makedo+fort cozy=backyard overnight adventure

design, eco-craft, experiences, family

Some readers might remember my post on fort cozies that I wrote in 2009. Our fort cozies got a new life with the addition of Makedo components from Australia.

I stumbled upon them at our local toy store Geppetto’s Toy Box. They are wonderful little components that provide ways to attach, for example cardboard boxes together or attach a hinge to a piece of cardboard.

Our daughter and a friend built this impressive structure out of Makedo parts, cardboard boxes, garden stakes, clothespins and our fort cozy.

They spent the afternoon in it in our backyard playing cards and games. The even thought to make a peephole and cover it with black fabric so they could be on the lookout should they hear any suspicious activity in the vicinity.

When her friend had to go home Sophie asked if she could spend the night with Bill in it. Our yard is frequented by a family of five possums and three raccoons so she thought that Daddy would be best equipped to keep the wildlife at bay during the night. World’s Greatest Daddy put Ridgerests in the bottom of the fort to ensure comfy sleeping and Sophie filled it with sleeping bags and her favorite stuffed animals. The fort withstood some evening breezes and even a light misty rain that landed a few drops of water on their heads as they slept but not enough to make them want to come inside.

Morning came and Bill took some hot chocolate and the iPad out to the fort so Sophie could listen to an audiobook while we made breakfast.

Our cat Mies beat me to the fort and made himself at home when I arrived with two plates of waffles. We ate our waffles, listened to Ella Enchanted on the iPad in our pajamas in the backyard until 9:30. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to summer.

allow me to gush: a review of Action Pack

design, eco-craft, experiences, family, general crafts, inspiration

[disclaimer: The review below is for a digital magazine edited by Kathreen Ricketson, the founder of Many years ago I was a contributor to Kathreen provided me with a copy of this issue to review free of charge.]

Long-time readers of this blog know that I had to wait a long time to become a mom. I think a lot about how to introduce our daughter to as many wonderful experiences as I can while she’s young. I’ve got this narrow window of childhood during which to get her interested and excited about things to learn and make and do so were you to come to our house, you’d see lots of parent-child projects in various stages of completion.

You can tell from the first pages of’s Action Pack eMag that Kathreen Ricketson must feel the same way. Issue 4 [June and July 2011] is the Great Outdoors Big Bumper Issue. This issue is the perfect idea book for every parent who has a school-aged child at home on summer vacation. There’s no advertising, just 60 pages of great ideas, clear instructions and charming images. The photography and design of Action Pack are so beautiful that we’re going to actually print out the issue to keep with us on for future road trips and camping. The activities in Action Pack remind kids and parents alike that you don’t need a lot of expensive electronics to have fun and learn a thing or two. Oh, and by the way, there’s a big, beautiful world out there waiting for you as soon as you are done playing Angry Birds.

Kathreen shows readers how they can explore the world in a very holistic way. It’s not just fun craft ideas, she’s included activities for the brain as well as the senses. There are directions for making a homemade anemometer to measure the speed of wind, great instructions for learning to tie useful knots or make a fishing pole, some fun family card games, suggestions on how to make ephemeral sculptures and recipes to try around a campfire. As a parent, this is a really motivating issue because it reminds me that summer, like childhood, is fleeting and that no one should ever spend a moment of it bored.

family potato printing

design, eco-craft, family, general crafts

My beloved late mother-in-law set the bar really high for motherhood. Bill, his sister and Bill’s childhood friends all remember a creative ease that seems to have been around the kitchen table on a regular basis. It never sounded as though it was a big production or anything. She just seemed to always have a the perfect materials within reach so even non-artsy kids wouldn’t hesitate to jump in. “She always made it look so easy,” is a phrase I’ve heard from so many of her admirers. No pressure, right?

For the past few years Bill has always managed to say “We’ve got to get Sophie started making potato prints. We always made potato prints when I was a kid. It’s such a great activity for kids, making potato prints,” right about the time I’d just cut up the last potato for vegetable soup. Unlike other craft supplies that last I never seemed to get the timing/potato availability combo right. I’ve heard doctors talk about the stress that causes heart attacks is not usually the stress from deaths and crises but rather the constant stress of small things like the broken hinge on the back door that you never get around to fixing. For some bizarre reason, my inability to make the potato print activity happen was starting to cause me to stress out every time I saw a potato!

So in the midst of a ton of totally stressful deadlines a couple of weeks ago, I went to make lunch on a Sunday and noticed that there were two potatoes that had sprouted under the sink. I swear that sirens went off in my head. Oh my gosh! I have to do potato prints! Right this moment! Because I can’t have this on my Mommy To Do List for another day! I made the long-awaited family proclamation that I would be gathering all of the supplies for making potato prints after lunch. Surprisingly no trumpets sounded and no one rang the doorbell to notify me that I had finally been promoted from Associate Mom to Full Mom.

As expected, it was Sophie’s favorite new activity and within days she asked to make them again. We used some simple carving tools Bill had for printmaking as well as an x-acto knife. We used inexpensive acrylic paints and made note cards and patterns that we may recolor in Photoshop for fabric designs. Sophie didn’t want to stop and I am now putting her in charge of reminding me to get potatoes when the mood strikes. I no longer need to shoulder that heavy burden.

I should be fine until Bill remembers that his mom’s old pasta machine is in the basement and that we should show Sophie how much fun it is to make polymer clay projects with it.