Friday, March 30, 2012

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo (well, actually, two this week) - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

If you are inspired to do the same, leave a link to your moment at SouleMama for all to find and see.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Be Back Soon...

Daddy is back from the ivory tower and the kids are doing flips...

So, I will be back with a new post in the next few days.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

To My Husband as He Finishes his PhD

Five years is a lifetime...
A long time to study,
to be underpaid, and
A long time to weather the frustrations
and the loneliness
and the smell of this town.

In the past five years, you have
lost a father and
gained two sons.

You have practiced forgiveness
and learned the art of self-advocacy.

And you have learned to check your pockets
before throwing your clothes in the laundry.

Though you may feel
like you still have much to learn,
you know much
and have much to offer.

Thank you for working always
to be a better thinker
and a better husband
and a better father.
And thank you for loving yourself
just a little bit more than

Congratulations, Dr. McNeill.
May you have many new lifetimes to look forward to.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Some Simple Games to Play with a Rope

We love making games out of things we find around the house. A simple rope invites so many different kinds of fun. Here are some of our ideas, most of which are fun even for very young children.

  • Tie a ball or balloon to the end of the rope and hang in from a doorway. Infants will have fun sitting in front of it or laying near it and batting at it. Older kids will love to hit it alone or back and forth with another child.
  • Tie small toys to shorter pieces of rope and drape them over the back of a couch or chair. Sit on the couch and go fishing.
  • Tie one or many stuffed animals to a long length of rope and trail it through the house, over and under furniture, around in circles, etc. Then, send your child to find the stuffed animal(s) by following the rope's path. 
  • Play jump rope, of course.
  • Place a length of rope along the floor and walk along it, pretending you are a tight rope walker.
  • Tie a stuffed animal to the end of a rope and hang it from a tree branch. Your child can push the stuffed animal on this simple swing.
  • Dip lengths of rope in paint and drop it onto paper. Or dip shorter lengths of rope and twirl it above the paper for a different effect.
  • Place the rope on the ground, making tight switchbacks. Walk along the rope and pretend you are climbing a mountain.
  • Trail a length of rope around the yard and pretend you are on a quest. (I wrote a post about this here.)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Simple Things

It is the little things that make me smile. Here is one from this week...

A cup of dark, black coffee is just so pretty. 

Especially when it is enjoyed in a reasonable amount of time without a thousand interruptions - when it is hot and fresh to the bottom of the cup, rather than hastily gulped down before heading back to the changing table for another new diaper, or forgotten in the midst of chaos as a little one tries to dive head first off the back of the couch. 

Yesterday, we went out for bagels and my boys had a rare moment of simultaneous calm. Whether they were enjoying their breakfast too much to fidget or simply interested in people-watching, I am not sure. Either way, I was able to enjoy this cup of coffee all the way to the bottom.

Friday, March 23, 2012

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

If you are inspired to do the same, leave a link to your moment at SouleMama for all to find and see.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Inside Evan's Closet

I have been completely obsessed with organization lately. Well, to be truthful, I am always obsessed with it, particularly when it comes to drooling over office supplies and building up my supply of baskets and other storage containers. But lately, my passion has been more active than the usual post-it note window shopping. I have this need to work my way through every nook of my house, to turn everything upside-down and put it back together again.

Maybe it is just spring fever. It might also be the overwhelming urge to move on to the next phase of life - now that my husband is finishing his dissertation, we are dreaming heavily of "things to come." I want to purge the old and the heavy, the things that are keeping me in place, so that I can travel on renewed and ready for change.

Yesterday's release of my overgrown scrap paper pile was the first blogged evidence of this movement. I know that it is not the last.

Here is what we did last week - a new system for organizing Evan's clothes. We put boards along the end of Evan's closet, keeping them at about three feet high so they would be well within his reach. We attached eight hooks around the boards and a shelf on top.

I made the bags over the last month or so out of fabric that Evan picked out. Each bag contains one outfit. They are super easy to put together, since I fill all seven bags on laundry day instead of putting Evan's clothes in his drawers. If Evan is awake at the time, he loves to help me put the outfits together.

This has helped with one daily problem in our house. If you have children, I am sure you are familiar with it. My husband and I are barely sitting down to our own breakfast by the time the kids have finished theirs. So, when we are ready to eat, they are back up and requiring our attention. This means that most days, we ate cold toast and eggs, or soggy cereal. Now, though Clayton is still too young, at least Evan can get himself dressed while we are still enjoying breakfast and maybe even a cup of hot tea (I know, hard to believe, right?)

Plus Evan loves the little surprise each day when he opens up the bag.

And while we were working on Evan's closet, we finally made something else for his room that has been on the list for a long time, somewhere for Evan to display some of his art. And yes, we are still using the last of those branches we found months ago. Just a few little pieces left...

Linking up today with...

IHeart Organizing

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Forgive and Release

My oldest son, Evan, is notoriously hard on himself. He gets so frustrated with the things for which his body is not yet ready that he can work himself into a full-blown temper tantrum. His physical limits sometimes just fall short of his desires and he cannot will it otherwise. In these moments, I can see a lot myself in him, though I do not often struggle with my physical limits these days, but rather with my personal expectations and goals. I can forgive others if they give me even the slightest suggestion that they might hope to be better, but I am rarely so forgiving with myself when I fail to meet my own high standards.

Here is an example.

I remember well the first time I did something on my own for the environment. I was fifteen and I had my first real job at Thrift Drug pharmacy. Every day, the pharmacy printed up new sale flyers, one single-sided page on high quality white paper, and distributed them to various locations around the store. Customers were encouraged to pick up a flyer as they were shopping. At the end of the day, there were stacks and stacks of flyers that had not been claimed and they were gathered and thrown into the trash.

I could not believe how easy it was for my co-workers to scoop up hundreds and hundreds of pieces of gorgeous, clean, white paper and drop it into the garbage. That paper had so much life in it still. It was such good paper and it had an entire blank white side just waiting to be used.

So, I asked the manager if I could take the leftovers home at the end of the day and I used the other sides. At first I just used them around the house. Then, I started taking them to school for class notes. Eventually, I was brave enough to ask teachers if I could turn in assignments on them (some agreed, some did not). I only worked at Thrift Drug for a short time, but it took me many years before the last of those flyers made it into the recycling bin. And during that time, I continued to gather paper from other sources.

As an adult, I still collect scrap paper, sometimes so much that I could never use it all. I have moved many times in the past fifteen years and each time, I have packed up one large box with scrap paper to take with me, not being able to part with the entire collection. When I am in one place for a while, the pile begins to accumulate again and, as I did last weekend, I have to start to set limits. Last weekend, I had a stash of scrap paper on the top shelf of the office closet that was nearing the ceiling, so high that I could not even reach the top sheet anymore. So, I bought this basket and set myself some boundaries:

Katie, you can collect scrap paper, but only as much as fits inside of this one basket. Anything else must be recycled immediately!

I can follow my new rule - I am sure I can - but it does make me quite uncomfortable. Last weekend, I recycled an enormous stack of perfectly good paper and it took all of my will power to do so. That little voice inside of me, my good conscience to be sure, kept telling me that I was being (gasp!) wasteful. I am still feeling the after-effects. In fact, the bag full of paper is still in the car waiting to be taken to the recycling center and I have had to scold myself several times for thinking about going back out and getting it. It is wrong to throw it away until it is used up, my conscience is telling me.

Please tell me I am not the only one who suffers from such ridiculous and irrational guilt, from an overactive conscience. You are probably thinking that I am a bit over the edge right now...

So silly, I know. It is just paper...And I am doing my best not to waste...Which is likely better than most...But still I need to reassure myself because I just cannot help feeling wasteful.

What would I tell Evan in those moments when his real limits are smaller than his desires? That is what I need to hear.

It is important to forgive yourself often, to accept that you can only do as much as you can. You can, of course, continue to try harder, but you should never forget to praise yourself and celebrate all of the efforts that you have already made. Even if you have not yet reached your goal, there is still time to stop and reflect...and rest. And sometimes, the original goal may not be realistic or even necessary. Sometimes you may have to set limits and accept that you have gone as far as you should.

Forgive and release.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Seven O'Clock Science: Freezing and Melting

And now for the latest installment of Seven O'Clock Science.

Over the last month, we have been fascinated by the process of freezing and melting. In the Februarys of other regions, this process is easily seen with a trip outdoors, or even a quick glance out the window. We did actually have a couple of decent snowfalls this year in Lubbock, but by decent, I merely mean that it was enough to cover the grass completely and that it did not melt immediately, but rather several hours later. We never have enough time with our snow and ice to really get to know it well.

So, we have to come up with somewhat artificial means.

We made up a tray of colored ice cubes (just a drop of food coloring added to each cube) and worked our way through a few different experiments over the course of the last month or so. I would like to share them today with you.

(Please forgive the poor quality of some of the photos. We usually do our science experiments in the early morning often before the sun has even risen.)

1. Put two ice cubes of different colors in a container. Let the ice cubes melt and watch as the colors blend together to make something different. This time we put them in a bowl, but we usually do this in tightly sealed plastic bags so the kids can carry them around and watch them melt slowly. (This was actually one of the most successful tricks we used to get Evan to sit on the potty when he was first potty training.)

2. Melt a few ice cubes in different places and compare the melting times. We chose four different locations - a sunny spot near the kitchen window, on a wire rack over a candle, in the toaster oven, and in a bowl filled with rock salt.

3. Try to pick up an ice cube with a piece of string. Then, wet the string and press it onto the ice for about ten seconds. Try to pick it up again.

And the last experiment without the colored ice cubes:

4. Freeze a variety of materials and compare how they freeze and melt. Evan chose water, peanuts, a stick, a plastic toy, ketchup, butter, a piece of pizza, oil, a rock, a piece of kiwi, a few pieces of pasta, milk, some dried cranberries and a piece of cucumber.

What science has caught your attention lately?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Simple Things

It is the little things that make me smile. Here is one from this week...

Laundry drying on the line is a given. It never fails to bring me joy, even though it is almost a daily event in my world.

But this laundry line is particularly joyful. See those cute little red and white seersuckers in the middle of the line? I made those!

That and my absolute life-long favorite t-shirt hangs two pieces to the left. And I mean life-long in its most literal sense. My siblings and I visited the Little Tikes factory when it opened in our town in the early 1980s. We were given free shirts during the visit and wore them for a long time as nightgowns. This shirt dragged on the floor in those years.

I found it in a box of old things in the late nineties and realized that it fit me perfectly. So, I started wearing it again. Today, almost thirty years after I got it, it is so thin, it is now relegated to the wear-at-home-only-and-when-no-one-else-is-around section of my closet. In a way, it has come full circle, for now it has once again become my favorite nightshirt.

Friday, March 16, 2012

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. I moment I want to pause, savor, and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

If you are inspired to do the same, leave a link to your moment at SouleMama for all to find and see.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Letters and Sounds

 I always love to hear about your books. One of my favorite things about the blog world is that I get to watch others' love of reading. I get to see your stacks of books on every surface, hear about your trips to the library, and discover new titles as you do.

We love reading here too. But really, we just simply love sounds...and language.

My husband and I are both multi-lingual and always dreaming about learning another language. We are raising our children bilingual (English and German) as well. In our family, we keep bilingual and monolingual dictionaries scattered all around the house and are constantly discussing the likely relationship between different words or the sociological implications of linguistic structures. (Yes, we are geeks.)

It should not be surprising, then, that both Evan and Clayton show a similar inclination. Though I have to admit that I am impressed and astounded on a regular basis by the things they can do with language. (I really want to brag a bit now, but I will refrain...)

We spend a lot of time making up songs, speaking in rhymes, and translating nonsense languages into English.

To encourage Evan's love for rhyming, I resurrected a game from my language-teaching days that has become a quick favorite. You will notice that this game also introduces some early reading concepts, though we are not really thinking about reading yet in our house. If you are starting the path to reading with your children, this game will be a great resource. However, even if you are not (like us), do not be afraid to try this game. Evan loves it mostly because it features lots and lots of rhyming words.

Place magnet letters on a metal surface (we use the removable bottom of a tart pan) to form a set of rhyming words. Start with a simple two letter combination that will yield lots of rhyming pairs. We use "at" pretty much exclusively because it has not yet become boring.

Work slowly to move individual letters in front of your chosen combination. Start by showing your child how a single letter can change the word and how these words all rhyme because of the part that stays stable.

Once your child is comfortable with you forming words, let him try. Allow your child to pick a letter and put it at the start of the word. Help him to sound out the word. (Maybe he will even remember it from the first stage.) The physical act of moving the letters back and forth will begin teaching your child information about how words are formed and how phonics works without any comment on your part.

This game involves a lot more direct instruction than we usually use in our home. It is something that can be used in the classroom - I know because I did so myself. But as long as Evan is enjoying himself, I do not see any harm in playing a little at school.

To keep our expectations appropriate for a three-year-old who has not yet expressed a lot of interest in learning to read, we always make sure the game stays gentle. I do not push Evan to answer my questions if he seems unwilling. We stay playful with the rhyming pairs, making up little songs as we go. And we stop playing as soon as Evan starts to fidget.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Raising Boys

A couple of years ago, when Evan was around two, I was at the Children's Museum and overheard a conversation between two mothers. They were sharing stories about their two sons, who were around Evan's age. They were full of pride, as most parents are, and boasting about the incredible gifts of their little boys. It was fun to listen to them for a little bit. But then, I noticed a trend in the qualities about which they were boasting. Their boys were strong, fast, active, destructive, loud, all the stereotypical qualities that we hear characterize our male children. I wrinkled my nose a bit, as my sensibilities resisted this sort of categorizing. Then, I heard one mother say something which made me do more than wrinkle my nose. I had to walk away before I jumped uninvited into the conversation.

She said, her voice full of pride, "Our boys are definitely not girls."

This comment, of course, is really just silly. All parents, myself included, say ridiculous things on a regular basis when it comes to bragging about our children. (Tell me you have not, at least once, boasted about your child's bowel movements.) So, I do not blame or judge these women.

But their conversation hit me in a very personal way because my little boy, particularly at that time, was not particularly strong, fast, active, destructive or loud. He fit very few of the stereotypes for young male children. His physical development was slower than his verbal and intellectual development. He had not yet learned to jump and could not even run all that well, but he regularly used five-syllable words and complex linguistic structures. He was not yet two, for example, when I asked him to please stop moving the drying rack around the house, that it had to stay up and in the laundry room. "It necessarily doesn't have to be that way, Mommy," he argued. By personality, Evan has always been pensive, cautious, and introverted, the very opposite of the ways boys are "supposed to be."

My boy is definitely a "boy," but he is also in many ways a "girl." And I am extremely proud of him for that...and proud of myself and my husband for raising him to be that way.

Nursing our babies

More recently, we were at a playgroup at a little girl's house. The girl had a doll who cried like a real baby until someone figured out exactly what she needed. Evan loved this doll. He played with it the entire time we were there and when we had to leave, he made sure that the doll was happily sleeping (and not crying) before he would agree to go. None of the other mothers made a big deal out of his choice of toys, though one of the moms did comment to me that Evan was "very nurturing."

Introducing solids

The other children, however, tried to convince Evan constantly that he was doing something wrong. They tried to take the toy away, to tell him that he was not supposed to play with it, to tell him that it was for girls only. Yes, children do not understand the nuances that adults do and no one can blame them for not comprehending the complexities of gender relations. But those little girls must have learned from somewhere that it was "wrong" for Evan to want to take care of a baby. (Really, people? Are we really teaching our children that men should not care for babies?) Whether they got that information from their parents, from daycare, or from television, they all firmly believed it. Even more striking was the fact that I was the only adult in the room who stepped up to tell Evan that what he was doing was okay.

I want to raise boys who are nurturing, who work hard to figure out what others need and to care for them in the ways they require. I want to raise boys who are gentle and loving, who think deeply and who strive to articulate their thoughts and feelings clearly. I want to teach my children empathy and kindness, regardless of their gender.

Now that Evan's physical development (and his interest therein) has evened out with his intellectual development, I am proud of him for his ability to run and jump, his desire to make a lot of noise when he is happy, his willingness to take risks. But I will never discourage him from caring for his little brother, from wanting to snuggle, from expressing his emotions with all of their intensity.

If I can become the parent I wish to be, I will be able to raise humans, who, by the way, just happen to be boys.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Wooden Beaded Necklace

Remember a couple months ago when I wrote about finding some wonderful branches after a wind storm? We have been working slowly to create with these, though we still have many, many ideas in waiting.

We made a simple celebration tree from the smallest of the branches. We decorated it with homemade valentines in February. With the coming of spring, we will be decorating again as we work on some seasonal crafts in the next few weeks.

We made a set of coat racks, one for each boy, to help them learn to take care of their own belongings.

But my most favorite project so far has been the beaded necklaces that we made with a section of one branch. The most wonderful thing about these necklaces is the involvement that kids had in making them, especially Evan.

We started with a thinner section of branch and cut it into small pieces, each about a half an inch long. Then, we drilled a small hole in each bead, through the cut edge. Of course, this was the grown-up part of the job.

Evan, Clayton and I worked together over the next few days to sand the beads. We left the bark on them unless it was too cracked and already falling off by itself.

I bought some multi-colored elastic cord to use for stringing. This ended up a perfect choice since the stretch in the elastic allows even Clayton to remove his necklace by himself.

Using a blunt plastic needle with the cord tied tightly on, Evan threaded his own necklace, choosing his beads and their placement. While he worked on this, I put together a necklace for Clayton.

My beautiful boy, you do look lovely in your new necklace.

Friday, March 9, 2012

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

If you are inspired to do the same, leave a link to your moment at SouleMama for all to find and see.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Who Am I?

I am writing today in response to a post written a few weeks ago by Courtney at A Life Sustained.

When I was seventeen, I became a "vegetarian." That is in quotes not to indicate that I was uncommitted or inconsistent with my new diet, but rather that I did not label myself as such at this point in my life. It took me many, many years of eschewing meat products until I was ready to call myself a vegetarian. The label just seemed too quick and easy to encompass the thought that I had put into this decision and the passion that defined it. I did not want to be lumped into a group of "vegetarians" whom I did not know and with whom I perhaps did not even agree. I did not want people to assume things about my lifestyle and my beliefs that were not true. So, instead I had this conversation...

Me: I don't eat meat.
You: So, you're a vegetarian.
Me: No, I just don't eat meat.
You: So, do you eat fish?
Me: No.
You: Do you eat chicken?
Me: No.
You: What do you eat?
Me: Things that were not sentient before I ate them.
You: So, you're a vegetarian.
Me: No, I just don't eat meat...

Admittedly very confusing for all involved. Eventually, I got tired of the monotony and just started to call myself a vegetarian.

This same process has occurred over and over throughout my life. For a long time after I became a teacher, I told people, "I teach" or "I work at a school."  I think I still never call myself a "wife," even after almost eight years of marriage.

The only label I think I have had no problem assimilating in my life is "mother." Maybe it is because of the whole "I grew you inside of me and pushed you out into the world" thing. Maybe it is because of the almost painfully intense love, pride and devotion that I feel toward my children. Either way, I am very clearly a mother.

Those nouns and adjectives that label us just come with so much baggage. I cringe at the false things people must assume about me when I say "I like yoga" or "Kale is my favorite food." Truly, we know people not through such statements, but through many days and years of observing them. I know that guy with whom I used to work is lazy not because he ever told me so, but because I have seen him repeatedly shirk responsibility. I know that my husband is fiercely loyal and as sensitive as a child because I have watched him closely for over a decade. The things that really matter that I know about people, those things that define our relationship and that most help me to trust and love them, are things that would never be listed in the sorts of "About Me" blurbs that we write on the sides of our blogs.

If I had to say the most important things for you to know about me, here are some things I would include :
  • I go crazy for the smell of greens as they are being cut.
  • I hike very, very slowly.
  • I walk quickly.
  • I keep everyone I have ever loved in my heart.
  • I sang children's songs daily well before I had children.
  • I like to keep my house cold in the winter and warm in the summer.
  • I love (love, love!) to clean out my closet.
  • I prefer the tortoise to the hare.
  • The qualities I most value in other are loyalty, genuineness, and the ability to get really, really silly. I hope others see those qualities in me.
Now it is your turn. What can you teach me about who you are?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Starting a Dinner Cooperative

Several years ago, I started a dinner coop here in Lubbock. It has been a truly wonderful experience and has given me the opportunity to meet and share meals with some great people! It also gives me one night a week free when my husband and I do not have to cook dinner for our family.

What is a dinner coop?
A dinner coop is simply a group of people who organize to share meals. In our group, this means that one person cooks a meal for the rest of the group each Sunday. We pick up the meals from the cook's house between five and seven o'clock, just in time for dinner that night. (In my family, we usually save the coop meal till Monday, since cooking is much more complicated during the week and we are thankful to be able to pull out this homemade meal from our fridge without having to lift a finger to make it.)

We rotate the schedule so that each of us cooks about once every six weeks. We also schedule a monthly potluck held at one of the member's houses. I maintain an online calendar where members can post what they are cooking each week and RSVP to others' meals.

I have heard of coops with exclusively shared mealtime/potlucks, those scheduled so that meals are received several times a week or even every day, and those where each member cooks a piece of the meal every week. I have also heard of groups where the cook drops meals off at the members' houses. There are numerous possibilities for organizing this sort of group so an initial meeting with prospective members is important for working out details.

How did I start our coop?
I read about dinner coops years ago and really wanted to be a part of one. So, I made up a few flyers and hung them around town. Then, I simply waited. I got really good response and we initially had about eight or so members/member families, though this leveled out to a steady five or six after the first few weeks. (This seems to be the ideal number of people in my experience. Too many more and cooking the meals becomes a lot more complicated. Less than this and it feels like you are cooking for the group way too often.)

After I got a handful of emails from interested people, I set up a meeting at my house to discuss the format of the group and we scheduled our first potluck. Starting with a potluck allowed us all to meet one another, an important thing in a group made up of strangers in order to settle any anxieties that might exist about responding to a random flyer. We also shared contact information and checked on any food aversions or allergies in the group. (Luckily, we have never had any!)

Since that initial group of people, we have had many members come and go. We still find new members using the flyer-technique, but more and more, we have had new members come through word-of-mouth.

I must say that I am not sure whether simply hanging flyers would work in another situation. See, the meals we cook for our coop are strictly vegetarian, although the members are not necessarily vegetarians themselves. Having this focus to our group has been helpful in attracting new members, since vegetarians are rare birds here in West Texas. When you think of the stereotypical Texas cowboy, the one you think no longer really exists...well, I can assure that he does and that he lives in my neighborhood. So, finding new members in Lubbock is as simple as hanging a flyer in the local natural food ("hippie") store and the ("hippie") yoga studio (although the latter has now closed so we might have more trouble the next time around). People "like us" in Lubbock see the word vegetarian on a flyer and we stop what we are doing to read it.

What is the most difficult thing about being in a dinner coop?
In our group, we seem to go through these periods where people keep forgetting to pick up meals. That means that a member put in the effort (and the extra burden on that week's grocery bill) to make a meal for nothing. Thankfully, we are a unusually forgiving group of people, and it probably helps that each one of us has been on both the giving and the receiving end of such acts. Sometimes, the cook calls the other members to see about arranging a pick up the next day. Sometimes, they work their way through the leftovers themselves.

To solve this problem, we decided that members should RSVP to let the cook know that they are planning to pick up that week. That way, the cook knows how many people to cook for and knows who to call if someone has not arrived at the end up the pick-up time. Plus, at least for me, writing someone to say I will be somewhere seems to help my memory much better than simply reading a date and time on an online calendar.

The most important thing for us that allows our coop to be a success, I think, is that we stay flexible. If the cook gets sick or has a last-minute emergency, she calls or emails to cancel the meal. If someone forgets to pick up and still wants the food, we work with each other to arrange alternate pick-up times. If too many people are busy or out of town, we simply skip that week on our calendar. (The holidays were so busy for people this year that we took a break from November until mid-January.)

What is the best thing about being in a dinner coop?
Meeting different people, eating food that you would not normally cook, connecting with others over common interests...and most importantly, lots and lots of serious deliciousness!


So, if you are interested in the idea of a dinner coop, but do not know where to find one, I encourage you simply to start one yourself. I am happy to answer any questions that you might have. There are also many, many web resources with tons of other ideas and information. A simple web search for "dinner coop" will get you started.

And if you are already a member of a dinner coop, I would love to hear about your group. How is it organized? Do you cook around a certain theme or diet or does anything go? What challenges have you had?

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Gift for Grandmother

It was my mother-in-law's birthday a few weeks ago. Since she came to visit a few days afterwards, we were lucky enough to be able to celebrate with her!

Yum...Coconut cake. (I know what I am going to ask for on my birthday this year!)

Evan, Clayton and I wanted to make her a special gift. We decided to make some placemats - an easy project for all of our varied skill levels. I found a simple idea for placemats in Amanda Blake Soule's The Creative Family. Have the child paint on canvas with fabric paint and then sew together with a second piece of canvas. I only changed Amanda's method very slightly, using fabric markers instead of paint because they were what we had on hand and adding a layer of batting to give the placemats a little extra weight.

Grandmother loved them and the boys loved making them. Plus, I got more much needed practice sewing a straight line.

They came out quite lovely, I think. We might have to make some for ourselves one of these days.