Monday, September 30, 2013

"Outer Face" Space Beavers: A Surreal Collaboration

Last week, I stumbled upon the story of Mica Angela Hendricks, an artist and mama who had the phenomenal idea to blend her own creativity with her daughter's.
"Collaborating with a 4-year Old" began when Hendricks' daughter noticed a drawing of a head in her sketchbook and asked if she could draw the body.
"Outer Face"
The result was clearly a game changer.
So, wisely, they ran with it, producing dozens of unique, whimsical works of art.
"Sad Chrysalis"
The Dali-esque images this duo generates are just a perfect blending of creative minds.
What a team!
"Slugs Need Hugs"
As if the visual impact from this collaboration isn't striking enough, Hendricks shares this inspiring commentary on her blog:

And from it all, here are the lessons I learned:  to try not to be so rigid.  Yes, some things (like my new sketchbook) are sacred, but if you let go of those chains, new and wonderful things can happen.  Those things you hold so dear cannot change and grow and expand unless you loosen your grip on them a little.  In sharing my artwork and allowing our daughter to be an equal in our collaborations, I helped solidify her confidence, which is way more precious than any doodle I could have done.  In her mind, her contributions were as valid as mine (and in truth, they really were).  Most importantly, I learned that if you have a preconceived notion of how something should be, YOU WILL ALWAYS BE DISAPPOINTED.  Instead, just go with it, just ACCEPT it, because usually something even more wonderful will come out of it.
Well said, sista.

Oh, I just love EVERYTHING about this story—
letting go of what is comfortable and expected,
sharing a unique creative experience,
and opening up to the expansion of artistic process and human relationships.

Just beautiful in every way.

Crazy about these wonderfully wackadoo images? You can purchase prints, to inspire creative collaborations of your own, here.
"Pink Mermaid"
Make something magical happen today, my friends- 
and don't be afraid to share it, completely, with someone you love. 

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Rodale Organic Apple Festival- Love to the Core

Some people have a "Zen spot" where they can decompress, be inspired, just relax and kick it. 
For me, the Rodale Institute is where it's at. 
Organic Apple Festival
Oh, I've written about my love of Rodale's usually serene land before, but the place gets hopping with merriment at the annual Organic Apple Festival!
Organic Apple Festival
Countless activities engage wee ones and adults alike—from the obvious apple picking (and rotten apple launching!) 
Rodale Institute

Rotten Apple Launcher!
to face painting, adventure tunneling, tractor rides, live music and crafts.
And as I'm sure you can imagine, the food...
Rodale Institute
Always so fresh and delicious.
You really just can't go wrong.

For an extra buzz, hit up the festival's "Maple Creamies" (vanilla ice cream with maple syrup on top). 
Thank me later. 
Rodale Institute
Set in an agricultural Eden, joyfulness and beauty abound at The Organic Apple Festival.

Once you've had your fill of the event's action, be sure to take a tranquil walk through the lush Shumei gardens, marvel at the magnificent landscapes, and keep an eye out for the clever little creatures who have made this farm their home. 
Thank you, Rodale Institute—Rodale Institute
for modeling and teaching true organic farming 
and for preserving and sharing a majestic space to inspire a brighter future for our world. 

We hope your work rubs off on everyone.

Swing out to visit the Organic Apple Festival next September,
and fall in love with farming at its finest. 
Organic Apple Festival
Savor every delicious moment, friends.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A BOSS Playset? Thank You, Craigslist!

With two wily wee ones, we knew it was time to upgrade our home rope swing "playground" out here. 

So the research began, and yisssssh! Play sets sure are expensive, huh? Most of the new sets we priced ranged between $1200-$3000. Um...

Alternative ideas? Puh-leese!

After about a month of scouring Craigslist for a deal, we were just about to drop $500 on a used set when a family posted that they needed to get rid of their Woodridge Cedar Swing Set with Slide as soon as possible.

And they were giving it away FOR FREE! Patience pays, people.
Note the difference before and after I stained the wood.
My super hub offered $100 to hold the set and went to pick it up the next day. He managed to disassemble and pack the entire load into the back of a full-cab pick-up truck he'd borrowed. 

Because the set was 10-yrs-old, once it was reassembled in our yard, we decided to spiff it up. 
Using wood stain left over from when I'd re-stained our deck last year, I slapped a coat over the playset and got amazing results! Shined 'er up like new!
stain playset
Use wood stain to bring out the natural finish in your wooden playset.
After reading up on creating an ideal environment for a home playset, we ordered mulch to spread around the children's area, cushioning the ground in case of falls.
mulch for swingset
To add some charm and personality, my fella added some adorable chimes that the peanuts can use while they're playing in the lower level. 
And to encourage responsibility we added a broom so that the girls can clean house when they have need—whether to sweep sand back into the sandbox or to remove spiderwebs.
Because the open upper tunnel was a tad too sketchy for our young daredevils, we boarded off the doorway that leads down the rock-climbing wall until the girls are older. Safety is paramount.
What a wonderful asset a playset like this is for children!

I've been marveling at the learning experiences this environment fosters in our girls, from imaginative play, experimenting with physical momentum and balance, to sparking creativity and independence. 
We swapped out one of the two swings for a trapeze bar, and not only are our daughters testing their agility and balance, but ol' ma is out there using her own body weight to build upper body strength in between swing-pushing sessions. Double whammo! :::kisses biceps

A couple of last minute pointers before you start searching Craigslist for a bad boy of your own...

If your set comes with a sandbox, be sure to either purchase or fashion a cover to close off the sand when not in use. Left open, animals will pop over in the evenings to share your sweeties' space—in the grossest way. Close up shop to keep your sandbox from becoming a litter box. 
Give serious consideration to the placement of your playset before you erect it. We chose a shaded spot for the majority of the set, but arranged it so that the slide was NOT under a tree—to prevent bird droppings on that exposed section. This is working out well, but the sun makes that slide hot in the summertime. Really think about the ideal location on your property.

And, most importantly, keep a close eye on those kiddos. If very young, stand in close proximity to your children at all times. While developing their balance and dexterity, falls are bound to happen, so always be ready to play safety net when excited children are at play.

Happy hunting, friends!

There's a playset out there that needs a new home, and with a little time and patience, you can seriously score by searching the used sets in your area.

Your peanuts will thank you for it!
XOXOX From My Hearth to Yours

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Moult Mania

Notice tumbleweed rolling down your hallway lately?
'Tis the season...for fuzzy fur ball funk.

It's moulting season, people.

Every spring and fall, most dog breeds shed their seasonal coats. 
We naively thought our Rottweiler mix wouldn't be much of a shedder. 

Wrong. Super wrong. 

The fur RAINS off our monster mutt during moulting season. 
shedding blade
Since Beast Dog was a wee pup, we've been using a Safari Dual Shedding Blade to remove excess hair and to help scrape burrs out of his coat after woodsy romps.

The blade works wonderfully and can be opened wide for a two-handed brushing that reaches the underbelly and chest.

We always brush outdoors because, during moulting, that fur just doesn't stop falling. Also, resourceful birds collect the remnants to weave softness into their nests.

Glad to know this funky junk is going to good use.

Fuzzy scuzz sure takes a lot of effort to control. 
Enter vacuum.
And dust rags.
And lint roller.

Hats off to all you Husky owners. 
Man. Brave peeps.
What'd I do now?
What are your tricks to keep shedding under control in your home? Help a sista out!
The things we do for love...

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mind Scramblin' Pale Blue Dot

This photograph, from the Voyager 1 space probe, inspired astronomer Carl Sagan's book, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.

At first glance, this image might not strike a chord...
but read this brief excerpt, and prepare to see it in a whole new light.
Photo Credit from NASA
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Deep breath out, right?

When I'm about to tweak out over tidying clutter or when emotions get to swirling, I try to conjure the pale blue dot image to mind.
Suddenly, my problems seem a whole lot smaller in the big scheme of things.

Want some even wackier perspective?
Check out this video and prepare to sit in stunned silence.

Jaw to the floor?
Because what can you even say?
The worlds are wide, my friends.
What a ride being in the mix.

Enjoy your place in the universe today!
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How to Make Your Own Compass

I pray to the heavens that my girls don't inherit my sense of direction...
or lack thereof.

Starting early outdoor training, last week my fella taught the kiddos how to make their own compass.
Try this quick and exciting experiment with any age group!
All you need is a dish with water, a magnet, compass, needle and cork.

Carefully slice a piece of cork to float your needle.*Leave this task to the adults if working with small children. If you don't have cork, you can use any small, flat material/item that will float.
Fill your dish with water and, if your child is mature enough, allow him/her to magnetize the needle by sliding it (in the same direction) over the magnet about 20 times.
Test the magnetization of the needle by holding it against the compass. As you move the needle around the compass, you'll observe the directional needle following the path of your newly magnetized needle. Super cool!
Float your cork in the water and place your needle on top.
Watch, in awe, as your needle will slowly point north! You've made your own compass! Compare to your traditional compass to ensure that your "point" is spot on.
How easy, fun and educational is this?!?
Try it at home!

Treasure hunt in the backyard?
All arrows point to YES.

Have a day that's right on course, friends!
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Lyons Fiddle Festival: Fiddling Around

'Twas another glorious weekend for festival-ing, right?

This Sunday, we hit up one of my favorite uplifting events of the year, The Lyons Fiddle Festival. Whoohoo dawgie, this is always such a good time!
Although the stage shows deliver surefire entertainment, the true magic of this event is made in the countless circles of soulful musicians, just jammin' away.
Walking through veins of fiddlers, guitarists, bassists, accordionists, dulcimer and banjo-players, crowds of onlookers are taken on melodic journeys— many of which have brought me to tears.
And when you stop to look around, to really take it all in—such characters everywhere.
Beautiful, confident, gentle, rowdy, eccentric, young and refined faces fill the fields with wonder.
The Fiddle Festival provides constant stimulation for the eyes and eardrums, that's for sure. And the heart? Hits ya dead center.
I'm always on the lookout for one of my favorite festival-goers, who carries his small board to various jam circles and shuffles his tap shoes to the beat, getting down to the folk rhythms that tickle his fancy.

This sweet fella is just the coolest.
Tap on, brutha. Tap on.
There is beauty in the music here.
There is history, camaraderie, storytelling...
and love.
And if all this isn't awesome enough, we parked next to this car. So...there's a little bit of that, too. Shazam!
Come on out next September and experience the enchantment of the Lyons Fiddle Festival for yourselves. 

Bring the kiddos.
Bring some chairs.
Bring your buddies.
Bring your strings. 

Stop and sit in it for awhile. 
You'll feel it.
And you'll never forget it.

Have a mellifluous day, sweet friends!
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mutschlers'- Where the Garden Gnomes Want to Live

We're plant people out here, often rearranging furniture to ensure that our indoor greenery thrives.

There's a repotting station on our deck, I dust plant leaves regularly and sometimes, when I think a spider is crawling on my arm, I turn to find a ficus leaf tickling me— so...
we're into it. 
Reeeeeally into it. 

Regulars at our local greenhouses, I thought we'd seen it all. 
But I was wrong...
so very wrong.

If I were a garden gnome, I'd live here.

I've just never seen anything like this place.

Touring the outside grounds, I became entranced by the unique foliage and the intoxicating patterns of leaves and organic design. 
Outrageously beautiful curly willow
Inspiration everywhere.
Stunning water plants
And just when I thought we'd seen it all, we ventured inside.
Mind. Blown. To. Smithereens.

I felt like we'd entered a brilliant mad scientist's laboratory, surrounded by the most exotic plant life I've ever seen.
Passing a small doorway, I peered inside and nearly dropped to the floor with amazement. Wish someone got a photo of my face when I saw THIS...
View through nondescript doorway. No photo could do this justice. WOW! 
We walked into Wonderland.
What even IS this?!?
With heightened senses, as we wandered through impossible greenery, I actually asked if we were supposed to pay admission to witness this grandeur. 
It's glaringly obvious that this place is cared for by a master of horticulture, a rare genius.
Not gonna lie, I wouldn't be surprised if Little Shop of Horrors' Audrey II was thriving in a back room. 
"Feed me, Mutschler!"
What's happening inside that greenhouse is so extraordinary, it just doesn't even make sense.
Gorgeous pitcher plants
Having fallen in love, we took home an outlandishly wonderful South African Albuca spiralus.
Albuca spiralus
We can't rave enough about the magic of Mutschlers'.

Really. Go see for yourselves.
And prepare to freak out...
in the best way.

This place might even top the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It's THAT wow.
Bonsai classes, anyone?
Where have you seen the most amazing plants? Could it possibly top this?
Have a green day, friends.
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pillow Talk

After waking up with a sore neck for the umpteenth time, I decided it was time to get my head in the game.

Since we spend one third of our lives asleep, I finally woke up and invested in some super comfy new pillows.
We'd been nuzzling cotton and polyester-filled pillows for years (plus one supportive memory-foam that lacks the cozy factor completely), so after my typical research-a-thon, I determined that my side and stomach-sleeping family would benefit from switching over to down-filled pillows.
phoenix down 75/25 pillow and double down around pillow
Reviews by Good HousekeepingSleep Like the Dead, and "Luxury Hotel Pillows Anyone Can Own" led me to purchase 2, medium support, Phoenix Down 75/25 pillows (3 year warranty) and 2 Pacific Coast Double Down Around pillows (5 year warranty). Both brands are machine washable, though of course, dry cleaning is recommended.
To protect the pillows from body/hair oils and drool, dust mites and allergens, I also invested in AllerSoft Cotton allergen control pillow protectors. These are easy to remove for monthly washing and should save me from having to wash the entire pillows more than the recommended 2x/year.

Before making purchases, do be sure to check the sizes of your current pillowcases. I accidentally ordered "queen" pillows and had to exchange them for the "standard" size that fit my cases. You don't want to have to buy all new bedding to match your pillows.
Once we were all set up with our new, fluffy pillows, my fella and I sampled both brands for one week to determine which we wanted to keep for our bed and which would best suit our kiddos. 

After supreme snuggle-sampling, we chose to keep the softer Phoenix pillows for ourselves and passed the slightly firmer (but ultra-comfy) Double Down Around pillows to the peanuts, who sometimes switch from stomach/side to back sleeping positions. 

Gotta say, I've been super psyched to hop into bed since these new pillows have made their debut. They mold to the body for perfect positioning and feel incredibly snuggly and supportive.

Aaaaaand I suddenly want a nap...

What are your go-to pillows when it comes to superior comfort and design?
Sweetest dreams to you, my friends!

*P.S. This is NOT a sponsored post. Just writing about some products that we've tried, tested and approved for our family to catch the best ZZZZZZZZZZZZs.
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