Easter Basket Idea : Bugs!

I’m so excited about this post! It may leave some of you squirming in your seats, but this sort of themed gift with unexpected items makes me so happy.

If you’ve been following us for a little while, you know that the boys in my house are really into bugs (and any animal, really).  They like looking at them, holding them, talking, and reading about them. Our boys are 2 and 4, so I geared this basket theme for that age, but I do think this basket could easily be scaled up or down depending upon the books you choose.

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The basket above looks innocent enough, right? Look closer, and you’ll see the edible insects!

When I saw packs edible of insects at our local nature center, I was so excited to pick up a few boxes for the boys! And since Easter’s right around the corner, I realized that they would make perfect crazy treats for their baskets.

I love the idea of introducing them to edible insects at this age because they are adventurous eaters… they already think that they’re eating worms when they eat long pieces of pork in the fried rice from our local restaurant. (We’re either awesome or horrible parents.) Anyway, I’m hoping these edible insects will be well-received and lead to conversations about eating bugs and how people in different parts of the world eat bugs every day. And, it’ll also give me a good excuse to show them some of Sarah’s photos from the Thai markets!

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From there, I thought about ways that I could turn their baskets into a bug theme. We really like to keep our Easter baskets simple, and here’s the formula I use : a few treats, a couple of books, and one or two toys.

In our house, puppets are huge. Early on with Alex, I realized that it would be more fun to pick up and play with a stuffed puppet instead of just a stuffed animal, but with the same cuddle factor. So we have puppet animals of every sort, and our poor babysitter spends hours doing puppet shows for the boys at their request.

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Anyway, there are plenty of cute bug puppets out there. For this basket, I included a bee, a butterfly, and a praying mantis. The bee pairs perfectly with The Life and Times of the Honeybee book. And below, I put the butterfly with the Bugs Galore book.

The Bee book is full of scientific information that may go over the heads of some younger kids, but will be great as they grow. The Bugs Galore book is not scientific in any way – the illustrations aren’t representative of real bugs! But it has a nice rhyming rhythm and I like that it would get little kids excited about bugs and thinking about the variety of insects that are in the world.

The next book (When Green Becomes Tomatoes) isn’t bug-related, but I just loved it so much that I wanted to recommend it (and I can’t wait to start reading it with our guys). The book’s poems are titled by date, for example, there’s a July 10th (my birthday!) or an October 31st. There isn’t a poem for every date, just a selection of dates that takes you throughout the year from January to December. They are beautiful poems and perfect for reading to kids that will eventually be able to read them as they grow. I love reading poetry to the boys, so this is right up our alley. basket4

Now, I bet you’re wondering where you can get those edible insects…

As I said, I picked mine up locally, but I did a quick Amazon search and saw that you could get a combo pack that includes two of the boxes in my basket. I know what you’re thinking : how convenient! Yes, you’re welcome. Amazon also carries the ant and cricket pops.

And if you really want to get into the edible bug world, this website is amazing!  These pins would be a cute addition to the baskets. Chocolate covered scorpions, anyone?

Finally, if you want a “clean” bug treat – add one of our roach soaps to your basket! 😉

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So, that’s our bug-themed basket! What do you think? Do you do themes for your baskets?

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WIPS III

Happy Monday! … or should I use a question mark after that phrase? I’m never sure.

Today I wanted to summarize some of the projects that I’m working on at the moment.

It’s been about a year since I’ve done one of these posts, and looking back at that post made me realize that: 1. I would like to get better at doing these posts more regularly (I find it inspiring to see what people are working on and it’s nice to see some progress shots rather than just the polished and finished pieces), and 2. I have to get better at following-up on the projects that I share. For example, the hat from the last post turned out so good (I wear it all the time!), but the mittens are still in their unfinished state, which is sad because I know that once they’re done I’ll use them all of the time.

{Weaving}

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First up is the weaving! My dad gifted me this table/lap loom for Christmas, and I love it. I like the challenge of this art form – thinking about the “picture” I want to create, wether it’s mountains, abstract trees, or just a free-form burst of color. I’m also really happy to have a use for all of the odd bits of yarn that are left over from previous projects.

The other fun side-effect from learning this new craft is that now my eyes are open for examples of weaving everywhere! I’ve become obsessed with project updates from other weavers on Instagram. I fell in love with this huge weaving while shopping (and want to recreate something like it for one of our walls – imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right?).

And as you can see in the photo below, Amax has taken an interest in my new projects, so I’m excited to get him started with a little cardboard frame loom ASAP!

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{Knitting}

On the knitting needles, I’m working on a sweater for myself. It’s the Bohus inspired turtleneck from Vogue Knitting Winter 2015/2016. This is a top-down knit (you go back and add the turtleneck at the end). I’m really excited about it, and have been working on it so much over the past week, that I’ve made a lot of progress since the photo below was take. Now the body is nearly complete!
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Not shown in this post are the two sweaters that I’m knitting for the boys that are nearly complete, but have been completely ignored since I started my sweater. eek! I’m hoping to finish up theirs this week and then take them on our next winter camping trip for some photos – nothing like a good finished project photoshoot to inspire actually finishing the project.

{Sewing}

But don’t worry, the boys are getting plenty of DIY attention. I was also gifted a serger for Christmas, so I’ve started to experiment with sewing clothes from knitted and spandex fabrics. This was something that I was always nervous to do on my regular sewing machine, but funnily enough, I’ve since experimented and successfully sewed spandex on the regular machine! WIPS_march2017d

Above is a simple boatneck shirt that I made for Luc. This was my very first serger project, and I’m so happy with how it turned out – look at those seams!

After that project, I sewed a pair of spandex leggings for Alex. The leggings were a bit more complicated with their elastic waist and the more slippery fabric, but they’re passable!

In the process of just those two projects, I’ve learned so many new techniques, and just like the weaving, I’m now paying attention to clothes, patterns, and new-to-me sewing resources online. I have plans to sew a few simple things for myself, and (of course) I want to continue blogging about these projects, so when I do, I’ll share some of those resources, tips, and tricks in a future posts!

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So, that’s what’s going on in this house, what about you? Do you have any fun projects going on? Any new skills that you’re learning?

And most importantly, what are you doing to calm your mind when you think the news can’t get any crazier, and then {BAM!} someone’s wires are tapped? Or crossed. Yes, the wires definitely got crossed somewhere along the way.

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Teachable Moments : an Introduction

Now that Alex is nearing 4 years old and Luc is nearing 2, I’m starting to be more intentional with how we spend some of our time together. While they spend their days playing, I want to highlight more “teachable moments” that challenge the boys to learn new skills, whether it’s physical, practical, and/or academic. And since we blog about what we love and what’s important to us, I’m hoping to share some of these pre-school teaching adventures on the blog.

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We’ve already started some of this work and sharing through the Cooking with Kids series, but I’d like to expand the posts to share some of the work we’re doing outside of the kitchen.

Our Learning Philosophy

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, it’s no surprise that Sarah and I enjoy challenging ourselves to learn new things, and (of course), we love to share what we’ve learned with others. Much of what we do here on the blog is from the perspective of an amateur in that we’ve had no formal schooling in cooking, crafting, or potion-making, yet other things we do from the perspective of professionals (Sarah as a photographer and yogi, myself as a scientist, naturalist, and quasi-economist). Beyond spending years as a student, I’ve also worked as an educator in one capacity or another (volunteering to work with high school kids in urban gardens, being a teaching assistant in grad school, and teaching college courses). All that’s to say that we have many passions, some we’ve pursued through formal education and others we’ve pursued as hobbies.

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As you may expect, we’re keen to pass our love of learning on to the boys. The most important skills that I hope to nurture in them are to be observant of the world around them, ask questions about how the world works, and come up with ideas that try to answer those questions. I’m hoping to raise curious problem solvers. Of course, I’m also hoping to raise kiddos with a social conscious, but aren’t we all? I hope?

What are Teachable Moments?

While they’re still young, I’m not concerned about enrolling the kiddos in a rigorous academic environment, rather, I think it’s fairly easy to engage them in teachable moments no matter what we’re doing from one day to the next. For example, Alex is starting to identify letters of the alphabet and spell simple words. He doesn’t need worksheets to help with this, instead, we’re always finding moments to have him find letters (road signs, cereal boxes, books, etc.). And Luc’s learning is much more basic – he’s learning to form sentences, ask questions, and (of course) he tries to copy anything his big brother does from counting to jumping off the furniture. So we spend a lot of time talking to/with Luc (not at him) to help his language develop. I ask him questions, give him time to answer. Before he was even speaking in sentences, I would really listen when he was making noises at me, because often he had something he was trying to communicate.

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Whatever the subject manner, there’s often a way to relate to it in our day-to-day lives. For example, Calder and I were total dorks when we bought the NPS pass and talked about the utility we get just from knowing that we could go to any park at any time… and when I’m hiking in the mountains, a rock slide makes me want to talk about entropy – the idea that things gradually go from an ordered to disordered state. The bottom line is that there are so many moments in the day where we could stop, observe, and start an academic conversation about a whole slew of topics.

But those are big ideas. At the boys’ age, I like to follow their curiosity. Some days we’re using blocks to see who can build the highest tower, and why does one stay up while another falls? Other days we’re sitting outside for hours looking for bugs, watching where they go and what they do. And other days, we’re mixing food coloring into homemade gak to see what happens when we mix red with blue (purple!), but what if we add yellow and green too (brown!)?

Teaching Resources

Right now, given the boys’ ages, our conversations and teachable moments are really pretty mellow, but they’re there, and more are happening every day – especially with Alex.

I’ve started to look for some resources that I can refer to as I think about fostering a creative, problem-solving, independent environment in (and outside!) our house.

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For the most part, I’ve been leaning on my intuition and ideas from our mom who is a retired teacher, but I’ve also begun to turn to a couple of books:

  • Tinkerlab is a great resource for helping parents to foster a more creative and exploratory learning environment at home. It begins with a few sections discussing the importance of letting kids tinker, how to organize your home, and lists of suggested tinkering supplies for kids. Then the bulk of the book provides ideas for tinkering activities, organized broadly under the topics of “design, build, concoct, and discover”. There’s also a Tinkerlab website bursting with ideas and inspiring posts.
  • The Outdoor Classroom in Practice, Ages 3-7 is a great basic resource if you would like to have some practical help for creating a forest school environment. Admittedly, we aren’t spending our full days outside, but it is a major goal of mine to have a lot of the boys learning and activities taking place outside. This is a month-by-month guide with ideas for introducing children to the idea of a forest school and with a few simple seasonally-appropriate activities for each month.
  • The Kids’ Nature Book This book is out of print, but Sarah picked up a copy for us at a used book store. There are other versions of nature activity books available, but I really love this one. It gives you an activity idea for every day of the year – that’s 365 ideas! Some are super simple (measure the snowfall), while others are more intensive. The bottom line is that you can find an activity that’s appropriate for any moment and age level. I’ll come back to this book in a future post and talk in more detail about how I use it.

In addition to those books, as we all know, the internet is full of ideas, and I have a few Pinterest boards to help me keep those resources organized.

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I’m exciting to start this series on the blog, and am thinking about a variety of future posts covering everything from how we create teachable moments while on vacation to our early experiments with learning letters. I know these posts won’t be for everyone, but I’m hoping that there’s a community of readers who would like to join in this discussion and share their teachable moments.

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Snapshots of the Whole and Happy Retreat in Thailand

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It’s been nearly a month and a half since the first Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand and yet my mind wanders back to that magical time almost every single day. I wanted to share a few film images and a general feel for the beautiful retreat week I spent at FaaSai Resort and Spa.

The Whole & Happy Retreat is the perfect laid back mix of travel, adventure, yoga and self exploration. Each day the retreat group met for yoga and meditation and each day a new technique, style, or focus was presented to us to play around with. As if the yoga and meditation wasn’t enough, the Whole & Happy Retreat involved so much more. We rode our bikes up steep hills, plunged into the Thai gulf waters, drank beer at sunset and toured the farm where our organic meals originated all the while still having ample time to laze about by the pool, sip papaya smoothies and trade book recommendations while devouring our current reads. breakfast-1 first-round-12

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The Whole & Happy Retreat seemed to rest in this perfect cosmos of flowed planning instead of precise scheduling. Each night there would be a new agenda and theme on the message board and every morning our group would work our way happily through the day. From farm tours to beachside bike rides, we would move through the hours crossing joyous adventures off our list and yet somehow barely checking the clock, instead checking in with each other and our energy levels.

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first-round-18As an experienced yoga practitioner, I was delighted at the variety of classes presented and how approachable and attainable the instructors made the content for the beginners in the group and yet I never once felt bored or that the classes were predictable. Beyond the yoga and meditation, it’s such a treat to enjoy new experiences with complete strangers, it’s almost like being transported back to the first day of school on the playground. You feel shy at first until a few minutes later you realize you’re having an insane amount of fun and you look around to realize the people you once thought were strangers are now your favorite playmates.

The Whole and Happy Retreat felt like an adult summer camp aimed at elevating the travel experience while incorporating yoga and introspection. As a seasoned traveler, I cannot recommend this experience enough to individuals who are a bit apprehensive about a trip abroad or solo travelers who would find comfort among company. It’s also the perfect break for someone looking to get away in order to recharge and reinvigorate themselves for a happier reintegration back into normal life.first-round-14first-round-41first-round-61

Come read books, sip smoothies poolside, bike through fishing villages, make new Thai friends and gaze up at the stars with me. I’ll be joining the Whole & Happy crew at the next retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand from March 17-23 and I hope you’ll come. I’d love to flow with you! From now until January 15th, book with a friend and receive $50 off of the retreat cost for a total of $550 for seven days of retreat at Faasai Eco Resort and Spa. If you need help finding a flight (they’re less than $600RT from NYC right now) or help creating a budget, I would love to help, just reach out in the comments.

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Shop Live Seasoned

Yesterday we shared a sneak peak of our elving and today we’re back with more gifting ideas. You may have seen a snap or two of our new products on Instagram and now it’s official, our etsy shop, Live Seasoned is stocked with new goodies. We took a break over the summer to come up not only with new potions, but new ways to present them.

First off, we tweaked the way we stock our shop.  From now on, we’ll be offering our lip balms, salves and other potions in batches. What does that mean? Well, instead of having a few set flavors and scents, we’ll be making and mixing as we see fit. Depending on the season, our mood and inspiration, we’ll create different batches of each item in limited numbers. If you order something and fall in love with it, it’s best to order more immediately since there’s no way of knowing when we’ll create a similar batch.  Working in batches instead of trying to stick to a set inventory helps us stay motivated and feel inspired with our selection of products. It also allows us to tweak and adjust our potions as we see fit. We’re pretty pumped about this transition and we’re hoping you feel the same.

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On that same note, as the seasons sway us this way and that, we’re thinking up new products. Some silly, some serious. We love filling our homes with the scent of burning Palo Santo just as much as we enjoy stuffing cockroach soaps into our buddies’ stockings. Dino lovers in your life? We have something for them too.

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We are also introducing cardboard balm tubes, woohoo! This was something we wanted to do from day one, but were hesitant about because there’s quite a price difference between cardboard and plastic. After a year of dealing with (and not totally loving) the plastic tubes, we caved (or did we evolve?) and purchased cardboard tubes. Truth be told, we couldn’t be happier with the look and feel of these tubes. Added bonus?  They take less energy to produce and dispose of. To us, they just feel right. What do you think? We’re all ears.roach_soap If you’re on the batch bus or you’ve called your seat in the cardboard car, then hop over to our Live Seasoned etsy shop and browse our handmade line of goods for your healthy home.

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The Elving has Begun!

Today’s post is about our annual family photo album. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of our DIY wedding album, you can see that post here.

Almost a month has passed since my last post, and while we made it through a great Thanksgiving, I think everyone in this house (ok, maybe it was mostly me) was just waiting to get to the other side so that we could start with the Christmas festivities.

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And here it is! We’ve jumped into Christmas prep with two feet. Every day a new decoration, or ten, is hung. Present lists are being written and re-written. And then there’s the Christmas knitting. I’m doing so much fun knitting in the evenings that I may not be back here until the New Year! Kidding. (hopefully)

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But before I could even start in on the knitting, I was busy putting together our annual family photo album. Every year for the past eight or so, I’ve put together an album that chronicles our year in photos. I start with the previous Christmas and end with Thanksgiving. That gives me enough time to create the book and have it printed and ready to give by Christmas morning. I also gift the book to Calder, but I think this year it’s time to say that it’s too all of the guys in the house.

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This has become such a special family tradition. When the book is unwrapped, it’s so nice to sit down together and look at it on Christmas morning – a moment of calm amidst the craziness of opening presents and celebrating. Throughout the day the book gets passed around, and one by one everyone in the house gets to look at it.

In this post I’m sharing a few screenshots from this year’s book. You can see that it’s a little bit of everything. Photos from vacations, from weekend hiking trips, from afternoons at home cooking dinner, and silly snapshots.

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I know that making a photo book can seem overwhelming, and many people get paralyzed by the task before they even start. I’ve been making these for so long that it’s become second nature, so I wanted to share some of my tips.

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Tips for Creating an Annual Photo Album

  • make it a tradition : having a set time every year when you make, give, and look at the book makes it so much easier to stick to a deadline and actually complete the task. I know that if we weren’t on an annual schedule then I’d put off making these albums.
  • pick a service : You’ll have to decide which printing service you want to go with. There are many out there, and there are also many reviews that will (hopefully) help you pick the one that’s right for you. I always go with Blurb because I like the design flexibility provided by their software, as well as the high number count for their books (some years our albums are 400+ pages!), and the options to upgrade paper quality. You should pick the service that’s right for you.
  • there’s a learning curve : If you’re using software to design your book, expect there to be a learning curve, and don’t get too discouraged when it takes you longer than expected to create your book. Now I speed through a 300 page book when it would have taken me a bit longer years ago. Hopefully you like the printing service you use and won’t have to take the time to learn about a new company in the future.
  • keep the book simple : you can see that my page layouts are pretty simple. This was one of the tricks that I learned early on. We love looking at the photos, and we don’t like too many packed onto a page, so I keep it simple with some variation if there are photos that need special attention (either because of their resolution or because they are so beautiful/awesome/absurd that they deserve a full page of space).
  • be cut-throat with your photos choices : I think this comes with time, but keep reminding yourself that you take thousands of photos every year (I know I’m not the only one). Stick to the big and special moments and pick the best photos. They don’t have to be the best from a design standpoint, but they are the best because they capture the moment, someone’s laugh, someone else’s silly face, etc. After you’ve gotten the big moments in the book, then you can go back and fill it in with second and third tier photos until you feel satisfied with the feel of the book. I think you’ll find that there’s a learning curve with the photo selection task just as there is with using the design software.
  • leave space for the things you forgot : I like to leave a few blank pages at the end of the book. These can be used for writing down memories from the year, new years resolutions for the next year, and for adding extra printed photos that didn’t make it into the book.
  • have fun! You’re doing something so special for your family and leaving them a tangible memory of life in these crazy years. Any book you put together will be better than nothing.

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Creation Inspiration: Start A Quote Book


Ever come across a passage, poem or quote that really speaks to you? How do you remember it? Do you dog-ear the page? Highlight the passage? Pin the quote to your words of inspiration board? Save them all in a memo on your computer? Read it once and let it go? I used to do all of the above until about a week ago when I finally decided to start a quote book.  

I picked up a small notebook at a local shop and started by jotting down all my absolute favorite quotes from over the past few years. I dug up those random note cards, looked up all my highlights in my kindle app and wrote down all the saved bookmarks and highlighted passages that have spoke to me. It’s quite therapeutic to focus on a quote, record it and to be able to look back at all the words that connected with you at different times in your life. Think of a quote book as basically your own little playbook or pep talk. Sometimes we need a few words of inspiration to get through the day or to remember to treat ourselves properly. Our thought patterns can be chaotic. Sometimes they are a disservice. It’s helpful to bring yourself back to center with a few words of encouragement, cue the quote book!


Here are a few of my favorite quotes, passages and poems to get you started:
Talk to yourself like you would someone you love.

Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you or home is nowhere at all. – Hermann Hesse

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi

Cry everyday if you want, not because you’re sad, but because the world is so beautiful and life is so short.

To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance. -Oscar Wilde

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. -Mary Oliver

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann 

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender

be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others,

even the dull and the ignorant;

they too have their story. 

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. 
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs;

for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism. 
Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass. 
Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,

be gentle with yourself. 
You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 
Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. 
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy. 

Asking Too Much by Andrea Gibson:

“I want you to tell me about every person you’ve ever been in love with.

Tell me why you loved them,

then tell me why they loved you.
Tell me about a day in your life you didn’t think you’d live through.

Tell me what the word home means to you

and tell me in a way that I’ll know your mother’s name

just by the way you describe your bedroom

when you were eight.
See, I want to know the first time you felt the weight of hate,

and if that day still trembles beneath your bones.
Do you prefer to play in puddles of rain

or bounce in the bellies of snow?

And if you were to build a snowman,

would you rip two branches from a tree to build your snowman arms

or would leave your snowman armless

for the sake of being harmless to the tree?

And if you would,

would you notice how that tree weeps for you

because your snowman has no arms to hug you

every time you kiss him on the cheek?
Do you kiss your friends on the cheek?

Do you sleep beside them when they’re sad

even if it makes your lover mad?

Do you think that anger is a sincere emotion

or just the timid motion of a fragile heart trying to beat away its pain?
See, I wanna know what you think of your first name,

and if you often lie awake at night and imagine your mother’s joy

when she spoke it for the very first time.
I want you to tell me all the ways you’ve been unkind.

Tell me all the ways you’ve been cruel.

Tell me, knowing I often picture Gandhi at ten years old

beating up little boys at school.
If you were walking by a chemical plant

where smokestacks were filling the sky with dark black clouds

would you holler “Poison! Poison! Poison!” really loud

or would you whisper

“That cloud looks like a fish,

and that cloud looks like a fairy!”
Do you believe that Mary was really a virgin?

Do you believe that Moses really parted the sea?

And if you don’t believe in miracles, tell me —

how would you explain the miracle of my life to me?
See, I wanna know if you believe in any god

or if you believe in many gods

or better yet

what gods believe in you.

And for all the times that you’ve knelt before the temple of yourself,

have the prayers you asked come true?

And if they didn’t, did you feel denied?

And if you felt denied,

denied by who?
I wanna know what you see when you look in the mirror

on a day you’re feeling good.

I wanna know what you see when you look in the mirror

on a day you’re feeling bad.

I wanna know the first person who taught you your beauty

could ever be reflected on a lousy piece of glass.
If you ever reach enlightenment

will you remember how to laugh?
Have you ever been a song?

Would you think less of me

if I told you I’ve lived my entire life a little off-key?

And I’m not nearly as smart as my poetry

I just plagiarize the thoughts of the people around me

who have learned the wisdom of silence.
Do you believe that concrete perpetuates violence?

And if you do —

I want you to tell me of a meadow

where my skateboard will soar.
See, I wanna know more than what you do for a living.

I wanna know how much of your life you spend just giving,

and if you love yourself enough to also receive sometimes.

I wanna know if you bleed sometimes

from other people’s wounds,

and if you dream sometimes

that this life is just a balloon —

that if you wanted to, you could pop,

but you never would

‘cause you’d never want it to stop.
If a tree fell in the forest

and you were the only one there to hear —

if its fall to the ground didn’t make a sound,

would you panic in fear that you didn’t exist,

or would you bask in the bliss of your nothingness?
And lastly, let me ask you this:
If you and I went for a walk

and the entire walk, we didn’t talk —

do you think eventually, we’d… kiss?
No, wait.

That’s asking too much – 

After all,

this is only our first date.”
I hope these words that have had an amazing impact on me touched you as well. I have so many more inspiring passages, some that come from books I read or wanderings on the internet or by way of friends, all these words are so important that I wish to never be without them and therefore the reason I created a quote book. Quote books are also an amazing gift especially if you customize them for the particular person or even more so for a particular time in a person’s life. I hope you’ll make one this year and continue to fill it until you’re forced to start volume two.

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Five Tips For Shooting Better Fall Photos

Happy Monday! There’s only one week of October left, eeek! Grab your camera and go take a walk in the woods, but before you head out, learn how to take better fall photos. This post was originally published on October 30, 2014, but after a wonderful hike in the woods this weekend, I thought it was worth another look.

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Autumn really tends to steal the show in terms of natural beauty, dontcha think?  This year I took a trip to Asheville, NC and after cruising up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway I don’t think I’ll ever take fall for granted again.  I spent three days hiking, driving and simply sitting and looking at leaves.  After the trip I mentally cataloged what went well and what went wrong in terms of the photos I took.  I thought it might be helpful to share a couple fall photography tips here in case you want to capture the season.

  • Zone in.  Don’t be afraid to focus in on one tree, one branch, even one leaf!  Get close, choose your angle and go for it.  While the whole forest is beautiful sometimes when we constantly shoot at a wide angle, the viewer’s eye doesn’t really know where to focus when looking at the picture.  The resulting image will be a mess of pretty hues instead of that amazing sugar maple with fiery red leaves. While you’re busy looking up, don’t forget to look down and around too.  There are multitudes of berries, fungus and seed pods waiting to be photographed too.

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  • Photograph your subjects in open shade or on cloudy days.  Cloudy days are great for photographing people; the clouds act as a huge soft box eliminating all shadows.  Obviously you have no control over the weather, but avoid midday sun and its harsh shadows, instead find a big wide open area of shade (near a building, under tree cover, etc) and take portraits there. You should find that the light is even and diffused because of the shade, but still bright enough because you’re in a wide open area.  If the sun is peaking through and creating hot spots (over exposed areas) in your photo, it will be pretty distracting so look around and try to avoid that as best you can.  Shooting in open shade is more comfortable for you (not so hot!) and your subject (no squinting) and the balance of light between your subject and background won’t be as drastic and therefore much less confusing for your camera in turn creating a better image.

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  • Shoot when there’s weather. Shooting during a sunny day with blue skies is nice, but shooting when it’s stormy, foggy or rainy is more dramatic and interesting. Weather easily adds mood to a photograph without a subject present.  I especially like shooting dark blue stormy skies during the fall because the contrasting colors of the deep blue sky makes the orange leaves pop even more. Shooting in the rain (or right after if you want to stay dry) looks fantastic during fall.  The colorful leaves that normally look dry (well, cause they are) glisten and shine, which really brings out their color.  Think about how nice a car looks when it’s freshly washed and still has drips of water on it or how shiny your nails look when you put a clear coat on.. it’s all about the glisten 😉

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  • Try setting your white balance to Shade.  (Its symbol is usually a house with three diagonal lines next to it)  Shade basically warms up your photograph, which in turn will result in leaf hues closer to what you are seeing with your eyes.  Sometimes photography can be frustrating and disappointing because what we see isn’t what our camera sees.  It’s ok to use the camera as a tool to better create the scene in front of you.  Using Shade white balance is one way I’ve found to help the camera represent changing leaf colors more accurately. Try it and see if it works for you.

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  • Coordinate with the fall foliage.  We think about color whenever we’re trying to create something visually pleasing (interior design, picking out an outfit, choosing a palette for an art project) so it only makes sense to do the same when we’re creating photos.  If you know you’ll be the subject or the shooter, dress to compliment your scene!  This is especially easy in the fall because you generally know what colors to expect. Next time you are the subject of the photo, you’ll compliment the scenery and visa-versa.

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I planned on only dishing up five tips, but here’s a bonus that works for shooting in any season and setting: Shoot during the golden hour.  This rule basically runs every photographers life.  The light is warm and shadows are long, which creates for interesting and beautiful photographs.  If you want to shoot the changing leaves and natural scenery, shooting during the first hour and last hour of light is highly advantageous.  The colors of the yellow, orange and red leaves will look even more brilliant during the golden hour so plan your walks just before sunset!

Have fun and happy shooting! Oh and if you snap a shot using one of these tips, tag us on IG @liveseasoned because we would love to check it out 🙂

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Bat Halloween Shirt

Halloween is just around the corner, and now that we have a 3.5 year-old in the house, every holiday is a big deal! Combining Alex’s current love of bats and the coming holiday, I have a great DIY for you : bleached bat t-shirts!

bat_shirts5bThis project couldn’t be easier, but unfortunately, since you’re working with bleach, this is not necessarily a kid-friendly DIY. Don’t worry, they’ll have a great time watching the “magic formula” work!

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Supplies

  • black or navy blue t-shirt
  • freezer paper (it has a wax coating on only one side whereas wax paper has a wax coating on both sides)
  • bat stencil (I free-handed on, but you could print out a bat clipart silhouette)
  • piece of cardboard (an empty cereal box works well!)
  • toothbrush
  • bleach
  • water
  • latex glove (to protect your hand will applying the bleach splatters)

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Hints

  • Trace and cut-out bat silhouettes from the freezer paper. I made large and small bats, but you have complete flexibility with the size and number of bats you use (whatever you think will look good on your shirt).
  • With the iron on low heat, carefully iron the freezer paper bats onto the shirts (make sure the waxy side of the paper faces the fabric). Keep the iron relatively still, pressing into the paper and fabric and moving it slowly across the stencil. The freezer paper should will stick to the fabric, forming a bond that will stop the bleach from getting under the wax paper.
  • Make a 50-50 water and bleach solution.
  • With a gloved hand, dip the toothbrush into the bleach solution and splatter the solution on the t-shirt around the bats. It’s ok, and even looks great, to make both large and small splatter marks.
  • You should see the bleach start working on the fabric after a few seconds. Continue to splatter the shirt until you’re happy with the density of “stars” on the fabric, being sure to thoroughly splatter the shirt around the bats so that you get a noticeable silhouette once the wax paper is removed.
  • Watch the bleach activity – when you’re happy with both the density and intensity of the stars, remove the paper stencils and quickly rinse the shirt under water to stop the bleach activity.
  • Wash the shirt, and you’re done!

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And look at that kid, he loves his new shirt! Such a simple project and it brought this little guy so much joy.

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Happy Halloween!

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Balsa Mat & High School Geometry

Were you one of those kids sitting there in high school geometry thinking about when you’d ever use that stuff? And now you’re crafting up a storm and haven’t thought about Pythagorean Theorem since. Well, today’s the day you’re going to put that famous formula to work! … now before you get the cold sweats, just know that you won’t *have* to use the formula (I’ll show you a trick), BUT if you want to impress your high school geometry teacher, then we’ll also whip out our calculators phones.

What am I talking about? Cutting angles for a super-simple DIY balsa wood mat.

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I came up with this project out of desperation. My mom gave us a poster of an Egon Schiele print (I know what you’re thinking – why’d she cheap out and not buy the original? What a bum.), and I wanted to frame it to hang on the wall. The print itself was about 32″ by 21″, requiring at least a 36″ x 24″ frame. The problem was that I couldn’t easily find a mat large enough for the frame. I’m sure I could have ordered one from a framing shop or the framing counter at Michaels, but that would require talking to someone and explaining my problem. Did you know that young kids love to yell and scream at the exact moment you’re trying to talk to someone else?

(Side note, while I love original art on the walls, I’m totally comfortable enough in my house decorating to still use posters of art that I love but can’t afford. Call me crazy.)

Then I came up with an idea to shirk the traditional mat and make something more visually interesting out of balsa wood! If you haven’t worked with balsa wood before, it’s a very soft and lightweight wood that can be cut into thin sheets and used for any variety of craft projects (as well as having many structural uses beyond crafts). Balsa wood for crafts and model building is sold in Michaels, art stores, and some hardware stores. I bought the 36″ x 3″ x 1/16″ sheets for this project.

Supplies

  • balsa wood sheets
  • double-sided tape
  • sheet of paper as large as the framed area (I used the sheet that was already in the frame advertising its size)
  • exacto knife
  • cutting mat or board

Hints

The basic overview of this project is that you’re going to center your print on the large piece of paper and place the pieces of the balsa mat around it, attaching the print and the balsa wood to the paper with double-sided tape. What I’m going to help you with below is making sure that the balsa wood ends are cut at the correct angle so that they fit together nicely in the frame.

Begin by decided how wide the balsa sheets will be on the top/bottom and sides of the print. For example, in my situation, I wanted the mat to be approximately 2.25 inches on the top and bottom, and only 1.5 inches on each side.

Cut the balsa sheets so that they are the length and width you want for your mat. Again, in my case I had two pieces of balsa that were 24″ x 2.25″ for the top and bottom, and two more pieces that were 36″ x 1.5″ for each side.

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Once you have the four rectangles, you’ll have to cut the corner angles. If your sides and top/bottom pieces are the same width (i.e the mat will be the same width all the way around the picture), then you can easily cut the angles using the 45 degree line on your cutting mat as a guide as in the photo above.

BUT if the width of your side pieces doesn’t match the width of the top/bottom pieces, as in the example photos below, where the width of one piece measures 2.25″ and the width of the other measures 3″, then you’re going to have to use the Pythagorean Theorem to calculate the length of the corner angle.

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Good Old Pythagoras taught us that “a-squared + b-squared = c-squared”. Remember that? This formula only applies to right triangles, where on corner (the one opposite the hypotenuse) is a 90 degree angle. In this case, if we know the lengths of any two sides of the triangle, we’ll be able to find the length of the third using that equation.

Can you see the faint triangle drawn on the balsa wood in the photo below? That’s our right triangle with the 90 degree angle on the top left, and we’re looking to calculate the length of the hypotenuse that runs from the outer corner of the mat to the inner corder.

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Applying the pythagorean theorem to this problem, I calculate a length of 3.75 inches for the corder cut, and by holding the ruler up to my mat, I see that that number matches the length of the cut from the outer to inner corners – it works! And as I mentioned in the photo, it’s worthwhile to note that the angle of our ruler doesn’t match the 45 degree line on the mat, so using that as your guide would give you corners that don’t line up.

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Ok, but as I’m sure you’ve already realized by now, you don’t *have* to make those calculations, you could just hold the ruler up as I’m doing below and use your exacto knife to cut along that edge without giving it’s length a second thought…. but come on, don’t you want to impress your better half? Or at least make your high school geometry teacher proud?

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After your corners are cut, use the double-sided tape to secure the balsa pieces to the large piece of background paper, and then carefully place the whole thing (art and balsa mat attached to the background paper) into your frame, and your customized mat is done!

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