Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sharing Our Bananas

Mother Teresa once said that in India starving people would generally share their last banana, but in America we have a big bunch and we won't share even one. The image this bring to mind still haunts me.

Luckily, in the age of the internet we can make a difference around the world with a click of a button. We can share our bananas, so to speak. Have you ever been to globalgiving.org? If not, I recommend browsing their site. You can pick causes to support based on region of the globe or target group you want to help.

My favorite Christmas shopping this year was done on globalgiving. Do yourself a favor and experience the joy of giving $10 to a cause you didn't even know about this morning. It feels good.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chives on a Sandwich

Have you ever had cream cheese and chives on your sandwich? It's surprisingly good. I mean almost divine. Last week we accidentally bought cream cheese with chives in it, and I discovered:

Cream cheese and chives on a sandwich - makes it taste like a sandwich you would pay good $ for in an upscale sandwich shoppe. Full disclosure: I did add some light mayo, too. I made this sandwich everyday until we ran out of turkey.

Cream cheese with chives tastes real good in a baked potato - makes it taste like a twice baked potato, especially with cheese sprinkled on top.

Now I can't wait for my chives to pop up in the garden...I'm going to be adding fresh chives to all kinds of new things. In fact, I'm making tuna noodle casserole for dinner and my husband likes chives in it, maybe I'll need to go out in the backyard and see if we have any chives.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stained Glass Displays

Recently, my creativity has centered on devising a display for my stained glass at an upcoming Holiday Craft Fair. After much research, I decided PVC pipes give me the clean lines, open look, and versatility I want. I'm a little nervous, because I haven't seen this used the way I imagine it, but sometimes that's what it takes for innovation.

Next discovery: 1/2 PVC pipes make excellent forts, spears, and many other delightful ideas. The boys keep taking the pipes and fittings. And that's not all - these white plastic pipes also make a great photography box for taking photos of my stained glass. The secret to this versatility is making consistent sizes so I/we can interchange them into different configurations.

Last thought, my art has always made big messes. Homeschooling makes big messes. Put the two together and...run for the hills. My husband I like a clean home, a never ending matter. Anyway, I'll show the finished display stands in a few weeks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vinegar Cleaning

For the thrifty or natural types out there: there is nothing cheaper or better at cleaning than vinegar! My son loved cleaning this copper plate with vinegar and oil. He was fascinated as layer after layer of dark wiped away, and the copper color came out.

Our family cleans everything in sight with vinegar and warm water (windows - wipe down with newspaper), or vinegar, dish soap, and water (tables, counters walls, doors, etc). Because vinegar is cheap, non harmful if swallowed, etc. we've been using it since the boys were babies. I'd give the little one a rag to clean the back door window while the rest of us cleaned our assigned areas. Just buy a big bottle of brand name vinegar which smells better than off brand, and a big bundle of cheap wash clothes and you are good to go. If you really want to get into natural cleaning: baking soda, lemon juice, salt etc really does clean just about everything.

Last week I cleaned my mom's pellet stove out with vinegar, dish soap, and water. It looked great! A few years ago , there was a "clean this mess" type show set in England, one of the women cleaning was a scientist and she would show what germs people left around the house - and she said vinegar was anti- bacterial. Which confirmed what I knew all along - it cleans everything and harms nothing EXCEPT an occasional open wound on the hand. Hold the rag with the other hand if the cut starts burning and bothers you. This does happen to me occasionally since I'm a stained glass artist.

If the smell of vinegar bothers you - well you get used to it. Besides, it's a heck of a lot better than some of the toxic cleaning products you may be using. There are ways to infuse essential oils into the vinegar, but I like to keep things simple.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Homemade Castles

We saw a picture of a cardboard castle in a library book, and my youngest son immediately wanted to make a castle just like it. I've been collecting juice, oatmeal boxes, and toilet paper rolls for years so here was the chance to finally use them! We had been to Aldi the day before providing a stack of boxes to build on.

Day 1: We cut, taped, and glued it together.

Day 2: We were going to paint it. Before I was even out of bed the castle was up out of the school room and stuffed animals were all over the castle "playing". It still hasn't been painted, they are enjoying it so much just the way it is.

So here's to make believe, playing, and creativity at it's best.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Here are the boys on Halloween night. We just trick or treated on our street. I was going to take them up to the city to see their grandparents, but I was too pooped. I worked too hard in the art studio that day and ran myself ragged. Oops.

The pumpkins they each carved the night before at their Grammy B's, my youngest sometimes calls her Mama B. It was a cold windy night and they would go outside and tell ghost stories, coming in giggling. They bobbed for apples, and they went in a dark room to put their hand in a bowl with cow brains, which was really spaghetti noodles. Gross, I know.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fall in Kansas

Capturing the brilliant foliage between all our rain has been tricky...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Learning from Van Gogh

One of my favorite things to do when I need some creative inspiration is to look through a book about one of my favorite artists. "Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings" is treasured on my bookshelf. Two things have stuck with me from this book.

1. Vincent Van Gogh created a complete painting every single day towards the end of his life. Great big, bold, Van Gogh brushstroke, too.

2. While that proliferation is commendable, he did not hesitate to repeat a subject. In fact he did it over and over again: people, landscapes, and still-life paintings. One of them, Sunflowers, broke sale records back in the 1980s.

Try this - Look through the 4 paintings from the above mentioned book. Red and green predominate in all of them (Van Gogh loved to use contrasting colors), but see how many things you can count that are different. Let me know what number you come up with. I see roughly 6 differences in each picture.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Kanza Lodge

Today I'm feeling thankful for the wonderful Kanza Lodge we have just 20 minutes away. I've enjoyed going on virtual field trips with other bloggers, so today I'll share one of ours.

This Kanza lodge is located at Deanna Rose farmstead, which is a free educational gold mine sponsored by the city of Overland Park and donations. They have a nature walk, a fishing pond, petting zoo animals, Master Gardens, and old-fashioned buildings. My favorite section is the Native American niche with the Kanza lodge and tepees. The tepees have www.tepee.com stiched inside the tepee flap which I find hilarious!

Seriously though, there is something about stepping into a earth lodge that just takes my breath away. The replica lodge used to be fenced off and you were only able to look in, but now you can actually go in - sit, walk around, and touch certain items.

I included some of the written markers because I love to read those, especially the one about the bison. The lodge is a poetic reminder of the value in using what you have on hand. Practical and useful. BTW, the inside of the lodge was quite comfortable on this hot Kansas day.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

An Electronic Daily Devotional

Starting each day with a daily devotional helps me center myself. In the past, I've had subscriptions to little magazines, and I've also owned many books of daily devotions.
(Haven't we all had some of those on our shelves?)

Since I begin my day at the computer, checking email, I thought an online devotional would be a great way to take advantage of our new cyber world. After much searching I've reset my internet home to "The Word Among Us" - a Catholic devotional. This works for me, cause I'm Catholic ;-) There are other ones out there though, you just have to google and explore. I really enjoy having one come up automatically for my home page - I highly recommend it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Breath of Life

Sometimes we forget to give thanks for the simplest things - like breathing. The foundation of our own creation. My middle son has asthma, and a recent cold has aggravated it this week. I thought we were on top of things, we went in to the doctor on Tuesday and he was doing better, but last night his nebulizer treatment wasn't working. I always wondered if I would know when to call 911 - and in the end I can't say I "knew" to call 911, but I did know that he needed help in our home right away. Thankfully he was stabilized on the ambulance drive to the hospital. We were in the ER for several hours while they monitored him, but luckily there was no pneumonia. He's doing better today as we continue to follow the discharge instructions.

Everyday creativity and inspiration is based on our everyday blessings. Right now I just humbly give thinks for life, for me and my loved ones. In the photo above, ds is holding daisy-like flowers he found in the field behind our house. We identified this weed/flower as white heather aster. Huh, I never knew till this week.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Real Treasure: Fly Lady

This is what I cleared OUT of one cabinet today.

Have you ever been to flylady.net? I have no idea where she got the name, but I love the woman all the same. Over the years she has taught me how to clean and organize my house with a simple no-nonsense system. I can't say her system makes it all fun, but it does make my house clean, organized, and a pleasure to live in. In theory, anyway.

Today is Tuesday, and in my adaption of her system - I clean the kitchen on Tuesday. If all goes as planned, which it hardly ever does, I do basic maintenance and one special project in the kitchen each Tuesday. This afternoon my two youngest children matched lids to cups and plastic containers for me. All else goes!
At our house: Monday is bathrooms (most important to have clean, and gets the yuckiest done first), Tuesday is kitchen/dining, Wednesday is bedrooms, Thursday is basement, and Friday is the living room.

Here's what the one cabinet now looks like without all the extras we don't ever use.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Free Museum Day 2009

Saturday, September 26 is FREE Museum Day for a number of great museums across the country. There are sure to be some great ones in your area; it's worth checking out if you don't have other plans on Saturday.

Here's a tip: pick a museum that usually charges admission! Some of the museums listed are free all the time. Which is great to know for other day excursions, but you may want to save "Museum Day" for a museum you couldn't or wouldn't go to otherwise. Make sure you print the pass so you can get the free admission.

Do you know of other venues you'd like to go to but can't afford? See if they have special discounts for certain days or times of year. Example: Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, MO just sent me an email notice that they are having "Homeschool Days" at the beginning of October. It will have reduced admissions for homeschoolers.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

DS Chinese Calligraphy

Look at my 5 year old son's Chinese Calligraphy -the ones on the left! We were doing a Chinese Calligraphy activity in our homeschool coop, where the kids were practicing the basic brush strokes used in chinese calligraphy using the "Everlasting" tile as an example. They were supposed to be practicing that particular symbol because it gives the best chance to practice the various strokes.

Youngest DS is a practical boy however, and he just switched and did the "Good Luck" symbol (directly below) instead. He said it was easier. Which indeed, it is - but I didn't have an example of "Good Luck" out so he was doing it from memory. lol

As I remember it, the boys were gathered around as I created the "Good Luck" tile (above) a few months ago. They like to watch me paint, and they are the first to say when things don't look right. Below is the tile for "Everlasting". It was created in my studio with no one around, come to think of it. Food for thought. (The strokes are better, less stiff).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Hulu Education

I want to share ideas for free resources. Freebie Fridays has such a nice ring to it - but the beginning of the week needs perking up IMO. We live a frugal lifestyle and I'm always on the lookout for money savers, or even better - Free! So I'll share what treasures I've found on Tuesday Treasures.

I'm a huge fan of The Tightwad Gazette (I own all 3). There are so many golden nuggets tips hidden in the Tightwad Gazette. Happily, it's often suited to our homeschooling lifestyle, and what's cheaper is quite often better for our environment. I've been "green" since long before it was fashionable.

Have you been to Hulu.com? It has a huge variety of free TV shows to watch online. We don't have cable anymore, and it helps fill the gap sometimes. Checking out movies, TV shows, and documentaries from the library is also great.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kansas City Zoo

Here's a lion looking straight at my son eye to eye.

We went to the KC Zoo on Tuesday (their discount day!), and I have to say it was the best visit to the KC Zoo I've ever had. Of course, that's not saying much. Still, I can see the improvements they have made in the last 4 years and I liked it.

For example, on the Africa trek there are now two native houses to stop and explore. I thought that was fun! Of course, I like that kind of thing.

Australia now has an Outback...place to explore. Nice "homeschooling" break with coral, shells, bugs, sheep wool, and other things nicely displayed. See below.

KC Zoo is good to the animals by allowing lots of space, but it can be disappointing to the visitors who walk, and walk, and walk, in the hot sun just to get to another exhibit where the animal is intelligent enough to be in a "cave" way at the back of the exhibit. On Tuesday we had overcast skies and I actually got to see the cheetahs! The zoo was empty and the animals were out, yahoo! My youngest loved the meerkats. Meerkats? You can never tell what will strike a child's fancy.

Our eldest took this family picture near the entrance.

As we just getting on the highway the first raindrops started to fall. Luckily we were there for 5 hours and no rain on us.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Learning to Read Website

Have you ever heard of Starfall? It is a free website with lots of great interactive content for learning to read. My sons used it for memorizing their letters when they were 3 and 4. The earliest section covers the alphabet, and each letter can be clicked on for fun letter and sound associations followed by a game. So if you know any preschoolers - pass on the word.

Early elementary age children can read the stories they have online, and do the activities listed. The seasonal items (snowman, etc) are always hits in our house. We even print those out. My children aren't on the computer much - but Starfall always makes for worthwhile computer time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Garage Sale Treasure

It always amazes me when the simplest things continue to bring me pleasure. A few weeks ago I bought this mortar and pestle at a garage sale for a dollar. From time to time I've wanted to crush something over the years - but mostly I just thought it was cool.

It's been on my kitchen window sill and each time I see them there it reminds me of simple times, doing things for yourself, and the beauty of practical objects made of wood. It just wouldn't be the same in plastic, huh?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Classic Books Free Online

One of my favorite treasures I've found via AmblesideOnline.org is the great books available online FREE from the Baldwin Project.

The Gutenburg Project, www.gutenburg.org, is a project that scans copyright free books, which means older books, and making them available online. This is great, but the plain text and no illustrations leaves me a bit cold. Admirable project though.

The Baldwin Project, www.mainlesson.com, took it a step forward and the books pop up on a yellow background which I find pleasant, large font size my son can read, and great illustrations incorporated. I'm in love with the books there! Some of the books are available to purchase, but never fear the full text is still available online.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


For weeks I labored over a landscape I was doing in stained glass. It is based on a panoramic view on my daily drive through the Northern Big Horn Basin in Wyoming when I lived there years ago. Trying to do a landscape in glass was a challenged. For one thing I was somewhat limited in my color choices for the glass - which I'm not used to in pastels or acrylics! It's really a challenge when you can't just mix or blend the colors you want.

I intended to sell the stained glass panel on Etsy, but as I was just finishing up I somehow flung a piece of solder on the zinc frame. I don't believe this will come off without leaving a mark. I could just redo the frame, but I took it as a serendipitous event - my family didn't like the panel anyway , and now it has a spot on the frame - I'll keep it for myself. As luck would have it - the frame fits perfectly between my front door and the front window. So there it sits.

Serendipity: an occurrence of good luck when you were actually looking for something else.

BTW: Did you know where the word serendipity came from? ORIGIN 1754: coined by Horace Walpole, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

Free Homeschooling Resources

My oldest ds has suddenly taken off with his reading, so last week I found my creativity being channeled into finding new ideas in how to work with him. Where do we go from here?

Amblesideonline.org has an entire curriculum and reading list based on Charlotte Mason provided for free by other homeschooling moms. What a blessing! Specifically this week I've gained many new ideas on how to use narration in our homeschool.

While reading their Music recommendations they had links to free classical music - so we found ourselves listening to Beethoven over lunch. Each boy got to pick a "song" and they really enjoyed it. They also have links for Art, Foreign Language and many others things. I'll list more free online resources next Monday.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Color Makes a Difference

The color I wear often reflects my mood. When the children were little there would be days where we all wore the same color. I picked out their clothes after all, and if blue looked appealing for me - it looked "right" for all of us. Research on the psychology of color has always fascinated me...humm so what does it mean when some days we all chose lime green or red to wear. Is it a lime green day?

A few weeks ago I picked out the shirts for the boys - all tie dye. One reason I like tie dye is that it stands out on field trips. Indeed, a man in the elevator commented on the fact they were all wearing tie dye.

Stained glass brings color into your home. I am always mindful of how those colors will affect the people who see it everyday. Recently I completed 2 stained glass panels using completely different colors. It's amazing how unique the feeling of the finished pieces. My mom bought the first one the minute she walked in my house and saw it hanging in my dining room. She said they were her colors - and she's right, they are.

The design/pattern/cartoon was one I had just created so I decided to use it again with completely different colors. Now, they remind me more of fall colors, although at the time I was trying to work with the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Making a Natural Wreath

Catmint grows quickly and gets very leggy, so you have to cut it back for it to look good. The thing is, I can't stand to throw away flowers - even to the compost heap.

In the past, I've brought in bouquets of catmint for a while. It is stinky, but long lasting and almost as pretty as lavender. Unfortunately, one time I brought in some ants with me. The ants were visiting a peony that neighbors the catmint, but they were more than happy to hitch a ride inside with me. Ick.

So the last time I cut back the catmint I gathered it into bunches. Then one bunch at a time, I took a l8 in length of wire and twisted it around the bunch, herb style. Then I used the long pieces of wire to attach the bunch to the front of a grapevine wreath. Eventually I covered the entire wreath and put it by my front door. It took maybe 15 minutes and about 6 bunches. I sat out in my garden while I did this, and it was kinda nice to relax in my garden and make a wreath.

Tell me of any flowers you've used to make into a wreath, I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chiluly Glass Right In Front Of Me

A few weeks ago when we were at the KU's Spencer Museum of Art where I was resting on a bench and admiring what I thought were colorful umbrellas. My friend walks in and immediately says - "Oh look, a Dale Chiluly!" It was those same "umbrellas".

Ironic for 2 reasons:
1. I've just been poring over Chiluly's website, drooling at his fabulous glass creations, wishing I could see them in person.

2. She is an artist, too - but I'm the one working in glass and I missed what was right before my eyes. I'm sitting there looking at colorful glass and didn't even know it.

I didn't get the best picture of the "umbrellas", but I will share it anyway so you can see what I am talking about.

BTW, the boys favorite thing at the museum was a computer simulation thing - not the art.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First Mural in Son's Room

What joy it brought me to see a photo I'd taken of the mural in my son's room when he was a toddler. When my ds saw it he was just excited as I was; he remembered even though he was only two at the time. My husband - he didn't recognize the mural at all. He even went so far as to ask "Did you really do it?".

Yes, I did. It's based on one of ds's favorite books at the time "I Love Trains". My dh took care of ds for many hours over several weekends while I worked on it. They would come in together to check the progress.

It's long been apparent my ds has an exceptional memory, and my husband - not so much. Either way, what joy to capture things you create with a few snapshots.