Gifts from the sea :: How to turn your kind finds into treasures

If you have children and live near the beach or visit it over the summer, your buckets, no doubt don't ever come home empty. When my children were younger they picked up everything - imperfect, broken shells were flawless in their eyes. How could I tell them otherwise? How could I tell them something was not impeccable because it had holes or broken bits? In art, and in life, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Because we live on the shore and spend time in Newport and on the beaches in Maine, we have, perhaps, an overabundance of shells. I wondered, however, what would happen if we painted some of these shells. I am a self-proclaimed spray paint addict. It always amazes me to see how something so ordinary can instantly become extra-ordinary. I don't think we have any unpainted shells left at the moment! 

All you need are some shells - any shape and size will do, some good quality glossy metallic spray paint and some old newspaper. Simply arrange the shells onto the paper and holding the can directly over the shell begin to spray. Younger children will need close supervision. Always use spray paint in a well ventilated area. This is a great project to do on a cloudy day or even under a porch on a drizzly day. 

Notice below how those shells with cracks and holes are given a whole new life and look? And your children were right; they are perfect!

Take this project to another level. Large clam and quahog shells can become pretty soap dishes. Create a lovely gift by placing a pretty bar of soap inside the newly gilded shell and tie with a pretty bow. I decided to turn some oyster shells into salt and pepper servers. 

Shells can be displayed in large glass vases or bowls or simply on their own. Smaller shells can make lovely gift toppers and tree ornaments for the holidays. The possibilities are endless. What would you do with your painted shells?

All photos were taken with an iPhone 4S and are the property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House. Photos may be reused with proper attribution and a link back to this site.

Have a great day and go get your sprain paint on!

Tie-dye me up! Tie-dye me down!

Nothing says summer more than tie-dye... it reminds me of camp, it reminds me of my youth... the psychedelic colors and circles on the shirts we wore that were carried over from the free-thinking, bra-burning generation that preceded mine. I've fallen in love, again, with tie-dye. It started a couple of years ago when I was looking for a way to salvage some of the children's stained white shirts. We started to tie-dye our old and grungy looking polo shirts. They came out so well that I tie died some of my grungy looking white T-shirts and tanks, giving them new life. Today's tie-dye (at least mine) has a more grown-up touch... Mine is less about the psychedelic colors than about the texture and renewal... How wonderful to give new life to something old and stale... How fun to add whimsy to every day items that can be found anywhere in your home!

We needed a project to keep us busy outside yesterday. It wasn't terribly hot yesterday morning, but the humidity was slowing us down. We were in the mood to be outside but not to be running around. And we started to tie-dye up a storm... we grabbed everything in sight; old shirts, shorts, pillow cases, sheets, napkins... you named it and we grabbed it!

 Alas, my photographs (taken with my iPhone) didn't come out well for some reason, but I will share with you the inspiration that started it all... Images via Pinterest, of course!

Ombre by CapellaKID on etsy

I'm a huge fan of the dip-dye as seen above and below on the pillows. It's also a fun way to add a fun and dramatic twist on clothing if traditional tie dye is not your thing.
Nice bold tie-dye.
My napkins are much more subdued but I love them so! We tie-dyed a white sheet yesterday. I'm thinking it would be a fun and whimsical table cloth... dress it up with some off white china and silver? Yes!

Using RIT dyes

I have an old, white clutch my mother gave me years ago. I used it once, I think... I'm thinking this would be a fun, fun way to give the old clutch a new life!

folded pattern. I'm going to have to try this...

The pattern in the above sheet was created by folding the material into squares. Isn't it marvelous?
Perhaps Rebecca will have some tie-dyed sheets on her bed? Really, I am getting so very carried away here!

DVF bedding

tie dye chair

This chair is sublime... No, don't worry, I'm not going that overboard!

tie dye

Seriously, I want to scream Yes, Yes, Yes!

dip dyeing projects

I believe that it was Martha Stewart who started it all with these dish towels.

Ellery the Ventures dress by the Iconic. I love the navy blue dip die at the bottom.

Love this dress. LOVE it!

Dip-Dyed T-Shirt

I've done this before. Magnificent!

Ombre dip dye diy

Click here for sources and original sites.

Yesterday we worked with oranges and blues... we still have pink RIT dye that we haven't touched yet... Off to find more whites!

via Tumblr

Happy Monday + Stay Cool Chicas!

Remember it's a Magnificent Monday...




You and me beside the sea...

it's Friday... it's nearly here... just around the corner... next weekend marks the official beginning... but I'm going to celebrate now... SUMMER! We're going to have a spectacular weekend here in Connecticut. After soccer games and swimming lessons I'm taking my crew to the beach!

I'll start my day today with a brisk walk along the water with a good friend. We'll get some exercise, fresh air and catch up... I'm contemplating the beach chair... some note books, pens, iPad and a book I have to review... Wondering if I'll really be able to get some work done... but really wanting to try!

via Tumblr

I still love to play in the sand with my boys... I'm a great big kid at heart!
My daughter, 13, is now way too cool and sophisticated for such childish play :)

Steps to the beach.
via Tumblr

My heart always skips a beat when I come to the steps that approach the beach...
 it just knows what lies beyond!

via Everyday Health

Even though I am lucky enough to have several wonderful beaches in my back yard, 
I always feel like I'm away... on vacation!

original source unknown

Every year the kids and I place a note in a bottle... we have yet to ever hear back from anyone!

Gift From the Sea.

Catching up on beach reading is a must..
My magazines come home windblown and covered in sea salt and sand.
This book is one of my favorites. And no better place to read this life affirming book than at the beach!

sea glass in a frame!
image via Creative in Chicago

The beach always inspires us to get crafty. I simply adore this framed  art of collected beach glass...
this is a great family-friendly project!

via Tumblr
We simply adore picnics on the beach! We love to have all of our meals at the beach... breakfast in the early morning sun, lunch under the midday sun or dinner as the sun sets!

running on the beach!
via Country Living
Get up and move!
Go running or for a long walk with the kids!
Bring the towels... bring the buckets. You have no idea what might inspire you!

flip flops given to guests at a wedding on the beach!  Great idea!
via David Tutera
Old Navy flips flops are a must and I have several pairs. I prefer the all white ones. I have a couple of pairs in my closet, one in my car and one on my feet! They wash well in the washing machine... and then when they've been worn enough I toss them out and grab another pair!

via Pinterest original source unknown
We love to make a splash!

soak up the sun.
via Piccsy

 and no matter where you are this weekend, we are all due for exceptional weather, take a moment to put your face in the sun and feel her warm rays!

It's hard not to get overwhelmed by family activities and commitments, but make a promise with yourself that you'll slow down and take notice of all the wonderful things around you!

If by the end of the weekend your home is filled with sand and grass, you know it's been a success!



my trail of inspiration...

I have this large black frame that I salvaged from a dumpster death nearly 17 years ago in Greenwich, Connecticut. (I got it before it went to the dumpster as opposed to actually diving into the dumpster for it!) It's been in several of my homes. In one home she showcased a Van Gogh poster of sunflowers. In my last home she sat in the basement collecting cobwebs and dust. I dusted and polished her off and now here she sits against the wall. As you can see she's quite generous in stature. I've been thinking of having the children collaborate on a project. I'd like nothing more than to have have something created by my children together in my new home next to my work space. My children range in ages from 13 to 6.5 and their talents and abilities are equally as varied. So, I really need to come up with an idea that is suitable to all levels and abilities.

in advance... pardon the mess in the photo below!

And then it struck me. It was my "AHA!" moment, if you will.

I had been perusing LuLu de Kwiatkowski's blog, A Trail of Inspiration, that I somehow stumbled across a few months ago. LuLu is LuLu DK, the fabulous creator of the line of fabrics bearing her name. I found her fabrics a few years ago, the younger sister of a classmate who was a good friend in elementary school. I remembered her, adorable, with her blonde pony tails. And here she was gorgeous, grown up, fabulously talented and now fabulously famous. I still saw the adorable little girl with the blonde pony tails.

If you are not familiar with her products, you should be... If you are not familiar with her blog, you should be!

I came across this magnificent entry. Talented decorator, party planner and host, Eddie Ross, had used Lulu's fabric as a table cloth to create a wonderful table setting for a luncheon.

Pinned Image
image via Trail of Inspiration, Lulu DK

image via Trail of Inspiration, Lulu DK

Isn't that fabric fantastic? It reminds me of the ocean... it reminds me of sea glass and it reminds me of Henri Matisse, famous for his bright colors and collage. And it reminded me of a project that Alexander did when he was no more than 3 years old...

collage, crafting with children, The Entertaining House

Surely we could recreate this to fit a much larger sheet of paper using torn bits of colorful paper!

And so this is what we'll do!
Thank you Lulu for the wonderful idea... and for inspiring!

I'll be sure to show you the final project!
Meanwhile, please check out Lulu's fabulous video for more inspiration!



This garland idea is for the birds!

I snapped this picture at my children's school this afternoon. My children attend a progressive and environmentally friendly school. I loved the idea and the look of this simple yet beautiful garland. How fun for  the children to decorate for the holidays while helping out our local wildlife! Made by stringing together some oat cereal (like Cheerios) on a long string together with cranberries and other dried fruit this lovely garland will help feed all the wonderful birds on the school's campus. I think this would be fun to try at home too!

Since sewing needles are required to get the cranberries on to the string, mothers or caretakers will need to help our littlest crafters.


Handmade for The Holidays: Simply Spectacular Ornaments

We've always been creative around here and the holidays are no exception. For years the children and I have baked goodies, for ourselves as well as for others. We have made wrapping paper, gifts and we have made ornaments. I think I like making the ornaments the best. They serve as a piece of family history. I have selected some ornaments that I have seen over the past few months to share with you. I tried to find the simplest ones around so that they would not be too hard for children. But some were so pretty I simply couldn't leave them out. The ornaments at the end of this piece are the ones that my children have made over the years. My kids are done with school on the 16th... that's next Friday! We are always looking for festive things to keep us busy that week. I love working with glass balls as well as the Styrofoam ones. They're inexpensive and the end results are nothing less than spectacular!

                Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

Here, some yarn or twine is a simple way to add some pop to a glass ornament. Try adding some in color, all sorts of different colors!

                Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

Simple burlap cut into strips, glued on with a glue gun will give your ornaments a country chic feel.

                                                            Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

Not exactly simple to make, but spectacular nonetheless! Some pearl beads and a hot glue gun would delight any pearl lovin' gal!

                Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

This ornament has a rustic elegance to it. A Styrofoam ball, some twine and a glue gun is all you will need. (I'd keep this project away from younger kids, however!)

                 Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

Some old newspaper, Mod Podge and glitter on foam balls make a newsworthy ornament!

                                  Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

Eddie Ross divined up these country-like ornaments using old shirts. Annie get your Glue Gun! I just love this idea!

                                      image courtesy The Entertaining House

Made by the children and myself these three ornaments were created using origami paper cut into strips and pasted on to a foam ornament with loads of Mod Podge!

                                      image courtesy The Entertaining House

                             image courtesy The Entertaining House

This ornament holds a special place in my heart. Made by Rebecca, a huge Madeline fan, at age 5, this ornament was to resemble the dress Madeline wore under her blue cloak!

                                     Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

This is the ornament the children made last Christmas. A simple idea and a magnificent result. I cannot remember which child made this one, though I believe it was Christopher's. He was 9 at the time. Here we took a glass ornament and squeezed a small amount of tempera or acrylic paint into the ornament. We used three complimentary colors for each piece. Once the colors were in we just shook them so that the color evenly covered the inside of the ball. As long as the ornament doesn't break, the colors will remain true, intact and won't fade. We did let them dry overnight before placing the metal piece back on top.

                                     Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

                                     Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

A true gift of the sea. This glass ornament is filled with sand and sea glass from our summers in Maine. We needed only a small funnel to get the sand in. Important to note, sand is heavy and too much (as we have here) will make the ornament too heavy to hang on the tree. This one was displayed elsewhere.

I hope this has inspired you to get crafty with your children. You'll create the most magnificent memories, and if you do these yearly as we do, you'll find yourself chronicling special aspects of your lives as a family.

Wishing you a warm and wonderful day!



Homemade Advent Calendars

My kids love and look forward to their advent calendars every year. I want to do something a little different this year and am toying with the idea of making my own. I love the idea of filling little boxes with inexpensive little goodies - chocolate coins, chapstick tubes, silly little nothings really,  but I also like the idea of creating an advent calender with fun Christmas related things to do - go on a Christmas lights drive, put on Christmas carols,  write letters to Santa, bake cookies... things of that nature, or maybe even create a little scavenger hunt. As usual I am looking for ideas that are simple and easy to create.

Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

Simple and lovely... simply lovely!

I think I like this idea!



A Thanksgiving message inspired by the river...

I love river rocks... I love the way they look and I love the way they feel in my open hand, against my skin... smooth and cool to the touch. Perhaps it is because they come from the river, and water has calming powers, that I find them so soothing. Their natural, organic beauty compliments any interior. I have seen many river rocks used as name cards, place holders, conduits of thoughts or well wishes and short inspirational messages. I love the way these rocks look nestled together in a large glass bowl in varying shades of the color gray, in their various shapes and sizes. And so I had a thought, wouldn't they make a lovely home for a simple Thanksgiving message? Perhaps each year guests and family members add something new allowing the collection to grow in both size and meaning.

Source: via Jessica on Pinterest


What are some of the things you are thankful for?



Just this once... Play with your food!

 I decided to bag the gym this morning because Alexander asked me not to go. He didn't have to twist my arm very hard! Since it's still chilly, windy and cool out and we had no plans I thought I would make some pancakes for the kids. I got this fabulous idea from a Pinterest pin... though of course ours came out no where near as nicely as the one I saw. Regardless... the pancakes were delicious and we had so much fun making them!

The trick to these fun pancakes is to pour them into a squeezable container!

Perhaps add some food coloring and serve these up on Valentine's Day?

Alexander's seal of approval!

Getting more creative and talented!

Like little funnel cakes... but healthier!

Oozing with talent... and flavor!

Getting a little cocky!

Designer monogrammed pancakes!
Oh Alex, I could eat you all up!

No fighting over these... we know who this one belongs to!

Don't stop til you get enough!

I heart you!

Can't you tell these were made by a 12 year old!

The kids join in on the fun!

Look closely, can you see the smiley face?!

Want the recipe?
Please visit The Entertaining Kitchen!

Easter Eggs for the "Crunchy" Crew!

Alexander loved the tie-died eggs. Could not stop making them. I think they look lovely too. In fact, I think they look more like little presents with ties than tie-dye.

To make them is simple.
All you need is a handful of rubber bands and your egg coloring.
Wrap several rubber bands around the eggs, in one or two direction and color the egg as desired.
When the color has been achieved, carefully rub the excess coloring off to dry the egg.
You can either set the egg aside for display or dunk the egg, sans rubber band into another color.

And then you can fire up the grill and make some yummy burgers to celebrate Spring and the wonderful warm weather!

Someone hijacked my sunglasses!

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful day! XOXO

Tiny Bubbles + Flowers that Bloom in the Spring Tra La = More Craft Fun For Kids!

It's Springtime. Officially. Though we have been in the throes of this lovely weather for a few days and loving and taking advantage of every minute of it. The weather has gotten the kids up and outside and spurred their creativity.

 Nothing but blue skies...

 The flowers that bloom in the Spring Tra La!

Ok, who left their sled out?

We love bubbles. Who doesn't? We have a bubble mixture recipe that blows all those store bought bubbles out of the bubble wands. It's quick and easy to make.

Bubble Juice
4 Tbs liquid Glycerin (available at pharmacy)
1 cup of dishwashing detergent, any brand will do
12 cups of water
Stir gently so as not to make too many bubbles
and there you go!

I pour this into jugs and keep it under the kitchen sink. We go through a good bit of this stuff!
You can also cut the recipe in half if you think you won't go through as much.

We have wands of all sized and shapes. We also use fly swatters. Fly swatters make hundreds of small bubbles and it's fun to watch them fly through the air.

Tired of blowing bubbles? Bubble painting is also fun!

The suggested way to do this is to tape some paper on to a wall or someplace outside and dip your bubble dipper into the colored bubble juice and blow onto the paper. It was a bit too busy for this method so we put the paper on the ground and leaned over and blew the bubbles onto the paper. This was fun too. If you have creative children they will adore this. I'm planning on trimming the paper to make fold over note cards that I will pair with pretty pastel envelopes, wrap them up in a bow and present the cards to the grandmothers for Mother's Day!

In 3 cups add 1/2 cup Bubble Juice solution and 6 drops of food coloring. You can create your own colors, if you wish, by mixing the food coloring. Stir gently, then insert bubble wand and start blowing onto paper!

Of course everyone needs to have lunch and it was the prefect day to light up the grill. What did the kids want? Hot dogs of course! Daddy went out and got some serious foot longs and I had all the proper accouterments! Crispy French Fries were a secret treat! A secret? I like French Fries better when they are reheated. So if we go to McDonald's or someplace where there happen to be fries with our lunch I'll get a Doggy Bag. I know it's odd but I'll toss the Fries immediately into the freezer for a "rainy day" because I really do not allow fries all that often. When I have a healthy supply I toss them onto a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and toss them into the oven 350 degrees, for about 15 minutes or so. Another secret? I doctor them up with Lawry's Seasoned salt. McDonald's ain't got nothing on me!

The kids show off their Prized Dogs!

And like Spring we breathed new life into some old boxes!

We keep boxes that are in good condition that have been used for gifts. We have a nice spot in the back of the basement. We decided it would be fun to paint some of them. Flowers were the theme of the day. I rescued an old piece of corrugated cardboard from the recycling bin, rolled it and turned it into a stamp. (I totally snagged this idea from Martha.) 

Then we enhanced the picture with random brush strokes to resemble flowers... Isn't it pretty?

And then when Rebecca was done she painted this one!

If you liked these you might want to try the Flower Bookmarks

or This one, Bring the Springtime In, which happens to be my favorite to this day!
(For directions click on the highlighted link.)

Not to worry, I have a few more tricks up my sleeve too!

I hope you are enjoying this lovely Spring weather too!

Rorschach in art: Meet Alexander Warhol

Do you see what I see?

Two kissing sea horses?
The bodice of a designer dress?

What do you see?

Rorschach painting, Andy Warhol, 1984

Leave it to Andy Warhol to take the Rorschach test and turn it into a series of paintings. Leave it to Andy to command high prices for these simple, simplistic paintings. Hardly works of art, really. Or were they? Are they?

Analyze this!

In 1984, Warhol created this series specifically so that the paintings could be analyzed. "I was trying to do these to actually read into them and write about them, but I never really had the time to do that. So I was going to hire somebody to read into them, to pretend it was me, so that they'd be a little more . . . interesting."*

A bit bizarre, no?

Well, Rorschach painting is fun and entertaining. Kids of all ages love it. They love to see what a few strategically dots and smears will turn into. Alexander loves to paint, but easily gets frustrated because he can't draw anything decipherable and he tires easily of painting his random abstract object.

This afternoon he wanted to paint. He painted one picture and got bored. I always spend 20 minutes setting the art supplies up, only to have them used for less than 5 minutes. I then remembered the "Butterfly Painting" that Rebecca and I used to do when she was little. We called this "Butterfly Painting" because she always though her creations looked like colorful butterflies.

Artist's Supplies...
Alexander used these today, a Christmas gift from his aunt Jennifer.

Alexander's first painting...
Poodle in a Tutu?

Two Dancing Hens

Do you see what I see?
A Butterfly? Or Bumblebee?

What is it that you see?

The Artist at Work...

Lilly Pulitzer's Mask for the Pink and Green Masquerade Ball?
Wouldn't it be grand?
As Alexander sees it
An Alien Mask!

The next time your kids are bored and you are looking for something to do, grab some paints, grab some brushes, even glitter glue. Make a pattern, or pour it randomly on a piece of paper, white or colored, then gently fold it in half, and gently press down to smooth out the paint, open it up and voila!

What kind of fun will you make today? Will you see what I see?

(When your done your children will naturally be starving after their creations. You'll have to try Rebecca's Fruit Smoothies. They are absolutely divine!)

Deck the Halls with Handmade Ornaments!

I want to take out all of our ornaments, soldiers, nutcrackers... our candles and bells and all the goodies that come out this time of year but the painters start on Monday (yippee!) so I will have to wait another week... But we decided that we could still make ornaments after all. Christopher found a new home for his smaller pieces of sea glass and some beautiful pink Bermuda sand we've had lying around for over 10 years. We were very inspired by these ornaments. We had to try them ourselves!

I found a slight problem however. Some of the sea glass got buried in the pink sand when the ornament was inadvertently shaken. And the ornament, filled about halfway with sand, is most likely too heavy to hang from a tree. Nevertheless we will find a home for it and put it to use!

It is pretty, don't you think?

We also made the painted glass ornaments... simple, elegant and sophisticated and yet easy enough for your preschooler to master. And what a great gift for a child to give a parent, grandparent or teacher! And what fun they are to make. I plan on making a few to give as hostess gifts.

Christopher made this ornament... shown from 3 views... Spectacular, don't you think?!

I made this one, using white, gold and silver paint...
unfortunately the photograph doesn't do it justice.

To make these painted glass ornaments you'll need:

Some glass balls (about $1 a piece)
Some poster paints
Some Scotch tape
Some pretty ribbon


* Take the metal hook off of the ornament and squeeze desired amounts paints directly into the ornament, as many or as few colors as you desire.

* Apply a piece of tape over the ornament's opening and shake. (If doing this with a preschooler you may want to help them shake the ornament!) Shake until the entire ball is covered.

* The paint will naturally make beautiful patterns and no two will be alike!

* When the ornament is complete remove the tape and secure the metal hook back in place.

* Find a pretty ribbon, tie it on to the ornament and trim the ends as needed.

* Set aside in a safe place.

NB... I was just informed by the fabulously talented and crafty Pink & Green Mama that you should leave the ornaments uncovered and set to dry for about 2 weeks!

this one is really for the birds...

I saw a bird feeder kit in some fancy toy or gardening magazine last week... and upon looking closely the tube looked like a toilet paper roll! What a scam! So I thought we would replicate the craft ourselves, save a few pennies and use items already lying around. I had to buy a bag of backyard bird feed that cost $3 at most!

We used two paper towel rolls and I think they came out really well!

Anyone can make these bird feeders. All you need is a paper towel or toilet paper roll, a few thin sticks from the back yard, some peanut butter (soy bean butter can be substituted for those with nut allergies) and some bird seed.

You'll need to make 4 holes in your tube. 2 at the top through which you will thread something to tie the bird feeder on to the tree, and 2 in the middle through which you can thread your stick to serve as a perch for your little birdies!

Then all you will have to do is apply the peanut butter with a knife. This is very easy to do. And gently apply the birdseed to the peanut butter. Believe it or not peanut butter is very nutritious and there are quite a few birds that do eat it.

I think there is more peanut butter on Alexander's sweater than on the feeder!

Christopher is my bird guy... he'll watch with binoculars from his bedroom for hours. I bought him a New England bird reference book recently and was amazed by the fact that he sat right down to read it cover to cover.

We do have the most amazing birds on our property. Hopefully he'll be able to capture some for Christmas after he gets his digital camera! (Shhhhhh!!!)

We placed all the feeders on the back of the house so that we will be able to watch when we are in the family room or kitchen.

is there anything quite so perfect?

I love cranberries! I love the look, feel, smell and taste of them! They are perfect in so many ways. I love cooking with them, baking with them, tossing them into drinks for a lively and lovely festive effect. I love snacking on them (dried and sweetened) and I love decorating with them. Their color is perfect to carry you from the fall to the winter festivities. What's more is that cranberries are so good for you.

Admittedly, I might have overdone the pumpkin a bit this year. I'm not saying I won't return, but for now we're shifting to the perfect little cranberry!

Photos and ideas courtesy Better Homes and Gardens

The Frozen Cranberry Margaritos, photo and recipe courtesy Southern Living

Cranberry Bog Cocktail, photo and recipe courtesy Food Network and Gail Gand

Cranberry, Tangerine and Pomegranate Punch, photo and recipe courtesy Martha Stewart

Did you know that the cranberry is a cousin of the blueberry? These tart, bright berries can still be found growing on shrubs, but when cultivated, are grown on low trailing vines in great sandy bogs. The American cranberry, the variety most cultivated in the northern United States and southern Canada, produces a larger berry than the wild cranberry or the European variety.

Fresh cranberries, which contain the highest levels of beneficial nutrients, are at their peak from October through December, just in time to add their festive hue, tart tangy flavor and numerous health protective effects to your holiday meals. The cranberry season is short, so stock up and toss a bunch in your freezer! When the season passes and you have run out of these fresh berries, you can still enjoy cranberry juice and dried or frozen cranberries both of which have still have many of the wonderful health benefit that the fresh berry contains.

It was the Native Americans who first took advantage of cranberries. They mixed deer meat and mashed cranberries to make pemmicana-survival food. The Native Americans also believed in the medicinal value of cranberries. The utilized the berries and the leaves to create their own antibiotic medicines. Medicine men would use cranberries in poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds. They also used the rich red juice of the cranberry as a natural dye for rugs, blankets and clothing. Legend has it that the Pilgrims served cranberries at the first Thanksgiving. The tradition still continues today. Sailors used cranberries as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy.

We now know that cranberries are full of Vitamin C, and full of antioxidants that help cleanse and purify the body. Cranberries have long been valued for their ability to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections. Now, recent studies suggest that this native American berry may also promote gastrointestinal and oral health, prevent the formation of kidney stones, lower LDL and raise HDL (good) cholesterol, aid in recovery from stroke, and even help prevent cancer.

So Bon Appetit and Chin Chin! Enjoy your cranberries this Holiday Season!

Cranberry, Apple and Maple Phylo

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

and Cranberry Lemon Squares,
all courtesy
Martha Stewart

For more Cranberry recipe ideas visit Ocean Spray and The Entertaining Kitchen, where cranberry recipes are being added daily!

Fluffernutter Sandwiches, Garden Grown Tomatoes, Reverse Tie-die, & The Dentist

It's amazing how productive one is when one cannot access one's blog! There were Blogger/Internet issues regarding this blog yesterday, but not my other one -- which was strange. And so being able to blog meant, well, spending some good, quality time with the children. And it was not half bad! (Kidding!)

I had this crazy idea that came to me after we painted our shirts the other day. Because not only do we have stained shirts that I hate to toss, but I also have faded shirts. Shirts that still fit the children but look old and worn. So what would happen if I tried to give new life to these shirts doing a reverse tie-die? I decided to try with one of mine. After a good, long bleach soak I was thrilled with the results!

The shirt, where exposed to the bleach, turned a pastel shade of pink and where it remained protected by the rubber bands remained pretty true to its navy origins, with a little hue of purple.

I washed, dried and ironed the shirt and then had to try it on! I wore it paired with my white linen capris and white Jack Rogers (and over sized pearl earrings) for one look. Then paired it with a pair of dark denim boyfriend jeans and ballet flats. (I kept the large earrings on.) I loved the look of both outfits. I loved the shirt!

Rebecca is envious and so I promised her a trip to Target to pick out a shirt so that we could do this too. (The shirts are $9 a piece)

Here's what I did:
I took an inexpensive navy blue long sleeved shirt (Merona from Target). I wanted to test it out on a shirt that I didn't love! I have slews of rubber bands, and started wrapping them around each sleeve, top to bottom. In the case of the thinner bands, I would wrap three at a time to achieve the same results the wider bands yield. Then I rolled the shirt (not the arms) and wrapped rubber bands around the shirt. (See above picture.) Then, in a large plastic bowl I added 9 cups of water and 1 cup of bleach. I mixed the solution well using a wooden spoon and immersed the shirt into the bowl. I did this on the laundry room floor so that there would be no damage done in the case of any bleach spilling onto the floors. This process took a while. To achieve the pale pink, the shirt was in the bleach solution for roughly 10 hours.
When the shirt was ready I wrung all the water and bleach out, removed the rubber bands and washed it in the machine alone as I did not want any of the bleach to leak out onto other clothes.
I am currently doing this to a faded Polo shirt of Alexander's (worn previously by big brother) and a dark grey shirt of mine. I will keep you posted as to how those turn out as well.
We also picked some of our tomatoes. Lovely, aromatic vine ripened tomatoes... I think tonight we'll have them on fresh Baguettes that we'll pick up from the French bakery in town... perhaps with a basil pesto and maybe a slice of Manchego or Parmesan...

The kids have asked for

and I am thinking that the combination of marshmallow and peanut butter would be fabulous in a cupcake! We'll have to create that next!
We've done a good bit of baking as well... a large Rustic 12 inch scone with almonds and raisins, dried cranberries and chocolate chips... Cut what you need. A bit sweet for breakfast... perfect with your afternoon tea or coffee... recipe will be posted on the food blog... eventually!
I had 7 almost over-ripe peaches that begged to be used up. I used 3 in a Peche Tarte Tatin and the other 4 in a One Bowl Almond Peach Cake... We haven't even tested that one yet.
Last night all three kids went to the dentist. We've just switched practices to a pediatric one. They were wonderful in there! Everyone was so nice and helpful and really made the kids feel like kids. They didn't want to leave and could have stayed all day getting their teeth cleaned while watching Sponge Bob Square pants on the TV on the ceiling! Or they could have stayed and played Guitar Hero and other Wii games. Alexander could have crawled around in the large wooden castle for hours!
All three kids had their cleanings at once in the same room. But seeing as how we were in and out in an hour, I think next time I will schedule everyone's appointments separately!
After the dentist I had 3 tired and hungry kids. So I called Daddy who met us out at The Beach Cafe. The kids and Daddy had BBQ Sliders and I had a Lobster Roll Sandwich. I can't seem to get enough of these this summer. It was a perfect night. The rains had come and gone. The temperature dropped about 20 degrees in an hour. The humidity had vanished as well. We drove home with the windows open, Rebecca in the passenger's seat, the boys in back, singing, (belting) Carly Simon's Natural Woman, Tom Cochran's Life is a Highway and Jason Mraz's I'm Yours... We had the wind blowing through our hair and we were rocking out and laughing and having such a good time... it was then it struck me how much Rebecca is growing up and how much we have in common and how much fun we have when we are together. She's growing up way too quickly, but she's also a lot of fun!
Now that this post is done I'm off to enjoy my kids and urge you to as well... Summer will be over before we know it!

Our Littlest Textile Designers

NOTE: In below post I originally mentioned using either poster paints or acrylics. I meant to say use acrylic paints or fabric paints, This will not work with the poster paints. Poster paints will wash out. My appologies.

Too tired to write a lengthy post... was awakened at 4:22 am and then unable to fall back asleep. I thought it was going to be a brutally long day. But we had fun and kept busy. We made these great shirts, recycling badly stained polo shirts with paint and an iron. Alexander had a blast. After our art session I finished the mess I started the day before. After taking the kids to get new Webkinz (which might be tomorrow's post) I got started in the kitchen. For dinner we would have Grilled Pork Chops with an Asian American BBQ Sauce, Sweet Basil Rice and Cucumber Salad. Dessert was a Peach Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream. It was Ohmygodtodiefor good!

I'm posting this in my bleary eyed state in case any of you wake up looking for something to do in the morning!

To do this you will need:
Various brushes in different sizes
Paints, various colors, acrylic or fabric
Stamps, if desired (if you would like to use a stamp but have none on hand try Allie's solution and visit No Time for Flashcards for a complete How To Guide)
Jar with water
Paper towels
Plastic or paper plates to pour and mix paints
Paint what you wish on your shirts (or whatever you are painting). If using a stamp you may need to go over the picture with another coat of paint until you achieve your desired result.

This is a project that will require a good deal of supervision from you, even when working with older children.When you have finished painting set your shirt aside to dry thoroughly. Once the paint is completely dry (you'll have to be vigilant about your younger child not glopping on the paint) Iron the entire shirt with a hot iron. The heat will set the paint in to the shirt, rendering the images permanent.

We are thrilled with the way they all came out. Rebecca's was wonderful too. I accidentally deleted it from here and I am too tired to re-upload it.

Night Night all!

Happy Birthday Hungry Caterpillar!

We had a lovely day at the Eric Carle Museum last week. We joined the museum in celebrating Mr. Carle's 80th Birthday and the 40th Anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We saw an exhibit on that book -- how the idea was initially conceived all the way through publishing. The kids saw all the changes made along the way, how the end result was quite different from the initial idea. Our Very Hungry Caterpillar was initially titled A Worm Named Willie! We saw a lovely water-color exhibit featuring the works of EH Sheppard, the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh and works by Hillary Knight (of Eloise fame), Kevin Henkes and many, many others. The kids participated in a scavenger hunt of sorts as they searched for various picture book art related items hidden within the exhibitions.

From the galleries we wandered in to the gigantic art room and the kids spent about an hour in there embarking on their own Eric Carle collages. Interesting, was that they used liquid starch instead of glue as their adhesive. Its' consistency is a lot like water and it won't ruin sponges and surfaces. It was great and easy to work with. Of course it was hard to tear away from the art room, but there was still the gift shop to hit ($$$$$!!!!) and a long ride home.

We loved making the collages and will do so again.

What you will need to make your own Eric Carle Collages

Tissue paper scraps of all colors and patterns
Heavy weight paper, such as watercolor paper
Liquid starch, poured into a dish
Scissors to cut shapes out of tissue paper

You can begin any way you wish. Either start by cutting out specific shapes or randomly paste various shapes on to your paper. We were pretty abstract in our art, but Rebecca did make a picture of a goldfish swimming in a blue sea. All were beautiful and I cannot wait to frame them!

This would be a great rainy day craft, perfect for all ages, paired along with a couple of Mr. Carle's books!

of course a Caterpillar needs a "Bug!"

our collages in progress

collages of felt...

even Alexander could thoroughly enjoy it!

Rebecca worried that she was too old for this "baby" Museum. If anything, Alexander was slightly young.

Happy Birthday Hungry Caterpillar!

Lobster Platter Details

Because so many of you have asked...

Here is what I did! (And it is very easy.)

I picked a paint color -- this could be cute in so many colors really -- and painted Alexander's hands, one at a time. I had someone at the paint store help me. The person at the paint store held the platter in place as I took Alexander's hand and pressed it firmly against the platter. I repeated the same step with the other hand. (Washing hands immediately after.)
I then painted Alexander's foot and pressed his foot against the platter while the other person held the platter in place. I washed his foot and his job was done. I then carefully went over the hands, foot, fingers and toes with a narrow paintbrush to make the color brighter.

I used a pencil to make an outline of the tail, legs, antennae and eyes that I painted over with a super fine paint brush and black paint. If you are not very adept with a paint brush you may want to look into a pottery marker.

The pottery place then put our platter in the kiln and this was the result!

The Best Father's Day Gift Ever!

Seriously, is this not the cutest gift ever?!?! I am totally patting myself on the back this time! I got the idea from someone's creative blog where they used the foot to create the lobster. I added the hand prints, then painted the outline, eyes and tentacles. We spend a lot of time in Maine and Newport in the summertime and so the lobster means something to Daddy. He was positively thrilled when he opened this!

We had a lovely day. I had his entire family over. His sisters, their spouses and kids came to celebrate the day with us. The kids all took off immediately to the playroom or outdoors so that the adults were able to have a nice time as well.

For lunch we had Hoisin Garlic marinated grilled chicken, cilantro rice, and Asian-inspired salad with edamame, scallions, cucumber, peas, raw pistachios, romaine lettuce and a Sesame Ginger Dressing and asparagus lightly sauteed in sesame oil, garlic and sea salt. To drink we had white wine, red wine, assorted beers, lemonade, iced tea, and Arnold Palmers. My mother-in-law brought a homemade apple pie and blueberry pie that I served with the ice cream the kids made last night.


We sat the kids together in the kitchen... We could have had everyone in the Dining Room, but it would have been tight. Daddy was worried that the others would miss the kids not being with us what with it being Father's Day and all, but not a tear was shed when they learned the adults would be sitting separately!

I set up the kids table with extra food so the older two could help the younger ones and not come in and bother us! (Smart thinking!) The kitchen adjoins the dining room so I could see them while we were eating.

The kids loved getting the candy necklaces as favors and played (ate!) them when they had finished their meal.

Below cousin Miren models her lovely neck ware!

We decided last night we would eat inside since everything outside was so wet and more rain was forecast for this morning. So I brought out (and ironed! Yes, I ironed!) the lovely new table linens from Williams-Sonoma my Mother-In-Law got me for Christmas. It looks lovely with my grandmother's silver and I used the trivets I made a few weeks ago. I had intended to use my favorite Ralph Lauren goblets, but they hadn't been used for a while and there was a lovely layer of fog over them and I was not about to wash them this late in the game!

The true highlight of the day was the wonderful slideshow that my Sister-in-law and neice, Brielle, put together for all the Dads. There were pictures of Rebecca as a newborns that almost brought me to tears and hilarious photographs of Daddy and his sisters from the 70s and early 80s!

While we were still at the table (kids had long excused themselves) Alexander decided to do a little decorating himself. I guess he deemed the guest book as unimportant and thought the raptor much more suitable!