New Year Resolutions | The Great 2011 Purge

This time last year I was reading Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living (Tsh Oxenreider) and made a New Year Resolution to simplify my life and purge unnecessary objects from my home. Before The Great 2011 Purge, art materials lived in all areas of our home and I spent countless hours looking for things and making room for objects that had no permanent place. Does this sound like your life? If so, I can’t recommend Tsh’s book enough.

Digging past my collections, knick-knacks, and countless art materials was exhausting and I knew that if I streamlined my possessions I could be more productive with my time. So I started poking away at corners of my home every week; a shelf of dishes here, a closet there. And it’s helped! I’ve given away unused applianced, weeded out my least favorite books, and I just donated four garbage sized bags of baby clothes to this incredible charity with the unintended consequence of teaching my children the power of helping those in need. I’ve never stuck with a resolution for an entire year, but this one was so successful that it’s seeped into my way-of-life and it’ll be easy to carry it forward into the new year.

paper snowflake scraps

2012 New Year Resolution

And now, guess what? I’m thinking about my 2012 Resolution.

Working for myself has long appealed to me, and over the past year I’ve developed a stronger entrepreneurial mindset that I’d like to nurture! I’m an artist at heart, with no real sense of money and lacking in organizational skills (obviously) , so my resolution for 2012 is to foster my entrepreneurial side. I’m starting 2012 off by working and blogging with this awesome new startup, developing curriculum for this creative children’s museum, reading this bookand devouring this blog.

I think it’s a good start, but to keep it going for the year, my plan is to read inspirational books and magazines like this, streamline my blog to make it more engaging and accesible (a newsletter and revamped archives are in the works), and remain open to opportunities that are a good fit with my my personal and professional goals. Now that I see it all written in front of me, it seems a bit daunting, but I have to remember that a year is a long time and baby steps will get me there. Just like they did last year.

In light of all this, because I’m a mom-to-my-kids first I have to remember that I can only take on so much. In my search for balance between motherhood and personal ambition I’ve had a few meltdown moments that I hope will shine brightly in my mind’s eye as a warning of what can happen if I bite off more than I can chew. These colorful pictures of a happy snowflake-making afternoon are here to remind me that my primary goal is to hold on to my core beliefs as an arts educator and mom who wants to raise her children to be creative souls and independent thinkers.

More New Year Resolutions

Family Friendly Creative New Years Resolutions

Four Goals for the New Year

Five Resolutions for a Creative New Year

The Year’s Best Art and Creativity Books for Kids

Think Different

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.” – Steve Jobs

I never met Steve Jobs, but his life’s work has influenced me in multiple ways, both subtle and overt, and it’s impossible for me to pass up the opportunity to acknowledge my gratitude for his attention to detail, user experience, and life-changing technological inovation. I’m writing this post on my Mac while downloading photos off my iPhone, and I can think of a million ways in which these tools have altered my life’s work and interactions. The phone, for one, has kept my brain occupied in the middle of the night during some of my hardest nights of early motherhood, connected my children with their grandparents who live miles away, enabled me to snap impromptu photos and videos of milestone moments (or not) when I left my real camera at home, helped me find my way to restaurants/baby showers/weddings/mechanics/airports/towing companies (not a favorite experience, but thank goodness for the phone!).

By some error of craziness, I happen to live near Steve Jobs and paid my respect by lighting candles in a touching street-side memorial in front of his home. The memorial grew by morning and it’s more than apparent that his influence reached so many.

One of the main reasons I write this blog is to prompt, suggest, and gently push parents and caregivers toward raising creative children. This isn’t a soapbox, and if you’re here it’s most likely because you also see the importance of creative thinking, but I also want to stress the point that we have to grab the one chance we have to raise children to be their own true selves, to follow their big ideas, to test juxtapositions that may turn into something entirely novel, and to think different. I’m inspired by Steve Jobs’ life — his strong inner compass that directed him to follow his wild ideas despite convention and the allure of an easy road to success.

I found this video from Apple’s Think Different campaign, and it happens to be the only one narrated by Steve Jobs himself. It never aired. And it’s short. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy hearing the voice of what many consider the Thomas Edison of our time.

And I’d love to know: How has Steve Jobs’ influence changed your life?

Four Creative Thinkers to Follow

Since I started this blog I’ve been following a lot of cultural thinkers through blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, and I’ve come across some incredible leaders who have changed the way that I look at the world. This list is a small sampling of who I’m paying attention to (mainly the result of time limitations…babies can only play by themselves for so long) so I welcome you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and see more of the people that I follow.

I’d also love to know…who do you think should be on this list?

Happy reading!

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Gever Tulley, Tinkering School: http://twitter.com/#!/gever

His Twitter Page: i make stuff – http://gevertulley.comhttp://www.tinkeringschool.com/

Why you should follow him: Tulley is the visionary behind Tinkering School, a place where “children can build anything, and through building, learn anything.” He’s opening a new school this fall in San Francisco called Brightworks, where “students explore an idea from multiple perspectives with the help of real-world experts, tools, and experiences, collaborate on projects driven by their curiosity, and share their findings with the world.” If I could justify the drive, I would be over-the-moon if my kids attended this school. He also wrote a book called Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do). What’s not to like? Tulley explains Tinkering School here in about four minutes.

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Maria Popova, Brain Picker: http://twitter.com/#!/brainpicker

Her Twitter Page: Maria Popova, Brooklyn, NY. Interestingness curator and semi-secret geek obsessed combinatorial creativity. Editor of Brain Pickings. Bylines for @WiredUK @TheAtlantic @DesignObserver http://brainpickings.org

Why you should follow her: Brain Pickings is a well-curated blog of all sorts of interesting ideas from the worlds of design, science, psychology, art, you name it! From her blog (because it’s hard to classify this one): “Brain Pickings is a discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.” You just never know what you’ll find there, but you know it will always be good. Maria also writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and tweets all the gosh darned time. Just look at her profile picture — she’s out there, finding the best of the best for you and me to devour. For example, check out this recent article from The Atlantic:A round-the-world tour of children’s bedrooms. So freakin’ interesting! She also has a popular Facebook page.

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Sir Ken Robinson, Author: http://twitter.com/#!/SirKenRobinson

His Twitter Page: Sir Ken Robinson, Los Angeles, CA. http://www.sirkenrobinson.com

Why you should follow him: Sir Ken comes from the world of arts education, and has grown to become one of the most forward-thinking leaders in the realm of creativity. He wrote Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative and The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, which I’m reading right now. Not only is his writing friendly and approachable, but he’s also a riot to listen to. The word “brilliant” barely begins to describe him, and you’ll want to know what he knows. If you haven’t already heard of Sir Ken Robinson, watch this video and you’re sure to become his newest fan.

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Nina Simon, Museum Director: http://twitter.com/#!/ninaksimon

Her Twitter Page: I design participatory, interactive, slightly strange museum exhibits all over the place. http://www.museumtwo.blogspot.com
Why you should follow her: Nina runs a blog called Museum 2.0, where she talks about participatory museum experiences and making cultural institutions more relevant (and less stodgy) spaces. She wrote a book on the same topic called The Participatory Museum. In a world full of buttoned up museums, Nina’s voice stands out as controversial. She’s been bucking the system as a consultant to museums, and now she’s running her own show as the ED of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. In this recent post, Nina writes about a newly installed Creativity Lounge where visitors can look at art WHILE assembling a jigsaw puzzle. This leaves the artist feeling like her work is compromised, but the museum’s visitors love it. Follow her for big thinking on breaking down traditions that may be holding on for the wrong reasons.

 

Who would you like to see added to this list, and why?

Cardboard Box Challenge

TinkerLab is one today!

To help me celebrate a year of exploration, tinkering, creativity, and experimentation, I’ve invited some of my favorite arts and education bloggers to join me in today’s Cardboard Box Challenge as a gift to each of YOU. My blogging journey was originally inspired by the fabulous Jean of The Artful Parent and Jen of Paint Cut Paste. And I’m absolutely thrilled that they’re each part of today’s collaboration.

Like many of you, I love reading posts that inspire me to try something new, and each of my collaborators has inspired me in one way or another. They’re smart, creative, funny, generous, and they each do an amazing job at honoring the children that they work and/or live with. I asked them (and their children!) to create anything they like using at least one cardboard box. The project would be executed by children, but grown-ups were welcome to facilitate and/or collaborate if the mood struck. Links to my twenty-four collaborators can be found at the end of this post, and I’d encourage you to do a little blog hopping today (or save this for when you have some time) and bookmark those posts that inspire YOU.

Cardboard Box Marble Run

Here’s what we did with our humble box…

To spark our creativity I cut a side off of the box, just to make it look a little different. It looked a like a house to me and I could easily imagine a rough version of an architectural model. But I asked N what she imagined and she said, “Let’s make a marble run!!” Just like that. The exclamation points really are necessary.

 

I bent a rectangular piece and asked her what we could do with it. She saw it as a ramp, and it became the base of our marble run. She cut tape and played the role of director while I secured the pieces together and acted as her general contractor.

Materials

  • Deconstructed box left over from our Cardboard Box Splat Painting project
  • Full box of cardboard recyclables
  • Scissors
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Exacto Knife (for me — it made my job so much easier!)

She tested out an idea about running tape across the the top of her ramp, but abandoned it when we noticed it created too much tension on the ramp’s walls.

She decided when it was done and we selected a bowl for the ramp to fit into…

Test run…

It worked!!

Good thing we have so many marbles! She gave me specific instructions that the skinny tunnel that feeds into the big ramp should “be closed up and dark so you can’t see the marbles,” and seemed to be fascinated by the mystery of that part of the structure.

Cardboard Box Challenge Participants

What would you (and your kids) make with a cardboard box? If you have a cardboard box project that you’d like to share, please add your link to the blog hop or comment section below. And feel free grab the button or copy the text into your HTML.

Recycled Weaving Fence

When I saw this awesome weaving installation on display at the Bay Area Discovery Museum I knew it was something that I wanted to recreate at home. If I were running a preschool I think I would have taken the time to build such a structure because it would be a stellar group project, but as the parent of one curious, yet fickle, preschooler I thought it might be prudent to build a simple test-model first to see if this would be an idea worthy of further exploration (and investment!).

After scratching my head over this, I came up with this prototype made from wooden skewers (two on each end), painters tape, a deconstructed fruit sack from the market, and assorted ribbon.

It was a beautiful day, and N was up for the challenge.

With four ribbon spools to choose from, she cut  what she wanted and worked on figuring out how to get it through the mesh.

It was tricky, but she kept at it until she figured it out. Real challenges give kids the opportunity to celebrate their successes and gain confidence in their problem-solving abilities.

She also tried this shiny, elastic ribbon, and found it was easier to push through the holes. What a nice surprise lesson in compare and contrast!

And she even wrapped it all the way around the edge of the wood post.

N likes collaborating with me — it seems that she takes her work more seriously if I get involved too — so you can see a few of my ribbons woven in there as well. We worked on this for about 20 minutes and I left it up so that we can revisit it over the course of the week. And if there’s still energy around weaving, and this project in particular, I may just invest in some garden fencing like the stuff I saw at the children’s museum.

Has anyone made one of these? Did your child/children stick with it for a while?

Related Ideas

  • If you have a chainlink fence, you could weave through it with fabric or crepe paper. I’m thinking about bringing a basket of crepe paper with us next time we visit the park. Do you think anyone would mind if we made a fence weaving installation?
  • Check out this yarn heart-weaving from Outdoor Knit.

What else could you build a weaving fence from?

This post was shared with Craft Schooling Sunday. Childhood 101, It’s Playtime

Creative Challenge #5: Plastic Bottles

Make something with Plastic Bottles

In honor of Earth Day, I’d like to raise a little awareness toward the enormous amounts of plastic bottles used around the world, coupled with some thoughts on recycling and upcycling those bottles into creative products. My family is hooked on bubbly water, and while the number of bottles we go through each week is staggering, each of these bottles gets recycled…and occasionally upcycled into art (our Recycled Sculpture project can be found here).

Sobering Statistics

The Challenge

Make something with plastic bottles! Have you cut the tops off to use them as funnels, added them to a marble run, used them as sand scoopers, or turned them into something surprising? The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes!

To join in

  • Use plastic bottles, along with any other materials of your choice.
  • Attach a link to your blog post, a YouTube video, or photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

Inspiration

Instructions for adding an image file

  • Click on the “Choose File” button (below the “Submit” button)
  • Choose a JPEG file from your computer
  • Type in a description of your experiment into the comment text box
  • Click the “Submit Comment” button
  • Grab the Creative Challenge button and add it to your site, or copy this text into your HTML.
  • For more Creative Challengesclick here.

    How are you celebrating Earth Day?

Bird Feeder & Hop Circle

Today I’m sharing two outdoor activities for creative play…

#1: Peanut Butter Bird Feeder

Our house is shaded by an enormous pinecone-dropping machine, and these little beasts can be found in all corners of our mini-oasis. They are so begging to be turned into something, right? Peanut-butter coated pinecone bird feeders, here we come! (Apologies up-front to all my gluten and nut-free friends…this is why there are TWO activities in this post!).

We started by mixing some oat bran into our peanut butter. I read that this is healthier for birds than straigh-up peanut butter because the grains break up the sticky PB and aid their digestion.

Our little set-up: Peanut butter mix, Holiday cheese knife, Bowl of Birdseed, Twine, Scissors, Pinecones, and Paper to place the completed bird feeders on.

I twisted the twine on the cones and then handed them over to the queen peanut-butter spreader, who took her job very seriously.

She then coated them with seeds (from the dollar store – huzzah!). Which reminds me, I originally bought ten bags of the seed as an alternative to sand for our sand table. I highly recommend it as birdseed feels clean, it has a nice texture, and it has little specks of color that make it pop.

And there it is…ready for the birds. Not the pesky squirrels. Okay, are you ready for the sad part of this little tale? We made FOUR of these (4!), hung two by our house and two off a tree by the street. And not one of them was hanging the next morning! I’m pretty sure the squirrels managed to bring them down, but how? Clever little monsters! Has anyone else had this problem? What could we do differently?

#2: Hop Circle

It was a beautiful day, so N moved down to the sidewalk and started on some chalk drawings. She drew a (wobbly) circle on the ground and asked me if I’d draw more of them so that she could play “Hop Circle.” Haha. I kept calling it Circle-Scotch, but it didn’t really matter.

I thought it would be fun to add in some other shapes and drew a triangle. BIG mistake! I really should have checked with the creative director first, as this was NOT in the plan. Back to circles!

Once all the circles (and lone triangle) were laid out to her liking, she hopped away. How fun! And this reminds me of another hopscotch alternative I recently saw at Let the Children Play, where the kids drew a continuous hopscotch all around the school. Take a look!

Bento Cutting

My daughter is a curious child, and inevitably finds little treasures that I hide away for rainy days. And so it was with a cute little set of Bento cutting tools this week. But her timing was actually perfect, as It’s just about time to celebrate The Year of the Rabbit. Hopping after the tail of the Feisty Year of the Tiger, The Year of the Rabbit is supposed to be a calm year when we all get a chance to regroup, nest, spend time at home with family, and follow artistic pursuits (!!). Truly, I’m not making this stuff up!

My child loves cutting up play dough and cookie dough, so why not cheese and ham, too? There are some talented folks out there who create gorgeous and hilarious Bento lunches, but I doubt I’ll ever be one of them because my daughter has to be IN CHARGE of the cutting, and I’m merely a lowly sous chef who’s occasionally granted rights to poke cheese through the cutters with a toothpick.

We happen to live near a Daiso store (BEST store ever for people who like to scope out unique, cheap Japanese odds and ends), which is where I scored these fabulous tools. Little hands can use these cutters to easily cut thinly sliced cheese, while cutting meat requires a bit more elbow grease. As such, she beautified a lot more cheese than meat. If you don’t have Bento cutters, small cookie cutters work equally well.

In the end, it wasn’t about the presentation at all. While I was able to squirrel away a few pieces for our sandwiches, she piled all her little pieces into a bowl and then gobbled them all up. We had so much fun making these that I have a feeling you’ll be hearing more about creative lunch-making from us again. Especially since we’re supposed to be following our artistic pursuits this year!

Want more Bento?

Adventures in Bentomaking Blog

20 Easy Bento Lunch Boxes: Parenting.com

Just Bento Cookbook

Enormous List of Bento Resources from Cooking Cute

I’m so grateful to all of my readers for subscribing to my blog, leaving comments that keep me going, joining me on Facebook, experimenting with your children, and bringing your thoughtful ideas to the table. I happen to be one of the lucky ones who lives near the only Daiso store in the USA, and I want to lend a Bento hand to a loyal reader in need of food beautification! If you leave a comment letting me know how you would use this set by Friday, February 4 at 12 midnight PST you will be entered into a random drawing for the cute Bento tools. (Set includes Stainless rabbit mold for rice, Animal food punching tools, Stainless food storage container, Animal sandwich cutter, Green fruit box, Insulated lunch bag).

Wishing everyone an early happy Lunar New Year!

The winner is selected!! Thank you everyone for your participation. I received so much positive feedback on this giveaway that I’ll be sure to have one again soon. Stay tuned…