Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Special Visitor

A couple of days ago, I told Ruben to put the gift that he made at preschool under our tree as the first Christmas present.  He said, "Okay!" but then disappeared for about 10 minutes.  From the other room we heard, "Everybody close your eyes!"  We closed our eyes and then heard a few minutes of clomping around, rustling under the tree and then receding footsteps.  Then, again from the other room, "OKAY! You can open your eyes now."  The gift was there (we cheered), but the boy was not, so we called him to come out to us. 

Turns out that while our eyes were closed, this jolly fellow had paid a visit:

Of course, some of us had to take turns sitting on his lap and telling him what we most want for Christmas.

(Another rubber duck)

(A slingshot)

This Santa costume was made out of a red silk suit from Hong Kong, black cowboy boots, a Santa hat and a pipe cleaner beard and glasses.  Ruben wore it every day last January and February, and many, many times since then.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Little Holiday Toys

I've been having so much fun making tiny toys for our holiday play time.  Here are Santa and Rudolph, made of clothespins, pipe cleaners, yarn & wire:

And here I made the snowman, not the little wooden animals:

He is a part of this miniature winter scene that we all made together.  Can you tell what I used to make him?

It's popcorn!  I stuck together three little pieces with a toothpick, and broke off one end of the toothpick and colored it orange to make the nose.  The snow is coconut, and the trees are little bits of Christmas tree stuck in clay.  We had six (!) kids come visit us today, and our little winter scene was played with by everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More Preschooler Portraits

Here are a couple more of my recent favorites:

(Click on them to view larger)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Preschooler Portraits

I love taking portraits of preschoolers.  I prefer to photograph these kids spontaneously when they are in the middle of their day.  That way they are both busy and relaxed and are wearing their everyday clothes and hairstyles.  Sometimes they are even in costumes, or there is paint or food on their faces.  They usually look at the camera and give me a practiced "Cheese" smile, but if I wait just a minute or two, it goes away and something real happens.  Sometimes I try to warm them up by asking them questions or joking around with them.  If I am lucky (and quick), I can catch them in one of those magic moments, and in their portrait we will see a glimmer of their future adult selves or a fleeting expression of genuine emotion.

Monday, December 13, 2010


This is one of those things that may sound totally ridiculous until you try it, and then once you do you'll go around thinking, "This is the best wallet EVER!"

The humble binder clip (also known as banker's clip, bulldog clip, or foldback clip) was invented in 1910 by Louis E. Baltzley, and in my opinion should be recognized as a marvel of industrial design.  Seriously, it deserves its own pedestal at MOMA.  It is so small, strong and flexible and it securely holds as little or as much as you'll ever need.  It is very easy to get cards and money in and out without spilling the other contents, and nothing ever falls out.

I switched from wallet to money clip just after college.  I was doing a lot of international traveling, and wanted a slimmer and more discreet way to carry my cards and money in my front pocket.  A couple of years later, my fancy silver money clip broke, and I grabbed a binder clip off of my desk to use as a temporary wallet.  That was about twenty years ago, and I am still using the very same binder clip.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Home Improvements

Sometimes all it takes is a little package of googly eyes to spruce up some of the otherwise less attractive corners of your home.

Gotta' love a little DIY!

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.