Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Can I just tell you how much I love is such an amazing website; eons ago when I was a teaching assistant I looked up lesson plans for my students, vacation and weekend crafts for my kids, and today I'm back at lesson plans for my four year old to keep him arting and learning until he begins kindergarten. I get their monthly newsletters, and wanted to share this month's with you, as many families are taking vacations and day-trips this time of year. My little one is especially interested in the layered book, and wants to make one the next time we go to the local Discovery Center for our weekly animal class.  Happy arting!!
Souvenir Suitcase craft 
Children always need places to store their travel treasures. Take a dream vacation with them as they cover their suitcase with handmade travel stickers.

  • 1.
    Choose a box for your suitcase. A one-piece sneaker box is great because the lid is attached.
  • 2.
    Cut construction or white paper into rectangles with Crayola® Scissors. Draw pictures of places you have visited or hope to visit on your travel stickers. Use Crayola Crayons and Crayola Washable Markers to create scenes of parks, picnics, famous places, cities, beaches, or mountains. You could also include vehicles such as cars or planes.
  • 3.
    Write travel words or destinations on more rectangles. Have fun! Visit the Big Apple! Customs! are some examples. Make up more words of your own.
  • 4.
    Attach stickers to your Souvenir Suitcase with Crayola Glue Sticks. Point them in different directions to cover your suitcase.
  • 5.
    To make a suitcase handle, ask an adult to poke two holes through one end of the box. Thread ribbon through the holes, and knot the ends inside the box.

Memorable Times Together craft
Make and save your memories on vacation, at camp—or wherever and whenever you go away!

  • 1.
    These three accessories are perfect for preserving your good times. Make them all, before or after your trip.
  • 2.
    Postcard Pouch. Postcards deserve a special place! To make a pouch to organize them, fold Crayola Neon Color Explosion® Paper in half. Decorate the pouch with Neon Color Explosion Markers and foam pieces. Punch holes along both sides. Lace with ribbon. Embellish with Glitter Glue. Air-dry the glue.
  • 3.
    Treasure Box. Looking for a spot to keep travel or camp treasures? Glue pieces of decorated Neon Color Explosion Paper and ribbon onto a recycled cardboard box to make a keepsake box. Air-dry the glue. Place your pictures, souvenirs, and other mementos inside.
  • 4.
    Tiny Tee. Create a vacation shirt you can’t outgrow! Cut out a thin cardboard T-shirt or use a paper maché T-shirt ornament. Color your T-shirt with Crayola True to Life™ Markers. Decorate the tee with vacation-inspired designs and foam stickers. Punch a
  • 5.
    Pack all your vacation-themed crafts into a tote bag like the one you can make in Vacation Take-Along Pack!

Layered Book craft
Use Crayola Neon Color Explosion Paper and Markers to make a book about your summer vacation, about your dreams for the new school year or all about you and your friends. Great for school projects or as a unique birthday card, this craft is fun, fast, and

  • 1.
    Directions for a Simple Layered Book: Choose one piece of Neon Color Explosion paper. Fold down the top edge (about an inch or 2cm). Press the fold so you get a firm crease.
  • 2.
    Fold a second piece of Neon Color Explosion paper. This time fold down a bigger flap (about 3 inches or 7cm). Tuck this folded piece under the flap of the first one.
  • 3.
    Glue the two pieces together. Squeeze a line of Crayola School Glue under each flap by the fold. Press down and hold.
  • 4.
    Use Neon Color Explosion Markers to write on each layer of your layered book. Draw pictures under the flaps.
  • 5.
    Directions for a Layered Book with even more layers! Start with 5 pieces of Neon Color Explosion paper, one of each color. Arrange so the short edges are all at the top.
  • 6.
    Use a ruler to measure down one inch (2cm) on the first one. Make a small mark on one side.
  • 7.
    Measure two inches (5cm) down on the next. Measure and mark three inches (7cm)down from the top on the third piece. Measure and mark four inches (10cm) down on the fourth piece of paper. Save the fifth piece for later.
  • 8.
    Now fold each one on the mark you made, lining up the edges to make folds straight! The fifth piece gets folded in half.
  • 9.
    Arrange all of the folded pieces in order with one tucked inside the other so you can see the layers.
  • 10.
    Squeeze a line of Crayola School Glue under the first flap along the fold and press down to attach. Then fold up the next flap over the first one and glue underneath. Keep doing that for each flap until they are all glued together.
  • 11.
    You’re ready to make designs!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rustic Cuisine?

     More fan-girl gushing here, my friends. This time about simple, delicious, so-called rustic cuisine that people have been eating for hundreds of years and will continue to eat for hundreds to come. That's probably the biggest disadvantage to being an American. We have no historic food culture. (That, and the fact that through our own actions {broadly speaking} we have a reputation of being pushy, loud-mouthed, arrogant bastards. If I ever get to travel, I swear I will use the very good manners I have been taught.)
     Granted, this reason is because we are a country of many different cultures, and believe me, I'm not complaining. We have access to so much amazing food, music, art, that there's plenty to 'borrow' if you're like me. (And, let's face it: being of English, Swede, Irish, Scots, Welsh and German descent, my own food cultures leave a lot to be desired. Unless you like scones. Which I do. Though I haven't had an opportunity to try any authentic or even Americanized {i.e. ruined} German food...except sauerkraut. Which I love. German readers, share recipes, I beg of you!)
     Anyway, here is what I made for dinner this evening. Probably (broadly) Italian (maybe Sicilian?), definitely delicious. Another Rachael Ray (which is why I'm thinking Sicilian): Parmesan Polenta with Mushrooms and Chard. Simple, unfussy, delicious. Comfort food at its best.

  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 cup quartered white mushrooms (I used an entire 10 ounce package) 
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan (I used grated Asiago. I don't like Parm.)

     In medium pot, boil stock. Add polenta and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, 20 minutes. In large skillet, cook garlic in EVOO over medium until golden, 2 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook 5 minutes. Add chard and cook until wilted, 3 minutes; season. Stir cheese into polenta; season. Serve topped with mushroom mixture.


     And no, I'm not going to post daily about my dinner adventures (unless they get really wild) but if I manage to make something that makes me salivate while I'm cooking (I LOVE the smell of garlic cooking in good olive oil!!) and the first bite makes me say "Oh my god, this is GOOD!" I am definitely going to share it. Because something that causes gastric happiness should be shared with the world. Or at least with the people that drop by to read my ramblings.
     Speaking of olive oil, I am currently reading Mort Rosenblum's fascinating, informative and entertaining book Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit. It's making me want to plant olive trees and make my own olive oil. I live in Massachusetts. Not going to be a success. However, one can dream.
Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit

And still more family summer fun....

     If you live in Massachusetts (or are planning to visit), the Highland Street Foundation is hosting their annual Free Fun Fridays series: 67 museums and cultural venues open for free on Fridays all summer long. As I cannot seem to copy and paste (gr) the link is below:

This Friday the choices are:

   The Freedom Trail Foundation (Boston)
   Battleship Cove (Fall River)
   The Children's  Museum in Easton (I have NO idea where Easton is, lol)
  Tower Hill Botanic Garden (Boylston)
   Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University (Boston)
  Cape Cod Museum of Art (Dennis)
  Danforth Art (Framingham)

    Admission is free to all of these places this Friday; you'll want to bring cash or credit with you for food, souvenirs, etc., not to mention a camera, and if you're going to do the Freedom Trail, very comfortable shoes. (I've done it. Great walk. Long walk.)   Enjoy your Friday!

Food Fan-Girl post

     I'm going to rave about food for a moment here. I promised you food earlier, and failed to deliver, but I am about to make it up to you in this single post. Last night I made the most kick-a$$ burritos for dinner: spicy, tangy, zippy, everything people like me love in Tex-Mex cooking. I take no credit for this. I have a subscription to Rachael Ray magazine. Thank you, Rachael Ray.

7 Layer Burritos


  • 2 cans spicy vegetarian refried beans (16 ounces each)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped, divided
  • 3 jalapeño chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped, divided
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • Salt
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 4 large flour tortillas
  • 3/4 pound pepper Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 heart of romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
Serves 4


In a medium size saucepan, heat the beans with the stock, hot sauce and cumin over medium-low, stirring until warm, about 10 minutes.

In a medium size bowl, combine half the onion and jalapeños with the lemon juice and garlic. Season with salt; let stand for 10 minutes. Mash in the avocados to make the guacamole.

In a small bowl, toss the remaining onion and jalapeños with the tomatoes and cilantro to make the salsa; season with salt.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add one tortilla and cook until it starts to blister, about 1 minute per side. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Place one tortilla on a work surface. Spread on a quarter of the cheese, some romaine, guacamole, salsa, sour cream and olives. Roll it up, burrito-style. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and fillings.

Cut the burritos in half; divide among plates.

This is one of many "Yum-o!" recipes – it's good and good for you. To find out more about Yum-o!, Rachael's nonprofit organization, visit

     Somehow my stepson ate 3. It was all I could do to finish one, and I felt like I was going to pop. Fortunately, there are leftovers. I will be having a very happy lunch today. Enjoy!!! (I know I did!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WildSister Magazine

To celebrate their third birthday, WildSister is offering everyone free copy of the July 2014 issue! Check it out here:


Are you living your life consciously?

If not, how can you change this? If you're not sure, read more.

How do I know I am living my life consciously? This question came to me as I stood at my kitchen counter preparing a morning cup of tea, gazing out at the neighbor's immense apple tree. I pondered it as I sipped my tea. How do I know? I realized I know when I'm not, and that seemed like as good a place as any to begin exploring this new question.

Dropping in....

This is just a quick line to say I have not forgotten about my pathetic little blog; I have a bunch of things to share: more family activities, posts for SageWoman, links to WildSister magazine, garden updates and food...and I will be back, hopefully later today, to begin this stuff! Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer plans...?

     Saturday. No plans, no beach visits or day trips scheduled: my husband's work schedule is just too busy. I suppose I should be thankful for books (well, more than the obvious, I mean) for the escapism they provide. I have recently visited the glittering court of Catherine the Great; now I am walking the dark streets of Victorian London as killers stalk their prey. (Despite the fact that I am a reasonably well-adjusted person, Jack the Ripper holds endless fascination for me. Sick, I know. Ditto the incredibly violent movie The Crow. I don't get it either.)
     And so, instead of packing my family up and heading to some unknown destination (fun as that would be) I will tuck myself into a leafy corner of my vine-engulfed back steps with book, tea and journal and travel the vicarious wordways of others' works.
     Here's a few of the more interesting 'armchair travel' books I've read recently:

     I'll stop now! Not all of these are travel books; some are works of fiction that are so perfectly crafted that they take you away from where you are and place you squarely in the middle of the story's landscape. Happy travels!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More family summer fun...

probably of more interest to littler ones, but my 17 year old is pretty excited by this too. (But he's a science kid, so I guess it is to be expected!)

Pressing Plants and Flowers Supports Summer Learning & Memories

Creative documenting of summer blooms capture memories and learning

Herbariums are collections of preserved plants and are fun ways for families to preserve summer memories while supporting an interest in botany and local habitats.
As the many flowering plants of the summer grow buds, burst into bloom, and fall to the ground to make way for the next wave of plants to come into season, children often collect specimens of their favorite colorful plants in an attempt to preserve them for endless enjoyment and examination. Inevitably, flowers in a vase will wilt, but carefully pressed and preserved plants can maintain a version of favorite plants that can be enjoyed and examined no matter the season. Pressed plants and flowers can be used for a variety of purposes, and lend themselves in particular to art projects and scientific observations. When compiled as a collection, pressed flowers can serve as a family herbarium – serving as documentation of springs and summers past.

There are a variety of techniques for pressing plants and flowers, the simplest of which requires only a sizable chapter book. Flowers carefully placed amongst the pages of a book will dry out and flatten, but may stain the book’s pages and will be very fragile once removed from the book. To press flowers and leaves in larger quantities than the average chapter book will allow (and with better results), build your own press using a few pieces of wood, screws, paper towels, and corrugated cardboard (as well as some basic power tool skills). Once flattened and dried, flowers can be further preserved using sturdy, acid-free paper and either plant-safe glue or a needle and thread. In addition to preserving flowers, families can use simple but specific techniques to dry and preserve succulents or favorite fruits and vegetables.

A summer filled with plant drying and preserving is a great way to build fodder for an herbarium. Used as a resource for learning about plants, herbaria include not only plant specimens but basic information about the place and time where plants were found. A family herbarium could serve as a resource for learning about the time of year when particular plants appear or bloom, and can also support children in learning to identify parts of plants and in recognizing the characteristics that set one plant apart from another. Try sorting, classifying, and categorizing your specimens as a family – even if children don’t sort according to the scientific criteria for identifying plants, sorting activities challenge children to think critically and to make specific observations about the items that they sort. Such close observation inevitable leads to learning!

In addition to being resource for learning about plants during any time of year, a family herbarium could serve as a plant-based memory book. When cataloging your collection, add not only the place where each plant was found, but details about the family adventure that lead to its discovery. Pages can be created to remember specific trips, hikes, and other adventures, and the dried plants and flowers will be well-preserved as nature treasures, lasting for years and years when properly treated. Visit our archived post on journal making to find resources for compiling and creating homemade books. Imagine how wonderful it will be to look back at a family herbarium when children are older – not only will they remember the fun that they had exploring a stream one July, but they’ll remember learning about the plants that surrounded them at the time, and they’ll remember connecting with the landscape in a way that they otherwise may not have.

And if you are here in Massachusetts with me...
Storrowton Village, July 10th.
Take your interest in plants and herbariums and let it inspire your family to learn about our local history at different events happening this summer. Learn about the medicinal, culinary, textile, and household uses of many common 18th and 19th-century plants at Storrowton Village Museum on a free tour of Aunt Helen’s Herb Garden on Thursday, July 10 from 10am-1pm. Many plants that we consider weeds today were used widely for many purposes in the past. Joe Pye weed, for instance, was believed to have been a cure for typhus! Visitors to the museum can learn about these plants, tour the garden, learn why early Americans were not concerned with weeds like we are today, and see demonstrations on how these plants were used. This is a fun opportunity to learn about gardens of the past and to tour this particular garden, which was given to the Village’s founder (and garden’s namesake), Helen O. Storrow, in 1935! Storrowton Village is located at 1305 Memorial Avenue in West Springfield, MA. Call 413-205-5051 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 413-205-5051 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting for more information.

Running every day this summer until August 14, families can participate in a hands-on History Workshop at Historic Deerfield – “A Botanical Journey: Exploring Plants and People in the Past.” You can learn about the importance of certain plants to New Englanders of the past and learn how to make an herbarium and pressed flowers. Visitors can also explore the museum using a botanical guide to make connections between plants and what they are seeing in exhibitions and the museum’s grounds. Check out a museum pass from your local library and head to Historic Deerfield for this drop-in activityconnecting history with the plants of New England.

(This post taken directly from )