Things to Do - Grateful List (January 2014)


* Reading Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa
* Listening to Slow Club's Paradise
* Watching The Way, Way Back
* Lorde's Pure Heroine (album) and Zedd's Stay the Night (song)
* Watching Frozen (finally)
* T's month long obsession with Curious George (thank you Arlington library system for making sure we could read them all)
* Reading The One and Only Ivan with the kids at night
* Reading Danial Alarcon's The Provincials (in The Best American Short Stories 2013)
* Reading Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland

* Homemade apple cake
* California barley bowls (via 101 Recipes)
* Venison tacos
* Farro casserole with leeks (via 101 Recipes)

* The 7 minute workout app and Belly Fat workout app

* The zoo with T and his friends
* Sledding at Thomas Jefferson middle school on a 15 degree snow day

* Great Wolf Lodge's Howlin' Tornado
* Riding Great Wolf Lodge's tube slides (over and over again) with T

* Neighborhood happy hour on our third snow day of the year (January 3)
* A huge house purge (esp. in the girls' room)
* A fantastic birthday weekend - Dan's brother & sister-in-law watched the kids so we could go to SpaWorld and Zatinya
* A great birthday - sleeping in (Dan walked the kids to school), lightroom all day, and family dinner at Silver Diner
* A new template for the blog and CCBlog Design's help with the fine tuning
* Both the girls had sleepovers on the same night and T had a fantastic babysitter (thus, a night out for us)
* An afternoon at Rachel's house, easiest playdate ever, plus great conversation
* F setting up her own "beauty potion salon" in our kitchen
* The blow up bed slide
* T and T making T's table into a fishing pond after I first suggested they make it into a cave ("it was an awful cave, mom, I'm not sure what you were thinking. but it's the perfect place to go fishing.")
* T's fortune cookie - "you are not a person to be ignored"
* Watson's visit - Thursday night Dominion and Saturday night 7 Wonders (til 3 in the morning)
* T to Coco - "Don't forget we're ninjas, okay? (1) Dog attack. (2) Find the enemy. Wait, are you sleeping. (3) NO SLEEPING!. Find the bad guys. Wait, are you sleeping again?"


F- snow days, a nice house to live in and food to eat, Great Wolf Lodge, that we have everything we need and even a little more than we need, books, books about science, my cousins, sleepovers, that everything is so great, my family

P - school, my teacher, my cousins, my whole family, gymnastics, Great Wolf Lodge, sleeping over at my cousins' house, sledding, sleepovers, my dogs, popsicle parties [at school], my friends

T - Coco, a nice house to live in and food to eat, sleeping over at my cousins' house, Natalia, sleep


Things to Do - My Newest Obsession - The Waterlogue App


I may be late to the party on this one, but in the last few weeks I've become obsessed (as in OBSESSED) with the iphone waterlogue app, which makes instagram seem so yesterday. The app turns iphotos into miniature watercolor paintings. And, just like instagram, the app comes with various filters for different types of effects (not surprisingly, my favorite is "bold" with it's bright technicolor renderings).

But my favorite part of the app is watching the paintings "develop" on the screen, sort of 2014's version of the Polaroid - first the photo is reduced to a sketch and then slowly colors appear throughout the white. Fascinating to watch.

What's your lately app obsession? Any suggestions?


I keep trying to take pics of brightly colored things, like bookshelves in our home and beauty projects at the hair salon.


Things to Make - Life Size Self-Portraits, Round II


A few years ago, the girls and I rolled out butcher paper and traced their full-body profiles, in order to make life-size self-portraits (click here to see the results). A few weeks ago, on yet another snow day, P and her best-friend, L, asked if we could try the project again. And, as a parent, it was a really fun way to see how their art has changed over the years.

As with last time, the hardest part is tracing everyone, esp. the long hair. When I traced too close to the girls' actual bodies, they couldn't stop laughing, so I had to do my best. Other than that the project went really well - the girls' spent a good hour or so creating their likenesses (and they even helped each other). And now I have new "art" for the walls.


T skipped out on the art project and "journaled" instead.




Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links


Last Thursday we awoke to a neighborhood covered in inches and inches of winter white, school was canceled (of course) so we settled in for a day of laziness. Unfortunately, the skies were overcast and falling snow alternated with rain every few hours. F & T dressed for the arctic and played outside for awhile, while P and I stayed snuggled on the couch, somewhat disenchanted by so so many snow days this winter (I think we're at 7 now). Eventually friends came over - helping to create pirate ships, forts, and magical lands.


On Friday, the sun returned (in all of it's glaring brightness) and the huge piles of snow everywhere reminded me of exploded bars of ivory soap. I thought for sure school would resume, but they canceled again (and I spent all morning stating how "where I grew up, in Chicago, kids actually attended school. even when it snowed a little."). So we explored, F carrying a huge snow ball everywhere she walked.


By Friday evening, all three kids had fully embraced the snow. T shoveled and shoveled (often taking snow out of the piles constructed by Dan and returning it all to the sidewalk, oh well "help" is such a tricky word when you have children) and P climbed and climbed. A good day. Though by Monday, I was over it all (the kids had a 5 day weekend, 6 days for T) and ready for school (and routine) to resume.

Now click on over to Cherish This Day to see what everyone else has photographing.


* 27 Brilliant Print Ads. These are funny. Trust me.

* Samm Blake. She's just so so good.

* Awesome thrift store outfits for $20, oh Kelly Hampton, how you continue to impress me.

* The favorite books of all 44 US Presidents. Best. List. Ever.

* I want one of these.

* A vomit-free Valentine's playlist.


Things to Read - Six Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on Alice Munro, Lorde, mocking "success", cranky parents, and German children)

1. (Alice Munro) - Okay, so this isn't actually an article, but Alice Munro's short story "How I Met My Husband" is a great read and I randomly found the full-text online, so if you're craving wonderful fiction just click here.

"Women should stick together and not do things like that. I see that now, but didn't then. I never thought of myself as being in any way like her, or coming to the same troubles, ever.

. . . .

Till it came to me one day there were women doing this with their lives, all over. There were women just waiting and waiting by mailboxes for one letter or another. I imagined me making this journey day after day and year after year, and my hair starting to go gray, and I thought, I was never made to go on like that. So I stopped meeting the mail. If there were women all through life waiting, and women busy and not waiting, I knew which I had to be. Even though there might be things the second kind of women have to pass up and never know about, it still is better.

. . . .

He always tells the children the story of how I went after him by sitting by the mailbox every day, and naturally I laugh and let him, because I like for people to think what pleases them and makes them happy."

2. (Lorde) - I'm a little obsessed with Lorde, partially because I really like her music and partially because it's nice to see an intelligent, clothed 17 year old girl become famous. Anyways, her interview for Rookie just made me so hopeful, the media portrays teenagers as empty and valueless, so sometimes (as an almost 40-year old adult) I need to read stuff like this to remember there's so much more to those years than just generic acts of rebellion.

"I am into that whole Virgin Suicides vibe of making even the bad parts bearable. I hate high school so much, but there’s something kind of cool about walking around on the coldest day listening to “Lindisfarne” by James Blake or something and feeling like something has happened, even though it’s the worst thing ever. The album The Suburbs by Arcade Fire was influential to me in that as way well. I just think that record is really beautiful and nostalgic and so well-written. It’s a super-direct way of talking about what it’s like to grow up [in the suburbs], and I think that’s quite lovely.

. . . .

. . . so many interviewers, even ones that I consider really intelligent and good writers, will do the, like, “Oh, you’re not taking your clothes off like Miley Cyrus and all these girls” thing, which to me is just the weirdest thing to say to someone. But then people will say, “She’s always talking about being bored, that’s petulant,” which I feel like is kind of taking the piss out of teenage emotions—just, like, making light of how teenagers feel. When people react that way about things that every teenager experiences, how can you expect to make anything good?

. . . .

I have never done media training. I feel like I probably should have, because then I could’ve better identified some of that baiting in the beginning. Now I’m really good at it. But I think people don’t realize how weird it is to go from being a teenager or being just a human being who has opinions and freely discusses them with other people, to having everything you say scrutinized and taken out of context. In the space of three months, going from never having done an interview to being in Rolling Stone, being in Interview, and not really realizing how that whole thing works. That stuff was so weird. But now I’ve kind of got a handle on it. Now when people are like, “Tell me what you think of Miley!” I’ll say, “What do you think of Miley?” and they like flounder and say, “Well, I think she’s really talented…” and I’m like, there you go."

3. (Success) - Maybe I'm just in a quirky mood, but I found McSweeny's sarcastic rant on "What Is Success?" pretty funny.

"I have found wires and various forms of wiring—specifically electrical wiring— to be quite successful, wouldn’t you agree? But it didn’t come easy for wires. Success never comes easy, unless it does. It was the same for lamps and corridors and metal. After years of proving themselves, their success is now unquestioned. Brooms are an American success story. Piles of paper, too. And jackets. And Liev Schreiber. But can the same be said for chairs? Some people think chairs are very successful. I think those people are out of their fucking minds. What I’m trying say is that success is subjective.

. . . .

The thing is that when it comes to success there are very few certainties, except that you have to be willing to work hard and go the extra mile. Unless your supervisor thinks you are an annoying pissant for going the extra mile, in which case success is the status quo. Unless your cool friends think you are lame for even caring about the status quo, in which case success is failure."

4. (Mom's Time) - The Wall Street Journal's article on "Why Mom's Time is Different Than Dad's Time" helped me articulate why I never seem to read the paper -

"When fathers spend time at home, on the other hand, it reduces their odds of multitasking by over 30%. Which may explain why, a few years ago, researchers from UCLA found that a father in a room by himself was the "person-space configuration observed most frequently" in their close study of 32 families at home. It may also explain why many fathers manage to finish the Sunday paper while their wives do not—they're not constantly getting up to refill bowls of Cheerios.

Being compelled to divide and subdivide your time doesn't just compromise your productivity and lead to garden-variety discombobulation. It also creates a feeling of urgency—a sense that no matter how tranquil the moment, no matter how unpressured the circumstances, there's always a pot somewhere that's about to boil over.

"My husband says I cause some of the worry unnecessarily," another Minnesota mother, who was part of the same parenting program, told me when I spent some time in her home.

It's something that I hear a lot from parents. One of them—usually the mother—is more alive to the emotional undercurrents of the household. As a result, this more intuitive parent feels that the other parent—usually the father—is not doing his fair share, while the father feels that his wife is excessively emotional and wretchedly inefficient. But what really may be going on is that the couple is experiencing time differently, because each person is paying attention to different things."

5. (Cranky Parents) - Ruth's Graham's "Why Do Parents Make Parenting Sound So God-Awful?" really hit the nail on the head -

"Then there’s the fact that the parents writing these stories are, almost without exception, very capable women. These are not the “worst moms ever”; they are competent, loving parents who occasionally feel overwhelmed. They are parents who think and read and write about parenting. Almost by definition, they are doing just fine. Yet, culturally, we applaud their “bad” parenting while becoming less and less tolerant of actual bad parents. This is a country that is increasingly willing to prosecute pregnant women and young mothers for their mistakes with drugs, or for leaving their children home alone in moments of desperation. In a middle-class parenting subculture in which self-acceptance is a bedrock virtue, it’s impossible not to notice a disconnect."

6. (German Children) - And finally, because it's important to include something about the world stage in one's reading, I'm recommending this (short) piece on how German children learn about the Holocaust -

"I didn't make the connection between the war my grandfather fought and World War II. Later, we went to the Dachau Concentration Camp (as most schools around Munich do), and it was interesting and informative but not really disturbing. In Germany, the whole idea of "your own people" is not encouraged, and there is not a big feeling of unity (except if it's about football/soccer)."

The article links to another German citizen's answer to the same question -

"The concept of a people was so over the top abused in the first half of the 20th century, not only but most sadly in Germany, that the pendulum in that place swung in the opposite direction. Flags are rarely flown apart from sports events (and even that's a fairly recent development); you're not gonna assemble in school every morning and pledge to your country. Actually, you will never ever do that. Patriotism is still highly frowned upon. You will meet enough adults who can't sing the national anthem. Many people have stronger ties with the region they are from and also with Europe than in other places.

. . . .

Furthermore, as a kid - and you will get in touch with the Holocaust as a kid - history isn't exactly your prime concern, anywhere in the world, unless maybe your parents make it one. You gradually grow up with all the TV, the books, the news and indeed the stories and teachings in school as you slowly start understanding more about the atrocities that happened. You'll hear about many other wars that happened on the very soil you stand on since at least the Romans. First, you tend to lump them all in together as things that happened long ago (what's the difference between 50 or 2000 years to a child) but one, the last one, will start to stand out over time.

I doubt there is a sudden enlightenment, even if one account or the other might resonate with you more for whatever reason (e.g. your primary school teacher telling you vividly how they were constantly afraid of the sirens when he was your age; hearing the explosions coming closer in the bomb shelter) . . . So, while you know all these things and also that they happened on your soil (more or less), it takes getting much older until you realize your grandparents might have been involved.

. . . .

My late mother used to say that it will be a very different world when everyone involved is dead, and for better or worse that could seem to prove true."


Things to Do - 12 in 12 (February 2014)

I'm cheating this month and posting 14 pics instead of 12, because Wednesday, February 12th was a really good (full) day. And because 13 has a bad reputation so we had to round up. Yes, totally cheating. Next month I'll keep it in check. And don't forget to head on over to Not-So-SAHM and Where the Watermelons Grow to learn about their day.

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8:15 am- P finishes her homework, while T's friend plays with guns (when F has student council meetings in the mornings, my friend Trina brings F to grade school and I bring her son to preschool).

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8:45 am - Walking P to school. T talked on his walkie talkie the whole way there, he didn't seem to care that nobody was on the other end.

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noon - Drink an apple/cucumber/lemon/kale concoction after Bikram Yoga. Dan and I are on a three day juice cleanse (purchased here). I would like to pretend that this is because I'm a super healthy fit person, but really I had no desire to cook for three days and the idea of taking a jar out of the fridge every two hours appealed to me (plus, the juices taste super yummy).

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12:35 pm - Pick T up from preschool. He made me a Valentine. Happiness.

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1:15 pm - Soccer class. I should post pictures of my awesome kid rocking it out, but instead I'm posting a blurry pic of my friend's adorable baby trying to figure out how balls work. Because babies are cute and I don't have one anymore.

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2:00 pm - Group picture. I love this shot because T arranged it and talked everyone into posing together, "guys, my mom needs to take a lot of pictures today, so let's sit here and smile, k? Mom, how do we look?"

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2:30 pm - A huge snow pile next to the library begs to be climbed (oops, I mean "conquered"). This is why it takes us hours to go anywhere.


3:00 pm - Pirate playdate, but before the ship takes off treasure maps must be created.


3:45 pm - We walk to pick the girls up from school and their friends both ask them over for playdates. So it's just me, the dog, and the pirates walking home. Cool.

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4:00 pm - My friend Lola stops by for tea (usually we drink wine, but I'm still juice cleansing. Bummer).


5:30 pm - We open a Valentine's Day care package from Grandma Troutman. So so much excitement. Plus, two super cute homemade sweaters.

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6:30 pm - Dinner conversation becomes very animated. T feels it's necessary to stand. I am sick of drinking juice and stare longingly at the children's pizza.


8:00 pm - Watching the Olympics before bedtime. We don't have cable so last week I hooked up a digital antenna for our bedroom tv. As I'm not tech savvy, this accomplishment makes me very proud.


Things to Make - The EASIEST Homemade Bread Recipe Ever (Seriously)

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When I first read this recipe on Bleubird, my response was disbelief, as in "no way, that's just too easy." So, of course, I had to try making my own. And, turns out, it really is THIS EASY (even easier than using a bread maker) and the bread is crazy delicious. For a week, I made a loaf almost every night (until my pants started to feel a little tight, if you know what I mean). Now I save it for dinner parties and special occasions, where I feel like a superstar for bringing homemade bread.

On the downside (and, seriously, this is the only downside) - you have to start one day in advance. So plan ahead.


* 3 cups of all-purpose flour (I've also tried using 2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat, if you do this then add an extra 2-3 teaspoons of water)
* 1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid rising yeast (Amazon sells some here for approximately $7).
* 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1 1/2 cups water

1. In a glass bowl mix together the flour, yeast, and salt. Slowly add water and mix (I used a wooden spoon).

2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 12 hours or more.

3. THE NEXT DAY - flour your work surface and place the dough in the center. Roll into a ball-like shape.

4. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 30 minutes.

5. While the dough is sitting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place your dutch oven inside the oven to warm it up. (If you do not have a french oven, a stainless steel pot with a lid or even an oven-safe bowl with aluminum foil should work just fine).

6. After 30 minutes, remove the empty dutch oven and place the dough inside. DO NOT GREASE THE BOTTOM. Bake COVERED for 30 minutes.

7. Remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.

- Recipe from Bleubird.

And that's all there is to it. So so easy.


Places to Go - Hanging with the Presidents at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington DC)


On Saturday, we packed up the minivan and headed to the Smithsonian American Art Museum for their family-friendly President's Day Celebration. Upon entering the courtyard, huge Presidential bobbleheads greeted us while an a cappella band rocked out Call me Maybe (um, random?). Craft tables offered visitors the opportunity to make free Abraham Lincoln hats, but my kids weren't feeling it (sadness - I really wanted a hat), so after a few photo ops (and an awesome surprise meet up with Not-So-SAHM), we decided to spend the rest of the morning checking out art.

First up, we headed to the third floor to see the Google Glass exhibit (check out the back story here), but crazy lines kept us away. (FYI - If you do want to check it out today (Monday the 17th) is the last day the interactive portrait/sculpture will be on display, so hurry over to the museum to take a look). When that failed, we decided to check out Presidential Portraits for awhile - funny how are their pictures look the same until Jimmy Carter and then everyone started innovating.

The presidents lead us to the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, which was AWESOME - a statue created with rice, a video portrait painted with glitter, a person carved from wood - we all loved it (if you want to check it out, hurry up - the exhibit ends February 23rd). And finally, we made our way to American Cool, the exhibit I'd secretly planned this whole adventure around. American Cool features 100 photographs of our nation's coolest people. As a photographer, it's all sorts of awesome - so many different styles and techniques. The kids were less dazzled, but they did have a fun time reading about some of the pioneers of cool (Dorthy Parker, Louise Brooks, etc.) and trying to figure out if they had heard of any of the people photographed (sadly, they only knew of John Stewart, Madonna, and (sort of) Tony Hawk).

Eventually, we perused the third floor's modern and contemporary art galleries, which are always fun with kids (lots of room to wander, rarely crowded). T could not stop looking at Edward & Nancy Kienholz's Sollie 17, where a door lets viewers peek into a staged (rather sad-looking) apartment.

Anyways, if you're looking for somewhere fun to take the children during this long cold winter, then the Smithsonian American Art Museum makes for a great outing (esp. the beautiful Kogod courtyard, where the kids can lunch and explore for awhile). The museum often hosts family-friendly events, click here to see the schedule. And on weekends, kids can also attend Portrait Story Days (click here to read Not-So-SAHM's review).



Things to Do - Take Bad Photos

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Lately, I've had a hard time motivating myself to photograph anything, which is sort of a problem as photography is what i do. There's just so many pretty images out there lately (esp. once your facebook feed becomes inundated with other photographers, some of whom amaze me daily). The thing is - I love great photos, I love taking great photos. There's something miraculous when great light and kids and moments all come together.

But there's the other stuff too - the wonderful minutes/hours/days that just don't photograph well. We've had a cold winter and my children have no desire to go out on 20 degree nights and have their picture taken with the sunset's backlight. In fact, lately the best moments seem to happen around 7 pm with overhead lighting (yes, DREADED overhead lighting, every photographer's nemesis).

I took these pictures a few weeks ago, right before bedtime. Artistically, they're a nightmare - awful lighting and you can even see the grease stains on our kitchen wall. But F (as always) reading a book, while P and T fight/converse/laugh - well, this is our life. And it's a good life. And I need to photograph it.

So here's to bad photographs - which are (almost) always better than no photographs at all (unless I have a double chin - that's a whole different conversation).

Happy Friday everyone!!


Things to Make - Fortune Cookie Valentines

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A few weeks ago, our neighbor brought us fortune cookies. According to the tiny strips of paper inserted inside each cookie, we all had uninteresting destinies (except for T's "you are not a person who can be ignored"), so the kids discussed the predictions they would draft. And then I (rather randomly) said, "well, let's try baking our own fortune cookies." And now we can't stop.

Turns out fortune cookies make for a great "team" baking experience - one kid writes and cuts out the crazy fortunes (this would be F), while another child (P) helps fold and insert the fortunes before the cookies harden (basically "speed" baking).

Plus, I've found the 4-5 minute baking time allows me to help with homework and/or cook dinner without becoming overly distracted (i.e. I can't read a whole article in 4 minutes).

Anyways, we like them so much that we're handing some out for Valentine's Day. The best part was coming up with the fortunes - from "you will travel to all 7 continents" to "you will dance with an elephant", I'm hoping we'll make the second grade smile.



* 1 egg white
* 1/4 tablespoon vanilla extract
* 1 pinch salt
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 2.5 tablespoons white sugar
* 1 tablespoon of water
* Empty egg carton (or muffin tin)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Write fortunes on strips of paper approximately 4 inches long and 1/2 an inch wide.

2. Butter two baking sheets. Lots of lots of butter (otherwise the cookies will stick).

3. Mix the egg white with the vanilla extract until foamy but not stiff. Add flour, salt, and sugar to the egg mixture. Add the water. If the mixture is too thick add 1 more tablespoon of water.

4. Place batter (measured out as 1 teaspoon per cookie) four inches apart on the cooking sheet. Only bake 3 at a time (if this is easy for you, then you can try to bake more in the next batch).

5. Tilt the baking sheet around to assure that the batter is in a circle.

6. Bake 4-5 minutes or until the outer edge of the cookie turns a golden brown (JUST the outer edge).

7. Remove cookies from the cooking sheet using a spatula (I slowly pushed them off the sheet) and place on a wooden cutting board. QUICKLY, place the fortune in the middle of the cookie and fold in half. SUPER QUICKLY fold the cookies again by putting them into the empty egg carton (which I found to work much better than a muffin tin).

- Makes 12 cookies.

(adapted slightly from this allrecipes.com)

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Places to Go - Learning About the Classics at Orphie and the Book of Heroes - Kennedy Center Family Theater (Washington DC)


As I've mentioned many times, this has been a LAZY winter for us, so in an effort to leave the house I bought tickets for Orphie and the Book of Heroes at the Kennedy Center's Family Theater. The musical tells the story of, Orphie, an orphan girl who lives with Homer in Ancient Greece (well, in a rather imagined Ancient Greece, which contains elements of modern and ancient life) and dreams of becoming a hero (a framed poster of Hercules hangs over Orphie's bed, girl crush style). In a somewhat random turn of events, Homer is captured by Hades, the god of the underworld, and Orphie travels to save him.

As my kids have almost no knowledge of Greek mythology, some of the jokes went over their heads, but still the play kept us all entertained - especially the three drag-queen sirens, who were funny enough to warrant a sequel, and the crazy-conceited Hercules.

Regarding the play's overall "theme", I have such mixed feelings about the media's obsession with telling girls "you can be knights, heroes, ?, too." As my kids never seem to question that girls can be whatever they want to be until books/movies/plays show girls who are mocked for trying (in this case, three mean "bullies" taunt Orphie's dreams of heroism).

But all in all, the kids seemed thoroughly entertained. On the walk to the car, T said the play was "awesome. but not as awesome as Medieval Times because those knights used their swords more", which is about as good of a play review as you can hope for from my 4.5 year old. P and F both called the play "weird", but then spent the ride home discussing their favorite parts, which, for me, demonstrates a successful performance (everyone laughed about Hades' habit of saying "What the here is going on here?"). And I always love how Kennedy Center children's plays come with a kids' activity book that discusses the production in a fun illustration-filled way.

The play runs through February 25. Tickets are $20. Click here for more info. (And if you're in the mood for cinema rather than theater, we saw the Lego Movie on Sunday, which is also pretty hysterical).

How was your weekend?


Of course, no visit to the Kennedy Center is complete without a run around the balconies, regardless of temperature.


Things to Do - Random Links & Cherish This Day


One of the consequences of having the girls so close in age is that I never spent much one-on-one time with either of them. Thus, when the girls both started grade school, I was pretty excited to finally have time alone with my third child. But I must admit that I'm a little overwhelmed by one - turns out that playing (as in actual one-on-one down on the floor, I'm a dragon and you're a monster playing) is not my specialty.

Even when T and I go on adventures, at first I'm thrilled by how easy everything becomes - no fights over where to go, only one child who NEEDS to go to the bathroom, the ability to buy snacks without spending a zillion dollars (or to pack snacks without carrying a zillion pounds) - easy, right? Well, sort of, but I end up missing the chaos and confusion that comes with three.

So when T and I have after preschool plans, I often end up taking his friends with us. Usually three kids total, preferably two girls. Because this configuration is my comfort zone.

And I just stand back and photograph everything, watching their minds fill with wonder with every new discovery made.

HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!! Click on over to Cherish This Day to see what everyone else has photographed lately.


* Rich people.

* If your kids were Pottery Barn Kids. Funny.

* OMG, this almost makes me want another baby. almost.

* The Kids Should See This - awesome, new-to-me blog.

* Creepy, yet fascinating. I can't stop staring.

* I want to go here.


Things to Read - Winter Reading

I know I sound like a broken record, but it's been a cold, miserable winter thus far (yesterday we woke to freezing rain), so our family has spent A LOT of time camped out on the couch.

Luckily, at the end of 2013 all of the major news outlets released lists of their best books of the year (fyi - this website does a wonderful job at compiling the multitude of lists), so I was overwhelmed with reading options.

Revenge - I discovered Yoko Ogawa's Revenge through Salon's list of the most underrated books of 2013. I'm a huge Haruki Murakami fun, but I find his newest books sort of blah. So I was excited to learn of a new-to-me Japanese author whose writing also delves into the surreal.

Ogawa's interconnected stories are much darker than Murakami's work, but despite the book's namesake few of them actually seem evil or malicious. Rather most of Ogawa's characters come off as sad and lonely. From the woman who needs a purse made for her heart (which hangs outside of her body) to the lonely old man who oversees a museum of torture implements, nobody's life is going well. And, oddly, despite the stories' dark tones, all of Ogawa's characters provoke some sympathy from the reader, despite their tragic flaws.

The Luminaries - I pretty much hated this book, which is partially my own fault as I knew very little about the plot when I began reading it. I mainly read the Luminaries because it was last year's Booker Prize winner (and, if I'm being honest, I also loved the cover art and that the name reminded me of the Lumineers - both awful reasons for choosing a book).

This INCREDIBLY LONG novel takes place in New Zealand during the gold rush of 1866 and centers around a mystery involving a dead man, a missing man, and a passed out prostitute. Through conversations and recollections of various town members, you spend numerous pages and days trying to sort together what happened. I kept reading because I thought the end would contain some huge reveal or big surprise, but (maybe because I was so bored) I never ended up really caring how it all came together. I found most of the characters (and there are NUMEROUS characters) flat and uninteresting. Though the author tries to differentiate between them by piling on adjectives describing "the type of man he is", I found her character portraits boring as well. Yawn.

The Lowland - Ever since I read Interpreter of Maladies, 15 or so years ago, I've been a huge fan of Jhumpa Lahiri. And her newest novel, the Lowland, does not disappoint.

In a nutshell, the plot centers on two brothers and how their lives intermingle throughout the years, as one stays in their homeland of India and becomes involved with a (somewhat) radical student movement, while the other brother travels to America for his pHd. The novel starts off rather slow with Lahiri detailing the history of India's Mao-inspired Naxalite movement, but as the story moves to the relationship between the brothers I found it almost impossible to stop reading. So so good.

Divergent - Similar to the Hunger Games, Divergent is the first novel in a dystopian trilogy centered on a female heroine (can I just say, that as the mom of two girls, I'm LOVING all these female role models? Publishers keep them coming, PLEASE). I found the plot more far-fetched then the Hunger Games (yes, the world of Divergent is even less believable that the world in which we watch and cheer as young children slaughter each other on TV) and the writing not quite as good. But still, Divergent makes for some addictive reading, I finished it in two days. And, since I NEED to know what happens next, I'll probably knock off the other two books in the series sooner rather than later.

So what have you been reading lately??


Things to Make - 20 (Easy) Painting Projects With Kids

It's been a winter of SNOW here in Northern Virginia, so if you're looking for some easy art projects to keep the kids entertained while indoors - here are 20 suggestions (click on each project's title for more detailed instructions):

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1. Tissue Paper Tie-Dye - Fold the tissue paper into triangles and wrap with rubber bands (click here to see how to fold). Dip into different colors of paint then unwrap and watch the designs form.

2. Salty Watercolors - This is one of our favorite super easy projects. Use glue to draw designs on thick watercolor paper. Next, sprinkle salt on the glue. Finally "paint" over the salty glue, the color travels slowly through the designs - both fun to watch and fun to look at.

3. Watercolor Nature Prints - Collect interesting items outside (old leaves, acorns, branches, etc). Pour liquid watercolors onto a stamp pad (or use a regular stamp pad) and stamp the natural materials to make fun quirky designs.

4. Marbleized Paper Using Shaving Cream - Combine liquid watercolor paint and shaving cream in a pan, make designs using popsicle sticks or a fork. Press thick watercolor paper into the shaving cream and then wipe off. Voila, art.

5. Marbleized Paper Using Oil - Mix watercolor paint and vegetable oil (click here for the correct ratios). Fill the bottom of a pan with water and using eyedroppers add the oil/paint to the pan, swirl to create designs. Press thick watercolor paper into the designs, then let dry.

6. Winter Trees - Pour brown liquid watercolor paint into a small container. Use paintbrushes to draw a tree trunk on the page. Then add a few drops of paint at the top of the trunk. Use straws to blow the paint away from the trunk, thus making branches. Fun.



7. Secret Agent Messages with Lemon Juice - Paint with lemon juice on paper. The juice dries clear, but if you cook the paper at 350 degrees for a few minutes, your super secret spy message "magically" reappears.

8. Condensed Milk Paintings - Combine condensed milk and liquid watercolors/food coloring. Paint. The colors will look super glossy and thick.

9. Saran Wrap Painting - Paint with watercolor paints on thick paper. Cover with saran wrap and move the saran wrap around to make designs. Let dry, then remove the saran wrap. Lovely.

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10. Toddler Googly-Eyed Monster Art - Ask a toddler to paint. Then have him/her attach two google eyes to their painting. All of a sudden abstract art becomes a monster.

11. Painted Snow Scenes - Use oil pastels or crayons to create a snow scene (my kids drew snowmen). Then paint over the sky with watercolors. You can also add salt to create the illusion of falling snow.

12. Valentine's Day/Heart Banner - Cut out a series of hearts from construction paper. Have the kids decorate the hearts using paints/markers/crayons, etc. Tape the hearts to a string and hang somewhere. Celebrate.

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13. Q-Tip Printmaking - Use a roller brush to thinly spread paint on a pan. Draw designs using q-tips. Then press a sheet of (thick) paper onto the design. Voila - a print.

14. Potato Stamp Prints - Carve a stamp out of a potato. Dip in paint. Create.

15. Paint Photographs - You can also use Sharpies to draw in details.

16. Paint a Cardboard Box - Create a castle. Or a boat. Or whatever you want.

17. String/Kitchen Painting - Dip the strings in paint, then use the painted strings to create designs of paper. Once your child tires of the strings you can also use: sponges, forks, superhero figurines and whatever else you find around the house.

18. Firework Painting - Twist four pipe cleaners to create a star shape. Dip in paint. Add glitter to make the night really sparkle.

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19. Suminagashi Marbleized Paper - Purchase a sumingashi kit (Amazon sells one for $13.50, just click here). The effect is very similar to liquid water colors and cooking oil (#5 above), but with the kit the colors are much more vivid and the designs are more pronounced.

20. Watercolor Pencils & Crayons - For a change of pace, Watercolor Pencils and Watercolor Crayons can be so fun to create with. Draw as you normally would and then paint with water.


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