My thoughts on the question "should kids read silly books?" by Lauren DeMarco

IMG_0578.jpg

We took the kids to see a little local performance of Junie B. Jones at the library and got talking about the Junie B series, and other silly books like Captain Underpants. Should we let our kids read these things? The language is often improper and the themes a little gross at times; they are certainly not my beloved Charlotte’s Web but I loved Junie B. as a kid…

I think that kids should read whatever they are interested in. I think that if they are bright enough to read and understand the text that they will be able to recognize the errors as such. My theory is that this type of writing is a good example of poetic license and can help them learn to be more daring and creative in their own writing.

I want reading fiction to be fun for my children. I want my children to be curious and use non-fiction books as resources as they grow up. I want my children to read about other people lived experiences through their memoirs to help them become empathetic adults. All of these dreams start with fostering a love of reading!

Louis is 4 months old! by Lauren DeMarco

C1A880C1-96F2-4389-BD1A-EFFDD5C1EC6A.jpg

We’ve made it through the first third of our first year together!

He loves it when his sissy plays rough with him, he loves when we change his clothes, and he loves getting his hands washed! His smile just melts you into a puddle.

We love you so much, Cubby and are so excited to have a front row seat while you grow up!

My ideas on guiding a little one through a challenging project by Lauren DeMarco

image1.jpg

Helping/guiding/mentoring my daughter through multi-step projects or projects which are a little advanced for her skill set has been a work in progress. I have thought about this a lot and try to practice what I preach. Nowhere near perfect, of course, but here are some of my ideas about this…

  1. I always consider what she is developmentally capable of; her fine motor skills, her attention span, and her ability to follow the step-by-step instructions with help/direction are my main considerations. This is important because it helps me with my own patience and expectations. I want to know her limits so I can push them, just a touch. This is how I believe I am helping her grow.

  2. I try to gauge her level of interest at different phases of the project. For example, she will be highly motivated in the beginning because I am paying her full attention and she is excited about the supplies. She will put some effort in, maybe run into a few problems, get through them, and then mentally check out after a few minutes. I tend to continue to model the skill for her as long as she wants to continue to observe me but stop if she physically gets up and walks away. I am sure to check back in on the project later with her, letting her watch if she wants or contribute. I try really hard not to abandon things completely, (again, why #1 is important) she could be developmentally only capable of spending 10 minutes on the type of task at hand but the project could take 30 minutes in total. Would just take 3 sittings instead of one; careful not to confuse expired attention capability with lack of interest.

  3. Troubleshoot out loud as you go; my theory is that this will help her learn the language of problem solving. It also normalizes and provides multiple examples of failures/missteps/mistakes. We push through them together, survive most of them, and learn when quitting is the best choice.

  4. When Chi observes something and then expresses it out loud I try very hard to pause and then come out with the most helpful response. She often observes when my technique is more neat or accurate/idyllic and will say “your’s is better”. I take a moment and say “Hmm, yes my stitches (lets say we are sewing) are more even, I have been practicing for a long time. But see how your stitches are still holding the two pieces of felt together? That means your stitches are doing their job. And they will be more neat and even the more you practice”. I believe that if I say “no, your’s are better than mine” or “no, your’s are just as neat” I am losing her trust. She can see with her own two eyes that my stitches are neater. If she doesn’t trust me she will give up sooner. She needs to keep going, witness her own progress, and talk nicely to herself while she creates to build her own confidence. Which brings me to #5.

  5. I try to model positive self talk throughout the process of making. I will say things like “Wow, my stitches are coming out nice and even like I wanted them to” or “oops, I made a mistake there. Oh well, I can fix it because I am a good problem solver.” She doesn’t find this to be strange and she can really take away some great habits for her future crafting self!

I struggle with grit and longevity as a multi-passionate adult, I enjoy trying to help my kids combat some of these challenges as they develop.

Everything the Light Touches, a metaphor by Lauren DeMarco

IMG_0031.jpg
IMG_0033.jpg

You know that scene from the Lion King when Mufasa shows Simba his future kingdom? There is “everything the light touches”, but then there are those “dark shadowy places”.

I think of this scene as a metaphor, when I look back at my childhood, I don’t remember all of the small details, it’s more of a glowing joy over the whole thing, with just a few “dark shadowy places” representing what I considered harder times. I think part of my job as a parent is to do my best to make their childhood mostly glowing with the fewest “dark shadowy places” as possible.

When we got home last night from this little festival, I morphed into the i’ve-had-a-long-week-at-work troll, was selfish and irritable and impatient. I lost a few nice hours with my babies because I couldn’t fully morph back. And when it’s over I get sad and scared and mad. I don’t want these times to collect and become “dark shadowy places” that they remember. But also, I can only do my best. I can apologize to them when that happens, it’s good for them to see me as a human who makes mistakes.

We wake up, God willing, and get to try again the next day.

When you look back on your own childhood, do you think those “dark shadowy” spots came from these types of things? Am I crazy for processing things this way?

Working Mother Truth--First day back to work by Lauren DeMarco

chiandbear.jpg

How is this for some truth:

I 100% need to work because raising children costs dollars. I can’t live in a safe town AND have my husband home on holidays AND shop at Target for Christmas decorations to make our home feel more magical AND have health insurance AND go to DisneyWorld once every couple years AND buy shit at the craft store to make homemade birthday gifts with my children for their friend’s birthdays if I don’t have dollars.

My children do not need a mother who is impatient with them because she is so exhausted from resisting that which she can not control and that which gives her the dollars, every weekday, for 8 hours, times eternity. Seriously.

And I earned this job. By making tough choices and real sacrifices. And now, I can barely accept, let alone embrace this role as a nurse because I am arrogant enough to think that my presence alone is enough for my children? Ego check, Lauren, just breathing air in the same room as your child because it hurts too much to be away from them is not enough. They need to be taught about sacrifice by example because it’s a part of life that we cannot hide behind these tiny squares. Every single thing in life costs something else. Every woman who stays home with their children is sacrificing something painful to do so.

As much as I want to believe it’s not my choice, I am consciously deciding to sacrifice 40 hours away to make real dollars and to secure a pension for our future because in my personal case I am privileged enough to have my own, healthy, also amazing example of a woman for children, mother to care for my kids during the day.

Accepting and embracing my “though-is-doesn’t-feel-like-much-of-a-choice” painful choice has been deep down in my psyche making me feel like I am pulling a sliding a scale away from being a quality mother but just the opposite. Accepting and embracing my choices shows my kids how to accept, embrace, & OWN their choices, no matter how others may perceive them.

I will need to come up with a little, 1 sentence mantra to remember this truth during the hours away from them, when the pain feels too sharp. I choose to give that energy them not to the pain

Reflecting on 2018, looking forward to 2019! by Lauren DeMarco

IMG_6380.jpg

Woohoo!! 2018 has been amazing!!! We have grown as a family, in one very literal way, and many other ways over the year!

We continue to use words like creativity, curiosity, kindness, gratitude, grace, and integrity as guiding values; we are always working on acceptance, discipline, focus, and presence but these are more challenging.

I like to take the time at the close of a year to celebrate the wins!

  • Our baby boy was successfully carried and brought into the world this year. He gave us a few scares but with the support of everyone involved, the DeMarco family is now a party of 4!

  • Luciana has made wild progress in her reading efforts, has maintained many beautiful little friendships which have serious longevity potential, and she has been practicing her favorite things: creative movement and drawing/writing. We are super proud of her and ourselves in helping her to become a smart, sensitive, and very cool little human!

  • Frank landed “the job” we have been hoping/praying on for way too many years!! Huge!

  • Many new skills, recipes, and projects were started, completed, consumed, and used!

  • Major household scale progress was made in our efforts to reduce plastic and waste! We even made sure there was no single-use plastic at Luciana’s birthday party, harder than it sounds! See more about her party here and our new habits here.

  • We had some fun adventures to D.C., Disney, Sesame Place, and beach week!

  • We had many, many playdates, built some rituals into our weeks, and made new friends; we each put a lot of effort into our relationships this year!

  • Important traditions were kept up with and new ones established.

  • We also did our share of purging, recycling, thrifting, consigning, and curating to make our home for functional and beautiful!

Coming up in 2019…

We are excited to send Luciana off to Kindergarten, celebrate love at 3 awesome weddings, have a front row seat to many “firsts” for Bear including his christening and first birthday! We plan to do a lot of reading and creating with the kids, pay off some debt we have acquired in some recent transitions of our own, and support our other family members with transitions they will be going through this year! I would love to do a round of pottery in the summer and take the kids on some local trips, maybe Hershey Park and the Crayola factory!!

Life is good!

Update: I have completed my concrete 19 for 2019 list, have set some goals to monitor monthly, wrote out a theme to focus on and have put together a work schedule. My workday schedule is specific and boring so I will keep that one to myself but here are the others!

Theme: Collect Little Moments of Joy
Focusing on recognizing and sometimes writing down little joyful moments of the day as I spot them instead of trying to balance out the day with good/bad moments, experiences, or behaviors and torturing myself about some sort of weird average. We’ll see if this “re-frame” helps me with my work on acceptance.

19 for 2019:

1. Once per month date night for 1st quarter (hoping we can stick to it for the year but the experimental first 3 months are the first step)
2. Pay off plan: 1. Save $1,500 2. Start with smallest debt and pay any extra to it. Hit goal of paying off $5000 of debt. Work on clearing all cards (a few recent transitions have caused us to build up some debt like my school nurse certificate, my husband going to electrician school, etc. but we are in a good spot now to start really clearing things up! So exciting!)
3. 4 or 6 week pottery session in August
4. Invest in some new scrubs
5. Make a few more wooden spoons
6. Try to make own wood butter
7. Make beeswax candles
8. Louis’ christening
9. Homemade wedding and baby shower presents
10. Ask to take Chi to first day of Kindergarten ( want to ask my boss if I can go into work late in order to take Chi to her first day of Kindergarten. May be the same as my first day of work but its really important to me and I want to ask for the things I want. )
11. Buy bathing suit and rash guard
12. Buy the perfect dresses for the 3 weddings
13. Stained glass class
14. Mentor a sewing machine newbie
15. Curtains for living room area
16. Peace of wood for live music
17. Hershey park and Kalahari trip
18. Tomatoes, peppers, peas, and herbs on porch
19. Front garden bed with hydrangeas

Habits:

1. Bathrooms Wednesday (things to help me do it when I don’t want to: buy new cleaning tools, say “Only takes 30 minutes, doing it makes you feel way better than not doing it, take pride in your beautiful home, what else would you be doing?”, bring baby seat in while I do it so I don’t feel like I am missing so much time with Cub, do both bathrooms at the same time, make it easy by putting the supplies in a caddy to bring to both rooms, pair with buying a new song)
2. Log off instagram after notifications and favorites in morning and evening. Plus 1.5 hr alarm
3. Veggies at every dinner (try my best)
4. First Sunday breakfast out with Frank and the kids at our favorite spot (work it into the budget)
5. Towels laundry in before grocery store and when cleaning bathrooms.
6. Play dates monthly
7. Budget check Monday mornings at work
8. Blog post weekly, use Instagram as reference
9. Choose daily highlight in morning during breakfast
10. Morning journaling in notes instead of social media

Using my GET TO WORKBOOK to keep my plans in order. I use the blank section on the bottom of the left monthly calendar page to write the habits and the bottom of the right monthly calendar page to write down a reflection at the end of the month. I will make adjustments as needed. This strategy of monitoring helps me!

Blanket Stitched Felt Alphabet by Lauren DeMarco

IMG_8558.jpg

Chi is learning how to read and write right now, so exciting!!!! We have come up with some fun games to help her learn her high frequency words and practice her letter sounds.

I saw another mom on instagram make felted wool letters and thought “I could do something similar with some supplies I already have/love to use.” I used sheets of felt and embroidery floss to make a full alphabet to use with Chi, and eventually, our new son, Louie (I call him “Bear”, he is soooo cute!), to help her build words!

I loved how they were coming out and wrote up a tutorial about the project but then realized Purl Soho posted a very similar tutorial for a very similar project. Since they are pro’s and since they have links to their fancy felts and everything already, I figured I would attach their tutorial HERE instead of mine…. HOWEVER, I like the hand drawn letters I made better than the sharper font they provide (just a matter of personal preference) so I will attach a FREE printable HERE, in case you like them better too! (On my template, the dotted lines on the letters represent the spaces you should leave open until the end so you can stuff them with fluff)

A few other differences between my project and Purl Soho: I used a blanket stitch where they used a whip stitch (you can google both to see videos and choose for yourself; I think the blanket stitch is prettier and more sturdy so that’s what I did). I also used DMC embroidery floss instead of thread to make for a more heirloom quality final product.

Some variations/ideas: Putting jingle bells inside would be fun (you could make just a single letter (initial) with a jingle bell inside as a rattle for a baby gift). Another fun idea would be to embroider some pretty designs on the felt before sewing the two pieces together (I think I am going to make our friend’s daughter’s name for her as a Christmas present, I plan to embroider flowers on them to match her nursery and put bells inside each one). You could also either use them for a garland, just stitch through the backs and hang!

How we will use them: Chi can build her high frequency words with them, practice word families, consonant clusters, and match them to items around the house that start with that letter.

Other: I plan on sewing a small drawstring bag with some scrap fabric to keep them in. I plan on spot cleaning them if they get dirty!

Send me some pictures if you make them or a variation! Tag me @laurenspired !!

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl by Lauren DeMarco

A breakfast idea! Sweet but also full of protein...

0104DD39-C4EC-48C6-9BAF-2F139A761630.jpg

I am not a food blogger but when I find/concoct something interesting and yummy, I like to share. At a local coffee shop I like to order their quinoa breakfast bowl but don't as much like paying for it. So when I have extra cooked quinoa in the fridge I make one similar at home with whatever fruit is in season and it comes out just as good!

First, just warm up about a half cup of cooked quinoa in a bowl. Top with banana and whatever fruit you like/have, I used grapes and peaches this time. Pour in a few drips of milk and some honey. Sprinkle shaved coconut, almonds, cinnamon and a pinch of salt on top! Enjoy.

Dried foraged flower art by Lauren DeMarco

F007280B-BB64-47DA-B9DE-01DFDC085C9D.jpg

We had been waiting so so patiently for spring. Winter is the longest season in New Jersey, and though it does have it's own "ups" and though we try to enjoy the "hygge", if you will, it gets old after a while. Needless to say we were pretty desperate for spring and all that comes with it. Even these pretty little weeds were getting us excited. So we decided to celebrate them.

We didn't necessarily want to buy a fancy press for one small project so we made one with some things we already had (a bucket for foraging weeds/flowers, 2 small pieces of smooth wood, 2 sheets of watercolor paper, and 3 bricks)

We grabbed our bucket, put on some shoes, and went out to forage whatever we could find that was finally growing from the thawing ground. The Forsythias are the earliest bloomers so we snagged a branch from one of those bushes. We found some little wild violets, clover, dandelion, and some other weeds to try and press.

IMG_2253.jpg

We brought them into the house, cut up some watercolor paper, found 2 pieces of pine that I was using for some other project recently, and brought a few bricks up and into the house from under the back deck. We carefully placed the blooms between the paper and pine like a sandwich (pine, paper, blooms, paper, pine). We placed them on the table and laid the 3 bricks on top of the sandwich.

 

Two weeks later, we lifted the bricks, opened the sandwich and revealed the "perfectly" dried flowers!

IMG_2278.jpg

Once we had these pretty blooms, we decided to showcase them in an old frame we had been holding onto. We adhered our favorite flowers and stems onto white paper with a touch of Elmer's glue on the back and placed them into the frame.

The outcome is simple and pretty but also nostalgic and personal. We like how it looks in our kitchen!

You can see us in action in my story highlights on instagram under "earth day crafts".

Straw Free Letter by Lauren DeMarco

I recently learned a scary, shocking, and deeply sickening fact: Americans use 500 million straws every day! Wow. I knew it was terrible but I had no idea it was this terrible.

My family has been declining straws at restaurants for a bit now and I have been spreading the message to other people I know but I have been feeling like I can do more. I want to reach out to some local restaurants, asking them to take some initiative in this movement so I decided to streamline the process for myself and then share what I have come up with.

I have created a letter and basic table note to hand out to some local restaurants asking for their help with this movement.

It's easy to shake our heads and be disappointed in how broken the world can feel but a little education and action can really make a huge impact.

Read through the letter and if you feel inclined, I hope that you edit (fill in your name), print, and drop them off to your favorite restaurants and coffee shops, I think giving it to a manager directly and having a conversation would cause the greatest impact but again, any effort counts.

Here is the letter! (in order to edit: open the link, download as a word document, enable editing)

Feel free to email me at laurenspired@gmail.com with any questions about this!

Click here to see what other "waste less" efforts we have been taking!

Waste less update!! by Lauren DeMarco

At the end of March I wrote about an action item I would take to reduce waste, recycle plastic bags! Well, I wanted to update everyone that not only have I been doing that religiously and have gotten my household on board, but I have gotten a little obsessed (as I do) with reducing as much waste as possible!

You might say "I know all of this", I said that about a lot of this stuff, but wasn't taking as much actual action as I felt I needed to. TAKE 1 ACTION today, I wish I started sooner.

I wanted to share a few things I have done! I spent well under $100 on some helpful supplies! None of this is sponsored, just for fun and for the cause!

1. 2 average and 1 large BAGGU shopping bags to keep in my purse for target trips or whatever other kind of casual shopping! They are soooo cute and I feel great whipping them out! I like to think my single action would maybe make the person behind the counter think about their plastic intake for a sec and consider their choices as well! They have baby sizes too. I spent $34 on these 3 plus maybe $5 shipping. If you can find them locally, do that! They are running an awesome earth day sale right now too with code MOTHEREARTH!!

2. Beeswraps! These are so cool! I have been using for my snacks and cheese! I got the pack of 3 mediums! I spent nothing on these because I traded with a friend who has a store for some handmade hairbows I make. Good deal! But if you buy the set I have, they retail at $18. They also have many patterns and options! Another earth day sale with code: EARTHDAY18

3pkM_OLDpkg.jpg

Id like to try to make my own sometime too! You can google "how to make reusable food wraps" to find many tutorials!

3. 4 oz mason jars. I got mine at target. I have been buying yogurt, applesauce, and pudding in 16 oz containers and making my own single servings for snacks and lunches. Carrots, apples, cheese cubes, etc. are great in these. Ball brand makes these in USA too! Individually packed stuff causes so much more waste and costs more. These jars are like $9 for 12 jars, you could prob find them even cheaper here or there.

50624171.jpg

4. Mesh produce bags. $5 at target for 4 big, 1 small. I keep them in my reusable grocery bags in my car every week. I'm sorry, but these are very worth the investment. No great excuse not to use these. I have used them for apples, zucchini, broccoli, and grapes (in our store the grapes are sold in a large quantity in plastic, I took half the grapes from the bag and put them into my mesh bag last time, worked great) so far. I love showing Chi how to think outside of the box to be responsible. These are made from polyester so there is probably an even better choice but I wanted something that the grocer could see the stickers through.

13509054.jpg

6. Paper snack bags. These have been helpful for those few times I feel I need to use something more bag-like or if you have a treat you want to share. I sent Chi to school with popcorn in one of these, folded the top, and sealed with a piece of washi tape. I took a second to write a note on it for the teacher to try to send it home in lunch so I could refill again the next day. 1 lasted all week and it was great! These are a little pricier ($3.99 for box of 48) so it makes you a little more mindful to conserve. And you can compost them when you are done!!!

52031064.jpg

7. Linen napkin and silverware in lunches. The same one can pretty much last all week unless something particularly gross happens. I have some in my shop that are handmade with my artwork but you can find them all over the place! They last super long and are an easy swap.

il_570xN.1346522986_29zf.jpg

A few more things/ideas:

-When we do have to use ziplocs, or plastic bags of any kind, we reuse them until they can't be reused anymore and then put them into the plastic recycle bin at ShopRite (or a store near you).
-We decline straws at restaurants (decline when you order because sometimes they bring the drink with the straw already striped and in the glass)
-We have been more mindful about paper towels; we are using dishtowels for most counter wiping, etc.
-We own Hydroflasks for our water. Frank and I have 40 oz and Chi has 12 oz kids. They are everything! Order right from their website or from Dicks, good deals on both sites right now.
-We request books to the library, pick up, borrow, and return. Way more cost effective, saves paper and shipping from amazon.
-Take plastic pots, flats, etc. from garden centers/nurseries back to them after you place them in your garden. They will reuse them!
-We compost what we can and put some food out for the squirrels like stale bread or leftover pasta keeping the trash bags from filling up faster than necessary.
-Buy eggs in paper and milk in glass if at all possible. The eggs are available in my store in cardboard cartons but the milk is more than double the cost in glass. We can't afford that right now so we try to use the plastic jugs for gardening or water play and recycle when we are done.
-We have changed to a concentrated, very Eco-conscious soap brand called Dr. Bronner's and LOVE this choice. Read about their company and you will never go back to anything else! There are recipes right on the bottle for varied uses. I got mine at Target. Saves bottles in addition to the soap itself being healthier for the body, home, and environment. US company that seems to really care about their employees and our planet.
-Next challenge is figuring out how to get take out or leftovers home with less waste, thinking of carrying a stainless container in my purse. This one takes things to another level of unconventional but dear God, Styrofoam makes me want to cry.
 

Again, some of this you have heard before, but be honest with yourself, are you taking action on any of these things? If you are, AWESOME and thank you! If not, consider taking even just 1 action to contribute. There are so many ways that we can at least help with this mess and inspire others in the process!!

20 laurenspirational words by Lauren DeMarco

Some minutes are chosen for me and are not in my control. I know I need to sleep about 8 hours to do life well. I know I need to work about 40 hours per week to pay for life. I know I need to drive here and there. I know I need to give some of my free time to serve loved one's needs.

But some minutes are mine. Sometimes I know when I will have them, and other times they are surprises. Sometimes I can plan for them and sometimes I am free to spend them instinctually.

When my minutes come, I want to describe them using some of the following words:

1. alive
2. natural
3. simple
4. full of light (and its contrast, shadow)
5. quiet
6. effort-full (and its contrast, effortless)
7. authentic/honest
8. lovingly
9. joyful
10. sustainable
11. purposeful
12. handmade
13. curious
14. wabi-sabi (perfectly imperfect)
15. nostalgic
16. enriched
17. playful
18. orderly (and its contrast, messy)
19. experimental
20. unique

If some minutes are spent jumping into a cool pool in the summer, coming up from the water to make eye contact with my daughter who is laughing joyfully at my body mechanics, this is good living.

If some minutes are spent inside my grandparent's home of 50 years, immaculately curated to their colonial decor preferences, chatting with Pop Pop about the garden, while Mom Mom's and my homemade collaborative peach pie bakes, this is good living.

Wearing a hoodie on the beach with my sister and sipping warm green tea, cooking dinner while my husband and Chi Chi color at the counter, drive to Sunset Beach with my parents for a traditional summer solstice picnic, 10 minutes on the couch reading, or a walk through the garden center greenhouse on the way home from work. Minutes interwoven with one or many of the above words.

These words are the paints I use to color my minutes. anyone else like to name themes of their lives and feel proud/happy when you make time for them? just me?

ps. very little guilt for the mindless scrolling, pinning, or re-watching of gilmore girls episodes for the (no exagerration) 14th time, but beware of numbing and coping. I want to live my life, not numb through it.

Super convienient earth day action step by Lauren DeMarco

I like holidays to celebrate and remember what's important to me. I saw on my calendar that Earth Day is coming up on April 22. My wheels started turning...

My husband and I were reading about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in this article on CNN. We have known about this garbage patch for a while but this article with updates reminded us that it is not going away. We whined about it, shook our heads, and rolled our eyes. We mentioned a few ways that other people and big corporations who we pretend are not made up of people at all, are making this problem worse instead of bringing up any solutions for our home. I hate doing that shit. I hate talking about how things are broken instead of taking any little bit of action I can to make it better. 

I took 3 minutes and was honest with myself about the biggest plastic problem in my own home and decided that Shop Rite brand sandwich bags are one of our biggest convenience issues that I want to try to overcome. Every little bit counts right?! So I did some research online and found this website.

I learned that right at the entrance to my grocery store (where I go every Sunday morning) there is a drop off where you can recycle all kinds of plastic bags. I thought I could only put the yellow grocery bags in there, which I rarely use, so I have never taken advantage of this resource. See image below of all the types of bags/films you can put in there:

Image from plasticfilmrecycling.org

Image from plasticfilmrecycling.org

I thought about how I can make recycling these things just as easy as putting organic stuff in my compost bin (which is 2nd nature now). I created a little challenge for myself and invite you to join me for 30 days. (at which point I can re-evaluate the system and adjust for the long term change, if needed).

Here is what I am going to start with:
1. Minimize my use of sandwich bags (and reuse them when I really do need them) by using glass jars, especially in Chi Chi's lunch box, because prevention and reusing beats recycling all together. (may need to buy a set of these, preferably at a local store to save on shipping cost and packaging).
2. Place a canvas tote on a hook in the kitchen (not unattractive to look at, easy to grab with grocery list on the way out the door to the store).
3. Put anything that fits into one of the categories above into the tote throughout the week.
4. Bring the tote to the grocery store and place the waste in the plastic bag/film recycle bin as I enter the store. Make sure your grocery store has one of these bins: here.

A few other little things I do: reusable bags for groceries, decline straws at restaurants, bring silverware to wash and reuse in lunch boxes, pack washcloths instead of paper napkins in lunch boxes. I would love to improve more and more over time!

*I also found this cool website called Terracycle and applied to their free program for Clif bar package recycling since my husband eats them very frequently. You can see what other free programs they offer or other programs that you might be ready to invest in.

And for fun, a cute pic of Chi the compost we have been using for about a year and a half!

chicomposts.jpg

Charlotte's Web Spring Equinox Playdate/Dinner Party by Lauren DeMarco

EFF2E6E8-D8DD-4978-ACA2-36D6E14C8A3A.jpg
90D5B89A-DDC7-4336-BB9F-4635460BD4DE.jpg
25C9F66B-393D-4FA8-BFD3-2678A0CBD2F8.jpg

Wilbur is a spring pig so every year, on the Spring Equinox I start to read E.B. White's Charlotte's Web to Chi Chi. I always get super excited about it and this year the excitement really rubbed off on her so we decided about a month in advance to invite a couple with their 2 kids over after school for a Templeton-style smorgasbord and Charlotte's Web themed play. They agreed and we set the date!

I printed up some coloring pages for the kids to start while I finished cooking and started the movie (the original 1973 version, of course).

I printed up some coloring pages for the kids to start while I finished cooking and started the movie (the original 1973 version, of course).

The weekend before, I shopped for some steaks, chicken drumsticks, hot dogs, and zucchini to grill and put together some orzo salad with fresh basil, corn, tomatoes, and feta, and some Annie's Farm-themed Mac and Cheese! We also grabbed 3 pigs at IKEA for the kids, planned some activities, and asked the other family to bring dessert.

The weekend before, I shopped for some steaks, chicken drumsticks, hot dogs, and zucchini to grill and put together some orzo salad with fresh basil, corn, tomatoes, and feta, and some Annie's Farm-themed Mac and Cheese! We also grabbed 3 pigs at IKEA for the kids, planned some activities, and asked the other family to bring dessert.

Chi Chi and I drew out a web to tape up to the wall and cut out some spiders for "Pin Charlotte on the Web" which was a major hit! They didn't care who won, they were cheering each other on, and they kept pulling the spiders off to try over and over. It was perfect to occupy them while the grown-ups cleaned up.

Chi Chi and I drew out a web to tape up to the wall and cut out some spiders for "Pin Charlotte on the Web" which was a major hit! They didn't care who won, they were cheering each other on, and they kept pulling the spiders off to try over and over. It was perfect to occupy them while the grown-ups cleaned up.

We wrapped up the party with some little brownies topped with spring sprinkles and some fresh raspberries!

We wrapped up the party with some little brownies topped with spring sprinkles and some fresh raspberries!

The kids played, we enjoyed our meals which were really yummy, and we chatted about our upcoming plans for the warmer seasons forthcoming!

After her friends left and she finished her bath, I started the first chapter of the book. Chi found her baby bottle and started feeding her new plush Wilbur in bed while I read. She insisted on sleeping with him and the bottle in case he woke up hungry in the night and she needed to feed him again!

It was a perfect way to ring in the new season! Funny and ironic note: since we live in NJ and it doesn't start to feel like spring until May-ish, we actually got a snow day the following day to sleep in and relax! Couldn't have been better!

Reflecting on 2017, looking forward to 2018! by Lauren DeMarco

2017 has been a lovely year. We, as a family, have been healthy and safe and we have maintained our lives with grace and gratitude.

We have been in the "everything is okay" space rather than the "it will be okay soon" space, which I try to appreciate as much as possible. I am always in search of the balance between the "are you breathing just a little and calling it a life? (Mary Oliver)" idea and the "surrender and make the best of the things you cannot control" concept; in order to stay sane and "happy".

Overall, life is good. *Special thanks to tea, candles, cozy socks, blankies, and the beach.

And although it doesn't feel like it day-to-day, when I reflect back on the year, I have done some really cool stuff and grown a lot.

My top 10 favorite accomplishments of the year:

Creative:
1.  Learned to throw and hand-build many different vessels from clay and porcelain; discovered by "ladies" design throughout this creative process.
2. Taught myself how to use my Canon Rebel on the manual setting and have developed a photography style.
3. Completed a large portion of the 100 day project in April, my garden fence mural came out of dedication to this project as well as some beautiful sun prints and some natural dying.
4. Perfected my banana cake recipe, have recently replaced half of the chocolate chips with butterscotch chips and this cake it everything, if I do say so myself.

Other:
5. Completed my school nurse certification. (I had been working with an emergency certificate)
6. Started composting and was dedicated to my garden throughout Spring, Summer, and Fall. Learned a lot about different plants, processes, and the seasons.
7. Have made it through some strong efforts and big disappointments with career opportunities in our household, proud of my strong marriage.
8. Have gained some clarity and grown to be more honest with myself about money.
9. Have strengthened my political stance through educating myself about both sides of many issues. I have been using any platform I can to speak out/vote/etc.

and most importantly:
10. I have modeled for, cared for, and guided my daughter, Luciana, through another year. I am proud of her and proud of myself for being the best Mom I can be. Cheesy, but so real.

I am super excited about 2018 and have some ideas...

I would love to have another baby this year! AHH! Trying is in our control, the outcome is not...we'll see...
Some other goals: to build a tea pot and more cool pottery, to continue to make stuff and update my Etsy shop (more consistency is a goal with this), to celebrate our (mine and Frank's) 10 year anniversary (not 10 years married but 10 years as a couple) with friends who have been on the journey with us, to encourage Luciana in the beginning of her "learning to read" efforts, to pay off a credit card that we used to pay for some life stuff on during a transition time, to continue making my home more personalized and special, to be present and joyful when visiting with my parents on our weekly dates, to maintain a regular walking schedule and improve my intuitive eating practice, to start and maintain a kickass cut flower garden, to visit with and enjoy my grandparents in their beautiful home, to organize sister adventures at least quarterly, and so much more!!!!

Handmade Christmas. Ideas and Resources. by Lauren DeMarco

I love to have some handmade decorations and/or experiences around the holiday. Here are some ideas and resources!

Dried Orange Slice Garland:
I followed this tutorial from Homesong and had lovely results. See the finished product above.

Paper Snowflakes:
I used these directions and these templates from Martha Stewart!

Christmas Sugar Cookies:
We were invited to decorate cookies at a friends house this year and used this kit. I like to make my own too, using this easy recipe with some cookie cutters . These have been on my list, wouldn't they be so dang cute with little Santa hats painted on with icing??!

Painted Wood Ornaments:
We bought wooden stars, similar to these and let Chi paint them with acrylic paints. I let her use her own creativity, very hands-off, and they came out great. She wrote "Love, Luciana" on the backs and gave them to friends. Nice little added topper for family gifts too.

DD816236-C55C-4450-8CB9-A0743D90B8D6.jpg

Some other ideas I would really like to do this year or just wanted to share:

-Rolled and/or poured beeswax candles
-Cinnamon Salt Dough Ornaments
-Gingerbread Houses (keeping it super commercial because time is limited yet Chi really enjoys doing these)
-Cranberry Garland for trees outside, for the birds. Might try to make this a Christmas Eve morning tradition.
-Air Dry Clay Plant pressed ornaments
-Fresh Wreath, I really like this one. I bought my grandparents a fresh wreath for Christmas last year, they got it in time to hang over the mantle for Christmas eve dinner. I am hoping to make one this year to keep the tradition going.


Happy making!

Shop update: Handmade paperback notebooks by Lauren DeMarco

203E99F0-B4FC-4417-AD10-96B8B174E4A0.jpg

"Ladies" notebooks are live in the shop!

Handmade paperback notebooks.
Hand silkscreen printed cardstock cover.
Blank natural color pages.
 


A great gift idea.

Lovely by itself for your child's teacher or a co-worker; pair with some Micron pens and/or Lisa Congdon's Creative Bug class to take it to the next level, for a friend or sister.

(click pictures below to shop for these products)

Lisa Congdon's 31 day Drawing class on Creative Bug

Lisa Congdon's 31 day Drawing class on Creative Bug


451CB2AA-C329-4DF2-97A8-0CF0870C3AD1.jpg
FFAEC4AE-693F-420E-B9FC-20137C228502.jpg

80 blank pages to fill with drawings, ideas, quotes, and stories.
5.25 x 8.5 inches
65lb cardstock cover, 20lb natural color pages

leaf print coasters by Lauren DeMarco

EB4557C0-1949-4EA7-B0DE-6F6AA7CD4835.jpg

A quick and easy project for fall. To do with kids or alone, to be taken as seriously, or NOT, as you'd like.

I saw, in Martha Stewart's magazine, a project for a table runner using this same technique on linen. She obviously took it more seriously and used it for some kind of dinner party. I wanted to make something small and scrappy using things I already had: scrap muslin, fabric paint in primary colors (which I mixed on a paper plate), a foam brush, a brayer (you could use a rolling pin), a piece of craft felt, and a sewing machine already threaded with gray thread and matching bobbin. You could hand stitch these with whatever you have.

AFDA255B-E61D-4305-B522-7B1949806BBE.jpg

We went outside in our neighborhood and threw some leaves around for fun before picking the 4-5 we would use. Brought them inside, mixed some fabric paint on a plate, used the foam brush to paint on the leaves, laid them paint side down on the muslin, covered with another piece of muslin, rolled, uncovered, and pulled up the leaf to reveal the print.

C29335F4-79EF-4212-8498-D63ECCE982B7.jpg
C41180F3-20FD-4B6F-B3C7-821427A4B5EC.jpg
B834560D-F6E3-4F5E-930D-5A7CE8CD8B47.jpg
3BD44A71-C109-4EAA-95E9-86298BAE1A2D.jpg

I obviously like the imperfect look. Not pictured was a rough draft print that taught us to use more paint. I don't like the color red so I didn't use the big maple print. Chi and I had a conversation about the leaf types, deciduous vs coniferous, the veins in the leafs, why they fall, etc.

4582D985-3713-410B-91F4-BE13D2FD6198.jpg

I used a coaster I already had as a template, cut a sandwich of muslin, felt, muslin. Sewed around the edges with the sewing machine and stitched some detail on the one. Tried to stitch around the mustard color leaf but the ink was sticking to the presser foot so I just left it plain. They are just to use in my own home so I had fun with them and left them raw. If you wanted to make them as gifts you could experiment with different techniques to make them look more finished.

60363D80-049D-446B-8773-62DE2C9C6695.jpg

My sister bought my homemade mug from my cabinet and my other homemade one is at work so I use this one from Target. I found it on clearance a while back and really like it with my favorite, ZEN green tea by TAZO!! I am working on some new ceramic pieces in the pottery studio right now (including a big slab bowl which I am obsessed with), and a new mug for myself!

Click here to see a few other fall ideas or here to buy some of the new product in my shop!

Follow my instagram for more #laurenspiration and new work.

Homemade Vampirina Costume by Lauren DeMarco

IMG_8366.jpg
E3CB5C2C-7675-4831-A5D9-633056AD5872.jpg
C3A5574C-1E65-40BA-B36D-8B6913DF6B99.jpg
923CB282-AE7B-4AFE-93F3-10FBA12456FF.jpg

I had way too much fun with this!

Black dress: I made the black dress from knit fabric by tracing a dress we had as a pattern. Sewed it together (VERY wabi-sabi) with my sewing machine. Should have used black thread. Painted the cobwebs on with puff paint.

Necklace: I made the skull necklace from leftover knit fabric, black felt, and glitter foam. Cut the shapes, sewed around it on the sewing machine.

Shoes and "socks": bought cheap black booties, used my seam ripper point to make holes in the front, used pink knit fabric cut into strips to make laces. made tubes with the pink knit fabric and slid them on like leg warmers.

Headband: I used some mold-able jewelry wire to make the shapes of the wings, cut black felt and covered wire. Hot glued together and around the headband. I thought it would fall off a ton but it didn't at all. I used Bobbi pins to hold in onto the hair but snap clips worked too for extra security.

Everything else: Painted her face, cut the tips off of blue gloves, put purple tights and long sleeve pink undershirt.

She was so adorable, her friends loved it which made her smile, and once again, she watched me problem solve/get creative at home. She pitched in her opinions and ideas which were awesome! Modeling creativity for her is my greatest joy!

Look at our painted pumpkins and bat cookies here.
Follow @Laurenspired on instagram and turn on post notifications to never miss a post.

Questions about the costume? Email me below:

Name *
Name

my creative process. today's insight. by Lauren DeMarco

EBF4F52C-9DBB-41EE-9FD8-83D21865A23B.jpg

My creative process is entirely haphazard and I want to call it weird but I know I am not alone.

I follow the flow. I get obsessed. I get very frustrated. I get impatient. I act before I think. I think before I act. This is all true.

What is also true is that sometimes I feel like dying the fabric, sometimes I feel like using fabric that is already a cool color. Sometimes it's 100% linen, sometimes its cotton and linen together in some kind of blend. Sometimes its clay because I don't feel like printing. Sometimes I can't do anything because I have a full time day job and a 4 year old and don't have enough energy to wind a bobbin.

The printing and sewing and dying can be really close to perfect or I can make huge dumb mistakes like printing when its too hot out (ink dried in my screen the other day). Whatever.

IMG_8048.jpg

I treat art like I treat my relationships, with a clear intention to do my best and to bond with the thing. The intentions and efforts are my responsibility, the outcomes and responses are not.

I could work for 10 minutes on something, come out with a functional product and be thrilled. I could work for 4 hours on something, go through all the feels, and come out on the other side with nothing. that's okay (in the moment it sucks but again, whatever)

I put my favorite pieces into the shop because I think they are cool and beautiful and most of all, functional for daily enjoyment. I want you to buy them if you think they're cool and beautiful too. And then we can be besties. And then I have money to keep making!

Want more?
See what's in the SHOP right now. Buy something for yourself. Linens are coming soon...
Read about how I am getting creative with Chi this fall.
Follow me on Instagram and turn on post notifications if you want to know when the linens hit the shop, I will be posting updates there. Comment with some of your creative quirks...I like to feel less alone in my strange ways!