Cool Tween Boy Room

Oh wow! I did not realize that a whole year has gone by since our oldest moved into his own room. This was formerly J’s nursery, so it is a small space. The bed I built out of IKEA Expedit shelves has been one of the most popular projects on the blog. I’m finally getting around to showing you the rest of the room, now that its occupant is away on a school trip.  He’s actually pretty neat for a fifth grader, but I still needed a little uninterrupted time to make the room blog-worthy.  Of course, this means I will be showing you the younger boys’ room in approximately… never?!

Because I wanted to make the most of this small space, I did buy a lot of the furniture new.  But when I look at the room, I realize there are also a lot of personal home-made touches.  I’ll list the projects at the end of this post.  Meanwhile, go ahead and enjoy looking at K’s room, which will look like this for exactly 13 more days, until he gets home.  I did update a few things, and I hope he’ll think they are a good “welcome home” surprise!

Cool and compact tween boy's room | Jewels at Home

Cool and compact tween boy's room | Jewels at Home

Cool and compact tween boy's room | Jewels at Home

20140330-181039.jpg

Cool and compact tween boy's room | Jewels at Home

Cool and compact tween boy's room | Jewels at Home

Cool and compact tween boy's room | Jewels at Home

Cool and compact tween boy's room | Jewels at HomeSome of the fun projects in K’s room include:

Boy, I miss my boy!

“Jewels”

 

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“Thankful Leaves” Fabric Garland for Thanksgiving

At Thanksgiving, I love the idea of creating a record of what we are thankful for, to help us reflect and to look back at over the years. I’ve seen this done on tablecloths or paper leaves hung on branches or strung in a garland. To make out garland more durable, I wanted to make it out of fabric.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

Materials:

Instructions:

  • iron the Heat’n Bond to the felt or fabric and then iron on to the muslin or canvas, according to the instructions on the package. (left picture below)
  • make paper templates of a variety of leaf shapes. (right picture below)
  • trace the leaves with pencil onto the muslin and cut out.

Tutorial for Thanksgiving felt leaf garland, with muslin backing for writing what we are grateful for { from Jewels at Home}

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Let each family member choose a leaf and write their message with Sharpie or fabric markers on the muslin.

Tutorial for Thanksgiving felt leaf garland with muslin backing to write what we're thankful for.  {from Jewels at Home}

The boys writing on their “thankful leaves” to hang on the garland.

To hang the leaves, I used this sweet print that I bought on a birthday shopping spree. I didn’t even know what I would use it for when I bought it (don’t judge!), but it’s perfect for this project, with the orange-y red color and the tree silhouettes.

Charming print used for a Thanksgiving garland.  Jewels at Home.

For each garland, I cut two strips of 4.25″ wide fabric and joined it into a long strip. I folded and ironed it in half length-wise, with the right sides facing. I used pins to mark every five inches where I would leave an opening to insert a leaf, with room for 15 leaves on each garland.

I sewed around the edge of the fabric, leaving a gap at each pin a 10″ opening in the center.

I then turned the hanging strip right side out, and slipped in the leaves. I sewed in the ones we had already written on, and I pinned the rest with safety pins, so we can take them down to write on before sewing into the garland in years to come.

Here are the garlands in our dining room, getting us in the mood for fall ,though the weather is decidedly warm!  Together with the metallic painted pumpkins I created last year, the garlands are bringing the colors of the season into our home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

A charming fall garland made of fabric leaves.  Over the years, each family member can record a Thanksgiving reflection on the back of a leaf to create a special tradition.  Jewels at Home.

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you have as much to be thankful for as we do!

“Jewels”

 

Decorate Aprons – Gifts for Dad

As I have mentioned before, Steve’s birthday and Father’s day are very close to each other, and most years, he gets a combined Happy-Father’s-Birthday-Day celebration. Last year, we went low-frills when I helped the kids make some creative cards for dad.

This year, we’re making some practical gifts with a personal touch – paint your own mugs and aprons. We did the mugs last weekend, while Steve was out for a long run, and they are cute!

Next up: aprons for our amateur Iron Chef.

Decorate "tie" and "medal" aprons for Father's Day.  Unique gifts for dad from kids | Jewels at Home

To make the aprons, I used:

I prewashed the aprons to shrink them and remove some of the sheen to help the colors stay. I then ironed them and pinned them on cardboard, to make it easier to draw. I made two templates: a “tie” apron and a “medal” apron, the latter because Steve ran the San Francisco Marathon on Father’s Day this year!

Decorate "tie" and "medal" aprons for Father's Day.  Templates to make unique gifts for dad from kids | Jewels at Home

Then, we each added out own embellishments, and I love how unique the creations turned out to be.

Decorate "tie" and "medal" aprons for Father's Day.  Make unique gifts for dad from kids | Jewels at Home

Decorate "tie" and "medal" aprons for Father's Day.  Make unique gifts for dad from kids | Jewels at Home

Decorate "tie" and "medal" aprons for Father's Day.  Make unique gifts for dad from kids | Jewels at Home

Decorate "tie" and "medal" aprons for Father's Day.  Make unique gifts for dad from kids | Jewels at Home

Decorate "tie" and "medal" aprons for Father's Day.  Make unique gifts for dad from kids | Jewels at Home

Happy Father’s Day to a loving, patient, and inspiring guy!  We love you!

“Jewels”

Decorate Ceramic Mugs – Gifts for Dad

Steve’s birthday and Father’s day always fall within the same week, and I am sad to confess that he tends to get short-changed with a combined Happy-Father’s-Birthday-Day celebration. Add to the scheduling issues the fact that we are often traveling around that time of year, and sometimes the best I can do is help the kids make some creative cards for dad.

This year, I am planning ahead just a little more, and we have two separate (gasp!) projects to make. Of course, I love doing something handmade, especially from the kids. But I also wanted to make sure that our gifts were practical and I think our projects- mugs and aprons – are perfect!

Help the kids decorate plain mugs for a Father's Day gift | Jewels at Home

This morning, the boys and I decorated some coffee cups for Father’s Day – or his birthday – I haven’t decided which is which. This is a fitting gift, because a) Steve’s ability to function as a human being is closely tied to caffeine and b) we keep breaking our cups, so we need more. Not glamorous, but true.

Being an avid fan of Pinterest, I have of course seen the posts about decorating mugs with Sharpies. On closer reading of reviews, however, this might not be as durable as I ideally want. I did, however, find recommendations for these Pebeo Vitrea 160 Glossy Markers. They are meant for glass but also work on ceramics. The colors are very bright, and the markers are easy to use. The one thing I would mention is that these are really paint pens, meaning the paint can splatter, so wear a smock or something you don’t mind getting a few spots on. (Yes, I speak from experience. My cream-colored blouse was an unlucky wardrobe choice, but fortunately the spots are very small.)

Long-lasting dishwasher-resistant markers/ paint pens for glass and ceramics | Jewels at Home

We each decorated one of these White Ceramic Mugs and wrote our names and the date on the bottom.

Use ceramic paint pens for vibrant durable art on plain cups.  Father's Day gifts.  Jewels at Home

Use ceramic paint pens for vibrant durable art on plain cups.  Father's Day gifts.  Jewels at Home

I’ll be baking these to set the color when Steve is at work one day, and I look forward to surprising him with them in a couple of weeks!

“Jewels”

Sesame Noodles with Chicken

I’ll admit I’m not the main cook in our family – thanks, Steve! – but I do have a few dishes that I rely on to get a good, healthy meal on the table, and this is one of them. Our whole family loves the taste of this take on Chinese sesame noodles, and I love that you can pack it full of veggies that the kids will eat.  Since it can be served cold, it’s also a good meal to make ahead for hectic weeknights.

Ingredients:

For the noodles:

  • 5 medium carrots
  • 1.5 bundles buckwheat noodles
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 stalks green onions
  • 1 1/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken meat

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup tahini, peanut butter, sunflower butter or a combination of these
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger powder
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp chili paste (I leave this on the side, when cooking for the kids)

Instructions:

  • Boil the chicken until cooked. Cool and shred
  • Shred carrots to similar width as noodles using mandolin or food processor.  Boil until soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Slice cucumbers into thick strips with a mandolin or knife.
  • Slice green onions into long strips with a knife.  Place in the bottom of a colander or sieve.
  • Boil noodles according to instructions.  Drain in a colander over the green onions, to soften the green onions.
  • Mix all the above in a large bowl and then prepare the sauce (see below)

Here are the ingredients (sans chicken), waiting to be mixed:

Recipe for sesame noodles full of vegetables!  {Jewels at Home}

Sesame noodles full of vegetables!

Mix the ingredients for the sauce together and then stir into the noodle mixture.  You can serve this dish hot, cold, or anywhere in-between.

Asian sesame noodle recipe with lots of veggies the kids will eat! {Jewels at Home}

Asian sesame noodle recipe with lots of veggies the kids will eat!

H0pe you enjoy this addition to your family’s menu!

“Jewels”

 

Clothespin Wreath Advent Calendar

My brain has been whirling with all the creative advent calendar ideas out there. I grew up with a beautiful felt advent calendar my mom made, and I want to recreate something like that for our boys. While I’m still mulling over all the options for the long term, it is the end of November, so for this year, I’ve decided to make a clothespin wreath using Christmas wrapping paper and scrapbook papers to hold 24 cards with activities we can do together through the month.

Clothespin wreath advent calendar with an activity for each day {Jewels at Home}

Clothespin wreath advent calendar with an activity for each day.

The instructions for the wreath are detailed in the previous post. The only changes were that I made this wreath a bit bigger (13″ diameter) to accomodate 24 pins, and I added numbers to the pins for each day. The numbers are stickers on punched out circles, and I used removable tape to stick them on the clothespins, in case we use this wreath for pictures or cards in the future.

Clothespin wreath for Christmas makes a lovely advent calendar or card display {Jewels at Home}

Clothespin wreath for Christmas makes a lovely advent calendar or card display.

Numbers for a clothespin advent calendar {Jewels at Home}

Numbers for a clothespin advent calendar

Clothespin wreath advent calendar {Jewels at Home}

For the activity cards, I printed 2″x4″ shipping labels with 24 different activities, one for each day. There are lots of options – here are some I thought would be fun to do with the kids this year. I’d love to hear what you are planning, too!

  • Get a Christmas tree
  • Decorate the Christmas tree
  • Write Christmas wish list
  • Make ornaments
  • Holiday Faire at school
  • Make a gift for a friend or family member
  • Give a homemade gift
  • Drink hot chocolate
  • Go see Christmas lights
  • Wrap presents
  • Make snowflakes
  • Read How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Read The Polar Express
  • Prepare Christmas “thank you” cards
  • Donate food
  • Donate toys
  • Decorate a gingerbread house
  • Visit reindeer at the zoo
  • Watch “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”
  • Watch “Frosty the Snowman”
  • Make a snowman pizza
  • Bake Christmas cookies
  • Write cards for teachers
  • Deliver gifts to teachers
  • Family game night
  • Snowman pancakes for breakfast
  • Mail Christmas cards
  • Brunch with Santa (like family photos, this is a strange torture I cannot resist!)
  • Call relatives and sing carols to them
  • Movie night (this is a Christmas Eve tradition for us)

I stuck the labels on cardstock in Christmas colors and patterns and then clipped them to the wreath, with the labels facing the back. We can turn over one each day!

Clothespin wreath advent calendar with a special activity for each day {Jewels at Home}

Clothespin wreath advent calendar with a special activity for each day.

Maybe I’ll come up with a new advent calendar next year, or maybe this wreath will become our tradition. I think I’m at least as excited as the boys for the countdown to Christmas!

“Jewels”

I shared this project at:
Somewhat Simple

Decorate a Quilt Block – Party Activity

It has been a few months since I organized a bug-themed birthday party for our six year -old. At the party, he and his friends drew pictured on blank quilt blocks, and I’m finally getting around to finishing the quilt.

This was a very simple quilt but one with a lot of meaning. My friend Ari’s mother is a talented quilter, and Ari and I had helped her make quilts for the school auction, first with our older kids’ class and more recently with our younger ones. Through some type of temporary school spirit insanity, hubby ended up purchasing the first quilt, but our wallets were not up buying another quilt this year, and I wanted to find a way to make it up to our second boy. As I am sure all of you with multiple children know, our love for each of them is unique, but it does seem that the second – and in this case also middle – child tends to feel a need to fight for your attention and love. This instinct can make our dear boy act out some times, and I’m always looking for ways to remind him that he is special. This quilt was a part of that effort as well.

Before the party, I cut 7.5″x7.5″ squares of white pre-washed cotton and taped them on to cardboard for stability. I cut more than enough for the guests, and it is a good thing, because many of the kids wanted to draw more than one picture, including the birthday boy himself, who drew three! I also set out fabric markers. I like these Marvy Uchida Fabric Markers that come in many beautiful colors.

Decorate-a-quilt-block activity at a birthday or baby shower.  From Jewels at Home.

Decorate-a-quilt-block is a great activity for a birthday or baby shower.

Here is how some of the quilt blocks turned out. Each one is different and expresses the artist’s personality, but they work together.

Incorporate drawings into a memory quilt.  From Jewels at Home.

Incorporate drawings into a memory quilt.

And here is the finished quilt! As I mentioned, this is a simple quilt. I found fabrics that had animals and other prints in a range of primary colors and mixed them randomly with the drawings (and I should add that mixing “randomly” actually took ages, because I wanted to balance out the colors through the quilt).

Quilt incorporating blocks drawn at a birthday party.  From Jewels at Home.

Quilt incorporating blocks drawn at a birthday party.

By the way, here is how the amazing inspiration for this project looked. Ari’s mom designed the pattern, and each child in the class painted a leaf. It’s hanging in our older boys’ room, and I love looking at it every day.

"Family Tree" quilt for a classroom art project.

“Family Tree” quilt for a classroom art project.

Though far, far more humble from an artistic perspective, I think this smile says that the new quilt’s recipient appreciates his special keepsake.

Quilt made with blocks drawn at a birthday party.  From Jewels at Home.

Quilt made with blocks drawn at a birthday party.

To finish the quilt, I sewed a label on the back with a special message for Lucas.  You could also have party guests all sign a fabric quilt label.  That’s what we did with the class quilt for Lucas’ class – each child signed the back.  And I know first-hand how special it is to have the story of a quilt sewn on the back.  Below is a quilt that is hanging in my craft studio.  My mom made it for my birthday, and while she made many beautiful quilts, this one has particular meaning, because she made it when she was sick from chemotherapy.

A label on the back of a quilt helps tell its story.  From Jewels at Home.

A label on the back of a quilt helps tell its story.

A special quilt with its story on the back.  From Jewels at Home.

A special quilt with its story on the back. From Jewels at Home.

So, finishing this quilt definitely overdue, but hopefully, it was worth the wait, and I hope our little guy can feel how much he is loved, when he curls up under it.

“Jewels”

 

 

Baby Shower Scrapbook Project – Wishes for Baby

Wow, we did a lot at the recent baby shower for my friends Nicola and Victor. I wrote about the tea party and cloth diaper cake, and there’s even more to come. Since the shower had a “Storybook Tea Party” theme, it was fitting that we made our own scrapbook storybook for the new baby.

The inspiration for this scrapbook came when I was collecting ideas for the shower and came across the idea of a list of “wishes” each guest could fill out for baby. This was such a sweet idea that I knew I wanted to incorporate.

Here’s what I prepared:

  • scrapbook – I took a plain scrapbook and decorated the cover with ribbon and stickers
  • blank pages – I made some simple backgrounds by gluing patterned papers onto solid colors, so that even if people simply glued in their wishlist, it would look complete.
  • “wish lists” for guests to complete for baby
  • photos – I asked Nicola and Victor’s parents to send some baby pictures of them and collected photos of their family, their wedding, and other events
  • old storybook(s) that can be cut up for pictures – the best part of a craft project at a party is when your guests think up something creative that you had not even planned! This happened when a few of our friends took pages out of a book that were were cutting up for wooden blocks (more on that later) and cut out pictures to add to the scrapbook. I hadn’t thought of it, and it looked great!

Scrapbook and Blank Pages

Decorate a scrapbook for a baby shower.  From Jewels at Home.

Decorate a scrapbook for a baby shower.

For a scrapbook party, prepare simple backgrounds to inspire guests.  From Jewels at Home.

For a scrapbook party, prepare simple backgrounds to inspire guests.

Wish List

Did I mention that I love these baby wish lists?! You can buy them on Etsy, and there are other free printables out there, but I decided to make my own to fit with the Storybook theme. The beautiful castle graphic comes from “Lita Lita,” a teacher in Spain. This graphic and others can be found in her store on Teachers Pay Teachers, and the picture of the books is free clipart.

Storybook-themed wish list for baby.  Free printable by Jewels at Home.

Storybook-themed wish list for baby. Free printable.

Click here to download a PDF of the Storybook-themed wish list for a new baby.

Pictures and Pages

The pictures from Victor and Nicola’s childhood, wedding, and friends really made the book come together. Here’s the first page of the scrapbook that I made. I pulled it out and put it up on a recipe holder as part of the decorations for the shower.

Gather old pictures of the mom and dad to make a scrapbook at a baby shower.  Jewels at Home.

Gather old pictures of the mom and dad to make a scrapbook at a baby shower.

And here are the pages made by the shower co-host, Maura, and our family. I loved reading what my 8 year-old wrote. It’s always a treat to get a little insight into a child’s mind.

Baby shower scrapbook project.  From Jewels at Home.

Baby shower scrapbook project.  From Jewels at Home.

This scrapbook was so much fun to create at the party, and we all enjoyed reading the touching – and often funny – wishes. It was also a lovely way to include family and friends who live out-of-town and cannot attend the shower in person. I mailed a blank wishlist with each invitation, so people could return it in the mail or bring it with them. I also e-mailed electronic versions and printed extras to have on hand at the party.

And they all lived happily ever after…

“Jewels”

Alternatives for Birthday Gifts and Party Favors

My kids have so much in the way of toys and games – proving it is indeed possible to have too much of a good thing. Not only do I worry that this makes it hard for them to learn the true value of things, but the ubiquitous toys and trading cards simply make a mess in a house that is already cluttered, and when the boys start arguing over a toy, then I’ve really had it!

So, this post on “Less is More” at My Modern Asian Family blog really resonated with me. I’m sure a lot of us can relate to this mom’s frustration with kids’ clutter, including the little plastic bags of little plastic toys that accompany a lot of birthday parties.

Over the years, my friends and I have tried a variety of innovative alternatives to birthday gifts and to the treat/loot/goody bags that are given out as party favors. Quick summary: for parties, you can try having no gifts, gift exchanges, donations, or gift/donation hybrids; for treat bags and gifts, think of some truly useful items or ones that can be used up and not leave a little trail of plastic crumbs…

As for the parties, I’ve been lucky that my kids have always been receptive to these alternatives. I explain that their birthday party itself is a gift and that they will still get some presents from their grandparents and aunts and uncles, and I haven’t had any arguments so far. I try to rotate the ideas around – sometimes we’ll do a standard party with gifts, especially if it’s small; sometimes we’ll do an exchange, and I plan to try the donations soon.

No Gifts
We’ve thrown several parties where I simply asked for “no gifts, please.” This works, though only to an extent. I think we are all so accustomed to bringing a gift to a birthday party that some parents don’t notice the request and others just really want to bring something for the birthday boy. This is very kind, though I do worry that it might be awkward when some guests bring a gift and some do not. If you try this, I would recommend putting it in big bold print and really emphasize it, eg. “Please do not bring a birthday gift. Our children are already fortunate to have so much, we would like to spend this day focusing on the celebration, rather than gifts.” A little cheesy but also to the point, you could add: “Your presence is your present.”

Gift Exchange
This is a favorite idea at our house. We’ve done both book and puzzle exchanges, in which each guest brings an unwrapped book or puzzle and each child takes one home. This can substitute for both the birthday present as well as for the treat for guests. You can let the birthday boy or girl pick first, so he or she still feels special, and I always put a few extra books or puzzles in the pile, so there’s lots of choice and a little bonus for the birthday boy. I find the exchanges get more universal uptake than simply requesting “no gifts,” because the parents all feel like they brought something. Another great thing about this idea is that a book or puzzle makes a more substantial and useful treat to take home, without breaking the bank for the party host… Though admittedly I have a lot fun with the treats and sometimes still do them.

Instead of birthday gifts and party favors, do a book exchange!  From Jewels at Home.

Instead of birthday gifts and party favors, do a book exchange!

Donations
We have some friends who have done a wonderful job throwing “pay it forward”-themed birthdays for their daughter. One year, they collected change in a jar to donate to charity; other years, they have collected canned goods for a food bank. Again, I think this satisfies people’s sentiment that they want to bring something to a party, and what a wonderful lesson for all the children! I’m ready to try this idea with the older boys, now that they are at an age where they can appreciate the concept.

Gift/Donation Hybrid
My friend Betsy co-founded this clever organization called Clover by Clover. You should check them out for the details, but the idea is that your child can pick a charity and a single gift. Then, people donate to a fund, and the money will be divided between the gift and the charity your child picked. What a good way to make your birthday child feel like they got a special gift while also teaching about the value of sharing.

Innovative Gifts to Give
No doubt, the kids love toys and gadgets, and I’m happy to indulge that for a special occasion. For those times I’ve felt like doing something different, here are some non-toy options that will still be fun for the kids:

  • Magazine subscription – There are lots of fun kids magazines that could be suited to a child’s interest, and we know kids love getting mail with their name on it. Some titles they might enjoy are Ranger Rick from the National Wildlife Foundation or American Girl magazine.
  • Adopt an animal – Almost every child has a favorite animal, and you can find an organization that helps these animals and make a donation on their behalf. Many have “adoption” programs where you’ll get a certificate and maybe some information about the animal and a small toy. Some examples are the World Wildlife Fund and the San Francisco Zoo.

Inspirations for Treat Bags
Into each birthday party, some plastic junk must fall, but I do try to minimize it. Here are some examples of great small gifts we’ve given or gotten at kids’ parties. My favorites are items that are  can either be used for a long time or consumed right away, so all my mommy friends will not be left with an unpleasant birthday aftermath.

Ideas for enduring party favors:

  • Cloth bags – I’ve decorated these cotton canvas drawstring bags/backpacks for several of our parties, and I know people often use them for taking toys on a trip or to a restaurant. I add an iron-on appliqué to fit the theme of the party and write each child’s name in puffy fabric paint. Kids love seeing their names on things! We’ve also received some of the larger tote bags from parties, and we reuse those for groceries or bringing toys to the beach.
  • High quality toys and books – I usually pick just one or two high quality things to give away rather than a lot of smaller items. Examples are the small paperback books, which I have sometimes found in the Target dollar zone, or the wooden-handled skipping rope I gave away at our Pioneer-themed birthday party.
Decorate cloth bags for a birthday party favor that can be put to good use.  By Jewels at Home.

Decorate cloth bags for a birthday party favor that can be put to good use.

Ideas for party favors that won’t linger and clutter

  • Healthy snacks – dried fruit or healthier types of crackers and cookies can make a nice addition to a treat bag. For our bug-themed party, I made these cute butterfly snack bags to go with the theme of the party. We also did a book exchange at that party.
  • Stickers or art supplies – these almost always get used up, at least at our house, so they make fun little gifts that won’t end up as immortal clutter in the toy bin.
Butterfly snack bags for a bug-themed birthday party.  By Jewels at Home.

Butterfly snack bags for a bug-themed birthday party.

So, for Modern Asian Mom and the rest of us drowning in clutter and tripping over small toys, go ahead and try some of these ideas for the next birthday party you give or attend.

Love,
“Jewels”

Keep On Keepin’ On – Courage To Those Who Do What They Love

I switched the theme of the blog today.  It’s part of a kick-in-the-pants I got to really develop this project, after chatting with an old friend who is working on her own blog, as well as an online sewing store (hope to share details soon!).

Anyway, it’s fast approaching midnight, and I have work tomorrow and kids who will start stirring before 7AM, but this is bringing me to the point of my post.  At times, I have felt humbled and even disheartened, because I felt like there are so many excellent design and DIY blogs out there, and it felt like I might never (and yes, never is a strong word, three months into blogging…), create anything of note.  But then I have to remind myself of how much I love doing the projects around the house, and how every single page view or comment means that I might have inspired someone, and that inspires me.

I was thrilled to recently hear and meet Anna Quindlen on book tour, where she was talking about lessons she’s learned as she has gotten older, and and one of the messages was that you don’t always have to choose the thing that you are “best” at, nor the thing that is regarded as the prestigious. If you love and are passionate about something, that will have real meaning to  you over time.  I think she is generally regarded as have stood out more as a columnist and non-fiction writer than as a novelist, and she turned that idea around.  The “right” choice isn’t always the one that will get you the widest recognition and greatest monetary rewards.  The “right” choice may be the thing that brings you personal growth and meaning.  And of course, these things are not mutually exclusive.  There may be a time for each pursuit, and the thing you love may, besides bringing you joy, grow into the thing that brings you recognition and remuneration too.  (More on that in this fascinating Harvard Business Review blog post on “Choosing Between Making Money and Doing What You Love” by Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer, and Paul B. Brown.)

Back to Anna Quindlen, I am a huge fan of hers and will also admit that I think, on the whole, she excelled as a columnist and, while solid, stands out less as a novelist.  On the other hand, I read her novel One True Thing, about a daughter whose mother is dying of cancer, while my own mother was dying of cancer.  Perhaps my perception was colored by this context, but I felt her writing was vivid and brought the drama of the story to life.  I will add that I think there is a section of the book near the end that didn’t feel necessary and, in my opinion, detracted somewhat from the otherwise beautiful and simple story, exquisitely told, of a family’s relationships and loss.  But the point is, the book had meaning to me.  Through this novel, along with her non-fiction writing and her speaking on the topic – she lost her own mother to cancer when she was only 19 – Anna Quindlen helped me get a handle on the grief and disorientation I felt after my mom died.  So, even if a novel isn’t perfect, if it speaks so resonantly and has so much significance to one person – and I am sure it did to many – then surely it was a worthwhile pursuit.

I’m probably reading my own meaning into Anna Quindlen’s talk (though isn’t that part of what a great talk or piece of writing should offer?), but the message I took away is that, in each thing I work on – be it motherhood, my “day job,” or this blog, I aspire to be my own best, but if there is some occupation that might get me more prestige or income (there is!), or if there are people out there that are better at any of these things than I am (there are!), that is alright, too.  On a planet of six billion people, if none of us tried to do something unless we could be the one and only top dog, where would we be?  And among those six billion people, many of them do not have the privilege of choosing their occupations or other pursuits, so perhaps those of us who do have that luxury can learn to be less afraid to embrace it.  And so, I feel inspired to keep on parenting, and working with patients, and blogging.

As for the blog, I remind myself that the process is as much the reward as the product.  I’ve been motivated to finish many projects, because I was excited to share them.  I’ve clarified my own thoughts, on topics mundane and meaningful, by writing them out.  And I’ve had encouraging feedback from many friends and a few strangers.  For now, that is enough for me, though I of course will also keep working to improve and grow the blog, too.

Courage!
“Jewels”