Archive for family fun

Dreamy Play Spaces

Kyoto Garden House by SmartPlayhouse

Hobikken playhouse exterior by SmartPlayhouse

Hobikken playhouse by SmartPlayhouses

Illinois playhouse exterior by SmartPlayhouse

Illinois playhouse by SmartPlayhouse

You can’t beat the price of a fort made out of blankets and books and furniture (or, as I used to build them, boards from all of our board games). At the same time, I can easily imagine the hours kids would devote to creative play sparked by truly special play spaces like these from SmartPlayhouse.

More designs to admire on their website, including both outdoor and indoor playhouses.

Images: SmartPlayhouse
via smaller

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Recommended: Sweet Paul + Action Pack

The number of online magazines seems to be exploding, and there are many wonderful ones out there, including Small Magazine, lmnop, Gifted, Lonny, Rue, Matchbook, Anthology and others. I especially look forward to issues of Sweet Paul, which is always packed to the gills with beautiful photography, fun ideas and terrific recipes.

The new Kids issue is out and it’s every bit as good as (or maybe better than!) Martha Stewart’s KIDS, if you ever subscribed to it (and obsessively hoard the old issues, like I do).

Sweet Paul Kids issue cover

(I totally want to make one of these strawberry marshmallow shakes!)

You can get the issue here. See also the Sweet Paul blog.

I also want to recommend Whip Up‘s mini-mag for kids ages 7 and older called Action Pack (download it for $5). It’s 20+ pages of craft projects, outdoor activities, cooking, drawing and more. Perfect for weekend projects.

Whip Up's Action Pack mini mag for kids

I’m pretty sure Elena and Rosa would love both of these magazines.
So much to look at and do!

Images: Sweet Paul and Whip Up
Action Pack via Craft

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Classic Play!

I’m interrupting the Handmade Holiday Gift Guides to tell you that the new issue of Classic Play! is out, and I am so honored to be a guest contributor. Classic Play! is a wonderful online magazine filled with essays, crafts, gift guides and fun ideas for parents. I highly recommend it.

The theme for this issue is Science, and I created a Monarch butterfly chrysalis craft, inspired by Not Martha’s tiny pinatas and an experience I had with Monarchs at work last year:

Chrysalis Craft Pic 2 for Classic Play's Science Issue Chrysalis Craft Pic 4 for Classic Play's Science Issue
Chrysalis Craft Pic 6 for Classic Play's Science Issue Chrysalis Craft Pic 6 for Classic Play's Science Issue

The Foundation that I work for gives money to a group called the Monarch Teacher Network, which is a network of teachers who use the incredible migration of the Monarch butterfly as a robust teaching tool in their classrooms (environmental lessons, math lessons, art lessons, etc). Last year, they brought several caterpillars to our office and let us watch the beauty of their transformation unfold over several days. I don’t know if you remember what a monarch chrysalis looks like, but it is incredibly delicate and beautiful and small:

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis

It starts off as light green with tiny gold dots on it, and as the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, the chrysalis gets increasingly translucent so that you can actually see the black and orange wings:

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis with wings showing through

As a child, the transformation seems so magical. Getting to revisit this process as an adult, and being able to appreciate the incredible beauty of the chrysalis, it was even more magical than I remembered, and it left a deep impression on me. It seemed like a perfect fit, then, to make a chrysalis craft for Classic Play!

I hope you enjoy the Science issue, and I hope you like the craft too. If you decide to make your own, please let me know. You can fill it with anything and make it any colors you want!  Also, I must give a special thanks to Melanie of You Are My Fave who gave me some pointers for this craft. Much appreciated, Melanie.

See also all of the back issues of Classic Play!, including Food, Sports, Love and Travel, among others, for so much inspiration and fun.

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Milk + Bookies

Milk and Bookies cup and book logo Milk and Bookies Milk and Cookie Birthday Artwork

Between Rosa’s birthday (right before Christmas), Christmas itself, and Elena’s birthday (in January), we have a very concentrated four weeks in which we are inundated with gifts every year. I always feel overwhelmed by it.

I already suggested to the girls that we take a year off from the parties. Predictably, that didn’t go over so well. So I’m happy to have run across Milk + Bookies (via Small Magazine’s blog) as a possible birthday party idea.

Milk + Bookies is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that helps children give to their community and foster literacy skills through book donations. They promote several different kinds of Milk + Bookies events. At a Milk + Bookies birthday party, guests bring a hardcover book instead of a gift, and all of the books get donated to the birthday child’s organization of choice.

Milk + Bookies makes it easy for parents to throw a birthday party, with a free invitation template on their website as well as several party activity ideas. Also, parents order a “Bookies Box” for $30, which includes bookmarks, bookplates if the children want to inscribe their donated books, and “I Donated” stickers to give to all the party guests. I could add my own creative touches to the party through decorations, storytelling activities and food.

Seems like a winner to me!

And, how great is their branding? I love the artwork.

For more information about birthday parties, how to host your own event as well as events going on in your area, and donating to a good cause:

Milk + Bookies website
Milk + Bookies blog

All next week I’m sharing my Holiday Gift Guides, featuring my favorite unique, beautiful handmade finds for everyone on your list this year.

Wishing you all a happy and fun Halloween this weekend!

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Ghosts in the House!

I started the week with a Halloween book, and I’m going to end it with a Halloween book too.

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara is about a little witch who moves into a haunted house and makes friends with the ghosts. The illustrations are so sweet.

children's halloween book by kazuno kohara

children's halloween book by kazuno kohara

children's halloween book by kazuno kohara

children's halloween book by kazuno kohara

children's halloween book by kazuno kohara

Now I’m going to have to check out Here Comes Jack Frost too.

Images from Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara, published by Square Fish for Macmillan

I’ll be back on Monday with another Halloween craft — and remember that Monday is the last day to enter the Witch Craft book giveaway. Happy weekend!

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Modern Family Tree Print by Cozy Blue

family tree illustration by cozy blue

I love this family tree print more than you know.

Available in a handful of different color combinations (mine is teal and black, but I almost went for the cobalt blue – khaki green combo) from Cozy Blue‘s shop. The prints are 11″ x 14″ and frame-ready.

It makes me smile every time I look at it.

Today’s the last day to enter to win the paper goods grab bag giveaway over at Pushing Papers. I’ll announce the winner on Monday!

Also, I’m going to have a giveaway on Charlotte’s Fancy next week – stay tuned.

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The Great American Roadtrip

Last week, we flew to Nebraska, rented a car, and drove west to see many of this country’s iconic monuments and parks: Mt. Rushmore, the Black Hills, the Badlands, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

I am pretty sure that only my mom is interested in seeing these pictures (and she was with us for half of the trip!), but I hope you will indulge me anyway.

After a pretty drive through Nebraska over to Rapid City, South Dakota, our first stop was Mt. Rushmore:

We were pleasantly surprised with Mt. Rushmore. They’ve thoughtfully designed various ways to view the monument, including a short trail that allows you to get right underneath it and look up at those huge faces.

After a side trip to the Crazy Horse Memorial, enjoying the scenery of the Black Hills along the way, we backtracked to the Badlands, which are east of Rapid City.

It was hot. I mean really hot. But the view! We spotted our first bison and prairie dogs here.

We made the obligatory (and mercifully short) stop at Wall Drug before heading back west to the nation’s first monument. Do you know what it is? It’s in Wyoming.

Devil’s Tower. Theodoore Roosevelt made it the nation’s first monument in 1906.

We arrived at Devil’s Tower a couple of hours before sunset and were blown away by its size and surroundings and the beautiful late afternoon sun shining it. If you can believe it, there were several people climbing it, and they were more than halfway up.

There’s a really nice path around the base, which is a little more than a mile long. We hiked it, saw some deer in the forest, listened to the wind rustle through the aspen trees, and soaked it all up.

When we left Devil’s Tower, the moon was rising right next to it, and as we drove toward our hotel for the evening, the sunset seemed to last forever.

From Wyoming, we headed in to Montana, where we picked up my mom and spent a few days visiting my uncle. We spent one afternoon in Bozeman at the excellent Museum of the Rockies – a must for dinosaur lovers. This picture above is an actual T Rex skeleton (not a cast).

While in Montana, we also went horseback riding at the Chico Hot Springs Resort. The scenery was spectacular and the horses (Rebecca, Jake, Ruben and Roper) were easy riding partners.

Here are the girls immediately following the ride:

This is what pure joy looks like.

We stayed in Livingston, Montana, which is about 50 miles from the north entrance of Yellowstone. We took two day trips there (these pictures are a combination of both days):

Exploring small hot springs in this little stream – it felt like bath water.

This is a view of Mammoth Hot Springs near the north entrance.

Can you guess what they’re waiting for? Here’s a hint:

Old Faithful! It erupts every 90 minutes, or so, give or take 10 minutes.

We also saw lots of stinky sulphur pits, like this one, as well as waterfalls, rivers, and Lake Yellowstone.

Animals we spotted along the way included a huge herd of bison, elk, antelope, deer, a coyote and a wolf.

Just south of Yellowstone is Grand Teton National Park. The mountains are very vertical and gorgeous:

Here’s another view. It was a beautiful day:

We drove through the park, but didn’t spend time here – it was our last full day and we were headed all the way across Wyoming and down to Colorado, to spend the night outside of Denver and catch a flight the next morning.

Here’s a fun thing we learned:

Remember how I said that I put little blue Moleskine journals in the girls’ travel bags and noted that they looked like passports? Turns out that at the National Parks, they have little stations where you can stamp your Park Passport (or notebook or journal) with a stamp that looks like a postage mark. We had no idea! We discovered it at Devil’s Tower (and therefore missed getting stamps at Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands). But we had a lot of fun finding as many stations as we could around Yellowstone (there were several). So, the next time you are at a National Park, look for the passport/stamp station. The one at Devil’s Tower is particularly fun, because they have a stamp that looks just like Devil’s Tower itself.

With 2500 miles of driving on this trip, mishaps were bound to happen. Like leaving our laptop power cord at a hotel, which took them four days just to put in the mail (perhaps they sent it by Pony Express – it took forever for it to arrive back home). Also, my iPhone took a two mile joyride on the roof of the car as we traveled the road up to Devil’s Tower and fell off only when we pulled into the parking lot. Unscathed. (A miracle, right?)  And the worst of the mishaps: a bird flew into our car as we were driving through the Badlands (we noticed a lot of birds skittish of the car would take flight right in front of us – we nearly hit a couple more). The worst part is that we didn’t notice until the next day that when the bird hit us, it had gotten lodged in the grill of our car. Oops. Sorry little birdie.

The bird incident notwithstanding, this was a great trip, and I feel lucky and grateful that we did it. Have you been to any of these places before? Our three favorites of the trip were Devil’s Tower, horseback riding and visiting Yellowstone.

Next Monday is Labor Day here in the US, so I’ll be taking that day off to enjoy the last full day of summer vacation before the girls go back to school. I hope to see you back here on Tuesday.

Thanks for letting me share these pictures, and have a great weekend!

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