Sunday, November 16, 2014

Glitter Jars

I try to steer clear of Pinterest as much as possible. It's not that I don't see myself as crafty and able to do most of the projects I'd come across; it's that the site reminds me of all the nifty creative things I'm NOT doing with my kids. You see, I was pretty sure that I was going to have crafting sessions every week with them, but it just seems that life keeps punctuating that fantasy with cooking and cleaning (and job seeking and house hunting these days). Who needs to make their task list longer with adorable cakes, finger puppets, painted ladybug rocks and cutesy paper owls?

(Okay, so writing that sort of made me want to paint ladybugs on rocks. I bet one can find that on Pinterest).

That said, occasionally a craft project comes my way that I know I want to do with the kids. I read about Glitter Jars months ago and it took me this long to acquire the necessary components and find the time to make this project happen. We've all been under the weather most of the week and since I was finally feeling better today, it seemed a good time to do something fun and cheery.

First, I used adhesive remover to clean the label residue from these bottles.

Then we collected the ingredients - glycerin, glitter glue in several colors and fine glitter.  We also used corn syrup, warm water, dish soap, a measuring cup, a funnel and a whisk.

Riker pours glycerin into a measuring cup.

After a bit of recipe tweaking and fine tuning, we ended up with five stunning bottles of swirling, glittering magic!

Here's what they look like after they've begun to settle.  Depending on the ratio of ingredients, you can adjust the settling time.

 Riker checks out our newest creation.

You'll sometimes find these jars referred to as mind jars or time-out jars. They're meant to help quiet the mind and to provide something captivating for overstimulated brains to ponder. They happen to be great for both kids and adults as they really are fascinating and calming to watch!

The recipe we used looked something like this:

1 part glycerin or corn syrup (similar outcome, use what you have or whichever is cheaper)
1.5 parts warm water
2 Tbsp glitter
4 drops dish soap

I used the tutorial at Mama Owl's Lab as my guide as she offers step by step instructions and ideas for discussing the science of surface tension and viscosity.

These were lots of fun to make and I'm sure we'll be enjoying them for many months to come!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Ari the Biker

Okay, so it doesn't have the same ring to it as Riker the Biker, but what it lacks in rhyme it makes it up for in impressiveness!

We've been wanting to buy the kids nice bikes for some time because we believe that parents have an opportunity to offer a love and appreciation of cycling to kids when they are young. Put an adult on a nice bike for the first time and it's like a moment of enlightenment. It's no different for kids. After riding heavy and clunky department store models for years, it's no wonder that kids can't fully grasp the joys of riding, let alone riding any distance.

So, we put some effort into finding the best models of kids bikes out there and we landed on a brand called Islabikes. The frames are lightweight and engineered for a child's proportions, the handlebars are lower and narrower, the brakes were designed for smaller hands, and the pedals have a narrower profile. All these features serve to ensure proper positioning on the bike which, as any adult who's ridden a poorly fitted bike will know, makes all the difference in the world.

So we splurged and bought one for each kid.  A small 20 inch wheel size for Riker and a 14 inch for Ari. As soon as we pulled the bikes from their cartoons we could tell these were quality products. Beautifully and elegantly designed, lightweight and built with quality brand-name components, we knew it was money well spent.

Riker was nervous at first to be on a big kid bike (gears and brakes!) but after letting him take the time he needed to feel it out, he was off and riding within the hour.

Ari took a bit longer to get on the bike and preferred to keep riding his balance bike. We didn't push it but within two weeks of getting the bikes, he was coasting along so effortlessly on his balance bike that Brian bribed him with four jelly beans to get on the pedal bike!

With just a little help to get the hang of it, he was off and pedaling!

What a great feeling it must be to ride a bike for the first time. And he only just turned three a month ago! We're very proud of both of our keen cyclists!

Want to know more? Read one of the most thorough reviews I found of the Islabike Beinn 20" small here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

On the Record: Riker at Five

Two years ago I started a tradition of interviewing Riker on his birthday. By asking the children the same questions every year, we'll be able to see how their personalities and interests change (or stay the same).

Riker has just turned five and this is his third birthday interview!

What are you going to be when you grow up?
A garbage truck. I mean something else, a train.

What’s that going to be like?
Carrying passengers.

What are your favorite toys?
Turn and Fix.

What is your favorite food?
Chips and salsa.

Who are your best friends?
Owen. That's Owen cuz he's at my school.

What makes you happy?

What makes you sad?
Um, at school sometimes when it's lunch.

When you dream at night, what do you dream about?

What do you like to do with Daddy?
Scratch his back.

What do you like to do with Mama?
Play trains.

What’s your favorite color?
That's easy. Rainbow! (laughs) I can't choose cuz I like green, red, pink, purple, blue, yellow. So I can't even pick so I have to say rainbow.

What’s your favorite book?
The Cat on the Mat is Flat

What does Daddy do during the day?
Takes us to a park.

What does Mama do during the day?
Washes the clothes. I think you like washing the clothes to get them clean. Especially your favorite ones.

What do you do during the day?
I'm gonna choose at school - write. I write a lot. Wuh, errr. Sometimes W R makes 'ruh.' (referring to the word 'write').

What do you want to learn or do before you turn six?
Still play trains when I'm six.

Past interviews:
Riker at THREE
Riker at FOUR

I've shamelessly pilfered this interview idea and the questions from my friend Lauren over at Sparkling Adventures, You can read the birthday interviews of her four darling daughters here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Lately, Riker has been using his laptop to interact with a number of educational sites like Starfall, Earobics and Raz-Kids.

The other day I peered around the corner to see what he was up to and saw that he had made his way onto a search engine site and had 'Googled' himself!

After typing 'Riker" into the search bar, he was counting the instances of his name on the page and examining the photos that came up of the StarTrek officer, William Riker. I managed to snap this shot just before he lost interest and went back to his game. Too funny!

In other clever kid news, Riker presented me with a letter in an envelope the other night just before bedtime.

It read:

Dear Mama
I love you
Love Riker
You are best

Grammy helped him some but I was so profoundly moved (and impressed) that I shed a few tears. He readily grasped the fact that he'd done something pretty special and was very pleased with himself. And he should be! It's not every day you give someone one of the best love letters they've ever received!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Murray the Bearded Dragon

My nephew Cael was looking after his class pet this weekend and so when his family came to visit, Murray the Bearded Dragon came too.

Since Murray is native to Australia, we thought we should honor his heritage and provide him with a genuine cultural experience.

 Murray, meet Wombat.

Murray and his new best mates. 

We're sending Cael and Murray back to school with a collection of pretty terrific photos for his traveling photo album. No way next weekend's caretaker family can top this!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cleveland Sustainability Conferences

In the last month I've been to two really interesting sustainability themed conferences in Cleveland.

The first was the Cleveland Sustainability Summit, which is an annual event hosted by the Mayor of Cleveland, as part of a ten year plan for a sustainable Cleveland with the vision of creating a ‘green city on a blue lake.’ At the summit I had the pleasure of meeting lots of sustainability professionals in higher education, NGOs, and the business sector, along with a host of individuals engaged at a grassroots community level. Since then I've been able to visit five campuses, meet sustainability managers and connect with a whole network of really lovely and interesting people.

The second sustainability conference was held last week at Case Western Reserve University. With a theme of Flourish and Prosper, the Third Global Forum on Business as an Agent for World Benefit included a wide range of visionary global business and thought leaders. I was inspired by presentations from the Nobel Laureate and former President of Finland, the CEO of Vitamix, media giant Arianna Huffington , Michael Braungart, author of Cradle to Cradle, and a range of business leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs and philanthropists working to ensure that business is serving a greater social good beyond what we often consider to be its core mission of simply turning a profit.

This was a very inspiring conference to say the least. I expected to walk away with some new practical tools in my belt for delivering sustainability programs but I didn't expect the shift in perspective that came from totally re-framing sustainability as mere ‘maintenance and survival’ to sustainability as FLOURISHING! Let’s not just get by; let’s elevate our existence!

The conference offered numerous examples of companies who want their employees to thrive, who are demanding improvements from their supply chain and who are shifting away from short term models of thinking. Meanwhile they are developing new and innovative business models that reduce risk, build customer loyalty and increase profits. This is significant because global challenges like sustainability present great opportunities for individuals and businesses to not only do good, but to profit from solving problems.

It was mentioned several times at this conference that for the first time in history, this generation has the resources and the ability to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges - to eradicate extreme poverty and address the climate crisis, for example. This isn't seen as philanthropy, but rather seizing an opportunity to serve customers in way that doesn't compromise our very life support system.

I see it as rather fortuitous that these two conferences were happening in Cleveland right at this moment. Over the last few months, I've been considering whether a strategic career move might involve a shift away from the higher education campus sustainability sector into a more corporate or business centered environment. I would still maintain my key focus on sustainability strategy, communication and stakeholder engagement, but would simply apply them to a slightly different model of organizational change. The Case Western conference in particular offered me an opportunity to analyze in greater detail what it is I want to do and what the next big thing might be.

I've made MAJOR changes in my life recently. I remind myself that times of transition offer the opportunity for growth. While this can be terrifying at times, I've noticed that lately I've been feeling less anxiety about the search for what comes next. Instead I've been experiencing the joy and synergy that comes with being open to the next stage of life and to whatever it is the universe puts in front of me. With this openness, I've gone into these conferences and networking events knowing that who I need to meet will cross my path. The confidence and contentment that comes with this has been pleasing.

I feel poised to do some important work but I’m not quite sure what it is yet and that’s okay. I have been thrilled to learn of so many terrific sustainability initiatives happening across Cleveland on so many levels and I’m very excited to see where I fit into the sustainability sector here. The networking that has come about from these two conferences has been incredible. I have met really inspiring people and I’m starting to feel connected to the sustainability sector here in Cleveland.

And so I go about the delicate balance of designing my own future, appreciating the process, embracing the questions and the uncertainty, and waiting for the future to unfold as it should.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


I love autumn.

The trees are awash with a palette of my most favorite colors - green and red and rust and orange and gold and brown. I forgot how much I enjoyed being a front row spectator to this most spectacular event.

But it's not just the majestic landscapes that are pleasing to my senses right now.

The trees display an incredible ability to adapt to changing seasons and circumstances. The leaves falling outside my window are a fitting backdrop to our own season of transition. They remind me to take it slow, to be flexible, and to cultivate patience.

So this is us. Here. Now. In flux. Together. Crafting a new story.

And like my friends in the forest, I (try to) embrace the fact that one must shed an old layer to welcome in a new chapter. This process of stretching and sloughing can be uncomfortable and even painful, but without change, there is no growth. So on we go, reminding ourselves to enjoy the journey while scanning the horizon, eager to see what lies ahead.