Things to Do - Grateful List (June 2015)

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* Reading Displacement (graphic novel)
* Reading Girl in a Band: A Memoir
* Rewatching Before Sunset (and crying)
* Watching Ex Machina at the Cinema Drafthouse
* Watching Inside Out
* Watching Nightcrawler (Netflix streaming)
* Attending Book of Mormom at the Kennedy Center

* Peach rum and ginger beer (this is my drink of the summer)
* The girls making fried apples all the time (which was so cute, until it became SO ANNOYING)
* The salads in Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & beyond

* Chaperoning the 3rd grade field trip to the National Mall's monuments (when the kids were little, it would take HOURS to walk from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument and now it takes a few minutes)
* Camping in Senecca Rocks, WV and touring Smoke Hole Caverns
* Watching the Women's World Cup at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (go USA!!!)
* Medieval Times for T's birthday
* Another great summer at the apartment pool
* The Museum of Crime and Punishment with Allegra and the girls (T has been asking to go here all year)
* Bull Run's Ice Cream family mud run with the kids (so much fun, even in the rain; well, mostly)
* A 75 degree day hiking/ playing in the stream at Potomac Overlook Park and seeing deer under the overpass(Arlington, VA)

* A week of happy hours and parties
* Sunday morning family dance parties to Bizarre Inc. ("Why waste your time, you know you're gonna be mine")
* T's kindergarten good citizenship award; straight As for F
* Fireflies in our front yard
* Our second annual close-down-the-block summer solstice party
* The beginning of summer and lazy mornings without TV
* P's 8th birthday pool party sleepover (even though she turned 8 in November)
* After the thunderstorm, a bright orange red sky


F - camping, Minions, books, Garfield comic books, clean water, my family, a nice house to live in and food to eat, that everything's so great

P - camping with our friends, early release, my soccer party, my half-birthday party, T's birthday, my family

T - my knife, that we went to the beach, that we went camping, my new toy gun, my birthday, my other new toy gun, Medievil Times, my new light up sword, knights fighting, watching the World Cup, USA winning


Things to Make - Roasted Peaches and Cream Popsicles


I'm still on my popsicle making kick, they're just so easy and so good. I wanted to hide these from the children, so I could eat them all myself. But luckily I'm nicer than that (well, sometimes).

ROASTED PEACHES & CREAM POPSICLES (slightly based off of a recipe in People's Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn's Coolest Pop Shop, love this cookbook).

* 4-5 tennis-ball sized peaches, halved
* 2/3 cup cane sugar
* 2/3 cup water
* 1 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the peaches cut side down on a cookie sheet. Bake about 20 minutes (until the skins and flesh have softened)
2. Discard the peach pits and blend the peaches.
3. Make simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat until the sugar dissolves, then let cool. Add 1 cup of the cooled syrup to the peach puree.
4. Pour the puree into popsicle molds until they're about 2/3 full.
5. Pour the cream on top of the puree. Don't worry if you don't use it all.
6. Use the popsicle stick to stir the cream into the popsicles.
7. Freeze.

(Makes approximately 10 popsicles)

Still hungry? Click here and scroll down for more popsicle recipes.


Things to Do - Take One Sh**** Picture a Day (June 2015)

It's amazing how many perfect moments you capture when you forget about perfection for awhile.

I know this project is still new, but for now, I'm still a little in awe at how accurately it captures our life. I managed to include one shot from every day but June 4th (apparently I just couldn't be bothered with the camera on this random Thursday).



Things to Watch - 7 Great TV Dramas on Netflix Streaming

Last month I posted about comedies (click here for the post), so now it's time to get serious.

1. Bloodline - "We're not bad people, but we did a bad thing." Most addictive show ever. I could not stop watching.

2. Mad Men - No real description is needed, as everyone has heard of Mad Men by now. Worth watching for the costumes and scenic design alone. And for Roger Sterling, possibly the best TV character ever.

3. Breaking Bad - Dan found this whole show addictive, but I thought it a little too depressing to binge watch. Still who doesn't love a show where Mr. Chips turns into Scarface?

4. The Honorable Woman - This suspenseful mini-series concentrates on Israeli/Pakistan relations. Kidnappings. Abductions. So much intrigue.

5. House of Cards - Politicians are so evil. But fun to watch.

6. The Walking Dead - Personally, I'm sick of thinking about/hearing about/imagining the apocalypse. So I've never learned to love the Walking Dead, but many good friends (including Dan) insist that it's one of the best shows on TV, so I'm including the Walking Dead on this list.

7. The UP series - Last but DEFINITELY not least, this documentary series follows the lives of fourteen British citizens over a 49 year period, as they age from 7 to 56 years old. The first episode (filmed in 1964) is a little painful to watch - awful sound quality, bad editing, no thoughts as to cinematography. But over time I became somewhat obsessed with the lives of these strangers.



Things to Make - Nature Stencils Using A Plant Mister

As I blogged about yesterday, I'm loving the projects in Margaret Peot's book - Stencil Craft: Techniques for Fashion, Art and Home.

For our first project, the kids and I tried making nature stencils using a plant mister. Of course, when we put all the pieces together, it turned out we were out of watercolor paper, then the kids chose to use several leaves which weren't heavy enough to work as stencils. But despite these handicaps, the project ended up resulting in cool, abstract artwork.


1. First we searched the neighborhood for natural materials to work with.


2. We then made collages with our discoveries.

3. The kids used a plant mister to spray down their creations. T tried this with red, watercolor paint (diluted with water); whereas the girls used heavier blue, biocolor paint (diluted with water). The biocolor paint was hard to spray, so I'd recommend using watercolors or, even, water dyed with food coloring. The paint did not spray evenly, which lead to a cool, layered effect (though this would have worked much better with thicker paper).

4. We left the creations outside to dry for a few hours.


5. Coolio, abstract paintings. I think a really fun project would involve using these as a base and stenciling something defined on top. Or making wrapping paper/greeting cards.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a copy of Peot's book. For information on how to enter, click on yesterday's post.



Things to Make - Stencil Craft Book - TWO GIVEAWAYS!!! [NOW CLOSED]

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book (2 of 3)
book (3 of 3)

Lately, I'm a little enamored with Margaret Peot's Stencil Craft: Techniques for Fashion, Art and Home, perfect for summer arting. The book helped with things I've always wondered how to do (i.e two color stencil portraits), as well as introducing cool new techniques - stenciling with foil, using Derwent Inktense blocks, working with discharge paste, etc.

Really, there's a little bit of everything - practical application projects as well as lots of new techniques and materials.

For an easy project with the kids, I decided to try "nature stencils" using a plant mister and thinned watercolor paint (Peot recommended thinned acrylic paint, but we didn't have any). I'll post on this tomorrow.

We can't wait to try more of Peot's projects. In the meantime, Peot has offered to giveaway one Stencil Craft book to a No Monsters reader (US addresses only). To enter, just comment on this post. Please include your email address in the body of the message (so I can find you). This giveaway will close in two weeks (at 8:00 pm on August 3rd).

In addition to the book giveaway, there's also a Rafflecopter giveaway for:


The winner of the rafflecopter giveaway will receive:

17" x 15" canvas tote hand printed with a stencil interpretation Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring
1 blank 12" x 12" canvas tote
1 10" x 14" piece of stencil Mylar
1 sponge
2 stencil brushes
1 craft knife set
2 Metallic Lumiere Acrylic Paints, Indigo and Metallic Copper.

To enter the rafflecopter giveaway, click here.



(Disclaimer - I received a free copy of this book in return for writing an honest review. The opinions expressed in this post are, obviously, entirely my own).


Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links

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HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND EVERYONE!! And don't forget to check out this week's awesomeness on Cherish This Day!


* Washington Post's 23 books we've loved so far this year.

* Holy crap! Did you know that you can watch a Cabbage Patch baby's birth? In person. In Georgia. I need to see this.

* Gorgeous photos of an ugly drought. "The hardest thing about photographing this project was that all of this was and is beautiful. Lake Powell looks like a prehistoric sea on the surface of another planet. The dams are all monumental achievements to man’s both genius and hubris. Even the coal plant, an easy target for photographers, ripe with clichés, was beautiful in its own way. How can you show these things without romanticizing them? Trying to figure out how to show the scale of all of these projects without making saccharine images of dams and lakes was the biggest challenge."

* The 15 most incredible beaches in America.

* Portraits of 50 Years of Marriage (link via Miss Moss).

* I LOVE LOVE LOVE this Etsy clothing store (and the prices seem reasonable, considering that each piece is made to order). (link via Miss Moss)

* A global look at family life.

* Have you seen all the vintage American postcards at Cardboard America (link via Miss Moss)? I can't stop browsing.


Places to Go - Splashing in "Waves" at the Building Musem's Indoor Beach (Washington DC)


Just a few photos from our recent trip to the Building Museum's indoor beach. The exhibit was crowded, but super fun. I highly suggest a visit sometime this summer (though be careful, the "deep end" goes up to 4 feet, you can almost drown in it). Click here for more info. And try to call ahead to monitor the lines, a friend of mine went on Friday and said the wait to enter was over an hour.



Things to Eat - Shirazi Salad & Our Four Week Meal Plan

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Lots of easy recipes now that summer is in full effect. We've tried a few salads from Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & beyond and they've all been good, but I think my favorite is Sharazi Salad, the pomegranate seeds adds a the perfect touch of sweetness.

SHIRAZI SALAD (slightly adapted from Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & beyond)

* 1 cucumber
* 6 tomatoes, halved and cored
* 1 red onion
* olive oil
* salt
* juice of 1 lemon
* 2 tsp sumac (I bought this on Amazon)
* 7 oz of pomegranate seeds (Trader Joe's sells these in the refrigerated section)

1. Finely dice the cucumber, tomatoes, and red onion.
2. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to moisten.
3. Season with salt and pour in the lemon juice. Mix.
4. Add the sumac and pomegranate seeds on top. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or more before serving.


Monday - Eggplant pasta (via Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites: Flavorful Recipes for Healthful Meals). This was the best pasta sauce I've ever made. Ever. Though the kids ate around the eggplant.

Tuesday - Black bean chilaquile (recipe here). This is one of my favorite recipes ever. The kids never used to like it (too many things mixed together), but this time they all said it was great. Score.

Wednesday - Grilled chicken bruschetta (via Skinny Taste). This was so good and so easy. Definitely a keeper.

Thursday - Taylor Gourmet take-out.


MONDAY - Turkish white bean salad (via Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & beyond) with grilled chicken breasts. I loved this salad, though everyone else mainly ate the chicken.

TUESDAY - Burrito bowls (via Dinner A Love Story, the blog). These are a fantastic (and easy) way to make everyone happy.

WEDNESDAY - Tomato lentil salad (recipe here); the kids ate (junk) from the snack bar at P's swim meet.

THURSDAY - Pizza for P's birthday party (yes, I know her birthday was in November, but I tend to procrastinate. Plus summer parties are better/easier/more fun).


MONDAY - Dinner out at Kapnos Tavern; spaghetti for the kids.

TUESDAY - Pizza with kale chips for the kids; Quinoa salad with toasted pistachios, preserved lemons, and zucchinis (via Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & beyond.

WEDNESDAY - Shirazi salad (recipe above); sandwiches for the kids before P's swim meet.

THURSDAY - Tilipia baked clam style (via IT'S ALL GOOD: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great) with watermelon, peach, tomato salad (recipe here). This was one of the best salads I've ever eaten, as in EVER! I also made a kids' version with just watermelon and peaches. I messed up the fish, but, usually, this is one of our favorite fish recipes. The kids had pasta as they're felling picky lately.


MONDAY - Shirazi salad again (I love this); spaghetti for the kids

TUESDAY - Easy chickpea/cucumber salad before Peter Pan (recipe here); sandwiches for the kids. This salad is wonderful, I'm making it my new go-to lunch.

WEDNESDAY - Burrito bowls again (via via Dinner A Love Story, the blog). The kids love this meal.

THURSDAY - Chicken breast sauteed in red onion and lemon (recipe here) (thank you Not-So-SAHM for the great suggestions!!) and watermelon/peach/tomato salad again (because it is so good). The chicken was wonderful and kid-friendly, we'll be returning to this recipe a lot.


Places to Go - Running Through Neon and Learning About Iran at the Hirshhorn (Washington DC) & Cherish This Day


Usually, I view the beginning of summer like a race, as in "let's DO STUFF!!" bucket lists. tours. museums. parks. bring it on. And that can be fun. But this year, we're summering at a slower pace. Lazy afternoons at the pool. Sleeping in until 9. Dog walks around the neighborhood. Lots of time reading books on the couch and fighting over the ipad.


Anyways, after twelve days of lazy, I decided late last week that we needed some culture. We tried to find the Folklife festival but apparently this year they changed the location.

So we ended up at my favorite DC museum, the Hirshhorn, where Shirn Neshat's "Facing History" Exhibition currently occupies the entire second floor. Neshat's photographs and movies, which focus on Iran's treatment of women, weren't exactly "fun" for children. But now the kids all realize that women's rights should never be taken for granted (they also were oddly fascinated by Neshat's movies, we stayed to watch each one in its entirety). And T saw photos of guns, so he was happy.

After the Neshat exhibit, everyone had a blast exploring, Dan Flavin in the basement (neon is fun!!) and Ernesto Neto's The Dangerous Logic of Wooing in the At the Hub of Things exhibit.

HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!! Where have you adventured this summer? Don't forget to check out this week's awesome over at Cherish This Day.


I love that they're not too old for the carousel. Is anyone ever too old for the carousel?


Things to Read - On the Bookshelf (July 2015)

Painted in Waterlogue

Unfortunately, this month's books did not waterlogue well (that's the app I use to turn a photo into a painting). So you might have to read below to learn the actual titles. My favorites are starred.

*** 1. Displacement - I blogged about this wonderful graphic novel a few weeks ago (click here for my review). An honest look at taking care of the elderly.

2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing - I spent three months on the library waiting list for this book. Yet when it finally arrived, I never bothered to read more than three pages. I guess I'm not really ready to tidy up. Or I'm too lazy. Oh well, I'm already back on the library waiting list, maybe this time I'll actually read the book.

***3. The Wallcreeper - I first learned about Nell Zink, a few weeks ago from a New Yorker article about Zink's "improbable literary fame", which made me REALLY want to read this novel. I didn't like the main characters (or any of the characters for that matter), their decisions are odd and selfish (so. so. selfish), but if you can get past such things, Zink's sentences are wonderful to read. For example, "The next time we had coffee, she said she had been a Slavic languages major at an international program in Krakow and abandoned her studies when the first baby came. That was about nine months after Hermann's band played Krakow. She barely remembered him, but she looked him up online. She hadn't planned to drop out, but it was absolutely impossible to be an adequate mother and have a life, she said. She didn't resent her children. She said they were every bit as interesting as verbs."

***4. Station Eleven
- READ THIS BOOK!! After I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road, I swore off apocalyptic fiction, as I tend to worry enough without throwing the end of the world into the mix. But so many people loved Station Eleven that I decided to give it a try. And I loved this book. Deeply deeply loved. Because it's hopeful. And it shows how things get lost and found again (sort of like Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia). And it made me believe that even in the most horrible of situations, there will be happiness too.

5. Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs - I think almost all mom photographers are a little enamored with Sally Mann (how could you not be?) and the beautiful, haunting, controversial images she made of her children. So I wanted to love Mann's memoir. And I didn't hate it. But I had previously read the memoir's best chapter in the New York Times excerpt. Hold Still focuses less on Mann's own life than on her family tree. And, while her ancestors proved interesting in their own right, there were points when I felt like, "why am I reading about Mann's great grandfather again? Don't I have other things to do with my time?"


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