Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Beat the Heat with Night Gardening

One problem many gardeners face is how to spruce up planting beds in triple didget temperatures.  A good solution is to garden during evening hours when temps are lower.  If your home is not well-lit at night, wearing a head lamp may be a solution (the kind miners wear).  Handle lighted areas at night and less lit areas in early morning hours. 

At our house we involve the entire family.  My teenage son helps with things like carrying heavy watering cans, while the younger kids help pull weeds and pick up yard debris.  During our time in the garden we discuss the different plants and their needs, and what else we may want to plant later in the season.  Working together in comfortable temperatures at night, when we are all relaxed and unhurried, is a wonderful way to bond and get those planting bed ship-shape.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Appropriate Children's Parties

I was asked recently by a friend for ideas for her daughters birthday party. This is a really loaded question. Parties in recent years have gotten more and more elaborate (and more and more expensive). Partly due the economy and partly due to the return of sanity, there is a shift to parties that focus more on the kids and less on giving a show for the other parents.
Let's me start by saying I love my kids. They know this. I do not need to put on an over-the-top display of craziness for them to feel loved. Now that we have gotten this minor piece of therapy out of the way, we can plan a fun, kid focused party.
Cost - Decide on a budget first. This will determine many of the things that follow. Low budget birthdays are better staged at home, whereas a little bit bigger budget opens up options of off-site possibilities. One thing to remember is that although a birthday party at a play-type venue may seem much more expensive, make sure you consider all that is included. Once you buy all of the paper products, food, and entertainment (depending on what you are planning), you may save money or come out pretty close to the same in terms of cost.
Venue - Determine an appropriate place for the party. Many people like off-site parties to limit in-house mess. I tend to agree with this, although I have had very fun at home parties that did not result in Christmas morning type mess making. One great thing about having the party elsewhere is that it does give the kids a sense of "special occasioness" (my own word invention - feel free to use it!).
Theme - If your child has their heart set on a themed party you don't have to break the bank to pull it off. If, for example, you sweetness wants a princess party, you do not have to clean the store out of every princess themed plate, napkin, balloon, and party favor they have. Let the cake or cupcakes set the theme. Perhaps get some themed plates, and let the other party supplies play a supporting role in a less-expensive coordinating solid color.
Parents - If you are inviting minor children to a party it is a safe bet they will come with a parent in tow. Although I don't think you have to go party crazy, you should consider the parents when planning the event. Many places that cater to kids needs (especially the non-chain places) will let you bring food more geared to adult tastes. I recently had a party for my daughter at just such a place, and they had no problem with bringing some adult food, and some fresh and healthy additions to their pizza for the kids.
Decoration - Decorating is fine, just don't go insane. I like to rely mostly on lovely serving pieces that I have invested in over the years to add a special touch. White table cloths are wonderful to make any table a little less ordinary. I also like to use goody bags and treats to add some color.
A child's birthday party need not be an ordeal. A simple home-spun party with homemade cupcakes and simple outdoor games can be just a fun an the most over-thought, over-done, mega party.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer is Still Time for Learning

Although school is out, summer can still be filled with all sorts of meaningful learning. The school year is often overtaken with activities like dance lessons, sports games and practices, church, and piano lessons just to name a few. I like to take advantage of the slower summer pace to teach the kids skills that the school year just will not allow for.
I encourage my girls interest in sewing, embroidery, and other crafts by having "classes" once or twice a week for them. They look forward to "classes" and take and active interest in the "subject" for that week. I have even included my son, who is a typical teenager in every way, in the fun. We all spend time in the garden weeding, planting, caring for, and learning about plants in the garden.
Take time in summer to encourage your child to try new activities. It is wonderful bonding time, and it may just spark a life-long interest.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pretty Crafty School Clothes

School clothes shopping can be a dreaded part of getting kids ready to go back to school. An inexpensive and fun alternative to joining the herds of people at the mall (all shopping from the same tired and often inappropriate selections) is to make your own. Now, before you sigh and say you are no seamstress, there are many outfits that are so easy, you need little to no experience with a sewing machine.