Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hubbub & Mayhem

We've been playing Hubbub, a game that was likely played by the Native Americans in New England around the time of the first Thanksgiving.  It is very simple to make and play, just take five or more small objects that you can mark on one or both sides.  We chose squash seeds, but you could use pebbles, bottle caps, whatever.  We have two teams, the blue x's and the red dots:

We put them in a basket or bowl and have two people bang it on the floor, chanting "Hub! Hub! Hub!"  Someone calls "Stop!" and then we count how many seeds are face up for each team.  We play up to fifty.  You can even play with twenty seeds if you have someone in your family, like we do, who likes to count and add (go figure!)

And now for the mayhem:  If you want another fun Thanksgiving activity, you might enjoy this older post:

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, we got a strawberry plant in our CSA box.  We planted it, even though it looked like a little clump of wet sticks and scraggly roots.  It is thriving in its new location in our window box, and we have loved watching it come to life.

It's a little bit Spring in November outside our window.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Filmstrips (part 2)

I love the images and advice on this child care filmstrip called "Teaching Desirable Habits" from 1953:

(From the Infant Care Series , "Teaching Desirable Habits" A Centron Production, produced by Luella M. Foster)

Friday, November 19, 2010


I found these many years ago outside of a high school in Manhattan.  The school was being updated, and on the curb was a vast quantity of beautiful old oak furniture, metal cabinets and out-dated teaching materials.  Peering over the edge of a dumpster, I was in heaven.

Each of these little cans contains a home economics film strip from the 1950's or 60's with many useful tips on how to cook, clean, sew and look good while you're doing it.  Many of them are thinly veiled ads that might as well be called "Brand Name presents: How To Use Our Product."  Most are wonderfully illustrated, but a few use some classic photography.  I don't have the audio cassettes that went with them, but they are very entertaining to look at.  I should probably watch this one:

But, as I'm currently in the habit of avoiding laundry, I'll move on to another gem.  And, yes, right next to the filmstrips I found this projector.  And an extra bulb.

The following are from Noxema and Covergirl present 'A Winning Complexion.'  After showing photos of the teenagers that were selected to be the next Covergirls, the film advises you about the three things that determine if you will also become a winner:

If you like these, I have more to show you, but for now this will have to be:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Family Traditions

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about traditions.  Not the "let's stop at the same taco stand every time we go to the Merry-go-round" type of family tradition, but the real generation-to-generation passing on of customs and rituals.

I know that there are people out there who have family traditions that go back countless generations.  This is not the case for me.  In the past three generations, life for our family has changed so greatly that now we find ourselves raising children in a completely different environment with different nationalities, opportunities, occupations, religions and pastimes than our grandparents.  Even the weather is different.  Our grandparents are all gone, and many of the family traditions of their childhoods have been forgotten.

What is the value of these traditions anyway?  I'm not being rhetorical!  Do they tie us to the foggy past, giving us a sense of the smallness of our place in time?  Do they connect us with our ancestors in a deeply meaningful way?  It is easy to romanticize them, but are there really some great forgotten traditions, or has it been like this for our families throughout history, each generation wondering about and trying to interpret some almost-forgotten rituals of the past?

Because I either don't know about or don't feel very connected to many of the traditions of our families' past, I find myself, in a position to pick and choose or invent the customs of my own home.  It will be up to the next generation to determine if these customs become true family traditions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Advent Calendar

Last year I made an advent calendar for the boys.

It was my first advent calendar, too.  I have always loved the idea of opening one of those tiny windows each day.  Savoring the waiting.

Inside of every window, I put a tiny scroll with instructions for something we had to do that day.

They were all fun, simple free things that were a little out of the ordinary for us.  Some were traditional seasonal activities:

Some took all night (this one transformed into 'let's not use electricity until we go to bed'):

Others only lasted for four minutes:

I drew little creatures inside of each window.  Some of our favorites made an appearance.

We were counting the days of December until this guy:

This wonderful tradition could be adapted for families who celebrate any holiday (or none) because it is really just about marking the daily passage of time and because you can make it into something that fits your values and ideas about the season.

If you would like to use some of my ideas for activities for our family, you can click on each of the three small pictures below for a larger, printable list.

                                                  (The font is P22 PanAm)

If you have any other activities to suggest, I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Busy Day

So much to do:

Sounds pretty idyllic, right?  But there's no school today, and so far our day has been more about conflict resolution and damage control!  I'm fairly certain we'll get to No. 2, but I'll have to let you know if we manage to do anything else.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Toy Iron

Here's a simple toy iron that I made with some wood scraps and an old spool:

If you make one, be sure that the handle lines up with the back of the iron so that it can stand up like this:

And countersink the hardware and sand the bottom, as it may be rubbed vigorously all over your house!

I liked how it looked with one spool and no hardware showing on the top, so I had to reinforce the handle in order to keep it securely attached.  I drilled small holes into the base, handle and spool, pegged it with four little pieces of toothpicks and then glued it all together.  It is very sturdy.

Is this unnecessarily complicated?  Yes.  It could have been avoided if the iron was a little bigger and had two spools holding the handle (with enough room between them for a small hand), but I loved the simple look of this little toy, and wanted to hide the connections.  Here's an "x-ray" of my handle attachment:

We keep it in our play kitchen, and it keeps the capes smooth and stylish and ready for action.

I made this a couple of years ago, and Diego helped me with the sawing and sanding.  These little toys we've made together hold so many sweet memories for me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Here's a clock that Diego and I made a few years ago, when he first started asking me about time:

I made the dots and attached the popsicle sticks for him, and then we did the rest together.  I did make a tiny pilot hole before installing the popsicle sticks, and the screw is fairly tight so that the hands can be spun around easily, but still hold their positions. Our clock is mostly used in imaginative ways, with occasional counting and time-learning play. 

Made from scrap wood, popsicle sticks, tiny wood screw, felt-tipped pens.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Park Bench

When Joe and I first came to Los Angeles, we moved from a tiny Manhattan apartment, so we had a lot of furnishing to do.  One of the first additions to our house was this park bench, which is now one of our favorite places to sit in the house.

I found an old bench with broken slats that someone was throwing away.  Saving the beautiful curvy cast iron pieces, we replaced the broken wood with new red oak.  It was too pretty to put in the garden, so it has been sitting by our front door ever since.

It really is a comfortable place to sit, and people have even been known to take cat naps there (although whenever I see that, I want to blanket them in a newspaper to keep them warm Central Park-style.)  We used new brass bolts with round button tops to attach the wood.

The whole project cost us about $40, but it could be done for a lot less if you used pine or recycled wood.  One of the fun parts was deciding how long we wanted the bench to be.  I almost made it into a chair, and someday I'll probably make another one as a matching chair, which I think would make excellent living room furniture.

The combination of velvet, wood and cast iron makes me very happy!

Friday, November 5, 2010

All Sorts of Horrible Things About My Mother

I'll have to confess, Mom was not very enthusiastic when I first told her about my blog.  She cautioned me about sharing private information, told me not to "spill my guts," and said in no uncertain terms not to write anything about her.  My response was, "But MA, my blog is called, 'All Sorts of Horrible Things About My Mother!'"

                                                              My mom holding me, 1970

Fortunately, she's now an avid fan of these posts.  As with most of my endeavors, she's cautious and protective at first, and generous and supportive until the end.  She's got a great sense of humor (even though the punchline is usually in the first sentence of her jokes), she is a natural teacher, and she somehow made it look like having four kids in under 6 years in your forties was just fun and easy.

If you have a mother that you love anywhere near as much as I love mine, lucky you, give her a call!

Happy Birthday, Ma!  I love you so much!

Here's another picture of Julio sitting on the toy bed, 'cause I know you'll probably like that better than the adorable picture of you that I posted above:

I wish I was there to celebrate with you!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Danger Cat

A couple of years ago, I took this picture of my friend's cat:

My friend's sister surprised her by having the photo turned into a painting:

The photo was taken to Nepal, where three different versions of it were painted on metal by Nepalese artists.  My friend's sister then got to choose her favorite one.  The commissions were arranged by Danger Dogs from Nepal, an American art dealer who practices fair trade and "micro-finance through art patronage."  How cool is that?

Monday, November 1, 2010