July 31, 2010

Week[ending] the Scent of Memory

We visited a local lavender farm today, and enjoyed a cloud-filled breezy day in the country.

We toured the walking path + meditation space in the woods, spread out the picnic blanket by the pond, and then picked a nice handful bouquet of sweetly smelling lavender. The very scent of memory.

Lovely and unforgettable start to the weekend, surely.

July 30, 2010

Beautiful Normal

Piles of books on school desks. Opening the wild minds and imaginations of the Craunlets -- and traveling us all over the world together.

July 27, 2010

Kindergarten, Are You Serious?!

Never before now have I fully understood the implications of the seasonal marketing phrase: back-to-school. Daunting, dear friends. A cocktail of absolutely overwhelming emotion, preparation and exorbitant spending.

And we are only facing Kindergarten. Good Lord, how could that sweet Belle be so ready; so grown up, independent, and confidently five? As we face August this weekend, I am already trying to hit the brakes, and slow the pace of this last summer before school. Trying desperately to slow down the calendar as we piece together and purchase all of her anticipated school needs. And just soak up the few remaining days of all-day-freedom.

First to be crossed off the list, the school uniform:

The oh-my-goodness-cute navy jumpers with little button down peter-pan-collared tops in pale blue and white. I get all school-girl-giddy just thinking about it. And the endless always-matching combinations that she can dream up each morning.

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XIV

My morning was spent in the company of several dear friends and their babes. A sweet and weekly sharing of life that I look forward to immensely. It is a treasure to see the deep and real relationships that are building between our children, and life words that we can speak into one another. And the feast that also gathers with us in pot-luck style, that is casually different each week but somehow always extravagant and delicious as well. Sharing conversation, laughs, play and food; all the best things in this life.

For this week's ten, I am thankful for:

131. to-live-for chocolate mousse cake with cinnamon espresso crust, and eating cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

132. artist-made jewelry to celebrate the interstice between two seasons, and pausing more often to take notice. Rainy seasons that make way for seasons of hope and promise. These two pieces were created by MIXKO.

133. glittery treasure boxes sent to long-distance friends.

134. sunflowers that are standing strong at nearly 3 feet now. Spreading open their lush green and larger leaves. How these plants have taught us this summer about survival, strength, and hope in the unseen.

135. children who are immediately moved to make i'll miss you cards for friends that are moving out of state shortly. The compassion and generosity of their hearts is daily convicting.

136. a garden that bears fruit, also, this season's first and forthcoming fresh salsa made entirely from the kitchen garden.

137. summer reading programs, and actual printed books made of paper pages and sturdy covers.

138. a freshly painted kitchen, and the over-painted and forever gone bubble-gum-pink with breath-of-pink stamped flowers and all-over-glittery clear coat that once was. Also, the subsequent cleaning and organization of the space -- now so tall and bright.

139. parents that graciously still help us meet our needs, and the needs of our children.

140. summer play that involves: woods, playgrounds, splashing water fountains, bubbles + sidewalk chalk with my two favorite little people.

Hope your summer is filling up with as many similar notes to savor and be thankful for. As we inch into August by the week's end, we are trying soak up every last minute.

July 26, 2010

Craunlets, Castles, and the Magic that is Summer

We drove for who knows how long down a road named who knows what through who knows how many towns, and treasured upon the sweetest remains of a magical castle within the Cleveland Metroparks. It is Squires Castle, precisely, and it is situated within the North Chagrin River Reservation.

After much play in and outside the Castle, as well as a small picnic in her grand sweeping and vast front lawn, we drove forever through woods that likened fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood. It was the grandest of summer morning excursions.

Summer play with the Craunlets has proven so magical, and unbelievably restorative to the weary busy of the semester schedule. See more of our latest adventures and explorations at our updated picture pages right here.

July 23, 2010

The Compulsion to Rescue

Even though my studio-slash-office space is in a total do-over state currently, I am dragging in rejects for her already. Its a terrible thing; a nagging and unrelenting of hopeful potential for things no longer wanted. The resuscitation. I must pull over. The former life of the discarded object implores me. The piece recalls its days of youth, urges me that I can re-entertain those with it for many useful years to come. Two years ago it was dressers; I couldn't get enough chests of drawers. Last year it was vintage round side tables, and bookshelves--all of which are full now, and over flowing with covers and pages. And last night, this gem of a worn drafting table.

I couldn't get over the story that my mind created about this piece. I dreamed like reality of the father who made it for his child. The hours of planning and construction. The gathering of all of the materials and the hardware. The crafted in adjustable flexibility of both the table top angle, and also the height of the legs. Ensuring that it might always be useful. The record of all the art and ideas tested and seen to fruition on its marred and palimpsestic surface.

Next, I was heartbroken and empathetic alongside the anonymous tenant who dragged it down to the curb. Maybe, just like that fabulous red velvet kidney bean couch the Dave and I irrationally discarded on a late night move in college just a week before we got married. It was that one last thing that we just could not fit into the already too full truck from loading our two apartments. And I could weep a thousand rivers over that loss. The way the light filtered through the window would warm her perfectly for an afternoon nap. How her curved high back would hold you just snugly arched within her arms. So apropos and bittersweetly fitting that she would again be left behind, as we procured her in the rain, from the drop-off of a second hand store just a few doors down from Dave's apartment. And I still recall the frustrated and smoking employee who couldn't drag her in that back door. She just didn't fit. And we gave him five dollars I think. And we carried her home, and dried her off.

And I think about all of these objects not fitting. Once fitting, and no longer fitting. And our house now becomes an island of misfits. A furniture recovery program. Some sort of crazy safe house for all the cast away.

And my husband who could just go mad when I bring yet another thing in. With so many alreadies on the waiting list. So this morning, I set an empty chest of drawers in the tree lawn as an exchange of sorts. And it was gone in minutes to a new home, a new use. And then I moved the drafting table upstairs and into that vacant-for-just-a-moment spot.

July 22, 2010

Gearing up for Playcation

Daily, we are making grand efforts to ready ourselves for the Team Craun Annual Playcation. This will be year three.

We pack up the household, point it towards Chicago, and play daily with the Grand Dubs hitting all of the local playgrounds and parks we can find. We are further excited that this year will also include a couple days with the Seckman's, as they coordinated their visit dates to the Grand Dubs to overlap our stay. I cannot wait for all that play!

Creativity has Flown the Coop

Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. Don't I know it? I culled this quote from an incredible article about America's Creativity Crisis, and boy does it resonate.

It also arrives with particularly interesting timing for me, as ironically, this morning I stumbled upon the very teacher I student-taught under--one who really pushed me forward with creative thinking and implementation in the classroom. He challenged everything that I was taught, and accepted as normal and logical and effective. I remember my first classroom observation; children were making drawings on their tabletops with ice cubes. As the ice melted, the students shifted around the pooling water making temporary image. I remember being further amazed by the discussion that followed.

The article provided much interesting thought data and analysis about how we approach creativity and problem solving. Below is my favorite excerpt, and I find it both a provocative and digestible read:

When you try to solve a problem, you begin by concentrating on obvious facts and familiar solutions, to see if the answer lies there. This is a mostly left-brain stage of attack. If the answer doesn’t come, the right and left hemispheres of the brain activate together. Neural networks on the right side scan remote memories that could be vaguely relevant. A wide range of distant information that is normally tuned out becomes available to the left hemisphere, which searches for unseen patterns, alternative meanings, and high-level abstractions.

Having glimpsed such a connection, the left brain must quickly lock in on it before it escapes. The attention system must radically reverse gears, going from defocused attention to extremely focused attention. In a flash, the brain pulls together these disparate shreds of thought and binds them into a new single idea that enters consciousness. This is the “aha!” moment of insight, often followed by a spark of pleasure as the brain recognizes the novelty of what it’s come up with.

Now the brain must evaluate the idea it just generated. Is it worth pursuing? Creativity requires constant shifting, blender pulses of both divergent thinking and convergent thinking, to combine new information with old and forgotten ideas. Highly creative people are very good at marshaling their brains into bilateral mode, and the more creative they are, the more they dual-activate.

The article in full is a terrific read, check it out here. It even mentions a great new public middle school in Akron, the National Inventors Hall of Fame School.

Aside from the exhaustion it encourages, I absolutely enjoy coaxing the Craunlets' creativity; these little expert problem-solvers and zealous creative thinkers. I hope the foundation we are laying with them is unbreakable and not-forgettable as they progress through school and culture. I want them to wonder and ask questions with abandon, consider, and propose strategies and solutions, and have many opportunities to implement them--continuing to keep our life moving and not stagnant.

July 21, 2010

The Fruit Fly Countertop Circus

I love having an abundance of fresh produce. And nothing beats summer's piled-up full fruit bowl ripening to perfection in the indirectly sunny spot on the counter. Though somehow, relentlessly, what always and instantly accompanies all of that yum are those awful fruit flies. Doing the same happy dance as I am over all of that fruit -- but ever so annoying.

So, I researched some home remedy solutions to keep these little flying things at bay. And I stumbled upon one, and several really, over at re-nest. Check out the one I fashioned mine after, right here. It called for apple cider vinegar, a jar, and a sheet of paper -- rolled into a cone. I easily whipped mine up in less than 15 minutes. I even used scalloped scissors to fancy up the edge a bit.

When scouring my kitchen pantry, I decided to use not just apple cider vinegar, but also a little grapefruit balsamic we had on hand--remembering that flies have a hankering to swarm around the citrus family. As if that weren't enough, I garnished the liquid mixture with two wedges of an orange that we had left over from lunch.

And, people -- it is like live entertainment -- the flies immediately flock to this thing. Darting, and crawling down the funnel, just above the liquid, and then seemingly forget the way out. The gluttons plunge and drink themselves to death; the majority swarm the perimeter of the inner jar and paper funnel. A day later, the Dave released the survivors outside. I am still amazed at how quickly and effectively the whole thing worked. And it felt good to be able to let the majority of them live, too, but to have helped them relocate.

July 20, 2010

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XIII

Summer is in full swing here; we are adapting to the sticking-around heat wave, and are carving out morning play times to beat the temperatures.

This week I am overwhelmingly thankful for life. I feel like in the midst of all the crazy, I am slowly getting better at paying attention to the gifts of the beautiful mundane. And I am ever appreciative of family and friends that journey this mess alongside me.

For today's installment of ten, I am thankful for:

121. Fabulous charming dishtowels that are delightfully fraying out with use. Lovingly and well made by my sister, see her Etsy shop here. It is nice to have something so delightfully functional to use daily in the kitchen. Each flour sack towel has a gorgeous applique' scene on one side and a patchwork stripe of several contemporary polka-dot fabrics on the other. The best of fun and functional.

122. A garden that is still giving. Despite all of my discouragement. The relentless persistence of those plants bearing fruit is such an amazing gift and sweet reminder of life and all of its mysteries. This weekend we picked a small handful of cherry tomatoes -- and also took note of several fruit-bearing branches on the other tomato plants that just might be surviving the juglone scare after all.

123. Our bridge is open!! The Fulton bridge is at last open again. We celebrated in Team Craun style with a trek to the other side, all the way down to the playground at the Brookside Reservation, and back. The Craunlets' little legs pedaled them a whopping 2.2 miles.

124. Emergency gas line repairs. And the live entertainment it has afforded us, including a visit from the fire department and a couple of firefighters dressed in full garb, random workers with dump trucks and back hoes, big holes, street-side parking tickets, and muddy-filled gulches. Now, if we could please get some concrete soon?

125. Rainbows. And fun summery matching manicures and pedicures using a spectrum of colored polishes. Also, ticklish little feet, and the two pairs of them we enjoy teasing on a near-daily basis.

126. A weekend day alone with the husband. Playing in downtown Akron, with the abandon of our long-past college days.

127. Sweet Isabella's very big decision. She contemplated and discussed all of last week, and prayed on Sunday morning; asking Jesus into her heart.

128. Buying local. Hesitating on all of our too-easy "click + ship" shopping. Investing a bit more time to do some local business research and more intentional spending to keep our dollars in our region's economy. Also, finding a neighborhood bike shop that carries a certain Radio Flyer scooter; a surprise for the Craunlets for #130.

130. the plans already in progress for the annual Playcation to go see the Grand Dubs. Always a fun solid week that provides a little jaunt downtown for me and the Mister, as well as tons of playground adventures and ice cream and family time. Such a high note to end the summer on, before the return to the normal; with the academic calendar re-beginning and the little Miss Bella starting Kindergarten.

*** edit ***

129. spending considerably less time on facebook and all of my other online time-wasters. The subsequent more time spent blowing bubbles, playing in water fountains, and teaching the Craunlets how to chew bubble gum. All of the important stuff, of course.

July 19, 2010

Pretending to Live Pre-K Again

Saturday, the fabulously handsome Dave and I had a wedding to attend in Akron, one with a glorious multi-hour afternoon break before the cocktails and dinner reception.

What to do with an afternoon too far from home to return? Oh Joy, a babe free day and evening! All dolled up as adults with nothing to do but enjoy the day--downtown, we headed. We indulged ourselves with fancy coffee drinks, and spent the afternoon at the Akron Art Museum and just savored the sweet quiet and uninterrupted conversation.

The terrific new building was alight with sunshine and architectural shadow. And the Detroit Disassembled Photography exhibition was beyond incredible. Andrew Moore's super large photographs--acutely detailed and stunning shots--were a pleasure to see in person. The triumph of nature upon man's abandoned built world is both tragically eerie and breathtakingly beautiful.

A day without kids was overwhelmingly over due for me and the Mister.
What a treat to be afforded this pleasure.

July 15, 2010

Succession of Sunny Days

It should always be this free and easy.

Summer, I am loving you all of a sudden.

July 13, 2010

Gratis, For this I am So Thankful XII

I love how Tuesdays slow the start of my weeks. Monday's tend to be a bit frenetic in this household, as we all reset and readjust back into the new week from the freedoms of the weekend. And Monday's tomorrow always takes a breath. An unhurried restart. More conscious and aware of the newness, but not as overwhelmed and daunted.

It has been a melodious week for me, a nice balance of work and play with sweet and timely interludes of rest. Trying to take it all in, and savor every juicy morsel--today, I find myself quite thankful for:

111. The exchanges of rain and sun, and the glorious growth that together they encourage.

112. A little boy who loves his baby doll. The tender sweet fathering and doting, and imaginary friendship.

113. A little girl who becomes more and more girlie by the minute. One who takes pleasure in purses, and earrings, matching hair ribbons, nail polish and lip gloss.

114. A garden--amidst all the work and frustration and occasional disappointment--that is growing. And growing food. Fresh, crisp sweetly wonderful tasting food.

115. My dear friend from college. And our recent get-together with each of our two babes, exploring the Akron Zoo. A magical trip sandwiched with Thunderstorms. And these two tacky cute souvenir lunch boxes that I splurged on for the Craunlets. There is something both eerie and charming about them to me...I couldn't resist. Plus, it provided a healthy snack lunch as opposed to all the junk food options adjacent them.

116. Cheese Strudel. Shared in the company of friends at a little hole-in-the-wall Hungarian diner in Cleveland. Absolutely delicious.

117. Seasons that stretch and grow. Learning more about myself, and remembering the truth with this sweet little pick-me-up reminder card that I keep on my dresser.

118. Babies and the wild raucous laughter of toddlers. Having a house that welcomes them, and all the merry good times that abound in play and conversation. And getting out all of the "retired" toys to share with our littler friends. All of the fairy tale plushies, and brightly colored wood rattles and clutches.

119. Friends that come over with grand surprises, entirely unexpected lavishing on us. And unknowingly gifting me something I have long been pining for. And in the loveliest of vintage yellows. Old and sturdy, but tenderly and well loved. She is such a perfect fit in my kitchen.

120. Cleveland. I am so hopeful for this city. Glad to live, work + make art in this city. Raising and teaching the Craunlets to invest in their city with all of their hearts.

Happy week, friends. The sun is shining here, and we must go out and play.

Seemingly Sudden Death

It was something we sort of knew in the back of our minds. We had read and been told both that black walnut trees are not always the best of companions to many gardens. Somehow we thought dismissing the obvious facts, the three huge Walnut trees at the back of the yard, and all of the anecdotal bits of trivia that link the knowledge of their toxicity well back into the Roman years, would perhaps make the potential poison possibility go away as well. We hoped well beyond our understanding otherwise. And the plants themselves, continued to root us on in our foolish denial, as they began to tower, bloom, and even grow sumptuous fruit.

Above is what our tomato plants looked like not too long ago. Remember? That is until they all took a nosedive straight down to death. All of them. At once. A halt. Collectively moaning in their soil. Yellow, and wilted, almost shriveled, and frustrated by the weight of their green fruits. UNREAL. Apparently, its to do with the juglone -- a chemical that black walnuts contain -- and it is pretty much poison to a whole swath of the potential produce in our kitchen garden. Most notably tomatoes, and also peppers, and even cabbage.

They call it walnut wilting. And there is no magic healing, no reversal. They have basically been slowly ingesting poison, and starving themselves of nutrients, until practically overnight, our tomatoes had all the symptoms; yellowing, wilting and it seems sudden death. See??

Why is growing a garden so emotional? Seriously, I am mourning the loss. To see so many plants, tall, well supported, dotted with green fruits, at once alive, and now crumbling towards the soil. Passing. Slowly, quietly...destructing. It will be a miracle at this point, if a single fruit matures. And naively, I am still hopeful, and even imploring for just one. Just one rosy red tomato from my little bit of earth. Maybe? Regardless, I refuse to dig them up until they fully decompose.

On a brighter note, it does look like we might get some carrots. I pulled the one pictured above, the other day--full of anxiety over the lost tomatoes, and overwhelmed also with impatience of waiting on the unknowns growing beneath the soil--and to my delight, I found a sweetly orange and growing strong little carrot. And I admired the crowded patches of healthy looking green tops that fill two sizable portions of our remaining gardens. And I feasted on the few small bites that it offered. Celebrating victory, adjacent to such loss.

July 12, 2010

The Sweet Ordinary

I have been overwhelmed with paying attention these last two weeks. Intentionally slowing the life pace, and tuning into all the ordinary minutes of the day. And life is a sweet thing. When we are fully present. Paying attention. Speaking Love. Sharing in the wonderful tide of giving and receiving. Being vulnerable, and real. Laughing, relating.

Bella received these very lovely simple clips from her Grandma this last week. And she loves them. They are girly, sweetly charming and functional. And they make her heart smile. They are handmade by the same fabulous maker of her delightful babushka doll that happily resides on her bed, pictured here.

It's these simple connections. These paying attentions. And sweet nothings. Little pleasures. And all of these items have been bought locally at various art venues, adding to their sweetness, keeping dollars and patronage in our local economy. What a win. For all of us. Connected. Somehow making this world, and this community a smaller place. And that hope makes my adult heart sing.

July 11, 2010

Keeping Sabbath

We spent our day of rest pretty intentionally doing just that.

Our afternoon consisted of eating ice cream, walking the shoreline enjoying sand and water between our toes, cloud watching, and eating our dinner outside on a patio that overlooks a ravine, large waterfall, and a ginormous train bridge. Then we walked off all of the day's indulgences on a Metropark trail near the river, and exploring an old covered bridge before returning home.


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