Rainy Day Playdough

This maybe a bit out of place on my blog, but I make playdough at least once a month with my kid and thought I’d share.

This cooked playdough recipe keeps my preschooler busy for at least a couple of hours on a rainy day. From helping to measure the ingredients, to mixing in the food coloring and then the actual playtime, we’ve got plenty to do and it keep us out of trouble.

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Combine 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup flour, 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon cooking oil and one tablespoon cream of tartar in a saucepan and cook over low heat while stirring with a fork or small whisk. Remove from heat when it just starts to clump. It’ll look a bit like mashed potatoes. Scrape sides of pan and gather into a ball as best you can.

When cooled enough to handle divide into pieces (equal to the number of colors you want to create). Knead in food coloring. I highly recommend wearing gloves to avoid staining your hands with the food coloring. Store in plastic bags.

Let the hours of fun begin!

Think Links: Work | Art | Home

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Spring is finally just around the corner. Here are a few links I recently discovered:

Workspace
I would definitely frequent this “pay-per-minute” cafe. It’s designed to build community by offering patrons a place to work and hang out for pretty much as long as they want, they just pay a small fee per minute. It’s stocked with snacks and they’ll teach you how to pull your own coffee and tea. It usually works out to be the same price as your favorite espresso drink, but without the pressure of feeling you’ve overstayed your welcome.

 

Art
After having the opportunity to see the fabulous paper cutting art show featuring the work of Karen Bit Vejle last year at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard, this art style has been catching my eye of late. Here’s a quick video I put together last year:

Now check out the work of Pablo Lehmann.  I’m once again rendered speechless at this art form. Just stunning work.

 

Home
There are days when I dream of living in a smaller home. Apparently it’s a trend and there are people living that tiny house dream. For now we’re staying put, but something to consider for the future.

Monday Links: Story | Design | Food | Life

autumn-garden-colorthink-links-logo2This week’s links to tools and inspiration:

Storytelling
Couldn’t agree more with this article’s message about licensing music for your video projects–or finding resources for free music for commercial use. Great thoughts and handy resources provided.

Web Design
I’ve been thinking to start a dedicated lifestyle-design-visual storytelling website/blog (or rename this one). Been trying to think of a name and I think this site can help. Now everytime I see a clever, unique, yet strange company name I’ll wonder if they used this tool.

Food Love
Twix bars have always been my favorite, but this homemade version I’ll have to try. It looks ridiculously delicious.

Lifestyle
My neighborhood and surrounding area is pretty bike friendly and I’ve been thinking to get my 1980-something Schwinn Traveler 10-speed bicycle overhauled. Baby steps so far towards this actually happening, but this site’s chic and fresh fashions for women cyclists has me one step closer.

In Studio with Iva Jean from Iva Jean on Vimeo.

Have a great week!

Senior photo shoot at Kirkland Marina

sp-photo-assistant1A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to assist Daria Schubert of Schubert Photo+Graphics during a senior photo shoot. We were lucky to have a great day, with not-too-harsh lighting from a partially overcast sky and the wind cooperated for the most part.

You can see more of this photo shoot and more of Daria’s amazing natural light portraits and other photography on her Schubert Design facebook page.

Thanks Daria for the gig and for the shots of me in action!

 

Kid App Review: Bugs, Buttons, Bubbles, & NumBers

what-app-logo2cAs I mentioned in this post, my preschooler daughter has an iPad, a gift from her grandparents when she turned two years old. It’s been a great addition to the family and much to our surprise, she’s not addicted to it, she doesn’t need to have it everyday, and when it’s time to turn it off she rarely has a meltdown (but it definitely has been known to happen).

I like to brag about how I find most of my daughter’s (and my own!) favorite apps for free. I thought for sure I would start out this first official Kid App Review in the series with a write up of our favorite free app. The only thing is, more often than not I find apps on “sale”—free or with a temporary price reduction. That said, this first review isn’t for a free app. It’s actually some of the more “pricey” apps I’ve purchased, but I cannot recommend these more highly.

 

Bugs & Buttons by little bit studio ($2.99)

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I can’t say enough about this app, starting with the fact that it’s 18 “games” in one app. And they are all exercises in learning a certain skill—counting, sorting, hand-eye coordination, memory matching, pattern identification, even simple physics and more. The music is also fabulous and at times ethereal and mystical. It provides a great soundtrack and keeps your energy up.

Kids love bugs and this app has a lot of them. The graphics are delightful, with whimsical illustrated characters, themes and movement. This is important to me because not only does my kid need to be engaged by the app, but as you’re supervising or playing along, you want it to be pleasing to you as well. It doesn’t take long to have an app just grate against your nerves because of bad music, a bad interface or both.

bugs-and-buttons-2My daughter has quickly become very adept at the tablet’s touch interface. She seems to instinctively know what and where to touch or swipe to create an action, even when I, on the other hand, see nothing to indicate where or what to do. The “Bugs” apps are great in another way for this non-digital-native person in that they include on-screen hints in the form of icons that help you understand what to do to initiate action. She doesn’t always need the hints, but I really find them helpful.

 

We found Bugs & Buttons a while ago and I loved it so much I kept my eye out for more apps from this developer. And we weren’t disappointed:

 

Bugs & Bubbles by little bit studio  ($2.99)

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As I mentioned, we love the Bugs and Buttons app immensely, so much that when I discovered there was a second app by little bit studios, I barely read the description before purchasing “Bugs & Bubbles.”

I especially loved the handwriting exercises on this one. My daughter learned to write her name and most of the uppercase alphabet when she was barely three years old before she started preschool, in part thanks to this app. This one also has 18 games with various learning areas for each.

 

The same for the third app in this series, as soon as I was aware of its availability I hopped on the App Store to check it out:

 

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Bugs & Numbers by little bit studios ($2.99)

Notice a theme here? Again 18 games in one app. I could almost keep my preschooler entertained with only these three apps for months. This one is all about numbers as you could probably guess. Counting to 100, fractions, money identification (coins) and counting, telling time, shapes and sizes, and more are covered. Of the three of the “Bugs” apps I have to say that this one is my favorite, probably because it’s math oriented, but also because it’s on the higher edge of my preschooler’s ability and requires a bit more involvement by dear old mom. She can’t as easily say “I can do it by myself” and I get to participate with her.

I encourage you to check to see if the developer of an app you love makes additional apps and check back often to see if they’ve added new ones. Many times, if you like the quality of the first, you’ll like the subsequent apps. There are several app makers for which I keep an eye out for new offerings. Duck Duck Moose, Peapod Labs, Spinlight Studios, Toca Boca to name a few. An added benefit to being on the lookout for related apps is that often times (not always) there is a similar user interface and “logic” in a particular developers apps that allow for kid users to begin learning and having fun in a very short time.

The “Bugs” apps are a great trio because with the addition of the “Bugs and Numbers” app, the suite makes for a great learning and entertainment platform for young kids. More than 50 educational games for under $9? I think that’s a pretty good deal.

Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite apps for school-aged kids?

 

In the next Kid App Review: A few terrific free apps!

Hilarious Slo-Motion Wedding Reception Memories

There have been quite a few hilarious viral videos making the rounds at the close of summer. This one is one of my favorites. It was shot on a Red Epic with a 18-50 lens shot at 160fps, in a 24fps sequence. The most amazing part of this to me isn’t the quality of the video (and with the Red Epic you know you’re getting the best) or the editing which is also fabulous. The most amazing aspect of this for me is the way the director must have handled the guests to get them to relax and get goofy in front of the camera.

I’d love to work on a project like this for you. If you need a video/photo booth at your upcoming wedding, corporate event, birthday or other event, contact me. I can contract with you independent of your wedding photographer to provide this service.

h/t to Daria Schubert at Schubert Design for bringing this to my attention.

UPDATE: The link posted above no longer works. Perhaps something to do with music licensing issues (the video used Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” song as the soundtrack). It has been reposted to YouTube here:

The music has been muted by YouTube so you just need to get out your phone and play the song from your  iTunes library—yeah either you or your kids have it, right? —or better yet, buy the Marvin Gaye song that “Blurred Lines” seems to be heavily influenced by.

Fruit trees and summer memories

blueberries4blog-11I grew up on a property in South Seattle with a lot of fruit trees. June cherries, July blueberries, August Italian prunes (plums), apricots and blackberries, September apples & pears (and quince too, but there was only one tree and we never found or developed a recipe that made them very desirable to eat). It was as if the original owner planned to have a new fruit coming ripe one after another all summer long. Actually, I’m sure he did. He also built the house on the property and it was a wonderful home in which to grow up. My family owned the home for more than 25 years, we enjoyed the fresh fruit all summer long almost every year.

blueberries4blog-5So much of how I remember the summers of my childhood include something to do with fruit—picking fruit, sharing fruit and of course eating fruit. Like the time my brother and I decided we couldn’t wait for our parents to get home from work to pick the delicious cherries that were at their peak. We were latchkey kids back in the day, but it wasn’t that big a deal. I was nine or ten years old and my brother three years older. We had rules like no cooking, no unapproved friends over, among many others. A big one during the summer was that we were not to climb the trees unless our parents were home.

Against the rules, we climbed the trees (all the time!), especially the cherry trees, to reach high into the branches to get the reddest, juiciest cherries. We had a couple of beautiful cherry trees that seemed built for kids to climb. And then there were others that were a little bit tricky. Well this one day we must’ve been up in the trees for at least 2 hours (there were six cherry trees). I’ve never had a strong fear of heights and I was up in the trees even higher than my older brother. We were in a cherry induced delirium, no doubt.

We were in such a stupor from the cherries that we missed The Daily Call from my mother. She called every afternoon to check how things were going, make sure we were following “the rules.” This was of course before cell phones (early 1980s) and to miss The Daily Call was tantamount to declaring we had died, or the house had burned to the ground in my mother’s mind. Not being able to reach us, she contacted my father and he had to leave work early to see what had befallen us. Unfortunately my brother realized we’d missed The Daily Call just as my father was pulling into the driveway. I on the other hand, was still in the cherry delirium. Uh-oh!

My brother tried to explain about the cherries and how they were practically speaking to us, calling our names. I don’t recall that we were severely grounded, just a stern discussion about the rules and why they exist, especially for my big brother who was responsible for me after school. I think my parents actually understood. They loved cherries too!

Seattle Center Flag Pavillion late 1970sA few years prior to that incident, my beloved grandmother (who didn’t do air travel) took the bus from Alabama to Seattle and spent a few summer weeks with us sometime around the late 1970s. (That’s me in pictured above with my grandma, mom and brother at the Seattle Center Flag Pavillion.) It must have been in August because she made the most delicious plum fruit leather I’ve ever had to this day. Soft, but chewy with just the right balance of tangy and sweet. She even cut it up and wrapped it in cellophane. She also made jars and jars of jam and jellies as grandmas must do, but the fruit leather was like candy to me as a child.

APPLESThen there was the year we had so many apples my parents invited several families from our elementary school PTA over for a cider party. The school principal brought his vintage wooden cider press and the families brought their empty milk bottles. We sent every family home with several gallons of fresh cider each and a few boxes of apples too!

blueberries4blog-7And the blueberries. There were so many that we’d invite the neighbors over to pick them during the prime window of ripeness. We’d arm ourselves with the biggest Tupperware mixing bowls we could find along with any plastic cup with a handle. The handle was ever so important to the picking technique so that you could hook the cup on your thumb and pretty much pick with 2 hands. In a couple of hours we’d pick a mountain of berries. We always gave away more berries than we ate.

My family sold the property more than a decade ago, but my mom transplanted a few of those trees to her current house and she’s added new ones. She gives us a few quarts of her harvest each year. I’m not big on blueberries cooked in various other foods (I.e. Muffins, pancakes, pie, etc). Having practically grown up on a fruit farm, I’m spoiled for fresh fruit and that’s the almost only way I’ll eat it most of the time.

blueberries4blog-4Harvesting fruit trees on your property, or tending a garden with family and friends can create wonderful memories to last a lifetime. Every time I have plums or fruit leather I think of my grandmother. I’d love to have pictures of her making fruit leather when she was here in Seattle. I encourage you to pull out your camera from time to time to capture those memories. Then once you have a few moments recorded, don’t just leave them on your computer or external hard drive. I’d love to knit together your images into home movies or a photo slideshow you’ll love to watch over and over for many years to come.

Last year we purchased a couple of small blueberry bushes and they’ve really taken off in size. My husband, unlike me, loves blueberry cooked in anything. I would love to grow enough to have blueberry pancakes once or twice a month year round as a special treat. Our blueberry harvest will probably total around a quart this year (I’m being optimistic), but we think we chose a good spot for the bushes to thrive into the future and make great family memories for many years to come.

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More Product Photos: Vintage Table Linens

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Happy Monday! Here are the results from Friday’s photo shoot, this time pretty vintage table linens. The location was tight, so I had to get creative with the angles. Again, these will be for sale in the near future in the BellaGrace Inspired vintage and handmade store on Etsy.

[UPDATE: These pretty vintage linens and a few other pieces are now currently for sale in the BellaGrace Inspired Esty store!]

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I was listening to ( and sometimes watching) the fantastic food photography workshop on creativeLive while prepping the linens (ironing…) and setting the scene. It provided wonderful real time tips and also inspiration. All I needed to complete the picture was fantastic looking food.

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Have a wonderful week!

Etsy Photo Shoot: Vintage brass doorknobs

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I was very pleased with the results of today’s photo shoot. It was a grouping of vintage Victorian era brass door knobs. The polished brass in the ceramic bowl, against the dark background made for an interesting vignette. Props are so important to setting the scene. Rustic southwest ceramic with traditional Victorian? Interesting intersection of time, place and cultures, but I think it works. These classic doorknobs will be for sale in the BellaGraceInspired etsy store very soon.

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brass doorknobs in ceramic bowl

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bowl of vintage brass doorknobs