Sunday, June 26, 2011

Make Stuff Together!

Not just a command, an actual book review and GIVEAWAY! Read closely folks, because here's your chance to WIN a copy of this amazing new book. Leave a comment below and I'll randomly select a winner by Friday July 1st.

Make Stuff Together is the new book by
Bernadette Noll and Kathie Sever, two wily and inventive mamas and all 'round crafty folks who together form the dynamic duo that is Future Craft Collective (you can follow them on Facebook here).
I've been following them like a devoted puppy dog avidly for years now, they're true Austin, TX superstars of the crafty/recycle-y variety, and they just beam out joy, fun, creativity and major style everywhere they go. No one could be more confident than I that their book would be great.
I have to say the book surprised even me. I thought it was going to be good, like so incredibly good, and that it would share with the world what Austin already knew... that Kathie and Bernadette were the super-coolest... but seriously, it's SO good. The projects are so ingenious and great-looking, and I think most books, should they be fortunate enough to be in possession of such fine inspiration: beautiful photos of happy children, and instructions for making things that are not only truly useful and that you actually really want but that are also made from upcycled materials, would just consider it a home run right there and coast the rest of the way by fluffing up the space between the pictures with some forgettable bla bla bla. But nothing about the writing was forgettable. I must admit, even I was skimming over the sewing instructions when I realized that there was gold hidden in those as well and I had to go back and read them all more closely.
It's a very fine line that they walk, advocating as they do the importance of a close and connected family life full of reflection and celebration, alongside the importance of community and eco-consciousness, and this book could easily have become preachy, but they do backflips along that line. It's funny and down-to earth about the realities of life with kids while inspiring you to juice up the life that you share with them with more goodness. And I don't know if any kids craft book ever has so fully acknowledged the challenges of attempting to craft with kids AND offers such a wonderfully practical solution... the projects can be done all in one go, of course, or without the kids at all (that would be a cop-out, but it may be what I end up doing... shhh....), but they also break up the projects into bite-sized pieces so that you can maintain your sanity and give your kids that great sense of accomplishment, neatly sidestepping the tears and fatigue and craziness that sometimes go along with making stuff together.
What else can I say... it's FABULOUS! Go buy it yourself and see for yourself that these Words I Say are true (or wait a few days and see if you win it, that's good too)! Congratulations, K and B, on a real slam-dunk of a first book... love you guys! And now the whole rest of the world gets a chance to soak up the goodness, too!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

California idyll, the third and final episode.

We went camping with Cooper and Jessica in the Sequoia National Park! There was SNOW and some mighty, mighty trees. We climbed this Moro Rock and it was way freaky. What actually happened was that Coop, Jessica, and I started up with Bruno (5) and Jack (7). Matt got stuck behind with Henny (3) who was having a little three year old meltdown about something-r-other. Halfway up I was having extreme panicky sensations as I watched my bouncy, fearless kids bounding up the stairs that wound around the rock, with nothing but a thin railing between them and a completely sheer cliff, nary a ledge or a scrap to hang on to, just a full on plunge 100 feet down. I decided to turn back and switch places with Matt. When I found him he had climbed up with Henny about a quarter of the way and was as pale and shaky as I've ever seen him. We had a simultaneous parent freak-out at the base of this set of (extremely well travelled, I'm sure hundreds of people go up each day!) stairs and were moaning and fretting and cursing ourselves for letting them go up with their (amazing) aunt and uncle who might not know that they are both liable to start fearlessly climbing anything and everything... cautionary signs and 100 foot drop or no. Needless to say everyone actually survived but it was comical that Matt and I, who are the opposite of anxious and over bearing, had our mutual helicopter parent moment. Probably because we both knew all too well that tempers can rise in a flash and a scuffle in an unbalanced moment could cause us to leave California with one less kid than we came with.

Beautiful raging river.
I got to visit Mary Beth, who runs ReDiscover Center, a creative reuse center in L.A! I met her at the Tinkering workshop I went to with Gever this winter. I think her place is really awesome and it was great to get to talk to her about her experiences getting (and keeping) it going, because we are still trying to start something like it here in Austin.
These paintings were by Cassandro Tondo, and were all made with paint"from the local Household Hazardous Waste Center and from the mistint shelves at home improvement stores, " in her words.

I also got to visit Watts Tower... talk about creative reuse!! This guy spent 40 years building this insane structure out of bits and bobs, and no one really knows why. It's awesome and I'm so glad it still stands.


ALRIGHT! ATTENTION! If you have made it this far, I must tell you something very, very important... I have an exciting giveaway coming up TOMORROW, this MONDAY, the 27th.... DON'T MISS IT! I feel a bit shy like I'm trying to act like such an official real-type bloggy-blog but this really is an awesome giveaway and you are going to LOVE it. With all your heart. Way down deep. For real!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The fair city of San Pedro

My family moved to L.A. some time after I was out on my own. I'm trying to do the math and it's freaking me out a little... could it really be 17 years they've lived there?? Something like that... SHEESH. Time does fly. Anyway, L.A. to me sounds kind of dreadful but they really found a primo place to live and I've always enjoyed visiting there. They live in a little town called San Pedro... an older, homey little town, where the Port of Los Angeles is, and it's got a ton of character and great places to check out.

My brother Cooper took us to this neat deli that was a refurbished little corner store, where I freaked out over all the cool sodas.
"Leninade: A drink worth standing in line for!"
"Drink Comrade, drink! It's this or the Gulag!"
Mmmm.... so many different flavors of Jolt... how to choose?

We finally went out to breakfast at the Omelette and Waffle Shop, which has always caught my eye. I would always misread it and think that it said "Omelette the Waffle" which makes me laugh, I can't say why.San Pedro also has the PERFECT aquarium, I love it so much. It's actually kind of a homey little place, not at all a big or deluxe, but it is just set up so well that we are always delighted and wowed every time we go there.

Touchable tidepool exhibit!
And Henny turned 3 with a little help from Nana and Grandpa.
Nana and Grandpa who are retiring and moving back to Oregon. I'm excited for them but I really will miss San Pedro, I have to say. So glad we got to go back for one last fling.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

California idyll

We had the great good fortune to take off for a week's adventure in cooler climes (Good God you wouldn't believe how hot it is, here in Austin, TX). The people that we love in Southern California are all slated to move within the year (Matt's sisters in San Diego, and my parents in L.A.) so this was kind of a last chance to rumble in to this fabled and fruited land with lots of free lodging and meals and the company of some of the greatest people around. This was La Jolla beach. I thought it was one of the most amazing beaches I've ever been to. Even besides all the amazing things we were able to lay eyes on and experience, there are actually seven underwater caves not far off the shore, one of which, Sunny Jim cave, is actually accessible by land(which I wasn't able to visit, for which I completely blame Matt, because somewhere between my interest in caves and his lack thereof he manages to stand between me and all caves, everywhere we go... grrr)!This was an awesome wall all set-about with abalone shells.
Bruno checking out the penguin-like sea birds (I still don't know what they were... let's just call them penguins for the fun of it). Penguins!!
There were melon-farmin' SEALS!!
And hermit crabs, and tide pools, and caves and wave-sculpted rocks.

Look! I attempted an artistic photo!

Jack the lion-hearted. I was so impressed that there were lots of folks just walking down to the shore in their wet suits and freakin' diving in and swimming away, off to explore underwater caves and kelp beds and meet leopard sharks (which aren't very dangerous), dolphins, sea lions, the works... with their swath of neoprene the only buffer between them and the wild and open sea... I would like to be so brave one day (Matt's sister Jessica told me that someone got chomped in half by a shark out there last year, and though I recently read that shark attacks are much more rare than we think, and that hippos actually claim more lives by far than sharks each year, that piece of info added another 25 years to the 25 years it would already take me to grow the cojones to go out there on my owners... maybe when I'm 86 you'll find me out there frolicking with the dolphins, just maybe...).
Jack, on the other hand, would be out there in a flash if we gave him the go-ahead. The kid ain't afraid of nuthin'.
Not sting rays, nuthin. This is a whole other scene, we went to this WONDERFUL place, Chula Vista Nature Center, and you were actually invited to pet the sting rays and manta rays (though my favorite part by far was the sea turtles)!
Jessica says, "Yes, I am your super nice and laid-back auntie but no you may not climb into the shark tank, Henrietta..."
Later, lounging around in the coziness of Jessica and Sarah's little bungalow (Sarah, not pictured, is represented by the painting she did of Green Tara hanging above Jessica's head). Good times!