Sunday, August 30, 2009


It's one thing to follow along with lovely blogs here and there. And another thing to leave comments and perhaps start a dialog. But it's another thing entirely to meet somebody from the blogosphere in person... or IRL (in real life).

I happen to figure out by powers of deduction (and the feedjit gadget thingy on the sidebar) that somebody was visiting the blog each day from the wee little town my inlaws live in. I truly thought at first that it was my inlaws, seeing as they are 1/3 of the whole reason we started this little digital scrapbook, and because, well, who else living out there that would know about this blog? But it wasn't.

It was sweet Joy over at You Know How We're An Art Family. We started emailing back and forth and she was lovely enough to share things to do in her neck of the woods for the next time we're over at the inlaws.

So this weekend we decided to meet at a little park in the little town and chat in person while the kids played.

And oh did they ever play. I can't tell you how crazy sweet her kiddos are. The older ones were so welcoming, bringing Zach right in to the fold of their exploring a local creek. Within minutes they were all spotting crawdads and building rock dams like old friends. And like true Waldorf kids, somebody yells "gnome home" and they all go a running.

It totally cemented my theory that having a village of like minded people would just rock. And even though Joy told us about all the fun things to do in her area that we never knew about, I know more than anything we'll want to hang out with them again.

Upon leaving, Zach grabbed my hand and said, "Mom I really liked those kids, they were so nice!"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Boat Stamp

This is probably the craftiest thing we've attempted thus far and it was crazy fun! Zach was in love with the idea of carving our own stamps from the first mention, and wouldn't let it drop until we boogied on over to the local art store and got some supplies. Basically cutting/ carving tool, soft-kut printing blocks, and some ink.

We opted for the lower end carving block since this was a rookie attempt. I let Zach draw a picture right on there in pencil. He drew a ship, shocking I know.

Then the carving. I'll admit I was nervous not just about Zach handling a sharp carving tool, but also about me butchering his work when I carved.

It was a little rough, the cheaper rubber blocks tend to crumble, but we got the hang of it eventually.

We also opted for cheaper stamp ink for the first go around and only stamped odds and ends from the recycling bin. But now that we have the hang of it, we're going to sniff out some better ink and make a go at creating something useful... some cards, baggies, labels,wrapping paper,gift bags... something.

If you want to see how the pros do this, head on over to Soulemama which is where I first got the idea. I dare not actually attempt to draw any of my own stamps, I think we'll stick to Zach's creations. Besides there is a certain appeal to a kid drawn design.

Even if it IS a monohull.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Cleanest Craft In The World

I couldn't resist this site at the Sheep & Wool Festival this spring. Aren't the colors delicious? And of course wool is light and squishy so storing it in the nooks and crannies aboard the boat is no problem.

Zach loves wet felting projects. It's colorful and kinetic and he actually gets to use the end product, in this case soap.
Just tightly wrap the wool roving around a bar of soap. We find that round soap works best, for some reason we have a hard time covering the corners on rectangle soaps.
Next dip the furry blob into a bowl of hot water or run a little hot water over the blob.

Squeeze out the excess moisture. Then find something abrasive (we used an old bamboo place mat) and rub like crazy.

The more you rub, the better your wool will felt (stick) to your soap. Remember to rub all sides.
We like to wrap ours in cut up tights for the last step, but it's not necessary. I find it helps everything stay together. Wrap up the soap, give it some more rubbing if necessary, and then set them out to dry thoroughly.

So my husband always asks -- WHY exactly would one want to wrap a perfectly adequate bar of soap in wool? The obvious answer - because it's pretty. Also as you rub the suds come out through the wool and it shrinks with the soap in the shower or bath. So you get a natural, exfoliating washcloth and bar of soap all in one. It's also nice to have a soap that doesn't slip out of little hands. And they make great gifts for all ages.

If you search on etsy you will see TONS if ideas and inspirations for felted soaps in every color, pattern, and shape you can imagine.

The best part is the clean up... everything is already clean. In fact, probably cleaner than you ever imagined. Your child will smell good, your craft area will be sudsy, heck, hand the kids a sponge and go crazy!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Stone Age Craft

No, you won't find rock painting in any craft books. Here's the step-by-step. Are you ready, you may want to write this down.
(1) Find a rock.
(2) Paint it.

Here's the point -- we had a problem. Any tablecloths we use on the cockpit table end up blowing off or even worse blowing away all together. It's true, the local knickknack store sells a package of widgits that handily solve this problem. But that involves a trip to the knickknack store to look for said widgits resulting in an afternoon spent shopping with a 5 year old which is like - well -- shopping with a 5 year old, and then spending money you don't have on something you do need that's mass produced and now YOU are part of the problem.

Instead, we shifted our thinking. How can we solve this problem, for free, in the fresh air, being creative, and engaging the boy so that the mama can also get her chores done and have a moment of quiet.

Of course rock painting can easily morph into arm painting and leg painting and hair painting and solar panel paining if you're not careful (which I wasn't, but it's bath season and a spray bottle of vinegar and water around the boat can work wonders).

But now we have a lovely, child made, colorful, natural, stone age solution to our problem.

Craft Impaired

A friend recently laughed at me upon hearing the news that I was loving Soulemama's new book, A Handmade Home. "But you don't sew." Right. "And you can't seem to grow things." True. "And you aren't exactly crafty." Craft impaired I like to call it.

But that's why her books rock! Because even craft-impaired mamas like me can savor the inspiration and beauty and purposeful living she so carefully documents and shares.

It's not about the sewing, or the knitting, or the thrifting (no space on a boat for that little habit), or the canning food for a winter feast. It's about deciding to create and being mindful of how you spend your time... rather than mindless.

As a fellow tv-free, homeschooling, Waldorf-inspired, nature loving family there are many things we were already doing like keeping a Nature Table and open ended play things.

But I wanted to share two of my favorite Soulemama tips that I gleaned from her first book The Creative Family that have really opened up the creative spirit in our little family of seriously un-crafty people.

First, family drawing night. We tried it for the first time about a year ago and now Zach is hooked! Not only does he ask for drawing nights many evenings, but we all initiate them.

Zach usually picks the theme. I usually pick the mood music. And daddy usually picks the snack. Or at least has to make the snack :) And I found out something NEW about my dear husband who I have known for 14 years... he can draw! My pictures usually look about the same as Zach's, but D can do a decent sketch when he has the time and concentration.

The theme recently was The Jabberwock. Zach is obsessed with that poem lately and decided we all needed to draw our interpretations. Mine is the goofy red faced one in the back. Zach's is the leggy one up front. And Zach declared that daddy's green faced one "looked too much like Gollum (they finished reading The Hobbit not long ago).

And we put our own twist on things by expanding in to family story telling nights, ghost story nights, music nights, talk like a pirate nights --anything with a theme and there's unplugged fun to be had.

Another creative tip from the book was making a little "inspiration wire" for Zach to hang bit and pieces of things that he's in to at the moment.

I asked him about what was up there when I snapped this picture about a week ago. There's two photos of junk rigged ships "because those are the coolest monohulls and I want a ship like that one day but I want to design a catamaran one." And there is a photo of a Buckminster Fuller design "because I like that he made houses not be boring and I like that his name sounds like the dog." (we have a neighbor who's dog is named Buckley) And then there's the stamp we carved recently which he's just proud of. And a painting he made of a purple leaf "because fall is coming and we never seem to find any purple leaves."

What a simple, beautiful, crazy fun way to start a conversation with your child and get some insight to their amazing minds. Thanks Amanda!

So this week is the week of Inspiration for the Craft Impaired. I am going to post some of the fun projects we've been doing as summer winds down. And if I can do them with my boy, truly anyone can.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer Meals

Back in spring we made an attempt on behalf of our dirt loving son to plant some tomatoes and basil and other herbs on the dock. Nothing grew. Not one thing. I can blame the extra cold wet spring and the extra hot dry summer. I can blame the questionable soil my husband scooped from the shore that was mostly sand. But the blame falls squarely on my seagoing shoulders. I just have a hard time remembering and caring about plants. Ok, there, I said it. While I LOVE the romantic notion of harvesting our own food, I resist the actual nurturing of the plants. Our dear friend A saw our empty bucket of dirt and brought over an already blossoming tomato plant. "Can you manage to keep it alive for just a little while, it's practically ready."

And look, we did it! Little tomatoes have been popping up daily and Zach is watching with glee as they ripen and redden. Of course, he doesn't actually like eating tomatoes. But he is loving the process nonetheless and was excited to help me make some gazpacho & kale salad with our little harvest combined with the larger harvests of some generous land lubber friends.

Summer meals are always such a festive affair. Whether it's a quiet dinner with summer's bounty... or a bounty of friends who are anything but quiet.

We had 11 adults, one child, 3 languages, a dozen steaks, several pounds of green beans, who knows how many bottles of wine, and non-stop laughing and eating.

Yes, this is actually a fairly typical summer get together at the marina. I love the way people just show up. I love sharing dishes with neighbors. I love that new people are always on the menu.

And I love the way the fun stretches long into the warm summer nights until we all drag our tired, happy, full selves back to our boats and rock to sleep.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Family Circus

Something a little lighter after yesterday's post. This is how Z and daddy are amusing themselves most evenings these days. Add some sequence covered, red tights and some slicked back hair and maybe they can take this act on the road...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Mom The Super Hero

I'm not even sure my mama knew what a super hero was, and now she is one. She was born at home in Santiago, Chile the youngest of 9 that her dad fathered with two different wives... at the same time. Her mama dropped dead right in front of her when she was only 6 years old. As the youngest and the only girl, she was sent away to boarding school, and the only parental relationship she formed as a little one was with the family maid.

Then she escaped the turmoil of Chile and came to the United States where she met and married my dad, had my brother, got separated, had me, got divorced while I was in the tummy, and started over with a new husband all before she was 30.

She was the defender of lost causes, the protector of all children, the fighter for rightness and truth, the advocate for disenfranchised people of all stripes, maker of killer lasagna, lemon chicken, and chocolate chip cookies, shoulder for tears, giver of hugs, sneaker inner to her kids beds at night for a cuddle, consummate worrier, snort laugher, and fiercely loyal and crazy fun mama. And she was dead long before Zach was even a glimmer in my eye.

So as he grew, the questions arose. "Why don't you have a mama?" "What happened to your mama?" "Why did she die before she met me?"

So I did what I know how to do best. I told a story. Lots of stories. It started with one or two, but he was HOOKED. "Tell me a Martha story", is THE most common request I get from this boy after, "Can we make popcorn?" Sitting in traffic, over lunch, out kayaking, laying in bed in the morning, in line at the post office - always another Martha story. "Martha stories fill my body up with kisses," he told me once.

She's become a character. And my childhood memories are now myths of sorts. All grossly exaggerated stereotypes of the truth. Tio (my big brother) is the scaredy-cat who always gets in trouble (funny to Z since Tio is a 6'5' Ironman triathlete with looks like Tom Cruise and has the confidence to match). I am the calm, cool little sister who always uses her smarts to get out of trouble (hey it's my story, I can play the cool kid). And Mama Martha is the one who saves the day. She has a left hand with super human strength (she was forced to be ambidexterous by superstitious nuns at boarding school and her left hand was weak in the writing department but strong enough to crack a butcher block table when cutting bread.) Her magical chocolate chip cookies can charm the meanest monsters lurking in the basement. And her snorting laugh sends bad guys running for cover.

The requests for the stories are not easy. Not only do they stretch my imagination, they tie my heart in knots. Sometimes I choke back the tears as I tell them, even though most are silly. But nothing prepared me for the day Z started crying in his pancake breakfast out of the clear blue. "Why did she have to die?" I gulped hard. He went on and on. "Why didn't she wait for me? I want to go on an adventure with her. I want to eat her magic cookies. Why can't she come back mama? Can we get a really big helicopter and bring her back?"

How do I talk story out of this line of questioning? How do I say she had a terrible disease that sucked the very life out of her in a matter of 12 months and she's never coming back? How do I tell him that it took me years to be able to remember what she was like healthy because the images of her dissolving body scarred my memory so badly? How do I tell him that when he asks these questions I feel like the wind is knocked out of me?

I don't, of course.

I hand him the paper. And I hand him the colored pencils.

And I tell him that she IS here. She's here when we talk about her and she's here when we look at her photographs and she's here when I make lemon chicken and she's here when we tell the Martha Stories and she's here when you think about her in your heart.

"Draw a picture for her," I say. "Just as if you could hand it to her. She would LOVE one of your drawings."

And so he does. And I take a deep breath. And I make up another story from the picture. And he giggles with his deep dimples and sassy eyes. And she's here.

And that's what gets me through this day, the day I lost her, and every other day.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Root Beer Regatta

Take a 6-pack of root beer, a plastic bag, some aluminum foil, a ping pong ball, an old CD, a poker chip, thread, tape, wooden skewers, a clothes pin, 2 corks, some paperclips, a pin, a blue crayon, 2 birthday candles, a few rubber bands, a styrofoam plate, super glue, a paper cup and a handful of other assigned odds and ends and create a seaworthy vessel that is only the size of a bucket and can race across a mini sea. That was the challenge presented to Zach and his buddies K & R at the 6th Annual Root Beer Regatta.

Our night before the race building session was collaborated chaos rather than team engineering, and the little boat wasn't finished until the wee hours of the night when the children should have been snug in their beds.

The boat was dubbed "Double Trouble" and our team was called "Team Tie Dye".

I'd like to be able to report with pride about how graciously the kids cooperated and how well they handled competition. Um, but that would be a big fat lie. They squabbled. They pouted. They cried. They broke down completely when another boat crashed in to their boat and dragged it into the side of the pool. But in their defense, they're 4 and 5 year olds. They've never been in a competition before. And a big, mean, overly competitive papa set a bad tone when we won the first two heats and he started trash talking -- to our KIDS! That sent two of them scurrying and Zach into tears, again.

Daddy tried having a little chat with Z about sportsmanship and having fun.

And in the end he truly shone. He launched the boat each and every time all by himself (no moms and dads allowed at the starting line, just the judges plus his buddies got too overwhelmed to help launch the boat). He listened to directions, he did exactly what he was supposed to do. He looked so little up there by himself. But he did it!

And team Tie Dye took 3rd place overall!!!

Dog Days

No wind. Steamy hot. Z doesn't mind because it means he can perch in the (now officially falling apart and desperately needing replacement) stack pack underway.

Our new tramp netting gets a field test with four big Romanians and jumping boy. No other boats out in the still except the cargo ships.

And one ghost ship. Zach decides it's a pirate ghost (of course) as it silently glides towards the horizon.

Our search for a puff of wind ends as the sun lowers on the horizon. Engines get a work out. Crew getting sleepy. Boat seems to be tugging back towards her slip, ready for rest.

Mama finds an empty expanse of deck space and gives in to gravity. This is my view for the journey back.

Staring up and out and dreaming of autumn winds.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Real Treasure

Rounding out PIRATE WEEK -- let's face it... a pirate's life is all about treasure. And whether it's coins or shells or jellyfish bits, my boy is always (and I mean ALWAYS) on the hunt for treasure.

Sometimes he gets discouraged... "I'll never find a REAL pirate treasure mama!"
But in the end I always tell him the same thing, the real treasure is the love in your heart. And I finally knew he understood when he looked me in the eye and said, "I'm your treasure aren't I?"

Ay, that you are me hearty. That you are.
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