bringing mad cash to fling around because you can really get some awesome art for mere shekels but I had barely any to spare... the one piece of art I bought was this Creebobby Archetype Times Table by Jacob Borshard. It was only twenty dollars and I knew my kids would LOVE it which of course they do. I think it's SO hilarious and I hung it right by the dinner table so they can pore over it whilst eating their cheerios etc. Inundating them with the art, y'all, 'cause that's how I do.
I'm totally going to email Jacob and see if he has any more prints of this, because it would really be perfecto to send to my little nephews in Oregon who can be bloody 'ell to shop for.
Also really enjoyed Nick Henning.