Feb 29, 2008

Friday Find: Five Finger Shoes

My husband, Diego, insisted that I use his new shoes as this week’s Friday Find. He saws these shoes in a store window on Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale a couple weeks ago and he had to have them. When he returned, he was so excited about these “shoes with spaces for each toe” that he quickly ordered a pair over the Internet.

Diego's Shoe Model

Vibram creates “Five Fingers” for “barefooting” to give you the “joy of going barefoot without leaving yourself exposed.” Vibram traditionally makes high quality soles for shoes and has now taken their sole technology and created a breakthrough minimalist shoe. The sole of “Five Fingers” is a thin rubber sole designed to protect your foot. The unique “Five Fingers” design with spaces for each individual toe allow your foot to be in its natural state therefore giving you more grip over terrain.

You can use these shoes to go “barefooting” just about everywhere – in your backyard, hiking, running (check out
ChiRunning – another recent book purchase of ours) and watersports. The shoes are perfect for protecting your feet when you really want to be barefoot – like walking on a rocky beach.

According to Vibram, wearing “Five Fingers” shoes “deepens your connection to the earth and your natural environment.” The shoes help improve your balance and agility by making you more aware of your body. Wearing “Five Fingers” gives you the health benefits of walking barefoot while protecting your feet. Doctors tell new parents that it is important for children to be barefoot as much as possible. Children should wear flexible shoes to allow their foot to be close to a natural state. (Look for an upcoming Friday Find on a great shoe that does just that!) If “barefooting” is recommended for children, why shouldn’t adults?

Diego loves to be barefoot and would be barefoot all day if he could. “Five Fingers” are a perfect shoe for him. Cheers to “barefooting!”

Feb 25, 2008

From an Acorn

While gardening with the children today, we discovered these wonderful acorns sprouting into a tree! Malena was so excited to find this beauty of nature. In the foothills, we live surrounded by oak trees. I am slowly starting to learn about these amazing trees.

Oak trees can start producing acorns when they are twenty years old. (I wish people who want to cut down oaks to improve their view knew this!) The trees produce acorns in the fall, although not the same amount of production each year. Heavy acorn production may only occur every four to ten years. I heard that this year seemed to be a heavy acorn production. I believe it. The ground below all the oak trees around our house is completely covered in acorns. I have also heard that few very acorns actually become trees. I wish I could find the statistic somewhere, because it is pretty amazing. Probably hungry rodents and deer eat a lot of the acorns and seedlings.

Feb 22, 2008

Friday Find: H.O. Foose Tinsmithing

In the birthday goody bags, I included dog or bone cookie cutter that I bought from Foose Tinsmithing Cookie Cutters. When I found their site, it was hard to resist buying more cookie cutters – they have an amazing selection! If I had a bigger kitchen with more storage space, I am sure I could have justified the purchase of a few more Foose cookie cutters.

Since the 1970s, making cookies by hand has been a family business. Foose now employs twenty people, including family members and local retirees. The cookie cutters are very well made and carefully packaged for shipping. The pride they take in their product is evident. They even added a cute miniature squirrel cookie cutter as a little freebie. (I need to find where my daughter has hidden it!) All of the cookie cutters are tin and made in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania.

Given my husband’s industry, I think I should order the wine bottle cookie cutter. And couldn’t you just see Martha baking cookies with the beehive and honey bee cookie cutters? For my politically active friends, I will be buying the peace symbol and the awareness ribbon cookie cutters. Foose has a wide selection of fun miniature cookie cutters perfect for playdough play or your child’s kitchen set.

And for the hard core DIY gal, you can now make you own cookie cutters with Foose’s cookie cutter crafting kit.

Feb 19, 2008

Lautaro's Second Birthday


Lautaro turned two this past Saturday! We hosted a small gathering of family and close friends at our house. Luckily, the weather cooperated giving us a beautiful, sunny day. We held the party on our back deck. To keep it simple, I made chili and served hot dogs. I apologize to everyone for not making the chili spicier. I shouldn’t have tried a new recipe for a party! When we had leftovers later that evening, I add some salt and spices and it made a world of difference. I hope people are willing to try my chili in the future – it will be much better, I promise!

For the kiddies, I made pigs in a blanket from another Martha recipe. They were yummy and I should have made more – let’s be honest… who doesn’t love pigs in a blanket! When I have more time, I’d like to make my own puff pastry dough. I was working at the last minute, so I opted for the plan B store bought puff pastry dough in the fridge.

I think the cake turned out well. Except for the fondant crack that appeared in the middle of the cake. The bottom layer of the cake was a chocolate chip yellow cake. The top layer was a rich buttermilk chocolate cake. I used homemade vanilla buttercream frosting around the cake and for the filling.

The children had a great time cooking and catering their own birthday party. I wish our yard were fenced though! It was a little hard to relax and chat when all us Moms had to watch for kids sneaking around the side of the house to pick flowers and other “vegetables” for their party spread.

The night before the party, I stayed up until 5 AM cleaning, baking and stitching the final stuffed felt doggies. Of course, I forgot to give the children their goody bags upon departure! I also included a bone or dog cookie cutter in the bags. Check out this week’s Friday Find for more details on the cookie cutters! I will soon post a picture of the goody bag contents.

Feb 15, 2008

Friday Find: Lucina Jewelry

In December, I won a contest from Ideal Bite for registering for their new San Francisco Local Bite edition. I was so excited when I found out my prize was $250 worth of eco-friendly, fair-trade jewelry from Lucina Jewelry! For a little background on the importance of fair trade and socially conscious jewels, check out Amnesty International's site.

When I chose my jewelry, I told Lucina founder Shauna Alexander Mohr that I would wear one of the pieces at my husband’s company Christmas party. Shauna offered me a special wholesale-only necklace that would be a stunning accessory at the party. Shauna selected a perfect necklace for my style and personality. I was so impressed with her selection that I am tempted to wear it everywhere. And, I really could wear it everywhere. It is just as fabulous with a little black dress or a black tee and jeans. The necklace can be worn long or various lengths when wrapped. I even wore it as a bracelet!

This lovely and 26” long necklace is made from a fair trade Balinese silver chain with alternating Bali silver "sugar" beads, luminescent clear quartz nuggets and Brazilian citrine nuggets.

Lucina is named after the Roman goddess of light and birth. Lucina works with fair trade jewelry importers and developing-world artisans to find beautiful handcrafted beads, gems and silver. A piece of Lucina jewelry is truly global. Materials are sourced from Afghanistan, Colombia, Ecuador and Indonesia. Be sure to read Lucina’s Artisan profiles for more information about the artisans that make the materials. American designers Ronda Kelly and Scarlet Chamberlin design the final piece of jewelry. You can buy your own beautiful eco-friendly jewelry on Lucina’s site or in person at one of these retailers.

Feb 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Children's Valentine Cards

A basket of Valentine's ready for the preschool party.

This past weekend, we made handmade Valentine cards for Malena and Lautaro’s class party at preschool. I used a coin envelope template to make 46 sunflower seed packets. My mom helped me assemble the packets; otherwise I may have never finished. For the cards, I cut strips of red and pink construction paper and labeled the “to/from” information. Malena and Lautaro placed the stickers and “wrote” on some of them. I hole punched through the packet and card and tied with a ribbon. In my effort to spend less and use what I have, I only used supplies in my stash (my apologies Paper Source!)

Feb 10, 2008

Construction Cake

Today, I delivered the second cake that I have made for someone paying me! The cake was for the second birthday of my friend’s son. He loves construction vehicles, so I made a construction scene cake. I was a little nervous, because I have only made a few cakes without fondant and never anything scene-like.

On Tuesday, I went to Edwards Cake Supply in Modesto and found some fun construction vehicles. The cake is two 9” x 13” layers. Both layers are white chocolate pound cake with a filling of homemade dark chocolate ganache. I made homemade chocolate buttercream for the construction scene and orange-colored vanilla buttercream for the sides. The piles of “rocks” are chocolate candies and black sanding sugar was used for the “fresh dirt.”

I really love the construction scene. It was so fun to create. My kids were begging to poke their fingers in the frosting or play with the trucks. Who can blame them? I let them have few licks of the frosting bowl after I was finished. I do need more practice on frosting the sides of cakes. It was hard to get it even and without any crumbs (even though I thought I de-crumbed the cake and used a gentle touch). I’d love any cake frosting tips!

Feb 8, 2008

Friday Find: Just Another Day Stationery

One day browsing for gifts on Etsy, I came across Just Another Day’s shop. I couldn’t resist buying a pack of hip notecards. I love finding unique stationary. You never know when you will need to send a quick thank you or birthday note. This set of four colorful flower notecards and envelopes are perfect for those emergency situations. The cards are blank so you can inscribe your own message. Although the designer, Courtney, will inscribe a custom message if you desire. The cards measure 5.5"x4.5" with rounded corners and printed on French Paper Company cover stock.

Courtney told me she is able to find inspiration in the everyday items that surround us. “When you drive down the street, just any plain old street, look around, you can see all the different shapes and typography on signs, the patterns the roads, buildings and earth make,” said Courtney. “Really inspiring stuff!” Her Minneapolis sketchbooks are a great example of her design philosophy.

She loves to look through old vintage books and ads. “I am kind of obsessed with the twenties and thirties era,” said Courtney. “It is slowly but surely seeping into my design work.”

Courtney lives in Minnesota. During the day she is an Art Director at a magazine publishing company. In her free time, she creates stationary and jewelry. She hopes that someday she will be designing her own goods full time (and so do I!). She has been creating her goods since January 2006. She actually started designing and selling jewelry first. She loves to metalsmith! On a whim, Courtney listed some stationary in her Etsy shop and it sold well. Soon meeting the demand of her stationary sales left little time for jewelry design. She hopes to add a second shop to showcase her metalsmith work in the future.

In her Etsy shop, you can find valentine and wedding collections, cool notecards, sketchbooks and gift tags. I really love her notecards with bird designs. For those of you looking for unique personal stationary, Courtney offers a custom monogram notecard. She also sells prints of her work - sure to brighten any wall!

Be sure to read Courtney's blog for her latest news.

Feb 6, 2008

My Helpers

As I do my household duties, like cleaning, laundry, doing the dishes, I always encourage my children to participate in the activity. I feel it is important for them to see and value my work at home. Malena and Lautaro both love to unload the dishwasher or help fold laundry. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it is not completed perfectly. That is OK with me. They have such pride in the work they have done to help me. Malena beams as I put away the clothes as she folded it. I do not believe in the toys and games marketed as “enriching” for young children. For my children, I believe the sense of self and rhythm they develop from participating in my cooking and housework is far more enriching than an “educational” toy.

I must admit though that our daily rhythm has been faltering lately. We don’t have a complete Waldorf home, but I try to incorporate elements that work for our lifestyle. I really notice a difference in the children when we do things like sit down to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same times, go outside frequently and spend quiet time reading together. I try to allow them to stay “in” their imaginative play. Our toys are made of natural materials and open-ended (with a few exceptions).

When there are tasks that Malena does not want to do, I try to make a game out of it or sing a song about the activity. If Malena is pretending to be a ballerina and I would like her to pick up the mounds of scarves and books off her floor, I sing or tell her something about ballerinas needing a clean stage before performing. And, I must make a confession, the kids do have a few videos, but they are limited and very tame (especially considering what is “acceptable” these days!). I really believe in limiting media exposure, especially television (we even bought our flat screen without a tuner and don’t have cable), due to the commercials and inappropriate subject matter. I have realized also that I need to limit my listening to NPR in the car. This has been really difficult. During our 45-minute drive to school, it is so tempting to change from “ballet” (classical) music or stories to my favorite NPR station to hear the latest happenings in the World. But never fail, there is some report about the war and I suddenly have to deal with a whole range of questions that I don’t know how to answer appropriately for her age.

Feb 5, 2008

Weekend Work

Last week, we had 12 pallets of landscaping material delivered from Rolleri Landscaping in Angels Camp, California. They have an amazing selection of rock from all over the country. The staff is excellent and extremely knowledgeable.

My wonderful parents drove from the Bay Area on Saturday to help us make a dent in our landscaping work. My Mom watched the kids all day while Diego, my Dad and I slaved in the yard. We finished our rock path that connects our back and front yard, added rock to the front ditch we have between our front yard and the road, added rock in-between stepping stones on back patio and added mulch to some of the flower beds. Fortunately, the weather was in-between storms, so we had a clear but cold day. On Sunday, we had quite a bit of hail.

This coming weekend, we will work on the other side of the house to finish it also. We still need to plant in our back yard once the weather warms.

Feb 1, 2008

Friday Find: Painted Map Pendants

Lately, I have been into bird-related accessories. I think the influence stems from my children. “Bird” was one of the first words for both of them. Although, their first actual reference to birds was calling them, “pee-pee” (like a chirping) along with a bird hand sign.

This necklace is made by Rachel Austin in Portland, Oregon. The square pendant has two birds on a wire over a field of poppies that are painted unto a map and sealed in resin. The pendant came with a 17” ball chain necklace. I get so many compliments on mine. Lautaro loves to point at my necklace and say “bird.” I also bought one with one bird for my children’s preschool teacher, and she loves hers as well.

Rachel’s Etsy shop features her unique artwork that has a simple and alluring style. In addition to the map pendant jewelry, she also does canvas size paintings on maps. She has a watercolor aerial farm series, which is a modern take on crop circles. Her vibrant oil paintings on wood panels feature abstract shapes and textures. My favorites are her layered paintings scenes, such as birds or a field of poppies, on top of maps on wood panels and her new seed drawings.

You can also visit her website to see more of her artwork and find out which galleries and locations feature her work. Be sure to read about her recent Hotel Project.

Thanks to Rachel for providing the great photos.