corners of my home

the evolution of a space

trying it on

our new studio

Here's our studio, as we call it, just after we moved in. It was one of the first spaces that I put together, knowing that Finn needed a space for independent play amidst the chaos of moving boxes and complete disaster in the rest of the house.

our new studio

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It's an odd room, this studio of ours, as it also serves as our primary entry/exit door. The room is essentially cut in two by an invisible hallway leading from our exterior door to the kitchen, the area with the bookshelves having a tile floor and the rest of the room being painted plywood (until we can afford the hardwood floor.)

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It has always housed books and art supplies (both the boys and mine), as well as the occasional basket of blocks and random stuff that seems to settle in this room we use so much.

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writing letters

writing center times two

This little table that I originally brought in to house my own art supplies was quickly comandeered by Finn, and I made it into his letter writing station.

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We've tried our cozy reading spot in various locations - looking for the best light, the best use of space.

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And here it is today. I moved in the big table from my sewing room to better serve my two artists (as well as myself.) Added the shelves, which house many art supplies that are now freely accessible to Finn. These include acrylic paints, scissors, oil pastels, various crayons, sequins, beads, saved bottle caps and juice tops, googly eyes, glitter glue, watercolor, papers of various sizes, paint brushes and containers, a low-heat hot glue gun, as well as a bunch of recycled materials that I keep in the wire basket under the table. All of his letter writing materials are accessible, too. Lachlan can access the paper, crayons and some washable markers - the rest are (intentionally) too high for him to reach just yet.

Yes, we do have a computer in the space - Finn, at almost four, does 30 minutes of Reading Eggs a day, does the occasional yoga video, and occasionally watches Mathtacular or a science video. If you're conflicted about screen time, I found this post written by Jaime Martin of Steady Mom very helpful in providing me the necessary prospective. Allowing Finn a bit of time on the computer during the weekdays allows me to spend some precious moments focused on Lachlan exclusively - something that's so rare! 

The big, braided rug (an ebay find) really improved the space - now they have a large area for play. I gathered baskets for housing dress up clothes, blocks, car tracks, and puppets. Those small bolga baskets that are hanging from tree branch hooks are homes for our legos, story stones, finger puppets, and felt animal masks. Smaller baskets on the shelf include various toob animals (these are great if you can't afford the more expensive wooden animals - they inspire play just as much!) and a basket for small cars. We also have a bigger basket on the floor for larger cars, as well as a piece of wood that they use to race the smaller cars.

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Finally, our snuggly reading nook is just where it needs to be - right by the bookshelves and the cozy bird watching window seat. 

This room is how I keep my two boys, now 2 and nearly 4, busily playing, both independently and together. I'm sure it won't stay this way forever, but it feels like a very sustainable set-up, able to accommodate children of various ages and interests. Right now it feels perfect for us.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!


hanging in there

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Hello dear friends ....

I'm so glad you loved our little calendar. Ironically, it's been tough to keep to these past two weeks. First the boys got sick, then the parents got sick. I've been thinking a lot about establishing a "normal" routine in our home, but we're not there yet! 

I've really missed being in this space. But, of course, I can't do it all, and since I my parents are on vacation and Quilt Market is fast approaching, something has to give. Shoulder shrug.

I'll be here when I can, but I've lined up some guest posts from now until the end of October, when my parents are back and Quilt Market in Houston is crossed of my list. My dear friend, Charlotte, whose children you've seen many times before playing with Finn and Lachlan, will be taking the reins for me starting next week. You'll love her as much as I do, I'm sure of it.

Until the time is right ... :)


writing letters

writing letters

Like the art closet, I've had this writing workshop in the planning stages for many, many months. Originally inspired by my Playful Learning E-course and Mariah's wonderful book by the same name, it was the call of the child that propelled me into action. When Finn started "writing letters" to everyone and everything, I knew I couldn't put off the writing workshop any longer.

writing letters

Finn is almost three (the big birthday is less than two weeks away!) and he is a fellow who (mostly) takes good care of his art supplies and writing tools. But his brother? Notsomuch. So first thing's first - Finn needed a space that wasn't accessible to little hands. A child-sized table would have been ideal, but this works best for shared spaces.

writing letters

You can see here that we have five envelopes, one for each family member plus one for "outgoing mail," where we can deliver inner-family notes and deposit letters that need to go outside to the mailbox.  

writing letters

writing letters

writing letters

This is a small binder that I found in the Martha Stewart collection at Staples. It's a perfect size for holding pre-printed address lables and stamps.

writing letters

The sheet protectors have four compartments with flaps over the tops, and they fit an accordion-folded set of address lables rather well. 

writing letters

And here's the space in action!

writing letters

Practicing the proper pencil grasp ...

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picking out Auntie Liz's address label ...

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putting the stamp on the envelope ...

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licking the envelope ...

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using his return address stamp ...

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and putting it in the outgoing mail envelope!

If you add some scissors to the writing table, he'll stay there all day, filling envelopes with tiny pieces of cut paper. 

All in all, one of the most-loved spaces I've created for my boy. I hope he continues to use it often, bringing his own ideas to the table while thinking about and creating for those he loves.


campfire and carols

campfire and carols

campfire and carols

campfire and carols

campfire and carols

campfire and carols

Good friends. A light-sweater kind of December night, when doors could be kept open for the munchkin crowd, busy going between the popcorn bowl on the kitchen table and the rocketship (treehouse) outside by the fire. 

I think we'll have to make this a tradition. We are surrounded by such good people. As everyone walked in the door with a dish to share, I couldn't help but remember the many meals these friends brought to us while we were in the hospital with Lachlan. Nourishing relationships, indeed. Even though any gathering involving more children than adults is, by nature, chaotic - I take great pleasure in thinking of how my relationships with these friends will evolve and deepen over time, and how - not too far in the future - we'll be able to sit down and have the occasional uninterrupted conversation. Sigh. I'm feeling full of gratitude these days.

*** I thought I would have this blog makeover done by today, but here I am still, going through all of my archives. The html furrowed my brow many times over, but that tricky-sticky stuff is over now. I'm just categorizing things, making resource buttons, writing text for my About page. I hope you'll like the final product. 

Instead of running my giveaways before Christmas, I've decided that I'll do a twelve days of Christmas thingy after the big day. I seriously have lots of things to give away! Too much for a single weekend. Fun stuff, new small businesses to show off, and a handful of book reviews. How's that sound? ***



a room of one's own

a room of one's own

a room of one's own

a room of one's own

a room of one's own

a room of one's own

a room of one's own

We have a semi-permanent fort set up in the studio. Sometimes it's a house, sometimes it's a grocery store. Sometimes it's a place to go to take a few deep breaths. Sometimes it's full of people. Nearly all the time there's a cat in there (unless, of course, a small boy enters. That's when Amelie exits stage left. My son is not a cat whisperer at this time in his life!)

Ah, to be tucked away in one's own world, giddy with excitement. 

I'll probably be spending most of the week away from my computer, as my Gram is coming to visit from California. I want to relish every moment with her; she'll be meeting Lachlan for the first time.

Be well, my friends.


on the way out the door

on the way out the door

on the way out the door

on the way out the door

on the way out the door

on the way out the door

on the way out the door

on the way out the door

Our entryway. This is a space of transition - from inside to outside, from outside to inside, from home to the big world, from the big world back home. In our home, it is a door on the side of the house, closest to the driveway. The front door "entryway" is for those who haven't visited before - beckoned by the formality of the front porch. Inside that door, they'll find half-painted walls and no place to put shoes. The side door is where it happens. It happens to be located in our studio.

It's often a place of chaos, a place of excitement, a place of passage. Its very existence fortells change, a shift. It is, most certainly, a practical spot. One that often gets overlooked, despite its centrality in the movement of the family.

I've tried to fine-tune its organization, making it a place of more peace than chaos. I've switched things around, adding baskets and hooks, but nothing was quite right until I happened upon these child's desks at a local thrift store. For $30! My ninety-two year-old neighbor claims that she sat in desk just like this when she was in school. 

When I found the eesks, they were attached by wooden rails on the bottom, one in front of the other. I just took a saw to those rails and separated the chairs.

A few specifics:

- "HOME" animal prints are from Martha Stewart, found at Michael's several years back. They are attached with washi tape.

-  Clipboards hold thrifted pages from a 1942 Mother Goose book.

- Wire baskets are from World Market, as well as the mini chalkboards.

- The milk crate (which holds the big people's shoes) is thrifted.

- I keep each boy's outside gear in their respective baskets. Big people keep their gear in the basket to the right of the bench. Baby carriers are in there, too.


busy kitchen

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

in the kitchen

Who, me? Make a giant mess of my diaper while Mama is cooking dinner? Naw. (Wink;)

We finally feel at home in our kitchen. So much happens in this space. Food preparation (both real and wooden), baking, tasting, singing, carrying, laughing, frying, bouncing, dancing, spinning, stirring, pouring, washing, wiping, sweeping, and eating. A whole lot of "ings."

It's such a joy and a challenge to be in the kitchen with young children. I mean - there are moments when it's just so perfect that you can almost hear a chorus of angels singing in the backround - a two year-old pouring and stirring or happily washing dishes while the baby coos and laughs in the carrier. Then there are moments - you know exactly what I'm talking about - when the background music is so hard rock that it makes your head spin and explode. A two year-old whining, a hungry baby, a pot to stir and veggies to chop and something to get out of the oven all at the same time. 

It makes me think about the leisurely days that Patrick and I spent in the kitchen, pre-babies, making excitingly complicated dishes. This day will come again, but probably not until I have gray hair!

I don't mean to bemoan cooking with little ones. It's just a dance that you have to learn as a parent. Every day I feel myself discovering more "best practices" and making note of the things that don't work. One thing that's had to change around here is our la-dee-da attitude towards meal planning. Since we live and work at home, I've found that we have to have all three meals planned for smooth sailing. I took the time a few weeks ago to come up with a weekly breakfast and lunch menu, and it has made a big difference in the flow of our days.  This weekly plan doesn't change; we always have the same meals on Mondays, for example. Simple. 

I do plan our dinners weekly on Saturdays to keep our evening meals seasonal and to keep things a bit exciting for the cooks. I have, however, given up on trying to cook fancy, new recipes very often. We typically invite friends over on Saturdays, a day when both Patrick and I aren't working, so we can do more extensive cooking. 

I was very inspired by the article on batch cooking in this season's Rhythm of the Home, and I'm hoping I can organize something of the sort with my local friends.  This idea (via Pinterest) of doing all of the prep work and freezing individual meals for crock pot dishes is also quite appealing. In addition to making kitchen work more simple, it would also be a great way to preserve the harvest. We always have an abundance of a certain veggie in our weekly CSA share, so I could just look for a crock pot recipe using that veggie and make a few batches to freeze.

Off to make supper!


the painted piano

painted piano

painted piano

painted piano

It was silly, really, my obsession with this piano. As if I didn't have enough to do with two little ones, running a business, packing up all of our possessions, and moving. Once I saw this picture, there was no hope for me. I had to do it.

 

But you know, sometimes you need that one obsession to help you focus your thoughts. No better way to calm your mind than to paint a piano, I say. 

And this, my friends, is not just any piano. This is the piano that my own mother learned to play on. That music book on the stand? That's my Gram's book from the 1930's. That clarinet is my Dad's. My parents moved this piano from their home in California so that we could have it in our home, replacing the (much loved) electric piano that we've had sicne graduating from college. This one is a smidge out of tune. But unlike our electric piano, this one is always on. A fact that delights my two year-old. 

The piano was orignally a honey brown, with some water stains along the top. With a quick sanding and wiping down, it was ready for its first layer of paint. The color is called "Winter's Day" (a Martha Stewart color) although it was custom-mixed for us with Behr's paint-and-primer combo. It's gray, with a bluish tone. The whole piano required two coats of this stuff, and a quart of paint was plenty.

There was nothing fancy about the painting process, either. Just a microfiber mini roller, a few small paint brushes, and some patience in getting around those keys was all that was needed.

Source: designsponge.com via Meg on Pinterest

 

This photo gave me some styling inspiration. Oh, Pinterest. You certainly keep me entertained.

May the hootenany begin.


playful learning - thoughts on crafting a space

our new studio

Our studio bustles with activity in the mornings. After thirty minutes of uninterrupted time to myself, spent cleaning up the joyful mess of the previous day's gathering, I peek in to find Finn totally immersed in art. He doesn't notice my presence, his concentration is so deep.

When we moved in to our new home a few weeks ago, I knew setting up this space would be a priority. Just as having a functioning kitchen is a necessity for mama, the art area is a necessity for the two year-old.

Fortunately for me, Mariah Bruehl's treasure trove of a book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child's Sense of Joy and Wonder arrived on my new front porch just in time to provide plentiful inspiration.

Playful Learning Book

And today, I'm honored to be sharing this space with Mariah as part of her blog tour! Read on to find out how you can enter to win a copy of Playful Learning or a spot in Mariah's e-course Playful Learning Spaces.

I'm pretending that Mariah's actually here with me now ...

Meg: Hi Mariah! Welcome to my new house! And please excuse the five-foot-high pile of books to your right as you walk in the door. ;) 

our new studio

Mariah: Thank you for having me. I feel so honored to be able to get a sneak peek into your studio!

Meg: I feel so shy showing our new playing/learning space so early in its (hopefully very long) life. I spent many, many hours dreaming about this space - making lots of lists and rearranging furniture in my head. It still feels like it needs so much tweaking. It was easy to feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the design process, but it was only in the (finally ... ever so gingerly) stepping out of the dreaming phase and into the hands-on arranging of the space that it really began to come alive properly.

our new studio

Some of the design came directly from those pictures in my head, and some of it came from the singularity of the space itself - its own idiosyncrasies combined with those of my toddler which made the space into a functional living area. I'd say that embarking on creating a playful learning space in your home is an exciting, yet nearly paralyzing process if you let yourself get too bogged down with all of your ideas for the space. It just kind of has to develop of its own accord. Has this been your experience with creating learning spaces both in the home and in the classroom environment?

Mariah: Most definitely! I am often overtaken by analysis paralysis. You are exactly right. The best way to break out of it is to dive-in and start experimenting.  When I view the process of creating spaces for my children as being experimental, it takes the pressure off of me to make things perfect. I find it helpful to take breaks and watch the way the girls interact with the space for a bit (you should see the piles outside of the atelier door!) and then make more changes. Taking the time to observe how your children are responding to a space can spark a lot of ideas. I also find it helpful to focus on one area at a time. I usually find that one one area falls into place, things start clicking all around. It is important to remember that small changes can make a big difference and everything does not have to be accomplished at one time. 

our new studio

Meg: Playful Learning has a very helpful checklist for items to include when setting up your space - be it the art area, writing center, or nature/science corner. I found myself referring to these pages quite often as I dug through my closet of supplies. (Oh my. That's another subject for another time - but eventually I need to have a super organized closet so I can find the supplies that I need when the inspiration strikes!) 

our new studio

Mariah: The checklists of supplies in the book are a good place to start when thinking about setting up different areas in your home that encourage reading, writing, science, art and so on. It is always fun to tune into your child's new interests in topics or materials and then create a space for further exploration.

our new studio

For example the play dough sculpting activity you put together for Finn was the right activity for him at the right time. You picked up on his interest in play dough and took it to the next level by providing him with interesting tools and modeling for him how he can independently take out and put away the activity. I will never forget the video you shared of Finn doing just that!

our new studio

our new studio

The same is true for the cutting exercise you created. Learning to cut is a developmental milestone for children Finn's age and they love to repeat it over and over again until the skill has been mastered. I am sure that Finn is loving that you created such a lovely tray for him with everything he needs to work on this important task. I loved seeing that Amanda Soule is experiencing the same phenomenon with her toddler. She shared a photo here (third picture from the top) and stated that she is "loving Harper's love of scissors." 

Meg: Playful Learning's ideas and activities, while written with the 4-8 year-old in mind, are certainly applicable for younger children as well. For Finn (27 months), art and writing are one and the same, so I have an art area set up for him. Eventually, as his interest words continues to blossom, I will begin to put together a writing center. That said, I found your suggestion for creating a "Mailing Station," complete with address labels for family and friends, as well as envelopes, stamps, and place for outgoing mail, totally ingenious! I have plans to set up our own Mailing Station in the near future, so Finn can send his artwork to his great-grandparents in California or to his friends who live in town. (As a sidenote, another cool feature of Playful Learning is that Mariah includes SO MANY book suggestions - the guidelines for setting up a Mailing Station are accompanied by mail-themed books to pique interest in the subject.)

Mariah: The mailing station is a big hit in our house! The goal is to provide children with what they need, so that when they  have the desire to reach out and send something they have made to a loved one, they are able to act on their idea. Once they realize that they can be successful at tasks like mailing letters, it becomes a part of their routine. We want our children to develop lifelong habits of heart and mind—children who write because they have something that they want to share, or they want to capture an idea or they want to connect with someone in their lives. When we create an environment that provides them with the tools they need to act on their natural inclinations, writing becomes a valuable medium for self-expression, rather than an end in itself.  

Meg: I really believe that a space will evolve with the child, and that we, as parents, must often take a step back and evaluate the current set-up to see if it meets the needs of the little people who move through it and use it in their play and creative exploits. The designer/artist in me wishes that I could just create a beautiful space and leave it at that, but that's just not the reality of life with a child who is constantly learning new things both about the world in which he lives and about himself and how he moves in the world. I know that this studio of ours will change with time, while keeping a familiar and orderly backbone so my boys can use it with confidence. A few tips I have for creating a studio space:

our new studio

- Rotate, rotate, rotate! The older a child gets, the more materials you can have available (i.e. collage materials.) This isn't the case for a toddler. Keep a collage tray on the shelf, but rotate out the materials every week or so. Our art area is very much a Montessori set-up from my own background, and I think this balance of having a limited number of materials on display with which the child can explore freely fits the 2-4 year-old age range quite well. The older the child gets, the more access they can have to all of the family art supplies. Currently, Finn can use everything on the red shelf, but can't yet reach the supplies on the white shelf. He can see the paints and ask to paint with me if he wishes, though.

Mariah: Yes! You just brought up some really important points...

Less is best. Over the years I have moved towards leaving out less and less in terms of toys and materials for the girls. I have found that when there is less to choose from, they make better use of their things. With that said, I make sure to have everything they need for the activities that I do make available. I love creating theme based baskets and trays, that rotate as the girls interests change. For example, my youngest daughter loves to paint so I leave out a tray with a blank canvas, paints, brushes, a color wheel, and a color mixing palate so that she can create whenever the mood strikes her. I love how you have done the same thing with Finn—making age appropriate materials available to him that he can access and use independently.

You are never "finished." The spaces we create for our children are never “finished”, but are continually evolving as our children grow and develop new interests. We can create a useful “infrastructure” but the materials and activities need to be revisited and rotated on a regular basis. I like to take a fresh look at our atelier approximately every six months to replenish, reorganize and update the materials and displays according to where the girls are both developmentally and interest wise. It never ceases to amaze me how a few little tweaks can inspire the girls to move right into the fresh space filled with new ideas and projects.

Meg: - When it comes to envisioning the perfect space, there's no better way to store all of your ideas than on a Pinterest board. Mariah has very inspiring boards. Try keeping one board for "spaces for kids" and one for "activities for kids." 

Mariah: Being a visual person, Pinterest has opened up a whole new world for me. I have found it to be a wonderful resource for inspiration, especially in terms of creating spaces for children. It also gives a glimpse into the thought processes of some of my favorite bloggers. It is a really fun way to connect, share and become inspired.

our new studio

Meg:  Make a wish list. For example, the area to the left of the red art shelf and pin board is where I will eventually put a big, black chalkboard - I just don't have the time to do that right now. I'm also on the hunt for a child's rolltop desk and a just-right shelf for our writing area. I have a list that I take with me thrifting, and when we have some cash to spare I search Craigslist, Ebay or Etsy for a specific item. For example, I had a pastry stand on my wish list for displaying materials and recently found one for just a few dollars. 

Mariah: I definitely have my fair share of wish lists! I also find it helpful to add general things to the list, like "ribbon storage" or "glitter management". Then I try to look for unconventional ways of storing and displaying those materials. Often times I already have something that can be repurposed to meet our current needs.

Congratulations on your truly helpful book, Mariah. I know that it is a resource that parents of young children will reference over and over again. 

To enter to win a copy of Playful Learning or a spot in Mariah's upcoming e-course Playful Learning Spaces, leave a comment with your favorite idea (include a link for inspiration if applicable!) for a child's Playful Learning Space. The winners will be drawn on Sunday evening, August 21st. 

Comments are closed! Congratulations to Misha and Christine.


celebrating

mima's birthday celebration

mima's birthday celebration

mima's birthday celebration

mima's birthday celebration

mima's birthday celebration

My mom turned 60 on Saturday, and we hosted the party at our house. Much has changed since her 59th birthday celebration. Last year she celebrated without us at my parents' home in California. This year?

Well.

This year, we celebrated with her in our new home. Which is just a handful of miles away from their new house. My parents moved to North Carolina right before Lachlan's second surgery! Even though we are both still getting used to our new surroundings and unpacking this and that ... even though we are far from our beloved California mountains ... even though life is not always peaches and cream ... we are together. With Mima and Papa close by, we are all happier. We eat berries and cream together. And chocolate cake (a yummy recipe from A Homemade Life .) 

For Mima's big birthday, we were excited to welcome my aunt and her partner from up north, and we were all surprised when my other aunt from California showed up as well! Much laughter ensued, and we all learned a bit about campfire cooking as we tried out our pie irons for the first time, christening our new backyard fire pit. Homemade bread, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and some butter makes some delish pie iron paninis. 

I'm thinking I could eat that for every meal for the duration of tomato season.

Here's to my own love-filled Mama. My boys are lucky boys indeed, to have their Mima's presence warm their days.

P.S. More on the shelf (it's actually our old bookcase) and the kitchen soon. I'm still too shy to show it off in its unfinished state quite yet!