Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Overcoming the Creative Slump

Not every day is a creative day. Let’s be honest, there are days when the last thing you want to do is make, cook, plant or play anything. And even more so, you don’t want to do any of those things with three kids. You just don’t feel creative, don’t feel inspired, or don’t feel good.

I felt that way yesterday-dealing with allergy crud, a kid in a cast, a cat that wouldn’t quit throwing up everywhere.

I was channeling Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything:

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything…I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed… I don't want to do that.”

I get it, Lloyd. I completely get it.

That was me yesterday.

Today (coinciding with my dialing back the allergy meds so I can function) I decided to get a little more in the spirit of everything I neglected the day before. House cleaning was on the list as well, however, when the six year-old said “It is really good that we have this craft room now or else our whole house would be a huge mess!” you start thinking maybe things could be worse. I mean, you just heard her say it “would” be a huge mess, not it “is” a huge mess!

Even though our little love rocks don’t really count as a craft for charity, we are counting them as February’s project. I am pleading injured kid or the fact that we are humans for why we didn’t get the blankets done. Either excuse seems valid.

Today I decided that we should get started on our Project Linus blankets so that they could be done this year. I asked the girls to choose their patterns and fabrics and let me know what their plans would be for each blanket. The middle child broke out paper and whipped out a little sketch with notes.

Detailed instructions!
“It’s going to be a heart blanket,” she said. “All hearts in all the corners and a big heart right in the middle. Like on my shirt we made.”

The oldest looked at her cast and started to go upstairs. I called her back and she said, “I can’t really sew, though.”

When I handed her my laptop and told her to look on some fabric websites at different fleece, she perked up. She had been thinking about the blankets in terms of sewing. We decided that for this project she could make the fringed-edge fleece style blanket.

After finding three different Texas A&M fleece prints on three different sites, she changed course. “I think I will go with this one,” she said.

I asked why the change.

“I think this will be better for more people,” she said. “Not everyone loves the Aggies like we do, but boys or girls could use this one even if they don’t like the Aggies.”

There were several background color options, and I was a bit surprised that she eschewed purple (softball team color) in favor of green. “It looks like the field you play most sports on,” she replied when asked.


I was getting everything together so that I could order the fabrics, and the youngest child ran up to me (she had been quietly working on a “surprise” for me this whole time) and she was very upset.

“I didn’t pick my fabric yet,” she said, nearly in tears.

“Yes you did,” I said. “You said you wanted to make your quilt out of the same fabrics as your pillowcase.”

“Oh, yeah! I do,” she said. “But what about my pattern?”

“You told me you wanted to make the blanket have squares like the pillowcase,” I said.

“Oh, yeah! I do,” she said. “Ok, I guess I’m done.”

Remember these fabrics?
And on that note, she ran upstairs to get ready for bed.

So, as soon as we get the fleece we’ll get going. Maybe I’ll handle the blanket project like the pillowcase project and work one-on-one with the girls.

On a completely unrelated topic, we are trying to eat more veggies around here (but our garden is still growing so we still have to buy most of them) so I have been getting creative with our side dishes at dinner.

Last night we had kale chips and tonight a cabbage salad. The kids ate both of them!!!!! It’s a Leap Week miracle! Ok, to be honest, the middle child didn’t gobble her kale chips up like she could have, but she still ate them.

What interesting veggie side have you made that your kids eat. Comment on here and maybe we’ll try them. No mushrooms, please, unless the recipe includes an Epi-Pen! Other than that, I want to hear your ideas.

Monday, February 27, 2012

That's Texas!

So, let’s get into Oscar red carpet fashion today. What did you like, what didn’t you like?

Pshaw! That’s not what we do here!

On to the blog!

Finally it’s spring! No, wait, it’s still winter…or is it? I don’t know. The flowers in my yard don’t know. The geckos under my porch light don’t know. The eight million pear trees in this neighborhood surely don’t know (allergy-sufferer here)!

At any rate, the 85 degrees that swept in on Thursday sent me to the nursery for sweet baby veggie plants. I was also jumpstarted to clean out the garden, pull some weeds and tackle the compost pile and see what rich, black gold was at the bottom.

The problem was that by the time I got around to the actual yard work part, it had turned into a 50 degree, blustery day.

That’s Texas.

I heard that 12 times yesterday-no lie:

“Well, you know that’s Texas!”

“Whew, this weather…that’s Texas!”

“80 degrees then 40 degrees? That’s Texas!”

And then about nine more times just like that.

Don’t get me wrong; I agree that Texas does have some crazy weather and unpredictable trends. Just read any gardening guide and our average last frost is March 1st to March 31st. That’s an average? 31 days? I just think it is the unpredictability that makes our weather predictable.

I know when I should set out tomatoes and peppers. After the last possible frost date, right? But if I wait that long, they won’t have fruit before it gets too hot for the plants to set blossoms. Because our weather is always nuts, I know I can set them in the garden too early and then hope, pray and watch the sky to make sure a later freeze doesn’t get them.

Baby 'maters and peppers
I decided to soldier forth and start the garden clean out despite the chill in the air. Fortified by French toast and blueberries from The Snooty Pig, I donned jeans and a flannel shirt and started tearing out weeds. I wanted the area to be a blank slate by the time the kids got home and were ready to help plant.

Something about a weather change makes not only the allergies go haywire and the knees ache, it makes the kids C-R-A-Z-Y! Apparently, it also makes them not want to work in the garden. So we released them into the wild. Okay, semi-supervised wild. 

The poor eldest is still hampered by the long-arm cast and I do not want dirt in that thing! The youngest managed to score a play date and who am I to stand in the way of her burgeoning social calendar? That left me the middle child who preferred to swing and watch to actually planting anything. Although, interestingly enough, she was fascinated by the new compost bin I made.

“Ooohhh, are those pallets? Are you making that for compost,” she asked.

I said yes.

“Are we going to make pallet gardens out of all of those?”

I said no.

We then got into a discussion about how the pallets for the compost bin had to be lightweight and not permanently attached so that we could turn the compost and get to it when it had matured.

“Oh, like how you had to take the old one apart to get the compost out?”


“So they can’t be pallet gardens?”



I had to dismantle the old wire-framed compost bin each time I turned the compost, losing the structure of the pile and causing a lot of hassle. I wound up removing the whole thing and starting from scratch in a new location, fashioning a compost bin from the aforementioned pallets.

The middle child (or second-born, however you choose to thing of her) also helped move weeds to the weed pile and bring tools and plants to the garden. We put in the rest of the onions, kale and lettuce, and build hay bins for the potatoes. The broccoli from winter is starting to peter out so we should have that space soon for some eggplants. Who’s excited?

Almost picked clean!
It did wind up warming up enough to get some good work done, and now the garden is primed for the season. We are waiting a few more days on those warmer-weather veggies. I’ll shoot for the early end of the "average".


Watch it Grow!

Ready to be cut up for planting!
*A note about the pallet garden: If you make one of these, you must water every morning or install a little soaker hose through the whole thing. We are discovering just how quickly the planting pockets dry out. That’s the occasional downside to experiments-they sometimes have occasional downsides!
Smile, it's lettuce!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Scattering Secret Stones

Whew, we have had a busy week! Apparently it is significantly tougher to paint rocks than I thought. Every time they would get one side of all the rocks painted and be ready to set them down to dry, someone would “accidentally” pour a plateful of paint and start smearing it all over the other side. According to the oldest child, "we have to hurry and get them all covered so we can paint the hearts!" Her sisters agreed completely.

It came as a great shock to these kids that the rocks would be adhered to the plates when they dried. And it surprised them that my rocks didn't stick! I tried to explain that globs of paint act like glue, but it was no use. They would peel the rocks free, taking a chunk of paper plate with each one. Next, they would have to peel off the chunks of plate and the paint would come off too, leaving a bare spot. Then the whole thing would start over. We did this little dance a few times before the rocks were decent for heart adornment.

The youngest child declared, true to form, that “we should make a map of where we leave the hearts and then we can go back the next day and see if they are gone”.

The heart concept was difficult for them to grasp at first. Not only was it pretty tough to freehand heart shapes on irregularly shaped rocks, but it was also hard to keep three kids from taking nice designs and making them “even better” when full plates of paint were so handy. I tried to explain that these weren’t rocks they were decorating for their own use, but were supposed to be simple enough for someone to see that they were hearts. Blink...blink...blink...

After a fair number of hearts were painted and dry, the girls were chomping at the bit to go into the neighborhood and disperse the rocks “everywhere”.

We took some stones with us and hopped in the car. First we dropped one near a friend’s house that we knew was having a tough time. The youngest child cheerfully skipped back to the car after depositing in somewhere near the house (she swears it’s visible) and said, “I know they will find our rock and it will make them feel better!”

We put one in the grocery store parking lot, near the cart return. The middle child wanted to take one to her well-check at the pediatrician. “If someone is sick and they find it,” she said, “then maybe they won’t feel as bad as they did before.

Later, the three of them went for a walk with the dogs (who have remained contained in the yard) and their daddy. They took a little bag of the stones with them and dispersed them as they strolled along pathways and sidewalks in the neighborhood.

We've left them near dance studios and restaurants and I still have a bag of them that I will keep in my car. That way we can slip a rock onto a potted plant or pathway or in a flower bed when it seems like the right place and time. Maybe one of you will find one of the stones the girls hid in the pictures above!

These are sweet little tokens of joy, but the best part of this project is that the girls are opening their eyes to the fact that such a simple act can bring such joy to another person. That a tiny blessing they leave, even anonymously, could brighten another’s day. And that is a blessing to me!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Stakeouts and Stones may Break My Bones...

What a difference a women’s retreat makes! It was so nice to have two days to spend with old friends, make new friends and learn a lot from and about each other, ourselves and God. What a great weekend. 

I tried to get the hubby to take a guest spot here on the ol’ blog and write about something fun and creative he did with the kids while I was retreating. He declined, citing disinterest. He did agree to sit in and craft with us today as we started (I’ll share why we only started and didn’t finish in a sec.) a new project.

A few I finished for examples
Today’s project was stolen, um, borrowed, from Pinterest. I stumbled on this idea from the colormekatie blog. The project involves taking stones, painting hearts on them and then returning them to the wild-nestling them in slightly visible places to ensure "chance" discoveries. I think it is fantastic idea and not at all limited to Valentine’s Day. 

Also, I haven’t found any rocks painted with hearts strewn about (or even hidden about) our neighborhood. This led me to think we should go for it. Plus, the poor cast-laden one can paint one handed even though she can’t make tissue paper flowers or sew one handed.

Quickly, let me run down the reason why we only started this project and won’t finish it until tomorrow.

See that furry animal laying, exhausted, on the tile? He’s exhausted because he spent a little time jumping and/or digging out of this perfectly good fence. 

“Hey, why is the picture of this fence taken from so far away?” you may ask. I’ll tell you why. It’s because I was staking out my own yard to see how the dog escaped. I was sitting in my car so the dog wouldn't know I was there watching. I got up-to-the-minute texts on the dog's backyard movements from my recon. team in the house:

He's at the back door.

He's in the garden.

Now he's out.

Now he's at the back door again.

Halfway through this exercise in futility, the eldest child came to join me. "This is so weird," she commented helpfully.

Now would be a good time to point out that this is not my dog. It is my Mom’s dog that is staying with us for a little while. I thought that he would stay contained now that we have a new fence. Nay, Nay.

Anyway, It got dark before he tried to escape again so I will try again tomorrow. I will find his escape route, oh yes, I will find his escape route.

So after wasting plenty of time watching the fence, we got started on our project.

The stones were very pretty on their own merit, so we decided to only paint half of them base colors and then add hearts after the paint dried. The other half would get hearts just on the raw stones.

We divided up the stones and started painting. As we discussed how we would go hide them tomorrow, the girls started to get excited about it.

“Maybe we could remember where we put them and go back the next day and see if anyone took them,” the middle one said.

“Can we put them on people’s porches?” the youngest one asked?

We explained the joy of the randomness of the rocks. That someone might be jogging on a path, or walking to school, having a bad day or just feeling sad. They might look down and find one of these sweet little rocks and their day might get better.

Pausing for the night
So we painted the first side of the rocks and set them to dry. Tomorrow we’ll finish them and go hide them around. Keep an eye out; maybe one of them will brighten your day (also keep an eye out for my Mom’s dog-here’s hoping he stays put).

More Hijinks...