Visiting Pets

My neighbor's beagle is an escape artist, and as I understand it, this is not an unusual trait for the breed. Funny thing is, rather than chase down squirrels or roll in roadkill, Buster makes a beeline for our backdoor. I have no clue what keeps him coming back, but I think it might have something to do with the undivided attention of a devoted fan.

And they called it...puppy love

Or maybe it's just the crumbs on the floor and random of bits of food we find through the house. I shared with the Chalk In My Pocket facebook group a funny little exchange with Claire this weekend:

Claire (while holding random pieces of mango
"Can you put these in the 'frig-raider' to make them fresh again?" And I think we have the answer to why Buster loves your room. Snacking on steak lately kid?

Do your kids have pets of their own or do you "borrow" animals from neighbors like we do?


One {Counting} Pop Up Book to Add to Your Library

Vanessa of Silly Eagle Books recently wrote a post featuring children’s books about art and it got me thinking -- what about books that ARE art?

My local library is a treasure trove of awesome pop up books. I consider many of them superb examples of sculpture, and they are certainly accessible to and engaging for little hands. Due to their delicate nature they are not available for checking out, but our library trips are usually a 3 hour long event -- much of it is spent engrossed in these books.

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One of the coolest counting books I’ve ever seen, "600 Black Spots" by David Carter is a celebration of color, shape and math. Now being three, Claire is not quite up to the 600th spot in her counting (she stops around eleven-teen which comes after seventeen and in her mind) but she loves hunting down the black spots in all the pages. This book is seriously gorgeous and it would probably be in my library even if I didn’t have kids. Every single page is different and it’s totally wacky and modern.


I’ve got a few more pop up books to share and will do so throughout the week. My original plan was to write an epic post about the coolest pop up books for ABCs and 123s, but we’re racing to get this house on the market and I have lots of painting and spackling to tackle. We’ve even got a few contractors coming in to lend a hand and I totally feel like we’re playing “Designed to Sell” at warp speed! Any staging advice?!

Do you and your children enjoy pop up books? Any favorites to share?


First Flowers of Spring

You’ll have to excuse my light posting of late. My husband and I have been flirting with the idea of listing our house and finally took the plunge and contacted a local relator. We started scouting potential neighborhoods with her and managed to fall in love with a home on a wooded lot right smack in the middle of where we were hoping to move.

In LOVE I tell you!

Anyway, priority number one has been whipping our house into tip-top shape so we’re in a better position to make an offer and (fingers crossed) move into this perfect place.


But enough of the house talk, let’s talk about the next exciting event on the horizon – SPRING! I've been absolutely engrossed in the book Nature for the Very Young: A Handbook of Indoor and Outdoor Activities and I've been bookmarking activity after activity that I'm hoping to try with Claire. Everything is arranged by seasons so I've zipped through to the Spring and Summer section. I wish I had come across this book when I worked for the park service -- managing groups of young children in the woods can be a challenge but there are some great ideas in Marcia Bowden's Book for "classroom management" while exploring the great outdoors with kids.

Inspired by the book, Claire and I set out on a hike to search of the first flowers of spring. If you’re a fan of Chalk In My Pocket on Facebook, you should recognize a few of these photos. I had great fun reading through everyone’s guesses as I left cryptic clues about the species – Tovah M., Kelli K., Linda V. and Krista’s Paper CafĂ© get the bragging rights for correctly identifying this bloom as…


SKUNK CABBAGE! The mottled red-purple hood hides a cluster of tiny yellow flowers that pack a punch of skunky stink! Claire thought it was absolutely hilarious and we sniffed and sniffed to find the stinkiest of the bunch. I explained the purpose of the strong smell was to attract insects to help spread pollen but Claire was more interested in what eats this plant.


She observed what looked like nibble marks and turned to me for a rundown on what insane creature would snack on this smelly plant. I had no idea and promised to check the Internet for information at home. Turns out only bugs and slugs dine on this variety of cabbage, it’s poisonous to mammals (as if the smell weren’t enough of a deterrent). As one of the first pollen producers of Spring, I’m wondering what honey tastes like if bees are released nearby? Would it taint the honey? Any beekeepers out there have an answer? I know honey takes on the taste of clover, lavender and other aromatic plants…I have yet to see “Skunk Cabbage Honey” in the local stores though!


Claire spent the remainder of the time at the creek stomping in mud and attempting to fish with a stick. I don’t have the heart to tell her about the inefficiency of her bait (mud), pole design (lacking spear, hook or line), or the fact that there are no fish to even be found in this creek. Every time we visits she says, “I’ll think I’ll try again to catch that whopper fish.”

Maybe next time honey bear.


And the next time I get the urge to find blooming plants in a swampy area, I’ll be sure to pack some muck boots. Luckily my super cute purple kicks from LL Bean wash up nicely in my front loader!

This post is linked up to


Check Out My Guest Post over at She Wears Flowers!

Hey all! Come visit me over at She Wears Flowers today! I whipped up a little quilt to share...for my FRIDGE! No sewing, just lots of fun pattern making with triangles.

Hope to "see you" there!


Check your office store for cheap art supplies!

I’m always inspired by Valerie over at Frugal Family Fun, she’s constantly coming up with cute and creative ideas that involve office supplies. So yesterday, when I took a trip to Staples (after my wireless card jumped off the bed and broke into 43 pieces) I made sure to take a quick spin around looking for crafty goodies.


I hit the jackpot! Have you seen those Magic Nuudles Bloxx? They look like a fantastic craft material and I love the idea of exploring sculpture with them but they’re a bit pricey.  I found a cheapo option in shipping supply aisle - cornstarch packing peanuts! They’re not quite as colorful, but for $10 you’ll get more than triple the amount of fluffy fun. Of course…an even cheaper option is to hang on to your packing peanuts when receiving mail!

A damp sponge was just the right amount of moisture for Claire - a little goes a long way in getting these guys to stick together. If you are too generous with the water, the result is sad and disintegrated noodle goo. Claire added on lots of file sorting stickers and I helped with a bit of pink yarn for the tongue. And voila! A cool magic nuudle style snake sculpture! I can’t wait for Claire to try some more shapes, right now she’s only interested in sticking them together end to end. I suppose we’ll slowly work our way up sculpting the Eiffel Tower, heehee!


I've got a book on hold at the library by Sheila McGill-Callahan called The Last Snake in Ireland. It's a perfect literature connection for this activity and Saint Patrick's Day! We've read it before and its a hoot to read out loud. 
I’m off to drive away the snakes like Saint Patrick. I suppose clearing my table of cornstarch serpents isn’t quite as impressive as driving them out of Ireland, is it?



Batik on Paper + Salt Watercolor Experimentation

One of my recent finds on the web were batik pillowcases created with blue school gel and fabric paint. I still can't wait to try those, but while waiting for fabric paint to appear in mailbox, I thought Claire and I could try the same technique on watercolor paper. I thought the blue school gel would pull off just like rubber cement, a stinky chemical I don't like to use around kids. didn't work quite as expected. The Elmer's Blue School gel that pulls effortlessly off fabric just tears paper. However, I'm not chalking this up as a failure, I think this is a pretty darn cool piece of are. Read on for the full tutorial at the end....

The glue reacted with the paint in such a unique way - the photo doesn't really capture how raised it is. The organic shape, texture and the reflectiveness adds up to a cool finished product in my book!

The white starbursts seen throughout the painting are pockets of salt on the liquid watercolors. Whenever Claire paints she usually asks for the salt grinder. It's a clever little piece of magic to watch the salt chase away the pigment underneath it. If you haven't tried salt and watercolors together, you must add it to your to-do list.

Speaking of liquid watercolors, check these out. I'm always receiving emails about where to buy them, and these are one of my favorite brands (and the ones that seem to be non-staining, especially important if you're making Bathtub Puffy Paint!)

Here are the exact products I've used. I think the watercolor paper in a pack of 100 is the most affordable option in terms of paper. You want something really thick and the 15 sheet pads are really pricy at my local crafts store.


Here is EXACTLY how we did this:
  1. Grab some Elmer's Blue School Gel and "draw" all over a piece of water color paper with it.
  2. Let the glue dry, the longer it dries, but more "3D" the painting will appear. We left it 8 hours.
  3. Once the glue is dry, paint over your picture and the glue using liquid watercolors.
  4. While the watercolors are still wet, sprinkle with salt (any kind in your kitchen will do)
  5.  Congratulate your artist on a job well done and frame their masterpiece

UPDATE 2.14.2012

 I finally got around to documenting with photos step by step our technique. Check out our Valentine's Post below for more inspiration.

Happy Crafting! 


Interview over at The Artful Parent

Wow. I'm so excited! Head over to The Artful Parent and check out my interview today! I've admired Jean's site for YEARS and was just thrilled to answer her questions about encouraging children's creativity. 

I may or may not have told her I thought of naming my blog "Things I Saw The Artful Parent Do and Must Try Too."

Okay, so I did. And thank goodness she laughed and continued on with the interview.  

But really, head over and read through her blog - you'll spend the rest of the day inspired to create something with your kids for sure. What an honor to appear on The Artful Parent!


My 3 Year Old Reads Tolkien

My 3 year old adores JRR Tolkien. No really, she does! Most especially when Daddy reads "Mr. Bliss" to her.

Wandering around the stacks at the library (my favorite pastime) I noticed Claire swipe a book from one of the low shelves. As I was turning to unleash my stern voice, I realized she had picked up a children's book by JRR Tolkien! 

That's right, the guy who penned epic adventures of hobbits, wizards and one ring to rule them all, both wrote AND illustrated a children's book. The fact that Tolkien wrote this for his own children made the story that much more endearing. 

Mr. Bliss is the story of a man who wears tall, funny hats and while driving around in his new automobile has a series of silly mishaps. The illustrations are sweet and I love that Tolkein's handwritten version is preserved on the right-hand pages with a typeset translation on left. Mr. Bliss is a wordy read, but very fun.

Who knew we could find such a great children's book tucked right in between The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings! My husband and I really enjoyed reading this with Claire. What a great find!

Have any children's books taken you by surprise lately?

Thoughts on Failure and Honesty

It's confession time - 

Sometimes I'm discouraged when I read other people's blogs - especially creative blogs where every resulting project is perfect and looks like Martha Stewart helped in the final styling.

I'm dying to know what happens behind the scenes. Do they ever mess up? Is their house a disaster? 

Mine is. But I've shown you those pictures before. For posterity though:

Someone got into the hand me down bag...

We're all human. 
We all make mistakes.

Some of these mistakes are rather spectacular and should be shared with the masses.

That's why I submitted my recent "oops" over at CraftFail where mistakes are celebrated. Revered even. 

Especially one as inspired as this:

Do you see what I see?

This was supposed to be a cool adaptation of my bathtub puffy paint. Yeah, not so much.

Head on over to and find out more about my "Soapy Error of Phallic Proportions.
And don't worry, I'm giggling too.

Any craft fail stories to share?


St. Patrick's Day Lacing Cards | Shamrock and Rainbow Lace Ups

It's been a while since I posted a free printable. Fancy some St. Patrick's Day lace up cards?

I couldn't find any printables online so I whipped up my own. You'll have to excuse my less than perfect attempt in Photoshop, but it gets the job done. I'm thinking this is far less of a craft failure then my puffy paint to soap crayon attempt (sorry, couldn't help linking that one again - if you haven't seen it yet it's worth clicking over, I promise). If you snort coffee up your nose I cannot be held responsible.


Easiest Letter Activity EVER

Earlier this morning, I was in desperate need of a quiet, mess free activity for Claire so I could nurse a cup of tea and fight off the cold my mother so kindly shared (thanks Ma). The fact that I managed to sneak in a little literacy lesson on Read Across America Day (happy birthday Dr. Seuss!) was an added bonus.


A random piece of package wrap compliments of IKEA and a bit of tracing…and voila! A matching activity and letter identification lesson rolled into one. Learn your letters kid, and one day you too will be reading Fox in Sox. I think this is my favorite use for those letter magnets everyone seems to have gathering dust on their fridge!

As Claire matched up the upper and lower case letters she practiced their sounds and joyfully sang the alphabet song to her cousin Jessica on the phone. Things don’t have to be visually perfect for a quality learning activity, sometimes something quickly whipped together and hand drawn is just as good as what you can buy in the store.

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Good times this morning. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find some chicken soup in the freezer.


DIY Nesting Material Dispenser | Backyard Birding with Kids


Some of the most spoiled birds in the northeast live right in my backyard. During the past few months we’ve faithfully provided gourmet food , braving ice and snow to access the feeding station. Claire spends hours snug in her pajamas gazing out the living room window laughing at the antics of the tree clinging nuthatches and the clever tufted titmouse. You'd be hard pressed to find happier more loved birds.


Today, we are welcoming spring with homemade nesting material dispensers! I hope this will entice the birds to stick around through our gardening season eating bugs and laying eggs (hopefully where we can watch the chicks hatch).