57 posts categorized "Crafts & Hobbies"

A balancing act: A guest post from a performing artist parent

May 10, 2014

Guest post from Camellia Nieh, who will be performing with TEMPOS Tuesday and Wednesday.

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photo © Dan Kim

A year ago, my husband I joined a performance group called TEMPOS, blending acrobatics, dance, and physical theater with live music. My husband writes and performs music for the group, and I perform acrobatics. Acrobatics is my passion…it makes me feel strong and alive. Music is my husband’s. We feel so lucky to have found an outlet that enables us both to work creatively together.

Our six-year-old son, Uzi, is less thrilled about our artistic projects. TEMPOS takes up a lot of our time. Friends and family support us a lot with childcare, and we have a fantastic babysitter whom he loves. But Uzi still wishes we would just stay home with him every night. Sometimes he cries when I have to leave for a rehearsal.

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photo © Ty Chance

I feel conflicted about the time I invest in creative pursuits. My husband is less conflicted. He assures me that it’s better for Uzi to see us dedicating ourselves to what we love. That it makes us happier, more balanced parents, and that it sets a good example, too. Fundamentally, I think he’s right. My hope is that when Uzi is older, he’ll look back and be proud of us for being performers. He’ll feel enriched by the evenings he spent hanging out backstage, tumbling with a crew of playful acrobats, or in the music studio in our basement, learning drumbeats and experimenting with the mixing board. Also, my mother sacrificed her personal aspirations to raise our family, and while we’re deeply grateful to her for devoting so much of herself to us, it was also hard always knowing that she felt so unfulfilled.

How do you balance what you love to do with the needs of your children? Do you feel conflicted about the time and resources you invest in doing things you love? Do you wish your own parents had invested more in their own passions, or less?

Throwback Thursday: Extracurricular Activities

September 19, 2013

As we settle into our school-years, some of us settle into a schedule of extracurricular activities.  Today's Throwback Thursday recounts past conversations on extracurriculars:

And some open threads:

And - finally - what do you do while waiting?

School's Out! What to do with that big bag of stuff?

June 15, 2012

I set myself a couple of deadlines today, and naturally, that meant it was time to organize. I spent most of the day doing important tasks like (1) straightening and dusting the bookshelf and organizing the kids' books alphabetically by series (instead of alphabetically by author, as they had been); (2) filing all my New Yorkers by date and culling a bunch of other magazines straight into recycling; and (3) opening and organizing that big bag of school stuff Truman brought home from first grade earlier this week.

It was mid-afternoon when I found the big bag of school stuff Truman brought home from kindergarten. An entire year ago! One of the items, for instance, was a still-wrapped stack of picture books from his kindergarten teacher. Well: it looks like I've had a whole year of failing to organize. We have a bunch of the sorts of things they send home; leftover watercolor paints, pretty erasers and special pencils, tiny notebooks and bags of crayons and colored pencils and safe scissors. Selected art and writing from his in-school work, and a couple of keepsake pictures and little memory "yearbooks."

I can find a home for a lot of it mixed into the regular craft stuff (one area where I've done a good job -- err, my sister has done a good job -- creating a lovely organizational system for the kids that everyone understands and can fix up). I know I should do something, like turn a magazine box into a memory box for each child's yearbooks and start them on scrapbooks of their favorite homework. (I'm going to do this. Really!)

Continue reading "School's Out! What to do with that big bag of stuff?" »

Happy Easter! What's In Your Basket?

April 08, 2012

My nine-year-old, the skeptic, and I had a long discussion about Easter last night, pondering the historical fact, faith, and pagan ritual origins of Easter -- and how odd it was that so much of America, excepting those of Jewish faith among us, celebrate it with a kind of crazy mashup of rebirth/fertility/crucifixion. The very name 'Easter' comes from a Germanic pagan goddess, 'Ostara,' and hares are a pagan and medieval fertility symbol. At least according to Wikipedia. (We also learned that rabbits and hares can conceive while already pregnant with a litter. Insane!)

So, it was with this jaded, somewhat secular, perspective that I began idly browsing through casual friends' Instagram photos late last night. Oh my: what was here made even my Christmas stockings and Santa rituals look impoverished. A basket for every kid, for starters, most of them stocked with actual bags of candy, 12"-high chocolate rabbits, toys, and (evidently) plastic eggs filled with more toys and cash. Whoa. I'd spent $6 on Easter candy at Trader Joe's, and I had a little box of Jelly Belly beans my husband bought when he was home on leave.

I knitted an Easter basket several years ago, and it's pretty and I use it once a year, so there won't be another two joining it. This is Easter: one basket, six bucks. I was so humbled by other mama's Easter offerings, I didn't even fill the basket until after I made my coffee and washed the dishes this morning. My kids seemed perfectly happy. (I felt especially anti-social after my husband left this time, so we won't have an opportunity to compare Easter hauls until Monday!)

This morning, last night's Easter basket filling photos were joined with photos of happy, bleary kids and thank-you notes from the Easter Bunny (next to a plate of baby carrots) and living rooms littered with empty eggs and candy wrappers. Somehow, I'd just forgotten that this happened, and it took me by surprise in my current emotional state of skepticism, social avoidance and cash-poverty. We made French toast. We finished our carrot garlands. I put on my clothes for a run. I felt -- guilty and crochety.

I wonder: what's in your Easter basket? I know there are lots of secular mamas and Jewish families in our audience, in addition to lots of faithful church-goers, and I'd love to hear what you think of this holiday, and what you had waiting for your kids this morning.

Valentines: Let's talk crafty

February 02, 2012

It's my favorite time of year to get all paper-y. Early February carries so much promise! I can't wait to come up with some combination of scissors, paints, hearts and paper that will perfectly demonstrate my kids' big, big hearts.

In 2010, for Truman, we cut up some of his old art work and made it into pretty little arrow/heart collages -- one of my all-time favorite combinations of a kid's art with a mama's execution. I was humming Jon Bon Jovi the whole time. Somehow this seemed festive!

Last year, for both Everett and Truman, I found a little envelope template and painstakingly (note: I find this pain fun -- endorphins? something!) printed out, cut and glued 40-some envelopes decorated with photos I'd taken. The boys got to pick between valentine heart candy and dragons, and then I had Everett draw some pictures of dragons with little funny sayings -- "I'm on fire for you, Valentine," and things like that -- and we scanned and printed a bunch of them.

Remembering at the last minute that children only love valentines if they're accompanied by candy, we ran to the store for mini chocolate bars to go alongside. This year, inspired by my Halloween epiphany, I'll be buying the organic lollipops. (I've done the math and, at less than 19 cents apiece, the organic lollipops are cheaper than the mini chocolate bars with the not-so-cruelty-free chocolate.)

Speaking of lollipops. If you too want a sweet homemade card that's not too difficult, you should check out Kristen Howerton's amazing idea. She calls it the "slacker mom" valentine, but really? She is no slacker! Four kids and valentines already done before January was out. And they're super sweet, with each kid posing with a closet rod (you could use a plastic pipe) in front of a chalkboard with the message, "Happy Valentine's Day, Love ___." The kid only has to write his or her name once -- and then the empty space above the closet rod is filled in with a real-life lollipop. Adorable.

I'd love to see your ideas about homemade valentines, or other heart-day crafts. What do you have planned?

(We've talked before about homemade vs. storebought valentines, if you want to add to that debate! And what do you do with your family for this day of love?)

Organizing with kids: A thankless task? How do you stay inspired?

January 25, 2012

I've never been what you might call "great" at organization. I love to have organized spaces, I do -- I even enjoy the process of organization when, from time to time, I put my mind to nothing but. What I don't have much (ever) is the space and time to do that. I have an inspiring idea on how to organize something, or a fantastic open afternoon, or some great reason to get neat and clean (sadly, this is often "I want to take a picture and there is a mess in the background" -- but any port in the storm, right?).

Thank goodness for my youngest sister, Abby. She has been a babysitting rock for me through the years, and would regularly undergo spurts of amazing effort. I would come home from a run or a meeting to see something like the above scene: a transformed space, neatly labeled, using the supplies on hand, no more. This, a little free-pile bookshelf set on an awkward-shaped square table with little plastic boxes and a big plastic box, has been in use for over a year -- I just have to keep it organized. And the boys always know where to find everything.

My sister Abby had a baby this summer, and since then, I've been flying solo. Thank goodness for Asha and her organization chat a few days ago to keep me inspired. I've been trying for months (ok, over a year now) to get a huge pile of paper -- that grows all the time from two boys in school and many reams of writing group notes -- organized. She had the great idea of tackling the pile of papers for just 15 minutes at a time, setting a timer and planning to go back to it the next day. Boston Mama Christine Koh posted a link to this on Pinterest -- a pretty, pretty use for clipboards to organize children's art and papers.

Which comes to the topic of Pinterest. Lately, Pinterest is how I've been staying inspired to keep organized; although I've heard many lament that the site is nothing but eye candy for craft ideas (and none of them actually get done), I've slowly been incorporating the ideas into my to-do lists and -- ok, I'll be honest -- doing things just so I can take photos and pin them. Nothing gets me going like a little repinning!

How do you keep your house organized with all the papers and art supplies and toys? How do you stay inspired? If you, like me, just don't ever feel like you have the time to focus (and, when you do, the kids are busy totally annihilating another room of the house), how do you make it happen? Or do you just throw up your hands over periods of weeks (I'm ashamed to photograph my dining table) and let the mess prevail?

Also check out this huge list of organization resources -- which I haven't yet had time to click through. If I did, I wouldn't have time to keep the pile of papers under control!

Crafty Wonderland: It's Portlandic!

December 13, 2011

Urbanmamas_crafty_pockets-cropOh, Portlandia. How you have pointed out in living ultracolor the adorable ridiculousness of Portland.

I was one of the people who (in my own parts imitative and parts mildly inventive way) Put A Bird On It before It was a slogan. I, along with my friend Larissa, was a vendor at an original early version of Crafty Wonderland, on Mother's Day years ago at the Doug Fir. Yes: I had birds on things (and, actually, birds). Now Crafty Wonderland is a full-on extravaganza, complete with thousands of customers (16,000, this year) and a convention center locale.

Walking into the convention center late on the second day of the extravaganza was eerie -- it was a souped-up, echo-ey, blinding version of the one at which I'd vended so many years earlier. Oh, yes, marginally better light. I watched the crafty, local-loving people wandering around, never looking at faces because there was so much stuff to look at instead. I watched the vendors, alternately yawning; staring hopefully at the eyes of passers-by for buy signals, ready to jump up and offer their hard-labored wares; and frantically making more.

At one booth I saw two or three people with quiet portable sewing machines, making more of whatever they were selling. At 4:30 on Sunday -- with less than two hours to go for the weekend -- it almost seemed sad. Not that I couldn't relate to the impulse.

I had forgotten my wallet (not that I had the money to spend, anyway), so I collected photographs and business cards of my favorite vendors. As I still can't afford to buy their beautiful things, I thought I'd share with you -- maybe you can buy some of this great stuff and assuage my guilt as (in some cases) I sew it myself.

Urbanmamas_crafty_biastapePolly Danger Notions. Folding scissors and fabric-covered buttons were sweet and lovely. But it was the handmade bias tape that had me falling over myself to grab a card. Such a great idea -- I've made my own bias tape before and it's a time-consuming process, hard to accept when you're already spending a bunch of time on some lovely project and just want to get on with it already.

lisa johnston-smith functional ceramics. Line-drawings of animals and insects and vegetables seems to be very much the fad this year (Portlandia, are you listening? Put a beetle on it? Put a beet on it?), and these lovely bowls and vases and mugs are supposed to be "made for everyday use." Awesome. I wish I could afford to drink out of one of those mosquito mugs every day!

Continue reading "Crafty Wonderland: It's Portlandic!" »

Merry Christmas! (The shopping version)

November 08, 2011

The Sunday after Halloween was the launch of the holiday shopping season; I found two "toy books" and several other circulars in the paper. I've also been getting a steady stream of holiday-themed catalogs, with a wealth of options from personalized stockings to adorable little-girl Christmas dresses to the always-popular gift for all adult women: fleece-lined slippers in reds and greens. Fancy holiday candies. A needlepoint iPad case? Just the thing!

In Friday's Oregonian was the a&e Holiday Event Guide, with photos of Christmas ships and the Pioneer Courthouse Square tree lighting and the Nutcracker and ads for the Northwest Children's Theater performance of 'Willy Wonka' and -- hilariously -- the 'Festival of the Last Minute' at Saturday Market (Dec. 17 - 24). "Procrastinators Rejoice!" says the ad copy. Procrastinators should be quaking in their boots if they're already reading about procrastination on November 4th.

I've barely finished canning tomatoes and am ready for a week -- just a week -- of not planning for anything before we start planning for Thanksgiving. I'm not ready for Christmas shopping yet, with the exception of having the great comeback to all requests for toy purchases made by my kids: "well, let's put that on your Christmas list, shall we?"

But all these ads and the beginnings of decorations in the stores has got me already stressing about Christmas shopping, even that gorgeous and fun idea from Martha Stewart Living's November issue: an Advent gift chain (for which I had better start shopping today if I'm going to make it happen). I'm not even much of a shopper, but I get bit by the bug about December 19th each year and want to go running around town with a wad of cash. (My cash wads being as they are, this is rarely much of a run.)


I was shaking my head derisively at all this precocious consumerism when I remembered -- I'd already bought one Christmas gift early (some cozy wool socks for my newest little nephew). And I asked my husband last night for the go-ahead to spend some of the family dime on the Icebreaker friends and family sale next week; for me and for Christmas gifts.

So yes, I do start shopping this early, probably because of all the glossy pretty pictures delivered to my mailbox and doorstep. Insidious! How about you: when do you start shopping for the holidays? How do you feel about the ubiquity of those happy smiling moms with cozy snowflake sweaters in your mailbox or email inbox? Does it make you happy or frantic? What would you rather be doing with your mental energies (if anything) other than worrying that you're already behind on your shopping?

Halloween costumes sans context

October 28, 2011

Forget the debates over costumes in schools: I adore Halloween costumes and I spent hours last night sewing -- and probably will sneak in a little today and tomorrow among my work. This is my big leagues, my fashion week, my favorite time of the year to be a parent. I love to make costumes!

Last year, the boys were, in order of age, a fighting prince (a prince inspired by "Prince Caspian" from the Narnia book illustrations), a ninja, and a knight. The ninja costume was mostly something we'd picked up at the Goodwill Bins; the mask had been shredded, so I made a new one out of some old black silk lining leftover from a longago project. But the knight and prince were my crowning costuming achievements in eight years of Halloweens. I spent $40 or $50 for organic cotton canvas at Cool Cottons. I finally used that fabric paint I'd bought in 2009. I made bias trim. It was overkill, but I loved every last-minute rushed bit of it.

The boys use their costumes -- at least parts of them -- for years afterward, so I get to enjoy the fruits of my intense labors all year. And this year, Monroe is re-using the best of my costumery from last year again -- he'll be a knight fighting under a dragon regalia. Truman loves to be a "mage," so I stayed up until all hours crafting a dramatic and textural mage cape. Everett wants to be a zombie survivor, and I contemplated for days before coming up with a way to (hopefully) evoke this: he'll be dressed as a runner, with torn spots on his sweat pants and t-shirt, maybe a "bloody" handprint on his pants, an old-fashioned sweat band, ripped tube socks. I didn't spend a penny this year, using all old fabric (bought for other projects or on a whim in my intemperate 20s) and old clothes, which makes the endeavor all the more satisfying.

For once, I'm mostly done with the costumes now and can just set about enjoying the weekend with my boys and their imaginations and hopefully not toxic amounts of sugar -- we are planning to go to a few farmer's market celebrations in addition to the school harvest party and the ordinary Halloween night trick-or-treating. What are your children dressing up as this year? How about you? Any siblings or parent-child costume complements?

A great idea: Cake Pan Library or Exchange

April 05, 2010

In our city, there are tool libraries that have grown into huge resources for our community.  What about a cake pan library?   An urbanMama recently emailed:

What a great idea - I am having a star wars themed party for my son on April 10th and was looking to get an R2D2 cake pan - but they are over $60.  That's when I came across these "cake pan libraries" that are associated with local libraries, like this one in Indiana.  Does Portland have anything similar?  Do any uranMamas have a R2D2 cake pan I could please borrow?

What a great idea!  How can we get a cake pan library started?  Perhaps we could just help to facilitate a cake pan exchange?

Valentine's Day (observed): what's in your child's valentine box?

February 12, 2010


What was Valentine's Day like when you were a kid? In my kindergarten at Sunnyside School, I distinctly recall a special paper bag we made for Valentine's Day and taped to our desks; every kid would circle the room dropping off the little cards in the bags. Later, I remember a shoebox I decorated with hearts and in which I invested so many hopes and dreams: for candy, for childhood true love.

This year, after a few messy hours pouring paint and glitter glue onto paper at CHAP with some of the awesome urbanMamas and children, we spent several days at home cutting out hearts, gluing, and for Everett, writing silly jokes in pencil all over construction paper (interspersed with hearts of course). His favorite: a sappy saying, which he finds hilarious, from a puppy valentine book we got from last year's Valentine's Day, or perhaps a re-telling of 'Jingle Bells,' complete with toilet humor. For Truman, I ended up making little Cupid's arrows from one of his great sponge paintings brought home from preschool. He wrote his name in the "from" section. Everett had to finish Truman's task: "it's too much work!" said he, although he painted one enormous valentine for his favorite friend, from scratch.

All but one of the valentines that came home in Truman's bag from preschool were storebought, and most of them had candy attached; it didn't surprise me, as this year I read a few blog posts and Twitter statuses that seemed to indicate a backlash to the craft-drudgery of creating valentines for kids (not that I've seen, in either of my boys' schools or even my own dining room table, a Martha Stewart-worthy alternative). So I was curious: how much work did you do this year? Did you do it all and resent it? Does your school opt out of Valentine's Day? Did your kids make their own and love every minute? Or were you (like me, to hear Truman's cries yesterday morning) a wicked taskmaster bent on forcing her child to write his name a good dozen-and-a-half times? Or did you feel that siren call of the Spiderman valentines and do the store-bought thing?


Heart-to-heart Valentine-making event, Saturday February 6

February 03, 2010

Is there any annual holiday whose crafts I more enjoy than Valentine's Day? It's definitely on my top three. But many years, I find myself cutting out hearts as the sun sets on the 13th, watching the missed opportunities for Valentine delight setting along with them.

Determined to not let this year be a missed opportunity, a few of us urbanMamas are gathering Saturday at 3 p.m. at CHAP (the Children's Healing Art Project), a nonprofit that provides in-hospital art experiences for sick children and a space in the Pearl District -- the Art Factory -- to host open art "play" during weekends and daily throughout the holiday season. We'll be making Valentines with our kids and hope you can come too!

1030 NW Marshall
Saturday, February 6
3 - 5 p.m.

Please let us know if you plan to come in the comments; we'll be picking up the $5/child tab for those urbanMama families who join in.

the last-minute mama: It's teacher gift time!

December 17, 2009

Thank goodness for Asha of Parenthacks, who tweeted about 45 minutes before I was due to pick Truman up from his last day of preschool before the break. She was making this chai concentrate from the Oregonian (lots of good homemade food gift ideas in this series, too) for her kids' teachers. Forty-one minutes later, I'd decided upon some of my fanciest jars of homemade preserves and decorative doohickeys to cover the lids, and off I went. But now I must get together gifts for Everett's teachers to avoid (I type only 16-some hours before his bus picks him up) the last minute.

Last year I had it really together, and purchased farmer's market tokens the Saturday prior to the last week of school. Smart hmm? I even made sweet little notes mentioning our favorite vendors and pointing out that the last farmer's market of the season would be the Saturday after school got out. Though I still think that this is a great idea (more on that later), not only did my gifts almost not get given due to snowed-out school, the last market day of the year was so cold Portland Farmer's Market canceled. Sure, the tokens were good in the spring, but who knows if the teachers remembered where they put them.

While most of we urbanMamas founders had little ones in daycare, we chatted about gifts for daycare providers. Among the comments there was a link to this post about teacher gifts; throughout all these I found many good ideas and themes. Here are some of the most commonly-mentioned ones:

  • Gift certificates are the best gift of all (though rarely, teachers find them impersonal). Not only did one daycare provider ask for "a certificate to either a toy store or a supply store. Why? Because, I swear, I lose at least one toy a day due to toddler destruction," but gift certificates can be regifted (I suspect my middle sister, a teacher, of having done this on more than one occasion). I thought my farmer's market token idea was brilliant at the time; but you may want to choose a year-round market.
  • Gift certificate ideas: coffee shop, New Seasons, craft store, toy store, restaurant you know is convenient to teacher's home/school, co-op (I saw Truman's preschool teacher at People's so I can give her a GC with confidence!), Fred Meyer, spas, massage therapists, Escential, Powell's, one of Portland's awesome chocolate shops (Alma or Sahagun), other ideas?  
  • Winter-themed or holiday-themed ornaments, either purchased or made by your children, are welcome for teachers if you know what holiday they celebrate. Warning: make sure you're certain they celebrate Christmas before giving them Jesus in a popsicle-stick manger.
  • Food gifts. The Oregonian, as I mentioned, had a nice roundup of gift ideas; hot cocoa mix spiced with something unusual (chile? cinnamon? star anise?), homemade preserves (especially ice cream toppings), homemade spice blends, dried chiles, and pickles seem good choices. Buy some fantastic finishing salt from the Meadow, if you really love your child's teacher (vanilla salt!). Homemade vanilla is the hot gift this year (so says my Twitter stream); I'm making one batch with a star of star anise in addition to vanilla (I tested this myself and it's delicious -- but if you make it tonight, be sure and add a best-by date on label). However. Please remember, this being the city it is, many many people have very strict food rules, either due to values or aversions or allergies or some other things altogether (fear of pesticides maybe!). It would be unfortunate to give homemade Tollhouse cookie dough to a locavore teacher who doesn't do sugar or gluten. If you don't know, skip the food. At the very least, list ingredients with as much specificity as possible.
  • Crafty mamas. I have faith in my ability to make something with my own hands that a teacher will like. Perhaps it's hubris, but I'm going with it. I am, I think, about to head upstairs to my sewing room to pull together some reusable market bags for Everett's teachers and such, into which if I am still in possession of calm children, I will put some sort of food gift. Other relatively quick-to-make ideas I've come across in the past several minutes: quilted list takers (sweet); recycled sweater hats; retro apron; handspun yarn or needle roll (if you know teacher is a knitter). I'd love to hear your ideas.
  • Lotions & bath things. This wouldn't float my boat, but according to many online sources and real actual teachers, these are sometimes appreciated. To be safe (again remembering the city in which we live) I'd choose a brand with as few harmful surfactants and parabens and such as possible. One really excellent local brand is Wild Carrot Herbals; I met Jody, mama in charge, when she was hugely pregnant with her little daughter and I appreciate her products and principles mightily. You can find them at New Seasons, Limbo and People's Co-op (and probably other places, too).
  • No mugs! (Although if I were a teacher I would love a mug made by a local potter; I'm not a teacher so don't assume ;).
  • A nice letter. I was surprised how many times a teacher mentioned he or she treasured a thoughtful letter of appreciation. Especially, a hand-written one.

Turnoff Week: Ideas to get out and about

April 14, 2009

This year's "turnoff" week is next week, April 20 to 26.  And, instead of being billed as "Turn Off TV Week", the organizers, Center for Screen Time Awareness, is calling the week "Turnoff Week", meaning we unplug from not only TVs, but also videos, games, computers, cell phones, and iPods.

Why turn off?

  • Screen Time cuts into family time and is a leading cause of obesity in both adults and children.
  • In the US and other industrialized nations around the world, screen time use continue to increase every year. 
  • The average daily usage for all screens, in some countries, has reached 9 hours per day.  This is for recreational use of screens and does not include work time.
  • On average, people watch 4 hours of television and then spend another 4 plus hours with computers, games, video, iPods and cell phones

So, what can we do?  Here are some ideas to start:

  • Hit the playground, and invite school/neighborhood friends.  Make it a huge playdate!
  • Find out what activities your school may be hosting.  Better yet, offer to plan and host an activity.
  • Host a session of board game playing at the community center, library, school, or friends house.
  • Check out free or reduced-cost swim sessions at the public pools (Columbia on Wednesdays; Buckman on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays; and Dishman on Saturdays.  Call specific pools for details)
  • Gather friends for a short bike ride in the neighborhood.
  • Organize a scavenger or treasure hunt.
  • Check out the urbanMamas calendar for more ideas for fun.  There is something going on every day!

How will you be recognizing Turnoff Week this year?  What activities, if any, are planned at your school?

Need more tips or resources?  Kaiser has a great run down of sample activities, more information, and a screen-time toolkit to learn fun and healthful alternatives.  Check it here.

New baby for Hau inspires knitting group

March 13, 2009

Baby_feet_knitting Congratulations are in order. Last night at 10:19 p.m. -- less than 3 hours after she emailed to say she was headed to the hospital -- Hau and Joe welcomed baby Hendrik Hagedorn, 7 lbs 15 ozs, 20.5 inches. We're thrilled for them and I can't help but ask myself: what am I going to knit for the baby? A third boy deserves something special; for Monroe, my third little boy, it was a wild, swirly blanket of many colors. Richness is required, don't you think?

Which reminds me. Last Thursday in the Oregonian's In Portland section, I read a little story about a Catholic knitting group in Sullivan's Gulch. "Christ Child Society has met since 1964 at the Calaroga Terrace retirement home on Northeast Second Avenue to sew, knit and crochet clothes and bedding and package them with other items in layettes. But with membership declining from as many as 300 to 80 this year and the limited mobility of some members -- several were in their 90s -- the group decided it couldn't continue and held its final meeting last month," it went on. I was struck with a sudden, utter sadness and thought, couldn't we do it?

Shetha_knitted_blanket Last night, urbanMama Suzame gave me a ride home from an event we had both serendipitously been invited to attend, and mentioned the story, and how she and her husband had thought of me. It's fate, I said, and this morning I called Donna Kipp, from Multnomah County Health Department's Early Childhood Services, who had distributed the layettes to low income mothers, offering our services.

First-timer or third, low-income or middlin', every baby deserves some handmade items prepared with love. Do you have a little extra handmade love to go around? Would you like to get together occasionally to knit (and crochet and sew) it forward? If you're interested, say so; and if you can't wait to get started, meet me at Twisted next Thursday (March 19) around 11 a.m. I love the thought of being spiritual but non-denominational. What do you think?

S.C.R.A.P., Oh how I love thee!

December 29, 2008

DSC03401 It is always too long between visits.  Because it's not in my part of town.  S.C.R.A.P., that is.  The School & Community Reuse Action Project in NoPo. 

My husband and I met while employed at a garbage & recycling company (y-e-a-r-s ago), so the reuse thing is not new to me.  But as a parent of young kids, I have a whole new appreciation for the concept of cheap random junk that one can make endless art & other random crazy projects with.  Not to mention the many obvious benefits of using cast-offs rather than new stuff to play with.

And the best news in all this isn't that I actually made the winter break trip I meant to (and had promised), and  - predictably - we found plenty of awesome random cheap junk (e.g., needlepoint canvas, pumpkin & easter egg fabric, terrific painting paper, and used file folders), but that the whole shebang is moving closer to my house!  To SE Portland!  But they're not saying exactly where.  If you're as curious as I am, visit the SCRAP website to get a clue, and guess.  They should be moved in and open for business by mid-January and, if you're up for a holiday hunting and gathering trip (which I highly recommend), they're still open at their current location for awhile longer. 

My most exciting find (trailed closely by the wallpaper & twig book kits for $0.25) was the used tennis ball can full of small-ish random items, called a "To-Go Kit" (in the pic).  Like how often would that come in handy with young kids?  4, 5 times a day?  And each cost a mere $2.  Long car trips, waiting room waits, and mama playdates just got a whole lot easier, to name a few. 

Get on the SCRAP email list if you don't want to miss their goings on, which are always good, in my (cheap, junky, art-able) book.  In these economic times, who's gonna argue with a GINORMOUS, long-lasting, whimsical bag of tricks for $15? Plus, they were in the NYT.  Go SCRAP!

Handmade gifts for the kids

December 20, 2008

1233103558_3cfaa56f15_m I always have big plans for hand-made gifts, and truth be told it rarely happens.  This year, of course, will be different.  Right?  And maybe because I finally got wise and bought yarn for those really BIG needles.  No more unfinished projects for this mama! 

I often turn to the Soule Mama blog for inspiration (under the motto that if you're not gonna BE creative you might as well read about others who are), but I know full well the urbanMama community right here in Portland, Oregon (Soule Mama lives in the other Portland) is full of impressive hand crafters who likely are whipping up some impressive gifts for their kids this year. 

I, for one, am knitting scarves for both kids, as well as putting together painting 'kits,' consisting of small pieces of flat wood from my husband's wood shop, a paintbrush, and a few small pots of paint.  What about you?  What kid gifts are you crafting at home this year?  Any great local sources for quality, green, cheap, or unusual materials? 

[Pic courtesy of a crafty soul on Flickr commons.  Thanks!]

Handmade toys, children's clothes, even barrettes, could disappear

December 10, 2008

Oh, don't let it happen. Yesterday Chris Musser forwarded me an email about the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) (an act which generally does lovely things, such as ban the manufacture of toys with lead and phthalates and ban their importation into the U.S.). In it she detailed the requirements of this act, effective February 10, 2009; all toymakers must pay a testing fee of $4,000 per type of toy they make, as well as permanently labeling them with a batch number and date (requiring them to create new molds in many cases). What's more, this act covers children's clothing and accessories, meaning that every single small company that makes children's toys, t-shirts, skirts, barrettes, everything, could be forced to cease operation. This effects so many of you: those of you who make children's items, including cloth diapers; those of you who run Waldorf and Montessori preschools; those of you who own children's toy stores; those of you who like to buy handcrafted goods for your children.

The Handmade Toy Alliance has all the details and a petition to sign. Liz at Cool Mom Picks has lots of info about other ways you can get involved. Tell Earl Blumenauer your story: why do you value handcrafted toys?

Sir Mix-A-Lot

April 25, 2008

Out of nowhere, my 5-YO son became the mad mixer.  He has. to. mix. every waking moment.  Goop, glop, slop, you name it.  And it's the process that matters, of course, not the end result.  He's over the finished product as fast as you can hit the internet for the next recipe.  This is a desperate call for goop recipes.  Tonight we made flubber, our greatest success yet: interesting process, great colors, no mess.  We also made no-cook play-dough and tomorrow my husband is on deck for gunk, a 1:1 corn starch and water mixture.  Oh, and food dye.  Don't forget the ($4/box!) food dye. 

Don't get me wrong, I think it's all pretty cool and science experimenty.  But.  I can't keep up, and the flour and water was a d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r.   What's with the sudden, intense mixing obsession?  Got any recipes I should try??  Cause I'm gonna run out any day now.

Knitalong: Inspiring the DIY in Mamas

March 11, 2008

1904910932_c407cf4988_m When my mother first taught me to sew, I ended sewing my piece of fabric square firmly to the carpet. I had one of those "aha!" moments, wondering if I was destined to live my life in "home economics" hell.  I cannot say though that I haven't given it a good try.  Fast forward to the blessingway where I participated in handcrafting onsies for my soon-to-be-birthed second child.  Silly me, consumed with chatting with the other mamas, I ended up cutting up our hostesses table cloth for a terrific pattern I can conjured up in my head.  Oops!  Thankfully she forgave me for my blunder, and we are still friends to this day. 

In DIY Portland, sometimes I feel lost at sea in vast pool of creativity.  I am surrounded by those who knit, sew, bake, cook, fill-in-the-blank from  scratch.  I admire these mamas greatly for the stuff they create and the inspiration they bring in me to keep on trying to DIY even though most times I admittedly am not good at it. In homage to one of the great DIY-mamas, I invite you to a kick-off party to celebrate the highly anticipated release of Larissa's Knitalong book.  It's on Saturday from 4 pm to 6 pm at Abundant Yarn and Dyeworks in Sellwood (bring the kids).

Aside from Larissa and Sarah (of course), who are your favorites?  What are your favorite sites that break it down so even someone like myself can give it a try? What are your favorite crafting books?
Is it really as easy as it looks?

New Twist on an old Treat: Candy Sushi

November 19, 2007

This weekend we were feeling crafty in the kitchen and I'd like to share our results!


I had seen "candy sushi" before but thought some of it was a little silly with twinkies or powdered doughnuts as the rice.  To me, it seemed perfectly clear that candy sushi should be made with rice Krispie treats.  From there I decided fruit leather and fruit roll-ups are the perfect substitute for the fish.  Andrew (4.5 yrs) had fun helping me "cut" the shapes with a pizza cutter and was good at helping pour when making the rice krispie treats.  So, without further ado, here is my "how to" make candy sushi:

Ingredients list:
Rice Krispies Cereal
4 cups (or 10 oz) marshmallows
3 tbsp butter
Variety of Fruit Rollups / Fruit leathers (For the nori or seaweed, I used the "mariani" brand fruit roll-ups which are located in the produce section, not the snack aisle.  Sour apple has that dark green color).

Tools list:
Pot and spoon for mixing Rice Krispie treats
Saran Wrap/cellophane
Sushi Mat
Pizza cutter
Spray Oil (helps when working with the rice krispie mix)

2040767575_7e6d7fe93b_m_2 1)  Start by unpacking the fruit bits and cutting them to the sizes you like with the rolling pizza cutter.  Rectangles for the nigiri toppers, long slices for stuffing the roll, strips for the outside of a roll, and 1/2" thick strips of the sour green apple to imitate the nori (Seaweed)
2)  Melt the butter and marshmallows in the pot and make a recipe of rice krispie treat per the recipe on the box of cereal
2041563442_8aea40e492_m_2 3)  While the butter and marshmallows are melting, lay out the cellophane on the sushi mat, and then arrange pieces of fruit leather for the outside of your roll.  This way it's ready for the warm rice krispie treat to be layered on top.
4)  After mixing the cereal into the melted marshmallow, you will need to work fast.  Using an oiled spoon and oiled hands (a light spray of olive oil should be fine), layer a thin (1/2-3/4") amount of rice krispie treat onto the prepped roll.  Flatten this (be brutal, it'll work into shape) and then place the thin strips of fruit inside.  Once it's ready, use the cellophane to roll it over, and then use the mat to tighten the roll down into shape.  One recipe of rice krispie treat will get you at least 2 rolls, and several nigiri too.
2040767407_eb677efe27_m_3 5)  Form the bases for the nigiri sushi.  Try to work while the rice krispie mix is still warm, using lightly oiled hands.  Kids can help with this part but be sure the mix isn't too hot to handle for them.  Work the treats into approx 1" X 2" ovals and set them aside to cool completely.  If you have any left form it into traditional rice krispie treats in a small dish.
2040768063_ea1a084e9b_m_3 6)  Now assemble your nigiri sushi by placing a rectangle of fruit leather on top, and wrapping with the nori (sour apple fruit rollup).  Store in sealed containers where possible.  They get really sticky and probably shouldn't be stored for more than a couple of days.  But who could resist eating them before then???

Sewing with kids: when do you start?

August 12, 2007

When I was visiting my sister a few days ago, her 13-year-old step-daughter was busy working on her first sewing project (after a lesson from her grandma). Even though she's clearly old enough, I was surprised at how well her little bib had turned out. The next day Everett and I were busy choosing projects from Amy Karol's fabulous beginner's book, Bend-the-Rules Sewing and the number of projects he demanded was, well, impossible. I started thinking about teaching him to sew...

When we were kids, we always begged to use the sewing machine, but mom made a rule: you had to be eight years old to use it. I'm pretty sure, though, we started in with hand-sewing before that (and you can bet our great-grandmas were sewing before they knew the alphabet). I'd love to hear your experiences (or plans) -- if you're into the textile arts as I am, when did you learn to sew? When did you, or do you plan to, teach your own children?

Oh yes: and if you're looking for that perfect gift for a teenager (or adult) who's taking up sewing, Amy Karol's book would be a nice place to start.

Knitting something new for baby

July 08, 2007

I've been knitting like crazy, lately, for all the new babies in my life (and those to come). Today I just found out my sister Jenny is pregnant! Meaning that, in the space of 15 months, my children will have amassed SIX new cousins and one new little brother or sister. Among my own siblings: five new babies.

I've knitted three pairs of tiny baby pants for my brother's twins and my own soon-to-be newborn baby. They're outrageously cute, but I'm kind of over baby pants after three pairs in 10 days! I've got a couple of baby blankets in process, and about four baby sweaters. My mom's a pro with booties (not that they really get worn, anyway), and I knitted a cute little robot for my three-year-old niece's birthday. Hats? It's summer!

I guess what I'm saying, is I need a really killer idea. A friend just had a baby girl -- she has three older boys -- and I want to knit just the right thing. Any brilliant thoughts for me? Let's just go ahead and eliminate hats, booties, and anything in the "it's just a rectangle" family (i.e. blankets, burp clothes, and the like). What is (to you) the ultimate baby handknit?

Crafting with Kiddos

May 03, 2007

As a mama, I love to encourage my children to be creative, both through crafts and in the kitchen.  Lisa is looking for some ideas of activities to do with her new two year old child:

My husband and I are adopting a two year old boy that we brought home about a month ago.  I am hoping to get advise from other moms about good activities for two year olds.  We read tons of books, paint/color, play in the sand box, go to the park etc.  I am looking for some more indoor craft activities that give us a chance for a lot of interaction.  Also, he loves to help out in the kitchen so any fun recipe ideas would be great.

Img_6073_1 My recommendation for cooking would be to try easy baking things.   I like to let my little guy help mix up biscuits or pancake batter.  Playing with dough is fun for them, as is cutting out the shapes (making biscuits  - or scones! a winner in my house).  We also do crafts that involve multi-media type art, combining coloring, painting, and stickers all at once.  For recipes, you might check your nearest library for books that have kid-friendly recipes in them.  I have one that has a great pretzel recipe where the pretzels are to be shaped like letters.  We made one for each person in the family with their first initial (of course with M for Mama!).  Anyone else have some great successes in the indoor activity department?

Calling crafty mamas and papas

April 03, 2007

I'm forced by the hiatus at Kiddley, the brilliant energy of my second trimester (it seems way worse with baby #3!), and my not-so-secret desire to be the less material-and-power-hungry, hip northwest reincarnation of Martha Stewart, to cook up a concept for a crafty blog of our own. My idea (for which I hereby claim all intellectual property rights for urbanMamas, and me, and my friends who inspired me) is to have a daily project dripping with rich photos of the project IRL; alternate days would have projects for children to do, and for children to use/wear/play with.

Want to play along? I can't possibly do this by myself, pregnant energy or no. Leave a comment or email me at mama [at] cafemama.com.

Making Digital Memories

March 07, 2007

When I was three, and my brother two, my father’s job uprooted our little family of four from Slidell, Louisiana and planted us in a town called Ekali in Greece.  Such a drastic change seemed completely reasonable to my parents seeing as how we were so young and not in school yet.  We learned to swim there with swimming lessons, we learned from our neighbors how to choose the juciest snails for escargot, and we learned how to slide down the back of Mom’s VW beetle when it was covered in a layer of frost or snow (watch out for the license plate!).  One thing that we missed horribly (and the feeling was reciprocal) was the family.  My mom’s parents and brother were back in Texas and seeing as how we were more than a 10 hour drive away, we didn’t get to see them as much.

Being an ocean apart did not keep them from thinking of us, though.  My grandmother was always the creative one and used to record cassette tapes for us so we could play her back any time we needed to hear her voice.  She wouldn’t just record her own voice, though.  She would record sounds, like Texas thunderstorms in late summer, or the sound of the locusts singing at night.  She would explain about the 17 year life cycle of the locust, and then point out the sound of the wind chimes and the neighbor’s dog barking.  Then she would go around and record random sounds from her house making a game of “guess that sound.”  Things like her dishwasher, or the shower, or her doorbell.  One particular tape was sent in honor of my brother’s fourth birthday.  With it came a book, and on the tape was my step grandfather reading the story.  Additionally, they took the tape recorder to church so everyone could send happy birthday wishes to my brother.  So now we have the voices of my Aunt and Uncle, and childhood voices my three cousins immortalized on that tape.  The one birthday greeting that really floored me (and nearly caused me to pull my car over to have my cry) was from my second cousin, Tiffany.  She was the same age as my brother, four that year (that month, too).  In May 2000 she had been a guest at our wedding.  By 2002, she was gone.  She had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma and it was just too late.  She left behind a 5 year old daughter (and father and brother and mother and cousins and so many people who loved her so much).  And here she was on this tape wishing my brother a happy birthday in her little four-year-old voice.  My grandmother has also since passed, and that makes the cassette tape absolutely invaluable on so many levels.

In the digital age there aren’t that many people out there recording cassette tapes.  Books on tape can still be found but probably don’t sell as well as books on CD or maybe even books on podcast.  But how much fun would it be, if you were four, to get your very own CD along with your book, with someone you loved reading you the story?  What about a game of “guess that sound” on track 2?  Maybe track 3 could be friends singing you a favorite song.  As we zoom through our busy lives, we snap photos and capture short videos, but we forget to immortalize the every day sounds.  Have you recorded anything for posterity?  Do you think your children would enjoy listening to a CD with stories on it read by loved ones?  Sounds like just the thing for a car trip or plane ride…

An antidote to the commercialized, cheesy kids music out there

February 27, 2007

Oh the wonderful things that our fellow urbanMamas share with us.  And of course, this comes from Shayne Berry.  She writes:

We went the first few years of my daughter's life before stumbling upon this genre of talented, intelligent folks making great music for families.  I feel like it's my motherly duty to share our finds with my fellow UrbanMamas.
Our most recent find is Frances England.  She created her album, Fascinating Creatures, as a fundraiser for her son's co-op preschool in San Fransisco.  It spread like wildfire on the Internet and is now available on Amazon.  Her engaging subjects (tricycles, trains, planting a garden, jazz musicians) blend nicely with her mellow voice and simple instrumentation.  Her melodies are catchy and singable- we adore this record.
Elizabeth Mitchell is another great find.  She was a preschool teacher/indie rock star before making kids' records.  Her most recent, You Are My Little Bird, was put out by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and follows two other fabulous records by her.  Her husband and daughter accompany her on many songs and her records feel as though the listener has been invited into the living room of this cute, musical family.  She has a knack for choosing great old folk songs to cover with her soothing voice and upbeat, simple music. Many a car ride has been calmed with her albums.
Lastly, Dan Zanes has been called the godfather of kids music-with good reason. His hip, lively take on Folk, Americana and World music is so infectious that I find myself even playing these records when my kids aren't around.  Dan and his band are extremely talented and provide family with a stark contrast to all the kids music on the market that has been created with synthesizers and drum machines. He also has a concert DVD that gives even more insight into how much he loves and connects with these songs.  If I had to choose one record to start with, Rocket Ship beach is fabulous but all his albums are must-haves.  They have all inspired countless sing-alongs and impromptu dance parties.  Even my husband gets these songs stuck in his head. 
I think that much of kids' music today has been created to follow a trend or make a buck. The thing that sets these three musicians apart from most is the sense that they started playing these songs for themselves, for their families and friends and it just so happened that other people started listening.
You can hear samples at Amazon.com
There are other artists who follow these same ideas, many were mentioned in a 2006 Family Music Poll:  http://fidsandkamily.blogspot.com/

By the way, Dan Zanes is coming to the Aladdin Theater on April 15th!

Mommy 'n' Me Knitting

January 29, 2007

Thanks for the feedback on Mommy 'n Me Knitting.  Sydney's Cafe is proud to present its first of anKnit ongoing group for mamas and their little ones to gather an knit.  It's a great time for those of all ages and skill levels:

  • Have your child learn to knit
  • Finish that knitting project you have been working on
  • Meet up with a friend to chat and knit
  • Cozy up to comfy chairs and a latte while learning this craft
  • Collaborate with other knitters in the community
  • And simply have a wonderful Saturday morning!

Everyone is welcome!  Every Saturday beginning February 3rd at 10 AM.

1800 NW 16th Avenue
503 241 4313

updated March 1, 2007:  Due to schedule conflicts, Mommy 'n' Me knitting will now be every SUNDAY at 10 AM.

Crafty Mama Bazaar This Saturday!

January 25, 2007

There are a lot of Crafty Mamas in PDX and we will be showcasing a handful of them this Saturday, January 27, 11 am - 3 pm at Milagros. Featured artists include:

  • Cynthia Thompson of Zoom Baby Gear
  • Christina Bissell will feature a variety of handmade toys, bibs, burp rags, book bags and more
  • Gretchen Gawlik makes fun, hip, re-designed shirts and onesies.
  • Elizabeth Webber creates greeting cards, gift tags, stationery, bookmarkers, magnets, and other paper art using photographs and vintage images.
  • Angela Flynn helps you make a special keepsake by creating personalized ceramic hand and footprints of your little miracle.

We will also have complimentary organic coffee and tea service for the event. All the sales go directly to the Crafty Mamas, so please come out to the Crafty Mamas Bazaar this Saturday and see what these local mamas have to offer.

Mama and Me Knitting

January 19, 2007

The folks over at Sydney's Cafe have an idea. How about a mama-'n'-me knitting group every week? Are you interested? Of course, all mamas are welcome, regardless of whether their kiddies are knitting!What time would work best (considering the cafe closes at 6pm in the evenings)? Would 4 or 5 o'clock work one evening each week? A weekend time?

Red Scarf Project 2007

Care packages from family were such a big thing in college, especially in the earlier months and years. Can't say that I was ever a recipient of frequent care packages...

Now that we've helped with Caps to the Capital and Warm Up America, it's time to support the Red Scarf Project 2007. The Orphan Foundation of America is collecting red scarves to send to unadopted foster youth in college:

The red scarves that knitters and crocheters make for this project will be put in Valentine's Day 2007 care packages for these very brave young people who, despite many hardships, are attending college. Getting these packages will let them know they are cared for and hopefully give them encouragement to stay the course. Think of the scarf you make as a hug for someone who, despite all odds, is working hard to get an education and trying to make his or her life, and therefore the life of our extended community, better.

See the guidelines, and knit fast! They are only accepting scarves through January.

Knitting projects: art and charity

January 15, 2007

I had such a great time making two sweet little cabley baby hats for Caps to the Capital (which I haven't sent yet, because I'm a flake), and since I'm in a perpetual state of procrastination with the project I really need to be knitting (a baby blanket for my sister-in-law in Utah, due any day now), naturally, I'm casting about for new projects to occupy my day off.

Squarealongbutton Larissa's working on a book on knitalongs, so naturally her blog is the first place I turn for distraction. If you, too, are looking for something to do with your idle time and your sock yarn she has a great project up this week! It's a square-along, and you can register at her testalong sign through January 20 (you have 'til February 1 to finish and deliver your squares). She'll only use 20 squares for the book project, and all the rest will be knit up into blanket(s) for Warm Up America.

Procrastination, knitting and a good cause! What could be a more perfect use of my idle time these cold cold January days?

RecycledArt Kids Class December 21

December 14, 2006

There was a post about RecycledArt a while ago...Well, RecycledArt will be having a class for ages 4-6 on Thursday, December 21 that is a perfect Holiday Break activity for your little one. Here is description of the event:

Through the Looking Glass!

We will join together this holiday season to see what we can spy with our little eyes using salvaged windows from the Rebuilding Center! This 1 hour workshop will kick off with a circle time and a short story. Each artist will create a masterpiece as we talk about the values of reuse before recycling. We’ll learn how glass is made and recycled and how that glass is used to make windows. The last 10 minutes of class are reserved for our art show…a chance for artists to share their creations and tell us the story of what they saw Through the Looking Glass.

Date:  Thursday December 21
Time:  3-4pm
Ages: 4-6
Cost:  $10 per artist (includes materials)
Place:  Milagros, 5433 NE 30th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97211

The class is limited to 10 students and requires advance registration. Contact RecycledArt-ist Liesha Eberst at 503-901-9324 or makerecycledart@yahoo.com to register or for more info.

Crafty Mamas Wanted

December 03, 2006

Calling All Crafty Mamas!

We had a lot of fun hosting Crafty Mama Fairs during the Art of Living in November and the UrbanMamas Bazaar in August.  We are now planning on making the Milagros Crafty Mamas Fair a regular thing beginning on Saturday January 27 from 11 am - 3 pm. After that, we plan on having a mama-made art fair on the fourth Saturday of every month. Our hope is to rotate vendors so there is always something new each month.

If you would like to considered as a vendor, there are a couple of things to keep in mind: 1) You have to make or design the product you are selling (sorry, no resellers) and 2) if you are using any manufactured goods as part of your craft/product (for instance if you are screen-printing on a t-shirt) you MUST be using certified sweatshop-free materials.

We will have five slots a month and we are keeping the table fee as low as we can so that we may provide an opportunity to folks who may not otherwise do this sort of thing. If you are interested in participating, please send us an email at milagros@milagrosboutique.com

Creative Gift Ideas for Daycare Providers

November 30, 2006

Last year, we had a previous conversation The Etiquette of Gift Giving for Daycare Providers. urbanMamas are also wondering what kinds of gifts make for great items for teachers or daycare providers? After nurturing and loving our youth, we're pretty certain that they've been nice and not naughty. Says Misty:

Any affordable/creative ideas for Christmas gifts for daycare providers? Between my two kids, I have 5 or 6 daycare providers I need to get gifts for.

Holiday CardMaking at Sydney's

November 28, 2006

Thank you to Tim, Amanda, Brianna and the rest of the Sydney's staff for hosting some great coffee playdates. Sydney's is coming up with new and great ideas to keep us all happy and occuppied (and us mamas caffeinated). Sydney's is hosting a drop-in Holiday Cardmaking event:

Enjoy classical and holiday music while you set down to put together holiday cards. We will reserve the large community table and set up supplies (stamps, drawing utensils, paper, stickers, and more) for moms and kids to use. Parents are encouraged to bring in their own suppies (but just make sure all the supplies don't get mixed all together!). Don't forget to get the kids some mini hot chocolates to enjoy on the couch as a break from all the craft-making.

Sounds like a great time for mamas with older children, for mamas with infants, and even for mamas whose kids are in school! See you there: Sydney's, 1800 NW 16th Ave, December 4 at 10 AM.

P.S. If you have ideas on fun events for mamas and kidlets at Sydney's, please email: sydneyscommunity@yahoo.com.

Holiday crafts for kids?

November 27, 2006

I'm a wanna-be Martha Stewart (the Portland version, with only one house, and with a decidedly black thumb) and, as such, I aspire to have my children doing crafts during every waking hour. Naturally this is not the way my life really works, although I *have* been able to interest them in paper chains and in anything that's epicly messy.

I've been having fun collecting assorted materials for Christmas this year, everything from felted sweaters from the bins (now cut up into a variety of scraps and largish pieces) to vintage holiday cards from estate sales. It's so Martha it kills me. Now what do I do with all this?!?!

So far I've come up with a couple of things, although the kids can't really help that much. One: these amazing, simple and fun-to-make stuffed trees from little birds [pdf link to pattern]. Two: these fun and super-quick felted leaves from Wise Craft [also inspired in part by the Martha, pdf link to leaf template]. I'm making mine in Christmas-y colors and the boys love to play with the finished product. Maybe I'll make a wreath? I'll probably end up cutting up the vintage cards for Everett to glue somewhere... Christmas cards? Ornaments?

But other than paper chains and fingerpainting, well, I can't really think of much to involve a four-year-old, much less Truman -- who's not even two. Any ideas?

RecycledArt: Something New from Something Old

October 23, 2006

It's always nice when we hear about something new and different among the great offerings in Portland.  Better yet, it's something fun, educational, and makes use of one of our favorite themes: "reduce, reuse, recycle".  Yay for Leisha!

RecycledArt offers stimulating, hands-on, educational art and science workshops for kids ages 3-10. Students take common, everyday objects and turn them into something totally out of this world!  They paint, sculpt, draw and build from the inside out while sharing ideas and making new friends.  RecycledArt unites the wonders of science with the creativity of art and we help to make the world a better place to live by learning about renewable energy sources and brainstorming ways to create less trash through reducing, reusing and recycling materials.

Remember tupperware parties?  Well, RecycledArt workshops are offered in a very similar style.  We come to you!  A RecycledArt workshop hostess invites up to 10 children to attend a 1 hour, custom themed activity.  As a workshop hostess, your child attends for FREE!  AND..your child will receive a treasure box filled with found objects that they can later use to explore their creativity!  In addition to workshops, RecycledArt also offers birthday parties!  The cost per artist is $10.

So...while the kids are learning cool science facts and having fun making art, the Mom's get a chance to relax and share a cup of coffee or go for a walk.  RecycledArt also offers pecial packages which include an on-site, chair massage, manicures and pedicures!

For more information on our workshops and packages, send us an email...makerecycledart@yahoo.com or contact Liesha Eberst at 503-901-9324. 

studio CRAFT: A Trunk Show

October 22, 2006

Seems like November 4 is a popular date for events.  Here's another in case you don't have anything planned:

studio CRAFT
saturday :: 11.04.06 :: 11a-3p
408 n. portland :: portland :: 97217

the designers
stephanie barnes [little birds] melissa frantz [all buttoned up]
mariko fujinaka [superbuzzy] alicia paulson [posie: rosy little things]
abby powell-thompson [abby try again] blair stocker [wise..craft] sally shim [shim + sons] sumi sun [sun + stone]

the goods
aprons :: book covers :: fabric :: fabric boxes :: felt birds
floor mats :: jewelry :: hairpins :: handbags :: notions
paper mache birds :: patchwork wallpockets :: pin cushions
pouches :: stationery :: stuffed animals :: tissue holders

Cloth Diaper Sewing Class

October 12, 2006

Cynthia Thompson of Zoom Baby Gear is holding a "Diaper Sewing Class" Saturday, October 21 from noon to 3 pm at RCT Fabrics - 2515 NW Nicolai St., Portland, OR

This will be a fun, hands-on sewing class where you can learn to convert basic prefold diapers into fitted, semi-fitted and even All-in-One diapers. Techniques for regular sewing machines and sergers will be covered. You can bring your sewing machine to sew along or just watch and take notes. There is no charge for this informative class. Babes in arms only please!

The regular Cloth Diaper Circle will return to Milagros on November 4.

Are you crafty or want to be?

September 27, 2006

Calling All Crafty Mamas!

We had a lot of fun hosting the UrbanMamas Bazaar in August.  We are now planning our next mama craft fair as part of a neighborhood event happening in Fox Chase on November 11 called the "Art of Living."

Our mini mama-made craft fair will be from 11 am - 3 pm. We will also have complimentary coffee and treats, balloon artistry, and more. We still have some slots left for crafty mamas, so if you are interested in finding out more info, please send us an email at milagros@milagrosboutique.com

Do you want to be crafty?

Our friend, neighbor, and wonderful local crafter Paige Haxton will be teaching an introduction to wool felting class at Milagros on October 7, from 2 pm - 4 pm.  You can learn the basics of wool felting and create your own unique Huopa soap (a fun felt covered soap that exfoliates while it cleans!) Class fee is only $8 per person - that even includes the cost of all materials. To reserve your spot, sign-up at the store, call, or email us.

Wanted: Aprons for Cafe Au Play Auction

September 21, 2006

Larissa is spearheading a creative endeavor to benefit Cafe Au Play.  Drawing upon her crafty skills, she's charged with making and / or procuring 40 (yes, you've read correctly - that's forty) aprons which volunteers will be donning at the Cafe Au Play fundraising auction on November 4.  I know there are lots of crafty mamas out here, and this is a great opportunity to show off your wares.  For more information, post a comment here or on Larissa's site.

Crafty Sundays at Contemporary Crafts Museum

September 20, 2006

Yet another great suggestion from an urbanMama, Sharai:

Hi Urbanmamas! I was searching online for arts & crafts experiences for my 6 year old son, and discovered the Contemporary Crafts Museum, which I've always meant to visit. Looks like they have a cool (and free) Family Discovery Sundays program once a month (next one is THIS Sunday), and also kids day camps on school holidays (camps are fee-based).  Admission to the Museum is always free.

lazy labor sunday knitting anyone?

September 03, 2006

Knitting_along I just came back from the Oregon State Fair, where I discovered I earned a blue ribbon for my knitting! Yay!! And seeing that I'm coordinating a knit-erific Blessing Way blanket for Shetha's upcoming birth, I have knitting fever, and bad.

If you're knitting for the blanket, or you're just feeling the fever like me, won't you join me for a little lazy Labor Sunday knitting at Mabel's (31st and Division, and they do like babies there) tonight? I'll be there between 1:30 and 3:30 or 4, and again in the early evening if anyone is up for a later time.

mother's day crafty wonderland

May 13, 2006

It was so fun to see so many mamas, papas and babies out today at our urbanMamas family day! And thanks to Shetha's hard work, I'm wearing my urbanMamas tee now. Like the weather, they're hot.

Sewing I know we already mentioned it, but I'm going to put in a second plug for Crafty Wonderland at Doug Fir tomorrow! It will be my first time to the hippest of LoBu hip spots -- and I'll be helping sell a wide range of fun, silly and useful things Larissa and I have been sewing these past few weeks. If you don't come to buy, send someone else. I'm going to have a few My Tie slings, lots of little arty fabric toys (great for teethers, Truman tells me), Larissa's cool quilty tee concept (currently my fave project), and lots of truly adorable bonnets. Oh! Plus our friend Kim's hand-dyed yarn (it's really, really fantastic, Larissa and I are trying to keep ourselves from buying it) and some knitting patterns.

We'd love to see you.

Memory Overload

April 09, 2006

When Carter was born, my sister gave me a baby book to write down and capture all of those wonderful baby milestones. Being the procrastinator and lazy journalist that I am, I had a hard time keeping it up-to-date. A friend had suggested keeping it by the bedside and taking 10 minutes each day to write down my thoughts. I took her advice, kept it by the bedside, and every night, I silently vowed that I would update the book the next night.

When Carter approached his first birthday, I started a blog to keep our friends and family from across the country apprised of our lives. Despite its haphazard state, it has been the best way for me to capture his babyhood. Now that I have two boys, the blog is even that much more useful. Aside from the blog, I take a couple dozen of digital pictures a month, and less frequently take videos of the kids. Here’s the dilemma. The digital age is great, but I’m swimming in a sea of digital photos and boxes of unsorted print photos. How do you sort your photos (digital and print) and videos so they are organized and accessible? What systems have you created so that it doesn’t become overwhelming?

Easter crafty goodness

March 20, 2006

A long time ago in a faraway place... (ie BC - before children), I used to do all kinds of things crafty.  Some would say I still do crafty things, but they are fewer and far between, sadly.  Now, with Easter fast approaching, and my son becoming of an age where we can do simple crafty things together, I'm digging up old resources for fun Eggy crafts.

My two favorite are from a long-time journaler/blogger, not martha.  Way back in the day, she posted the instructions for Easter Eggs a la cascarone... a hollowed out and dyed egg that is stuffed with goodies and confetti.  They are to be cracked on someone else's head to bring good fortune/luck/wealth.  I could be wrong but I think this is a Mexican tradition...  The other fun craft involves water balloons and paper mache.  It's basically tiny egg pinatas.  I used fun easter themed tissue paper to give these and eggy feel and filled them with yummy easter goodies (and fake grass of course).  I think the little mister might be fantastic at dyeing already emptied eggs (get out your souffle recipes!) and ripping some tissue paper to help the cause.  Maybe I can put all his boundless energy to good use!

Do you have any traditional spring or holiday crafts you share with your family?  Please share with us, too!

NE Knitting Mommies

March 14, 2006

Calling all nifty, knitty mamas.  Here's Chrissy's group:

Hi! I saw your post on Urban Mamas calling for knitting groups/playgroups that would be open to Urban Mamas. I am running a couple of knitting groups right now - we're called the NE Knitting Mommies. We've been meeting regularly on Monday nights from 7-9, usually at my home in NE (Beaumont-Wilshire area) but also at coffee shops around the eastside. We also just started meeting as an afternoon knit/play group on Thursdays between 1 & 5. Not much knitting gets done, but we still have fun! Anyone who might be interested in joining us should e-mail me - mailto:sevenby30@hotmail.com - for more info.

Summer is right around the corner, Part 1

March 09, 2006

So, I know we just had snow today, but I'm still thinking about the summer, which is just three months away! Our biggest girl is 5-1/2 this summer, and I am hoping that she'll have more summer options than before. Here's our list with some highlights (she's not going to all, but these are just a 'few' of the things we're thinking about):

Ethos Music Camp: For five (non-consecutive) weeks through the summer, from late June to the end of August, Ethos offers a variety of music camps focusing on guitar, percussion, piano, strings, and even hip-hop and rock band ensembles. Cost is $195 per week, from 9-5 daily, grades K-12. Ethos is a well-respected music school with several community programs for school-aged children. Each child can enroll for a maximum of 2 sessions per summer.

Grace Art Institute Camps: Last year, it was India. This year, it's Greece. This summer Grace Art Institute summer camp will explore the fascinating and historical Greek culture. Cultural folktales are the heart of each week's curriculum and campers choose to immerse themselves in a variety of performing and visual arts, including dance & music, drama, glass art, ceramics & sculpture, fibre arts, visual arts, book arts. Cost is $205 per session, from 9-3 daily with a Friday art celebration, ages 4-12. (Before & After care can be arranged.)

smARTworks / PNCA: for 1st graders to middle school, this year's focus is storytelling. Cost is $235 per week and camp runs 8-5pm.

Children's Museum summer camps: These are among the pricier ones, but I thought I'd still put it out there. Camp runs 8:30 to 2:30 ($200) with aftercare available ($90). Still, there is art, drama, activities, games, crafts.

Audobon Society: "Audubon Summer Camps inspire children to love and protect nature, in the very best way, by exploring, learning, and having fun." Camps run for ten weeks throughout the summer. Half-day (9-1) sessions for first graders, and full-day sessions for 2nd graders and older. I can't find the cost in an obvious place online, so let me know if you find it!

Oregon Zoo Summer Camps: Use interactive activities, crafts, zoo exploration to learn more about the animals. All camps include guided zoo tours, animal visits in the classrooms, Discover Birds show, visits to the family farm and pygmy goat kraal, lorikeet feeding, songs, games, stories, a train ride (except Penguin Camp), snacks and a ZooCamp t-shirt. 3rd – 8th grade camps include a visit to the Washington Park play structure and Elephant Barn picnic shelter. Half-day camps for kindergarteners ($85 for members/$100 for non-member); full-day camps for 1st graders and up ($190 for members/$220 for non-members). Before and after care available.

YMCA - Camp Collins: Day camp for children in grades 1-6. "Campers will participate in archery, arts and crafts, hiking, nature activities, climbing tower, field games, and believe it or not, much more!" Camp runs for 9 sessions; fees are a sliding scale ranging from $165 to $215 per week. Daily bus service to camps run from Alameda school (NE), Gresham and the North Clackamas Aquatic Center.

Camp Ky-O-Wa: "Explore a trail in the woods, enjoy the cool waters of a lake, try your luck at fishing, bounce on a trampoline, sing camp songs, and discover other fun summer activities. Camp Ky-O-Wa is an integrated day camp for children ages 5-11, with and without disabilities." Sponsored by Portland Parks & Recreation.

Summer Nature Camp: Also by Portland Parks & Recreation, for children ages 5-12, week-long sessions "provide youngsters with a firsthand experience with nature through hiking, storytelling, scientific observations, and forest crafts."

OMSI Summer Science Camps: Junior Naturalist camp, Naturalist camp, Adventure camps. These camps are serious all-week camps at various locations throughout the state. Without a doubt, our kids could get an invaluable experience (camps run $385 for the week). But, our biggest girl is still eons away from spending the whole day and night away from us! Programs run for youth ages 7-18. Camps run from 1 to 3 weeks long! We are SO not there yet. Someday!

Mad Science: For some reason, I had it in my head that Mad Science camp would be so fun for our biggest girl once she became of age. Now, I see that they've only got one location in the inner eastside, and it's isn't even a full-day (it's only 9-3pm). So, it won't work for us, but maybe the locations and times will work for you! It's about $129 per week for ages 4 and up.

And, actually, this listing of summer camps is pretty good.

Calling All Crafty Mamas

February 28, 2006

You sew. You knit. You make beautiful handpainted ceramics. You make jewelry. Whatever your craft, have some fun, get to know other local artisans and maybe make some cash by getting a booth at Crafty Wonderland. Starting April 9th, Crafty Wonderland will be held the second Sunday of every month from 11am - 4pm at the Doug Fir. Click here to learn more about the application process. I know that I get bombarded with "invitations" to show at various trade shows and I turn them all down (or I create my own) because I hate the sales vibe at most of the big cheesy trade shows, and I know I will get little or nothing in return. The ladies behind Crafty Wonderland seem to be creating something above a trade show: a close-knit group of local crafters who love what they do and they're creating an environment that will attract buyers who truly appreciate the work and craftsmanship of handmade items. Plus, at only $25 a table, it's super ultra cheap. I hope to participate later on in the year, and I hope to see all of you crafty mamas (of which I know there are PLENTY!) there too!