green chic

green chic

GREEN CHIC – Saving the Earth in Style
By Christie Matheson
A book with realistic tips on how we can live a greener life
With reasons, explanations and stats on why we need to be greener
It’s not about guilt
It’s about how we can make a difference
And every little change will make a difference
Mini Scrap Wood House

Mini Scrap Wood House

 Mini Scrap Wood House by Val and Ethan
Look what E & I made this weekend!  Super cool, don’t you think?

When the boys were very small, I had this vision of raising my kids in a simple setting with just a few wooden toys, lots of books and art supplies and a ton of imaginative, creative play.

I succeeded in teaching them to love books, reading and art.  And they are fairly creative….

But, I was not as successful in stopping the flow of junky plastic toys and electronics into our home.  Thomas wooden trains and tracks and simple wooden blocks lost out to 3DS, ipods, Leapsters, Bey Blades, vats of Legos (which I actually love too) and an endless number of little plastic guys.

We limit electronic game time and TV to weekends only, but I’m still not happy seeing them choose to spend their free time plugged into things.  And yet, I want the choice to be theirs…. So I puzzled over a way I could lure them away from the gadgets and get them engaged in creative projects.  An ever more challenging prospect the older they get.

…. Enter this amazing source of inspiration I just discovered and am so excited share it with you!

“Made to play!” by Joel Henriques.

A wonderful book with a plethora of ideas for toys you can make for and with your children.

Lots of bright colors and simple designs that are beautiful and inspiring.

Of course I wanted to make something from his book.  I was especially drawn to his wooden toys but was a bit stymied because I’ve never worked with wood before.

For the “scrap wood dollhouse,” Joel suggests taking any two pieces of wood and nailing them together…. hey, maybe I could try that… I just needed the scrap wood…. where was I supposed to get that?!  That was almost the end of this first project until I remembered the boys’ karate boards they’d punched in half and then saved as trophies….

Alright.  Project back on!  Broken karate boards for the basic “house.”  A little bit sanding.  A little bit of beeswax polish (Three Beeautiful Bees Beeswax Polish as recommended by Joel).

Ethan wandered away from his 3DS about the time I started rubbing in the beeswax.  We worked on this part together while I described my ideas for our “house.”  Simon joined us when it was time to nail the 2 boards together.

Did I mention I don’t work with wood?  In fact, I don’t work with hammers…. or perhaps hammers just don’t work with me… because the little boys were completely entertained watching me hammer 3 nails through 2 boards … it was a sad sight but eventually, I did prevail….

And then it was time to decorate.  My favorite!

The fake grass (from E’s reuse bin) made a perfect house plant.  I tried to copy Joel’s wire planter.  I used 20 gauge steel wire.  Not quite as cool as his, but still recognizable as a pot.

The painted wooden block has big sentimental value to me since E painted it when he was just two years old.  Usually, I keep it on my desk, but we decided I’d loan it to him to use as the end table until he gets a chance to paint a new block for his house.

I loved all the wire furniture from the book.  Our house needed to have a wire chair too.  My chair’s a bit lop-sided, but I think it works.  I used my freshly learned crocheting skills to make a padded seat.

Once I crocheted the chair pad, I decided to make a few cushions for our couch (plain wooden block).

We used a fabric scrap left from a patchwork quilt project to serve as our rug.  Ethan selected one of his paintings to cut down for his new house.

And then we were ready to play.  Gingie, Mongo, Chim-Chim and a parade of other plastic guys lined up to move into their new home.

So it worked!  The boys put down their gadgets to come play this new game with me.  Thank you Joel!
Simon has design ideas of his own.  I need to nail 2 more boards together so he can start decorating his mini house (I just broke out in a sweat at the thought of wielding the hammer again).  I plan to get the kid some safety glasses, then hand over my wire and pliers to see what he can make.
The boys are asking to make the modern dollhouse next & I’m itching to decorate it…  now I just need to figure out where to get the wood, how to cut all those wooden pieces and then how nail (ugh) or screw (even worse) them together…. stay tuned….
For the Perfectionist

For the Perfectionist

“Ish” and “the dot” by Peter H Reynolds.

Two beautiful books about how things don’t need to be done perfectly.

For the little boy who refused to draw until he was 4 because his big brother could.

For the bigger boy who struggles over writing his comic book.

For me – a reminder that it’s the joy of endeavoring that really matters…. and that I should sign my name on my artwork.

For anyone who might be interested in living “ishfully ever after.”  

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Millennium Park, Chicago
To celebrate our upcoming 15th anniversary, Jin & I decided to take a weekend trip to Chicago with just ….  the four of us….
No, not romantic in the least.  But we sure enjoyed a rollicking family adventure!  
Here are some highlights from our weekend:
Chicago Water Tower
We stayed on the Magnificent Mile.  All sorts of shopping and buildings-with-names in this neighborhood.  I especially liked the Chicago Water Tower.  In the past, Jin & I referred to it as the “castle.”  But on this trip, we learned it is actually the second-oldest water tower in the U.S. and one of only a few buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire (1871).  

Crisp and sunny all weekend.  We bundled up each day and explored as much as we could.  It’s still a city; but we feel like there’s so much more space to run and play here.
Cloud Gate

And then we came upon this giant mercury-drop like sculpture right in the middle of Millennium Park.  We broke out into big grins at the sight of it and ran over to see what it was all about.

What is this thing?
It’s  a 110 ton sculpture by Anish Kapoor.  
This is so cool!
Childlike wonder on every face around us.  Cameras clicked non-stop.  We circled around and around the sculpture.  In for a close up.  Out for a better look.  A fascinating work of art. 
Monroe Harbor
I dragged everyone over to the lake because I wanted to show the kids how the sidewalk just drops off into the lake.  Of course, once we got there, I was utterly paranoid that one of the boys would trip and fall into the freezing water…. we stayed just long enough to take a few pictures.
Trying out Lou Malnati’s
The boys wanted to know what deep dish pizza was.  What better place to eat it than in Chicago?
The “Malnati Chicago Classic”
We ordered the “Malnatii Chicago Classic.”  Outrageously tasty sausage.  Extra cheese.  Amazing sauce.  Crisp, light, buttery crust.  It’s the best pizza we’ve ever eaten.  And you know what?  I found out that they deliver.  Well, more accurately, they ship.  I will definitely be looking into that.
Best pizza ever

A wonderful, fabulous, fun (and delicious) adventure.  Which, by the way, would be the same way I’d describe 15 years of marriage.   Happy Anniversary to us, Jin!