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Guest Post – DIY Projects for the New Year by Kelly of Let’s Die Friends

3 Jan

Today I’m featuring a guest post from the awesomely talented and completely adorable Kelly of the blog Let’s Die Friends. Twitter pals know her as the fun-loving Mama of a nommable two year old who loves food, thrifting, and good design. I admire her deeply for her silly sense of humor, her wickedly keen taste, and because one time she dress up as a Centaur for Halloween. If she seems familiar it might be because her Etsy shop is one of my favorites. I’m working on special surprise for next week, so today Kelly is filling in and bringing you a round up of thrifty and fun DIY projects to try from around the internet. Take it away, Kelly!

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Thrifty DIY Projects for the New Year

Greetings! I am delighted that Miss Carrie Anne asked me to post on her blog. I love her thrift store scores, DIYs, and overall thriftiness. I put all my fresh herbs in water now thanks to her. True story. So in keeping with her DIY spirit, and since it’s the beginning of a new year, I thought I’d round up some of my favorite projects that I am excited to try this year!

This fringe garland from Sunshine and Carousels  is a great idea if you have a lot of fabric remnants laying around. I can think of a ton of uses for this:

  • Party decorations (stay within the colors of your party)
  • Holiday decorations (Red, white & blue for 4th of July. Hot pink, light pink, and silver for Valentines Day. Not just Christmas!)
  • In place of a headboard on the wall behind your bed
  • Kid’s room
  • You can buy waterproofing spray that turns any fabric into an outdoor fabric and make cute patio garlands. (I think I will do this one!)
  • If the vintage look isn’t your thing, you could use newer fabrics or solid colors.
  • Any place you would put a large framed picture, mirror, or artwork.

Here is a tutorial from Ivey Handcrafted on how to make pom pom flowers. Maybe these will finally be flowers my cat won’t eat and puke up later! But the furry idiot did eat and puke up our fake white Christmas tree, so maybe not. These certainly have that “crafty” look to them, but this project could be as subtle or as crazy as you want. Use all yellow for a “billy button” look. All white or cream would be pretty. Do they make metallic gold yarn? Because hellooo. I plan on filling a vase in my daughter’s play area, so I am going to use every color of yarn I own!

I love this idea from Griottes for a small party! Small. Because you’d need a lot of time to make enough for a large party. Perhaps a dinner party with friends? I don’t know about painting or adding washi tape to the parts that go in peoples’ mouths, though.

Okay, I might not actually try this project, because it would require having a place to put it. But it’s too cute to not share, and maybe you do have a place for it! All you need is a large canvas and some fabric. The way it’s used in this photo, behind the seating area, it’s like pretending you have wallpaper, without the commitment. Brilliant. This would also be a great alternative to fill a large area above a fireplace. If you have a lot of different colors going on in your room and you need a way to bring it all together, find a fabric that has all the colors in it. I suppose it doesn’t even have to be that huge. You could do an 18×24 canvas, or a series of small canvases.

This doily table runner from Ashley Ann looks ridiculously easy. The hardest part would be remembering to look for doilies while you’re out shopping. I like this for any tabletop situation, not just a dining table. You could dye the doilies different colors, or keep them white. It would be neat to make a few of these, and then when Christmas comes back around, hang them vertically for a snowflake decoration.

I suppose it would be very ambitious of me to keep going, since I’m supposed to try all these! This is a good start. Aren’t we lucky to have endless amounts of inspiration via the internet? I hope you enjoyed my list and are inspired to try some of your own creative projects this year! To see what I’m up to, visit my blog Let’s Die Friends or find me on Pinterest.

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Guest Post: Pom Pom Tutorial by Emily Bilbery

13 Dec

I am excited to present to you a guest post from the lovely and talented Emily Bilbery of Uffda Designs. Emily is a WAHM who sells her crafts on Etsy while watching and playing with her smooshy-cute daughter Poppy. She’s creative and knows how to have a thrifty good time and today she’s going to show us how to make pom poms. Bonus thrifty tip: lots of times you can find donated yarn at thrift stores when people decide it’s time for a de-stash, so keep your eyes open for thrifty deals.

Take it away, gorgeous!

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season’s greetings, darlings! i’m completely honored to be guest-posting here today. little big is one of my all-time favorite blogs, and i’m so very excited to share a bit of crafty goodness with you all. i share carrie anne’s love of all things frugal and i also wanted my craft tutorial to be something that people on any budget and holding any skill level could make. so today i’m going to show you how to make yarn poms, a yarn pom garland and pom-embellished gift wrapping, without any sewing required! you’ll simply need:

* yarn (can be found at dollar stores and thrift shops, as well as craft stores.)

* sharp scissors

* wrapping paper of your choice, if you plan on using your poms to adorn gifts (rolls of plain brown, recycled paper can be found at dollar stores, target & hardware stores. another great option is hemming blocks thrifted/vintage fabric in various sizes to re-use in many years to come! gifts look so lovely wrapped in pretty fabric and tied with ribbon, string or yarn.)

now it’s time to make some poms!

POM POM TUTORIAL

1) first, begin loosely wrapping your yarn around your index and middle fingers, leaving a small gap between…

2) wrap,  wrap, and wrap some more until you have a large bundle of yarn accumulated! use a little more than you think you’ll need, to create nice fluffy poms.

3) next, cut a small length of yarn (around 6 inches) and wrap it under/around the center of your bundle of wrapped yarn, between your fingers.

4) tie in a basic knot.

5) then slip your fingers out, tighten your strings in the center, and double-knot tightly to secure.

6) then, use your scissors to snip through the loops of yarn. work your way around the little donut…

7) and watch it magically transform into a fluffy yarn pom! trim around your pom with scissors until you have a nice uniform puff.

easy-peasy, right?!

if you’d like to make a garland with your poms, here’s a really easy, no-sew method:

POM POM GARLAND TUTORIAL

1) cut a length of yarn that will reach across the area you want to hang it.

2) create poms in your desired colors & quantity to adorn the garland.

3) cut small lengths of yarn (around 6 inches) to match the number of poms you’re using.

4) tie the small length of yarn onto the large one with a basic knot.

5) then tie your yarn pom on through the center, and double-knot tightly to secure.

6) trim off the excess pieces of yarn, and repeat with your remaining poms to create your garland!

7) (optional) if you’re sewing-savvy, you can just grab an embroidery needle, thread it with yarn, and sew right through the centers of your poms to create a garland in no time!

these garlands are so cheerful and can be created to match any decor – try them for various holidays, or to match a child’s room. you could also make a long bunting to adorn a christmas tree! so very festive!

another great way to feature poms is to decorate gifts with them. this year i’m wrapping all of my christmas gifts with plain brown paper, yarn, and yarn poms. there is no limit to the color combinations you could use, or to the number of poms for each gift! they look equally cute with one pom or many. simply wrap your desired amount of yarn around your package, tie into a knot, and use a small length of yarn to double-knot your poms on (just like in the garland instructions above.)

here’s a few additional pom ideas, just for fun:

POM POM IDEAS AND INSPIRATION

* pom-embellished wreath! james at bleubird made the cutest one i’ve ever seen. plain wreaths can be found at dollar stores & craft stores.

* add poms to mittens, slippers or hats! simply thread some yarn onto an embroidery needle, push a generous stitch through the area you want the pom to lie, tightly double-knot the pom into place, and trim off the excess yarn.

* snag an ornament hook onto individual poms to create instant baubles for your christmas tree.

* pom book mark – cut a small rectangle of cardstock, punch a hole in the top, and tie on a pom!

* pom hair pretty – tie a yarn pom onto a hair elastic, or use hot glue to attach one (or more!) to a hair clip or headband.

happy crafting, and happy holidays! thank you so much again to carrie anne for inviting me to guest post. i hope you guys enjoyed this little tutorial!

cheers!

emily

Guest Post: The Thrifty Advent Calendar

29 Nov

Today I’m pleased to have the lovely and talented Amber joining us for a guest post about an advent calender of holiday activities. A good friend of mine from the twitters, she is the mother of an adorable toddler and one on the way. I’m really excited about this idea because  it’s as easy on the budget as you want it to be. I can’t wait to put something like this together for Isobel. Be sure to check her out on Pinterest as she pinned tons of fantastic resources.

The Thrifty Advent Calendar

I’ve never celebrated the Christmas season with an advent calendar. Sure we noted the time until the holiday but there was never a formalized way to count down each of the days in December leading up to the main event. I’ve always thought they looked like a lot of fun to make and use. Since my daughter is at the age where she’s starting to really “get” Christmas I’ve decided to make a commitment to this particular tradition.

I touched on this idea on Miss A when I wrote about a toddler friendly holiday. I plan to wrap up 24 holiday themed children’s books to create a Christmas Book Advent Calendar. You and your child open one book a night to countdown the days in December left until Christmas. In my version each book will be numbered, but the tag will also list an activity to do during the day.

Photo via BABYCCINO KIDS

I’ve been collecting TONS of kid friendly Christmas ideas on Pinterest. There are endless ways that you can enjoy something holiday related each and every day. Some of the daily activity ideas I have so far are:

  • decorate the Christmas tree
  • take a walk to see holiday lights at night
  • make a gingerbread house
  • go caroling
  • visit Santa for photos
  • ride the town’s Polar Express
  • go see the Nutcracker
  • make a paper-plate snowman
  • watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas
  • wrap a gift to donate to a child in need
  • make cookies for Santa

It’s seriously cheap and easy to do. Eventually maybe we’ll own enough Christmasy books to have 24 on hand, but for now we’re utilizing our public library for most of them. Many of the daytime activities will be free or close to it since I’m participating in township programs and using craft supplies I tend to keep on hand. There’s almost no real prep time. All that needs to be done is to wrap 24 books and write up their coordinating tags. I may try to plan everything out on a calendar so the activity for some specific days match up with things that are already scheduled. I do wish we had a lovely mantle to display them on, like in the photo above, but I’ll most likely find a cute basket to file them in. Either way, these books will look like lovely presents that add to our holiday decor. That’s it…easy peasy!

I’d love to hear of some ways that you and your loved ones celebrate the holiday season. Sometimes the anticipation of the big day is the best part.

Amber is a NJ native with Southern roots. She is a recovering mommy blogger with recently acquired journalistic dreams that are being explored on Miss A’s fantastical website. She enjoys long naps, but with a toddler and another on the way, who are we kidding? Amber has way too many interests to pick one as a career or a blog genre, so she writes about everything; from parenting to organizational projects. Please visit her Backwards Life and watch as the world flips upside down and inside out time and time again.

Featured On: Make And Takes! Children’s Terrarium Tutorial

23 Aug

I am so excited today I an hardly stand it: today I am a guest poster for Make and Takes Summer Camp series! I have been avidly reading and voraciously bookmarking Make and Takes for over a year, so imagine my excitement when I found out I could create a children’s terrarium tutorial as a guest poster.

Check out the post here.

I have loved this blog even before I had Isobel. Though a large part of the site is geared for or with children, you don’t have to be a parent to find inspiration and wonderful ideas there. Craft ideas, inspiration, and food–I’ve pinned the hell out of that website on Pinterest and saved hundreds of bookmarks and now I hope someone will take inspiration from my post.

Head on over to read my Children’s Terrarium Tutorial. And give me a high-five while you’re at it.

Guest Post: Montmartre Vignettes

27 Jun

Today’s guest post is brought to you by my good friend Gisela, who recently founded photodudette.com, a photography website I can’t get enough of. Gigi posts her own amazing photography, tutorials she’s found, and examples of other great photographs on the web. She explains what mes a photograph a good one and why it works.  What I love most about the website is its message: what makes a good photographer is the person behind the lens, not the equipment. This is very validating for someone like me who has very basic gear. Expensive equipment only takes you so far. What matters is you.

Gigi is a world traveler, originally from Portugal and currently living in Paris. She lives with her husband and two cats. We met on flickr when I begged to join her group, The New Domesticity. We became fast friends. Her personal style is classic and timeless and fits Paris perfectly. I’ve long admired her dressing room self portraits. Today she is going to take you on a little photo tour of Paris, specifically Montmartre.

Monmartre encapsulates both sides of Paris: the sacred and the profane, coexisting side-by-side, a vibrant city center at the intersection of crass and culture. And Gigi is going to give you the tour.

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Montmartre is a charming place.

Metro station Abbesses has one of only three art nouveau glass canopies still in existence in Paris. Walking around in the narrow and steep streets you find many treasures. Wallace fountains, street art, quirky cafés and restaurants.

Everywhere you look you see Paris much like it was when van Gogh, Renoir or Picasso lived there. This was the place of artists. Many well known painters, writers and philosophers called it their home. A place of creativity, excess drinking and cavorting, if you know what I mean.

Today it remains a symbol of Paris’ art spirit and bohemian fun with commercial street artists and, at the base of the hill, the sex clubs.

One of the reasons I love Montmartre it’s the view. At the top of the hill there is a snowy white catholic church, the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, and a wonderful view of Paris. We can see everything from up there. It’s like a gigantic “Where’s Waldo?” of famous buildings. The Invalides, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, the Panthéon. You name it. Because Montmartre is one of the few hills in Paris, you can see for miles.

After soaking in the view you will be ready to go down hill and enjoy a show at the Moulin Rouge or a new cordless toy, which ever floats your boat.

Guest Post: What The Internet Is For

15 Jun

My friend Bri of Sarcasmically is amazing. She is completely able to rock you like a hurricane at a moment’s notice.  In fact, if she were to carry a business card, I’m pretty sure it all it would say would be “ROCKER OF HURRICANES, DEVOURER OF BACON.” If that won’t convince you, this guest post is all the confirmation you’ll need.

One day, I theoretically sat down at the computer and DM’d her on Twitter.

“Lordy, my hands are tired, what with the typing and photo editing and tweeting,” I probably said. “Blogging is hard.”

“Oh dear,” she may have replied, “I may have two kids and a job at a nonprofit and my duties as art director for IndieInk, all while I’m studying to achieve my nursing degree, but I’m weeping just thinking about your poor, fatigued little hands! I’ll fill in for you.”

Then I could have replied, “Ow! My ‘enter’ finger hurts.”

Today Bri is going to give a perfect example of  the true purpose of the internet. You know, after cat videos and porn.

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I’m sure you came here expecting Carrie Anne and all her wonderful pictures, but I’m sorry, Carrie Anne apparently wants a vacation from HER OWN BLOG (slacker) and left me responsible for “quality content”, whatever that means.

So look, I don’t have pictures of grass or cute toddlers or hip vintage objects.  I know, UNBREAK YOUR HEART, AMIRITE?  But what I do have is a story, and since we’re kind of on the subject of vacations and all, I’d like to humiliate myself with a story about my most memorable summer vacation.  That’s what the internet is for, folks—Embarrassing yourself in public.

It was the summer of 1989 and I was about to turn six years old.  For my birthday/a summer vacation, my mom packed me, my younger brothers (twins), and my uncle (only ten years older than me) into her beat-ass Mazda 626 and drove us from Phoenix to San Diego to spend a week at the beach and SeaWorld.  It was a great time, even though this happened right before our eyes and yes I remember everything and yes we all got whale blood­-water on us and not that I’m happy that Kandu died but come on, that was a great story to take back to wide-eyed first-grade classmates, you know?  Totally knocked my cool factor +90 points.  BUT I DIGRESS.

So we are piled back into our tiny 17-horsepower chariot, making the drive back to Phoenix when the chariot breaks down on the highway in The Middle of Fucking Nowhere.  And it’s hot as hell outside and this is before cell phones were invented so we just get out and start walking east, thinking we have to find a phone to call the family and let them know to come get us.

SCORCHING DESERT TREK MONTAGE MOMENT :: CUT TO PARCHED MOUTHS, SWEATING BROWS, DUST-COVERED SKIN, RATTLESNAKE CLIP, OMINOUS SOUND BYTE, SACRIFICING ONE OF MY BROTHERS TO COYOTES, MIRAGE SHIMMER, VULTURE ON CACTUS.

… Eventually we reached this little shack of a gas station, and an ancient peg-legged shop owner in coveralls WITH A TARANTULA ON HIS SHOULDER (I am not making this shit up guys I swear) to greet us and I’m like, “Mom, we are going to die here today.” because even at six I knew that this is straight out of a goddamn horror movie and I can’t run that fast, Mom, so it was nice knowing you all and thanks for the dead whale birthday party.

ALAS!  The old guy– Herman, as it turns out– was really, really nice, which I can only assume was because my mom was a stone cold fox.  Herman kept seven pet tarantulas at his gas station and was thrilled to let my brothers, who were four at the time, hold them while we waited for our father to make the three-hour trek from Phoenix to The Middle of Fucking Nowhere to rescue us.  But ummm, excuse me, tarantulas?  GROSS.  Look.  LOOK AT IT.

So, yeah, I’m basically internally freaking out the whole time my brothers casually befriend goddamn insects that can probably kill horses, so when one of the twins goes, “…Uhhhh, you guys?  I can’t find my tawanchala,” I WANTED TO DIE.  I was a very dramatic little child.

The hunt for the missing tarantula was in full effect, and in addition to Herman and us five searching for it, a family of six (one of whom was a dreeeeeamy second-grader) that had stopped to stock up on Slim Jims was also assisting.

And then, you guys, I FELT IT ON MY LEG, under my dress, very high up near my girl parts.  GET READY FOR A BUNCH OF CAPS LOCK, FOLKS.

ME:  “AAAAAAAAAAH MOM MOM MOM IT IS ON ME IT’S CRAWLING UP INTO MY BUTT AAAH TARANTULA BUTT EGGS HELP ME I WILL DIE EXCLAMATION POINT.”

Mom:  “Okay, calm down, hold still, let’s just—“

ME:  “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.”  Running in circles.  Jumping up and down.  Trying to GET IT OFF BUT I CAN STILL FEEL IT, IT IS THERE EATING MY BRAINS THROUGH MY THIGH.

Mom:  “Brianna.  Jesus God in Heaven, hold still.  BRIANNA ELYSE.”  She is chasing me around.  Everyone else is just staring, waiting for me to die of tarantula poisoning, thinking more Slim Jims for us!, probably.

ME:  Jumping.  Shaking.  Legs akimbo.  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THE SHRIEKING.

EVERYONE ELSE:  STARING.  STILL JUST STARING, THOSE UNHELPFUL FUCKS.

Finally, my mom catches me, sobbing and breathless, and preps herself to grab the tarantula from under my dress.  She counts with me.  One… two… three…

And then she yanks my dress over my head, in front of God and the vast desert and all the strangers and that second-grade McDreamy and the vulture on the cactus– and there it is, ON MY LEG:

A string, dangling from my “Tuesday” panties. A…

STRING.

We never did find that tarantula.

Guest Post: The Atomic Librarian

7 Jun

This guest post is by the sharp-eyed and whip-smart Kerry who writes at Atomic Librarian. She found her way here through mutual friend and badass Cookbook, and today she’s exploring the topic of what it’s like for a childess person to read blog posts about children. I’ve often wondered what my childess readers think when I share gushing stories about her. Technically I qaulify under that large umbrella term “Mommy Blogger,” but I hope to provide interesting content for people who are not, and never will be, parents as well.

If I’m being completely honest, this post made me a bit sniffly at the end. So here we go. Take it away, Kerry!

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So, it seems these days that my blogroll has been taken over by babies and small children. It used to be that the internet was all about the cat pictures, porn and weddings. All good things come to an end.

I am 36, never married and without kids. Unless something radically changes the trajectory of my life in the next week or so, I doubt that’s going to happen for me. Which frankly makes me sad sometimes, because I would have like to engage in a decades long genetics and social science experiment. I don’t care about others’ pregnancies, and those “Dear Baby, Today you are X months old…” letters irritate the hell out of me, because frankly that’s just bragging that the writer has a baby. Come on, when’s the kid going to be able to toddle over to a computer and find your blog? Put it in a scrapbook so the kid can enjoy it; my niece loves to look at the scrapbooks her mom has made for her and kiss the pictures and look at herself.

But I do like to read about little kids, even strangers like LittleBig’s Isobel. It’s been fun to watch her change over the past year or so, and to watch Carrie Anne and Anthony love and enjoy her–like the “oh crap, Isobel’s toys are too young for her–let’s go shopping!” episode. Partly it’s because I remember being a kid–a sad, anxious, weird little kid with a strange family.  It’s reassuring to read about prepared, thinking, loving parents who enjoy and take pride in their children. And it’s nice to hear stores about the little people who are growing up ready to take on the world. It gives me hope. It makes me feel like I’m a part of their circle, a neighbor perhaps, who feels pride in the community. Right now, my best friend’s son and my niece get my efforts at love and being a trusted adult in their lives, a resource I never had as a kid. And they’ve done the same for me. When my niece was born I was so sick with depression that all I could do was make my way over to her house and hold her. I called her “Narco Baby” because I’d get an endorphin high off the physical contact and her baby stink, along with a little jolt of pride and self esteem that that was something I was good at.

We’re all connected, even by internet. And the more connections the better. Anything that gives me hope for the future is good, which is why I’m thankful for Little Big and her family.

Guest Post: Children’s Music Recommendations

24 May

I’m still checking in textbooks and performing inventory on my library, so today I have a post for you by Julie Jurgens, also known as Hi Miss Julie on the internets. Julie is a children’s librarian and a talented singer-songwriter, so children’s music is a topic near and dear to her heart. Also, here’s a video of her playing the banjo. No other qualifications necessary.

This topic is extremely timely for me as Isobel is showing a disturbing preference for children’s music. Bad children’s music. The kind sung by children. (I blame my mother, who bought her CDs.) She is becoming scarily attached to it. Her other obsession is the Care Bears Big Wish movie, and music in that movie ranges from boring and saccharine to what you find here.  I’m pretty sure that song is the soundtrack to Hell. (Seriously. Check it out. It’s way more demoralizing that you can possibly imagine.) Also, this. There are no words.

On the bright side she’s so obsessed with this movie that she walks around telling people NO! MORE! WISHING! It’s adorable, if confusing to other people.


Miss Julie’s Music Picks for Children

And The Parents Who Have To Hear It

As a kidbrarian and musician, I make it a point to use a lot of music in my programs, and I like to expose my storytime parents to music beyond the usual Raffi and Hap Palmer (who are great, by the by, but sometimes you just can’t take it anymore, you know?) Here are a few of my current musical favorites for your enjoyment:

Pete Seeger American Folk, Game & Activity Songs
For parents who like Wilco, Justin Townes Earle.

It’s Pete Seeger, guys! How can you go wrong? He’s an American classic, like Levis, apple pie, and changing lanes without bothering to use your turn signal. Furthermore, I am hereby predicting that banjo will soon supplant the uke as the hispter alternative stringed instrument of choice, so you might as well get your kids ready now to ride the resurgent wave in twenty years. The banjo is also just inherently awesome and the twangy out of tune-ness of it will make up for the fact that you can’t sing in tune (which kids don’t care about, really, until they are seven or eight and capable of being embarrassed, so until that point, sing while you can, because before you know it little Jimmy will be plugging up his ears and screaming “MOM! FOR PETE’S SAKE STOP YOU’RE MAKING THE DOG FARTOUT OF FEAR.”)

Putamayo Kids
For parents who are into world music, Radio M, and Afropop Worldwide.

Whatever style or genre of music you’re into, there’s a Putamayo release for it. Animal songs, Caribbean, Zydeco, folk music, anything, and chances are high that 90% of each disc will make you just as happy as it makes your kid. This song is my current favorite, and it never fails to work its magic.

Human Tim + Robot Tim
For parents who like Star Wars, Red Dwarf, and Star Trek.

Do you have a love for all things robot but know it’s too soon to introduce your tot to Jabba the Hut?* Then play some Human Tim + Robot Tim for your kid and enjoy some age-appropriate science fiction fun. Human Tim is also a Wiggleworms staff member at the Old Town School of Folk Music, so you know he has some musical chops to go along with his super-cool sci-fi concept.

*Although for some people it is never too soon.

Super Stolie
For parents who like Neko Case, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, and Jill Sobule.

Super Stolie is super adorable and super energetic, and will give your little girls (and boys, hey, I don’t judge; paint little Jimmy’s toenails pink if you wanna!) a non-princess pretty girl to look up to, emulate, and admire. Stolie is always performing live, so if you live in the Chicagoland area, make an effort (you won’t have to try very hard) to see her in person and help create the next generation of live music supporters and show-goers.

Ella Jenkins
For parents who can’t stand treacly, sugary children’s performers, for parents who love(d) Mr. Rogers, and parents who need to learn what authoritative parenting sounds like.

No, seriously, I’m tired of wishy washy and permissive parents. Listen to the way Ella talks to kids, and follow her model. “Kids. I’m going to play the ukulele, and we’re going to sing a song together.” Bam. There you go. I love Ella’s simple and clear presentation. The children’s music equivalent of a scotch, straight up. In, you know, a wholesome way.

Hugh Hanley
For parents who were Classics or English majors in college, who want to be well-versed in classic children’s songs, who drink the house blend at Starbucks, who shop at Etsy.

Hugh Hanley isn’t flashy, but he’s a solid musician and he is on the Ella Jenkins end of the music spectrum. His voice is medium-pitched but bright while also being soothing (like your morning coffee). He has a strong background in early childhood education as well, so everything he does is perfectly attuned for your little ones to dance and move. Don’t be the only Mum or Dad at the block party who can’t bust out “Here’s A Ball for Baby” or “Open, Shut Them.” Hugh also includes handy booklets with lyrics and illustrations, so you’ll be sure to get the words right and you can smugly lord this fact over all the other parents at playgroup.

Guest Post: Foreign Correspondence

17 May

I’m collecting textbooks today so I have another fabulous guest poster: UK blogger Nic Piper. I’m not going to tell you how it is that I know Nic, but I will tell you that he is hilarious and wonderful. He wrote about this blog awhile back and heartily recommended it as “a good dose of American content without the guns or yeehaws.” Back then I was proud and 100% yeehaw-free, but times have changed. Isobel’s grandparents have taught her that “yeehaw!” is what you say when you ride a horse, though she has taken it to mean that’s what you say when you’re excited about things. She’ll regularly walk around the house saying things like, “Let’s color! Yeehaw!” or “Come on, Zorro! Dinner! Yeehaw!” He’s handy with a camera, word processor, and pen, and he even photoshopped the above photo in honor of this post.

Foreign Correspondence

(If you need a point of reference for which accent you should adopt in your head whilst reading this, go for anything other than Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.  Never Van Dyke.  Never.)

Hello?! Hello! Is this on?

Right, lets start.  I’m Nic and I’m guest blogging on this site for one post only.  As a regular on here you’ll know that it’s a brilliant place to read brilliant stuff.  It involves a lot of Carrie and her sparkly family, a-blummin-mazing photos and sprinklings of tip top advice.  If you regularly read my blog you’ll know it’s a mish mash of bitter drivel, vitriolic sarcasm and health issues.  I promise I won’t do any of that here and that this whole site shall remain unsullied by me dripping my views out like a big broken fridge.

 

I’m a tall skinny geek from the most culturally diverse city inEngland, Leicester.  Visit me and I’ll take you for Indian food that will knock your socks off.  The things I love most in the world are my friends, films, Doctor Who, avoiding the necessity to run, space, time, intellectual swearing, my camera, rude shaped vegetables and drawing pictures.  I’ve got a degree in illustration and a job at a school.  I also have a thing called Crohn’s disease.  An illness that not only confuses my spell check but also makes me take so many tablets that I rattle like a big medical pinata.

  

I’d love to tell you a convoluted story about how I met the owner of this site while doing something hilarious.  This would give you an insight into not only my past but also a reason as to why I’m here invading this blog.  You can take your pick from these two stories (both involve heavy cultural stereotypes):

  1. It was a cold wet night in a small village inEngland situated in somewhere with ‘shire’ in it’s name.  You know, the sort of place slightly less populated than Eleanor Rigby’s funeral.  The local school had 30 kids and 2 surnames and rumors that the vicar had webbed feet were rife.  As I stumbled through the fields of parsnips quoting Monty Python, I happened upon the figure of a woman (or, at least, something standing on its hind legs).  I edged closer puffing frantically on my pipe.  The shock of seeing someone with a slight tan jolted me backwards with such force my bowler hat slipped right down over my eyes obscuring the view of my ever present Harry Potter book.  It was Carrie.  She was over here on a tea drinking holiday and failed to remember which one of the twelve local castles she was staying in.  I took her in and we chatted over a massive plate of roast beef.  We got to know each others’ past, I apologised 12 times for no reason then taught her the finer rules of cricket.  We finished the evening with a quick chorus of God Save The Queen and three more barrels of tea.

 

  1. I was on a road trip through the US of A trying to avoid mad gunmen and fat people when the gas guzzling 27 wheeled typical family truck I hired from the large man at the airport got a puncture.  Stuck in the middle of one of America’s many vast deserts (like those ones on Road Runner cartoons) I was struggling.  I stumbled into a town that was mainly populated by tumbleweeds and the Dukes of Hazzard.  I wandered into a diner.  There, sitting in the corner eating her 14th cheeseburger of the morning was Carrie.  I sat next to her and told her my tale of woe.  She flashed her perfect dental work at me and took me back to her 50s-style trailer park.  We sat and watched Friends, The Sopranos and Judge Judy and ate grits, more burgers and a big vat of fried chicken.  She taught me how to not open doors for people and I taught her that using the word ‘y’all’ like it was a punctuation mark wasn’t a good thing.  We retired to bed early that night as she had to go and vote for George W Bush AGAIN the next morning.

 

Of course none of these borderline racist stories are true (apart from the dental work bit and the tea.  There’s always tea).  The truth is both boring and amazing in equal measures.  A few years ago a chap called Berners-Lee cooked up the World Wide Web in a small room at CERN.  Although widely used for dull things like online poker parties, boobies and kittens one of the good sites that came about was Twitter.  I twitted Carrie up a right treat!  Tweeted her good and proper.  And that was that.  That’s the boring bit.

This whole internet thing is basically inanimate beige plastic bits sending sparks of electrickery down long noodly wires to other chrome cased plastic odds and sods.  You could get disheartened with the whole way it sucks you in, detaches you from reality and plops you out the other end having wasted your entire evening showing you videos of fat people falling over.  You could of course embrace this utopian ideal of free information while you watch live streams of Steve Jobs belching out smaller and smaller products each year until you can’t actually see the thing you’re jabbing madly with your index finger but you’ve spent £400 on.  You might want that.  But of course you could use it to be brilliant.  You could use it to be interesting.  You could use it to write your fantastic words of love and life down for all to see.  You could use it to make friends with people who live a million miles away.  You could use it to make genuine friends who care how you are and that look out for you.  Like we did.  That’s the amazing bit.

Guest Post: Saturday Mornings

16 May

 

I’m gearing up for a busy week: textbook collection. I need collection 5 textbooks from 1600 students and I’m never given enough time or manpower to do it. And no one is willing to follow instructions. The end of the year is simply a clusterfuck for the library and I’m so looking forward to never doing this again. Ever. Since this is such a hectic time for me, I’ve asked a few talented friends to step in and help with posting. First up is Bridget Callahan, a writer who lives in Cleveland who sells her amazing photography on Etsy. All of the photos from today’s post are from the now demolished Madison School in Youngstown Ohio.

Saturday Mornings

Dad used to take us to the library downtown on Saturday mornings. He would somehow find parking right next to the building, or behind it. Maybe there used to be more parking back then, maybe there was no one downtown ever on the weekends. These days, I can’t park anywhere near it, might as well just take the bus cause I’ll end up paying for a parking garage 5 blocks away. But he used to do it, and now maybe I understand why it seemed he was always getting parking tickets.

The downtown library in Cleveland, what’s known now as the old building since they built the “new” building over a decade ago, is a massive stone place in that great tradition of stone ledges, WPA murals, and brass chandeliers. It was always “the” library to me, because the local branches in comparison were so tiny and modern and lame. To get to the children’s room, I had to do several very important things. First I had to walk past the huge round intimidating reference room, which had be where allClevelandlegislature was decided, because of the rows of reference books and dark wood desks. Then it was up the wide slippery marble staircase, which was a pain in the ass to go up because my tiny legs had to do it two steps at a time. But it was much more fun to run down, hand securely sliding down the banister as thick as my waist. Up past the giant rotating globe, painted in muted blue and greens, and then past the Special Collections room. Special Collections was a mystery to me, since it seemed to always be gated, a tempting doorway into places where I knew they must keep the very important old books, the kind of books that would teach me about how 16th century witches were burned and blueprints to the very first original star machines. When I was older, I finally went into that room, and it was basically where they kept their chess piece collection and some tiny books you could only read with a magnifying glass. I would have been more impressed if I had ever gotten in as a child. As an adult, I just wanted to go there with dates and make out.

 

 

Next was the walk down the hallway, past reading rooms and large glass windows with exhibits I never stopped to read. Sometimes I would go into another room first and choose an adult book for myself to take with me to read at the small tables in the children’s room, a place that was just what you would expect, miniature furniture and bright colors. I was well beyond reading the insipid hardcover crap they tried to push on small minds. I knew the difference between pulp and quality. For instance, The Hungry Caterpillar and Hay for My Little Ox, that was art. I never felt ashamed reading those. Richard Scarey was always always acceptable, because it was original. Where’s Waldo was boring and mundane, and I patently hated anything featuring little witches or animals that talked to people. Animals could talk to themselves, or they could be silent partners for humans, but to have children talking to animals was tacky. I was very particular about illustrations, and turned my nose up at things that resembled generic tv cartoons. For actual reading, I preferred Roald Dahl and Daniel Pinkwater books, the John Bellair mysteries with the Edward Gorey illustrations. When I ran out of those, I loved to bring an adult book in there, even if it was boring and hard to read, because I felt so grown up and superior concentrating on it while the other children were “playing” around. In other words, I was an insufferable snot, even as a child. That’s what happens when you’re a dorky fat child who read Tom Wolfe off her parents’ bookshelves before she even understood what adolescence really was. My poor sister read Madame Bovary ten million times before she hit 7th grade. One time, Carrie tried to pick grass from the lawn, roll it into construction paper, and smoke it, because she had read about “smoking grass”. We were “that” family.

 

But that was the great part about the Big Library, there were no nuns or stern faced middle aged women telling us books were too old for us, like they did to us repeatedly at school and the local branches. In the Big Library, they just wanted you to not run, stay quiet, and not touch the exhibits. Dad would go off to get his history books and Michael Crichton novels, and we would sit quietly at the tiny tables, waiting for him and trying to decide what would be our allotted three books for the week. When everything was picked out and decided, we would go downstairs to the intimidating check out line (intimidating because I consistently lost my library card at least twice a summer),  and Dad would pay his fines and then we would go. There were always fines, there were always parking tickets, and there were always the same the paintings and statues and oh that globe. Right by the checkout desk were the staircases that went downstairs. I was never allowed downstairs, I think they were closed to the public before the new library building was built next door, and while waiting for him in line, I would stand at the very top of the stairs and look down into the mysterious bottom hallways and wonder. The library was treasure place, I was sure of it, just like I knew there were extra special dinosaur bones in the back rooms of the Natural History Museum, and diamond crowns in the dusty corners of the Art Museum. Little 9 yr old me was equally certain that if I could just sneak down those back stairs, I would find old things and rare things and I would somehow be labeled an adventurer and grow up to fame and fortune, because every great character I read about was a risk taker and didn’t let stupid things like security guards stop them.