Archive of ‘outside’ category

Boredom Busters Kit :: Making Summer Rad

Boredom Buster Kit_color the rainbow_a happy stitch

Every summer I make the same mistake.  I think to myself, “I don’t need any help or planned activities for the kids this summer! School is so structured and scripted, they need summertime freedom! They need a chance to get bored and make something up!” And then the boys spend the first few weeks of summer begging me to watch TV or play games on the computer.  Eventually I cave and they end up watchings screens way more than I would like. Or I spend my evenings scrolling Pinterest and then scrambling to find random supplies so they have an activity to draw them away from those magnetic and brain-draining screens.

Well, I’m not repeating that mistake this summer! I teamed up with Andrea from Andrea’s Notebook and nearly a dozen other talented bloggers to create a Boredom Busters Kit. The kit includes 10 different projects and bonus printables like a calendar and coloring page.  Each project just needs to be printed out and it’s ready to go. (more…)

Costa Rica :: Our Family Trip in a World of Color and Life

Costa Rica : Our Family Trip // a happy stitch

Our little family just returned from a most wonderful week-long vacation to Costa Rica. I had, of course, heard people talk about Costa Rica and heard their wondrous stories of vacations. But before we went ourselves I had no idea what a spectacular place it truly is.  Nestled on the Central American isthmus between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica has a staggering amount of biodiversity…5% of the worlds biodiversity in fact, the densest of any country. Totally mind-blowing. It’s truly a world of color and life; warmth and vibrancy. We are smitten.  Did you know they have no standing army, only a National Guard? Did you know Costa Rica has extremely low crime?  That they have strict wildlife protection laws and all hotels must meet specific ecological standards?  Did you know I have a background in public policy and it is really shining through right now? Bear with me because I was geeking out about this stuff. (more…)

Sunprinted Tablecloth and Napkins

DSC_1076 (1)

Way back (ah, decades ago!) when I was in college in Madison, WI, I met a vibrant, adventurous, elegant woman whose bohemian and artistic outlook was a revelation and an inspiration.  One of those friends whose free-spirited nature stills shapes me to this day.  When she got married this summer I knew I wanted to make her something special as a wedding gift.  I decided to make a sunprinted tablecloth and napkin set. (more…)

Spring Break Stay-cation

2015 Spring Break Stay-cation

It’s been pretty quiet around the blog for the last week and a half!  My apologies about that. The boys had their spring break last week and after much debate we decided to try our first stay-catation.  This decision was made, mostly based on the sad state of our bank account after our cat’s surgery.  Um, cat surgery is pricy.  Super pricy.  You have no idea, unless you do and then you can relate. It’s a good thing we love her so much. (more…)

Family Trip to Ireland

Family Trip to Ireland - Blarney Castle

We have returned from our glorious family trip to Ireland! Our lungs are full of fresh, clean air and our bellies full of ‘chips’.  My husband is Irish and while his parents live in the U.S., not far from us actually, his extended family are mostly in Ireland.  So, it became apparent about three days into our trip that we were not on ‘vacation’ we were, in fact, in the midst of a family reunion.  And, quite a beautiful one at that.  Our visit prompted the rounding up all the family in the area for a BBQ on the family farm.

Family in Ireland

And, more than one cup of tea with a side of lots of chin-wagging as we visited everyone we could.

Family in IrelandThere are so many stories to tell from the trip (the amazing colors, our hikes, our Kid’s Appreciation Day to name a few) that I need to split them up but here are some highlights.

the family farm

{J, the Mr. and my husband’s Uncle on the family farm}

family trip to Ireland _ Inch Beach near Dingle

{Inch Beach Near Dingle}

Family Trip to Ireland

{view from King John’s Castle or Limerick}

Family Trip to Ireland

Family Trip to Ireland

{Atop the Beacon in Baltimore, West Cork a one mile journey from our cottage, we ran here for our morning runs. It was so beautiful I nearly cried every time I was up here.}

Family Trip to Ireland

{View at dusk from our cottage in West Cork}

Family Trip to IrelandThe trip was not without mishaps (um, my glasses broke in half on the second day and I’m blind as a bat but luckily was able to convince an opthamalogist to sell me contact lenses)  and the kids had difficult moments but overall we fell in love and are still marveling at just how many family memories we made in one small trip.


Winter Walks + Other Goings Ons

It’s been an extraordinary winter. Lots of snow, lots of ice and lots of snow days. Snow days at our house consist of hours and hours of Lego playtime and wearing pi’s until noon. There ain’t nothing gained by putting on day clothes before lunchtime when you aren’t gonna leave the house anyway!

winter walk

winter walking boy

I am trying to get out for lots of winter walks, though, once the pi’s are finally peeled off.  When everything is covered with snow and ice a walk is a whole new view of the woods.


winter walks

Where I grew up, in Northern Minnesota, nothing was cooler than having a suntan after a snow day.  It proved you were hardcore and outdoorsy.  I was never quite that cool but, regardless, I do want my kids to enjoy a good winter walk.

winter walk on ice

winter walk at duskI’ve been bringing my camera along and taking lots and lots of picture because that is what everyone says you are supposed to do when you want to improve your photography.  You know, take lots of pictures. Indulge me while I share a few from our recent walks.

winter exploration

winter walks DSC_0033J is always a ball of excited, furious energy when we first get out walking.  He’ll imagine an ice world and describes it in detailed, breathless run-on sentences while marching in a circle.  We can actually see his energy draining until, predictably, he is exhausted and wants to be carried.  Anyone with that much unbridled enthusiasm would exhaust themselves.


C love being outside so much. He’s at his absolute best outside and can spend hours walking in the snow; looking for animal tracks; watching the birds…he’s so happy!  His whole demeanor changes from too-cool first-grader (yes, there is such a thing) back to sweet boy.

For all of us, it clears the head and warms the body to spend a good bit of time outside even on the snowy days.


winter walks

New Jersey’s kind of pretty all covered in this luscious white, don’t you think? Have you had snow?  Enjoying it?  Do you winter walk?

P.S. I’m finally joining Bloglovin’! I’ve been losing track of all the blogs I want to follow and feel like I”m missing out on the fun over there.  Are you already at the Bloglovin’ party?  If so, follow my blog with Bloglovin.

P.P.S. Local friends, I’m selling my stuff at the Main Street Pop-Up Shop starting February 12th.  It’s a great time to support lots of local businesses and get some sweet Valentine’s gifts!

vacation with kids ~ a confession and story of success

I realize this is something of a taboo topic but I feel I gotta be upfront.  there is nothing like a family vacation to make me miss the days BEFORE I had kids.  it’s just feels unfair to call it vacation when, every night after dark, I find myself sitting on the hard floor of a hotel bathroom reading a book by headlamp.  follow that cold discomfort with a gazillion nighttime maneuvers that inevitably end with me sleeping next to a small, wet person who is smacking me in the face.  that same small person usually doesn’t want to do anything the next day except wrestle his brother and stages small, public protests in the afternoon when forced to endure ten minutes in a museum or any degree of humidity in an elevator.  it’s right around then I turn to my husband and say one of two things: either “I’m definitely going to drink tonight” or “Why are we doing this again?”.   when evening rolls around I bring my glass of wine into the bathroom with me and it starts all over again.   it’s just far too easy at that point to dream about the times when vacations involved sleeping in and waking to breakfasts that didn’t involve hunting for crayons on a dingy floor; eating a slow, delicious HOT dinner after taking my time admiring a city and its delights.  ahhh.

c and mama in PA state parks

but, truth is I do love my little buggers and I do love going places with them after all.  so, I am thrilled to report that we might have just cracked the “vacation” conundrum.   the answer for us is a little thing called nature…little in its simplicity only.  you see, we drove 5 hours northwest to hills creek state park near the Appalachian Mountain range.  it’s a stunning and wild place and we are in completely in love.  in truth, we’ve gone into the wild woods of Pennsylvania once a summer for the past four years but this year was just perfect for all of us.

hike in PA

the right age for the boys who were ready to hike and explore and eager to run around outside on their own.  they roamed in and of the cabin completely on their own, noticing little difference between what was inside and what was outside.

our overhead view in PA

Pennsylvania has the most amazing network of state parks across the whole state and a dozen or so have got cabins that can be rented by the week.  it ends up coming to around $70 a night and you get a whole cabin with a kitchen, bathroom, living room and two bedrooms.  but really those are unimportant details because what you really get is access to a fire pit and a picnic table in (most of the time) a big open area surrounded by hiking trails and swimming holes.


we would start the day with a campfire and breakfast outside while the boys drew things or biked around or built elaborate imaginary worlds with pinecones, tree stumps and water blasters.  or left nuts for the resident chipmunk and waiting quietly only to squeal with joy when he arrived to snack.  we went on hiking adventures and saw snakes, salamanders, ducks, toads, frogs, herons, tadpoles, and a million moths and butterflies.  the boys got completely comfortable with daddy long-legs and fuzzy caterpillars.  somehow, and I’m not making this up, there are almost no mosquitoes and every time we go the weather has been cool in the shade and just hot-enough at the swimming hole.  we eat outside for nearly every meal.

foggy morning walk

{our cabin is in the background of this foggy morning walk}

It’s an absolute piece of perfection.  I read books and magazines by a campfire and learned (again) how to bathroom floor in sight.  my husband and I discussed future plans by the light of the campfire while slowly sipping on wine. (technically, the PA state parks are all alcohol-free, which is part of what keeps them quiet at night and free from any loud ruckus but, in our experience, if you are quiet and subtle about it they don’t bother anyone.)

I’m not saying there were no late-night shenanigans.  I might even be familiar with the thud that accompanies my lovely child falling out of the standard-issue PA state park bunk bed (the bottom bunk).  but, it was still the family vacation I longed for.

and, can you guess what happened?  of all things, the boys made friends with kids in the cabin across the little road that connects one cabin to the next.  they started waiting for Jacob and Katherine to come out of their cabin by sitting on the big rocks outside our cabin.  if they were anywhere in sight, they dropped me and my art project plans to ran off and ride bikes or talk fishing with them.  and I missed them.  here we were, somewhere perfect, and I wanted them to stay in the family cocoon but they were looking outward longing for something more adventurous.  how about that.

the garden state

scoff if you must but new jersey is beautiful right now.  it’s a well-kept secret just how stunning this state can get.  and I don’t mean like Carmela Soprano-on-a-good-night stunning.  I mean, really, truly naturally stunning.

boys in springit catches me off-gaurd nearly every year.  I love spring like crazy already but springtime in Jersey is something to see.

boxwoods in the sky it seems that everything is blooming but especially the boxwoods.  the new growth popping up everywhere makes it impossible to resist…feels like a requirement to sit outside; watch a few bees do their busywork and daydream a little bit.  for us that always means plans.

native plant budslots and lots of plan-making…from A NEW HOUSE! to big, huge international travels! right on down to carrots vs. lettuce in the vegetable garden!  most of the plans are just mental wanderings but I love these kinds of conversations so much…where are we going? what exciting things are coming next?

fern frondspring seems to bring with it room enough for all of these plans and more.  even if the planning never goes any further than the bottom of my margarita glass.  the ritual of dreaming out loud makes for a happy spring.  I’m hoping you got a little bit of that, too.


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