Friday, October 21, 2016

The Friday Five!

Between the presidential election ridiculousness, a sudden need for a new family car (and a corresponding need to locate all documents to our old family car), a trip to the dentist (I HATE the dentist), and a few more non-glorious things that I won't complain about, I'm freaking glad it's Friday.  Here's the good news from us this week, though .... 

Making -- you might have seen on Instagram that our Halloween decorations are underway. We've done two waves of store bought and now the kids are filling in with DIY. Additional gravestones have been a priority for both kiddos, and they've been loving these Chalk-O-Rama Dustless Chalk Crayons -- the colors are so rich and they go on smoothly on pretty much any surface, including our spray-painted cardboard gravestones. 

Playing -- the kids both really got into Kane's math game this week: Set. His was a slightly different version they handed out at school, but this SET game is basically the same. It was challenging, but in a fun way and the kids both loved when they found a set faster than me. 

Reading -- I just started Love May Fail this week and the kids and I started another series from one of our favorite authors, Jon Scieszka: Frank Einstein.

Cooking -- these Slow Cooker Cholula Shredded Beef Tacos went over like gangbusters in our house. Kane had three adult servings and there were basically no leftovers after just one dinner with our family. 

Wanting -- we don't really need new bedding, but in my ongoing quest to marbleize everything, I think I should probably pick these up

Thursday, October 20, 2016

National Gallery of Art: Renovated East Building Galleries

We have been anxiously awaiting the re-opening of the National Gallery of Art's East Building Galleries. The East Building has been closed for the past three years while over 12,000 square feet of space were added to feature modern and contemporary art. I took the kiddos this week to check it all out and it didn't disappoint. The renovation itself is beautiful and adds so much gorgeous natural light space, including a fabulous rooftop sculpture area.

We raced down one day after school and spent the last two hours that the museum was open exploring the top two floors of the building, starting at the rooftop. With the exception of our trip to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, it's actually been a while since the kids and I spent a good bit of time at an art museum. And I was so completely astonished with how much they've grown up. To start, Kane can completely read all of the placards and exhibit descriptions, which made a huge difference in his interest. He loved exploring and reporting back, explaining what he'd learned.

They were also able to recognize favorite artists and discuss in so much more detail their thoughts about particular pieces of art. We've certainly come along way since I first took Cami to the National Gallery more than five years ago and all she really wanted to do in front of the modern art was play with her new set of blocks (which she still has!).

Needless to say, we are all totally smitten with the new digs and can't wait to go back to see the other floors!

p.s. one more of the giant blue rooster, which is so gorgeously rich in color and texture and Cam squealed when she spotted it overlooking DC when we were down on the street after.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Scotland + Ireland: Belfast Day 10

Ohmagaaaah. It's taken me forever to get to sharing our last day in Ireland. Partly because fall has been crazy, somewhat because I took a gazillion photos that day, and mostly because I still haven't completely processed that day or figured out exactly how I wanted to share it. But at the risk of forgetting many important details, I figured I'd forge ahead.

We spent our last day of the entire trip taking a road trip up to Northern Ireland. I had mixed feelings about taking the kids. I was a little worried that by the end of our trip they'd be OVER road tripping. And I was worried about how to appropriately share with them the inevitable subject matter we'd encounter on our trip north. But I was incredibly glad that we took them. Once we decided to go, I also wanted to tack on an additional jaunt up to see The Giant's Causeway, which looks insanely cool and right up their alley. But we ended up spending so much time in Belfast that another stop just wasn't possible. Another thing to add on our return list to do, but I actually think we were all emotionally spent from Belfast anyway, so if we did The Giant's Causeway we would have needed a night in between to regroup.

We hired a guide through a Black Cab Tour company and ended up getting a really thought provoking, insightful (while still humorous) tour of the city. We started out stopping at the neutral city hall, and getting a peek at the outside of the new Titanic Belfast Museum (the site where the Titanic was built) and the Game of Thrones sound stage (many of the show's scenes are filmed there).

Then our guide drove us to the Protestant side of the city first, stopping at various points along the way to show us particular sites of interest, including the actual wall that still divides the city (and is locked at nights and over weekends). He provided a great overview of "The Troubles" as well as giving us his own thoughts about how the country is working to heal. It was pretty insane to see it all in person and we all struggled to understand how this kind of divide exists today. I know full well that divisive hatred exists in the U.S. as well, but no one in our family is used to seeing such overt physical representations of that on a daily basis (and the kids might not recognize it as such anyway). The kids had a tough time comprehending it at the beginning, but I actually think visiting the murals, walls, and memorials was a good way of bringing the concept home for all of us.

We stopped at one point along the Freedom Wall to contribute our own thoughts, and then moved on to the Catholic side of the city. We made a brief stop at a church to light a candle for my very Irish grandmother who passed last summer, and then continued looking at more murals about the conflict.

Our tour guide finished up by dropping us at the wonderful St. George's Market where we wanted to grab a quick lunch. The market was starting to close up when we arrived, but we were still able to snag some delicious lunch from various vendors, listen to some local music, and do a bit of shopping. We could have spent much more time there if we'd had it!

After lunch, we walked our way over to The Crown Liquor Saloon, one of Belfast's oldest pubs that sports pretty incredible Victorian gin palace design and decor. Kids aren't allowed in the pub, so they did a little roaming about with their grandparents while the rest of us grabbed a last pint. We all sadly piled back in the van to return to Dublin for our last night. Everyone was taking off at different times the next day and we very sadly said our final goodbyes before packing up and hitting the sack!

It was such an absolutely fantastic vacation and both Ireland and Scotland will remain on our wanderlust lists for return trips!

That does it for our Scotland + Ireland posts!

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Friday Five!

Oh hey, Friday. You showed up awfully quickly this week! I guess that's what happens after a three-day-weekend. I feel like we're starting to settle into our school year routine finally. Homework is getting done, after school activities planned out, everyone is going to sleep at a great time. Don't get me wrong, it still takes all of us 23 minutes to get socks and shoes on in the morning. But, overall, we're in the groove. Here's how we spent our short week!

Reading -- I read Hurt People on our trip to Chicago last weekend. It's upsetting in that "something bad is definitely going to happen to these kids" kind of way, but that's also why I couldn't put it down.   We started a great book about a girl detective this week too. The Great Shelby Holmes is smart, funny and a clever modernization of the classic characters. Both kiddos are loving it.

Playing -- Kane has several math games as part of his homework and Cam has been feeling a little left out. She often joins in, but has been asking me to play games just with her too. Enchanted Forest was one of my most favorite games when I was young so I love that she loves it too -- and she has a killer memory!

Making --  did you miss our Mindfulness Jars yesterday? We're big fans of the project and result!

Cooking -- this Massaged Kale Salad is a family fave, but I had to adjust a bit for the season this week. I traded in cherry tomatoes for the cherries and added goat cheese too. It was still tasty (although the cherries make it SO nice).

Wanting -- my feet are always cold and now that the weather has started to turn, I find myself in serious need of a new pair of slippers. These are not at all practical, and they are obnoxiously expensive, but they would make me so happy.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

DIY Mindfulness Jar

I'm sure you've seen these sparkly jars all over the internet by now, called a range of things from "Calm Down Jars" to "Meditation Jars." We decided to make them as mindfulness jars for the kiddos. We've been spending a lot of time talking to the kids, in conjunction with things they learn at school, about being mindful -- focusing on the present, while trying to calmly acknowledge your thoughts and feelings.

It's helped all of us work through daily problems, learning frustrations, and school social interactions. But that abstract concept can be hard to translate into action for all of us, so I thought these mindfulness jars might help illustrate how things can become more clear when we're still (especially when someone needs to calm down). Plus, they are just plain pretty to look at AND finally knock an item off our Fall Bucket List. Cami liked making them so much she actually decided to make one for Kane as a birthday present -- I'll read nothing into that!

Here's what you need to make ours (per jar):
- Large mason jar
- 2 ounces of at least two colors of fine glitter
- 4 ounces glitter glue in a complimentary (we used some from a local craft store, but also like this brand)
- super glue
- water

Start by letting your kiddo add the glitter glue to the jar -- a great fine motor skill! Then have them add the glitter one color at a time. Cami loved how they made different layers of color. Then fill up the jar with water and stir everything together carefully until it is well mixed. Super glue the top on and swirl, swirl, swirl the water once dried! Help your kids practice sitting calmly and watching the glitter swirl and settle. Repeat as necessary!

Tip: personally, I think the jars we made using lighter colors worked better -- give it a try!