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Posted by on Mar 8, 2013 | 8 comments

The Wonders of Urban Birding

The Wonders of Urban Birding

O birds, your perfect virtues bring, Your song, your forms, your rhythmic flight, Your manners for your heart’s delight… …Forgive our harms, and condescend To man, as to a lubber friend, And, generous, teach his awkward race Courage, and probity, and grace! — Ralph Waldo Emerson, May-Day and Other Pieces Yes, we can learn a lot from birds. And so begins a new project — our urban birding project — something our whole family of birders, young and old, can enjoy. Of course you could go to any bookstore and purchase a book of birds complete with beautiful glossy professional photography, but what would be the DIY fun in that? We want to discover them ourselves. We love taking nature walks along the waterfront in Old Town and in our regional wildlife preserves such as Dyke Marsh by the Belle Haven Marina and Green Spring Gardens, a secret gem hidden behind the strip malls on Route 1, just to catch a glimpse of the hundreds of species of birds...

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Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 | 3 comments

Completing a Closet to Office Makeover

Completing a Closet to Office Makeover

Back in September, I converted the closet in my sons’ shared bedroom into an office for my oldest son, Jack. I was able to rescue a curbside castaway table and repurpose half of it for the desk. (I gave the other half away to a DIY Del Ray reader who completed a similar desk install.) Jack was ecstatic when the desk was finished, rushing home from school to do his homework in the privacy of his own office, working on top-secret presents during the Christmas holidays. But I wasn’t done yet, there was still the issue of storage and lighting before I could call this hack a success. Finally, five months later, the office transformation is now complete. For lighting, I added a desk lamp connected with an extension cord to the outlet behind the dresser outside the closet. I also found a bulletin board on Freecycle for the left wall where Jack can proudly display cherished mementos such as certificates of achievement and sporting event ticket stubs. On the desk itself, Jack keeps...

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Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 | 1 comment

Washing a Child’s Precious Stuffed Toy

Washing a Child’s Precious Stuffed Toy

Meet Kitty. That is a photo from about five years ago when Kitty joined Katie’s family as Jack’s stuffed feline companion. Look how pristine he is! Needless to say, after all these years and much smother love, Kitty has become a little worse for the wear. Calvin, Jack’s younger brother, claimed Kitty for his own which was fine by Jack; he had latched on to other stuffed friends. In spite of his bright eyes, Kitty’s fur is now matted and he’s turned from bright white to dingy beige. And, well, he also smells a bit, um, ripe. Oh, but he’s never been more content in Calvin’s loving embrace. It was high time Kitty had a bath. I researched options for washing fragile stuffed animals and came up with two choices: Put Kitty in a pillow case and wash him in the sink with gentle detergent. Immerse and squeeze. Wrap him in a towel, squish, and then repeat until he is almost completely dry. Then, let him air dry. Use a gentle...

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Posted by on Jan 10, 2013 | 0 comments

Sabine’s Corner Art Studio

Sabine’s Corner Art Studio

On a recent home tour, I was enamored with how nine-year-old Sabine transformed this little corner into the perfect space to draw, paint and design her next masterpiece. Sabine’s family moved into the house six months ago. This room, off the family room, is part of an addition to the house, which I assume was designed (by a previous owner) to be a den or home office. In their former house, Sabine’s art studio was also close to the main floor action, in the eat-in kitchen/dining room. Though she’s still just an arm’s reach from everyone else in the house, she has a little more wiggle room for her impressive collection of scissors — all shapes, cuts and sizes… Buckets of drawing implements organized by type… And plenty of baskets to contain, but still keep visible, all her tools and accessories. Sabine’s mom Cynthia set up the buckets and bins, but Sabine organized the supplies herself. What I love the most is that although both Sabine and her older brother Will...

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Posted by on Jan 9, 2013 | 0 comments

DIY Kids: Pretend Play with Cardboard Cutouts and Paper Cities

DIY Kids: Pretend Play with Cardboard Cutouts and Paper Cities

The pretend play possibilities are so endless when you have a big cardboard box. Living in a small house, though, we just don’t have the floor space for kid-size playhouses, robots, spaceships, or make-believe kitchen appliances as totally cool they are. But we can create some clever cardboard and paper creations at a size appropriate for Playmobile people and accessories. Best part is that these creations only require some scissors, a ruler, pencil, and maybe paint or markers. Cardboard Castle and Horse Stable I copied the template designs from the new book eco-friendly crafting with kids, on to cardboard (taken from a big shipping box) to make a castle with a tall tower, as well as a smaller stable. Then, Ana assembled the structures and we made minor adjustments to make sure they weren’t too off-kilter. Next, Ana painted the exteriors. And then she drew some designs on them with magic marker, like climbing ivy and three-headed dragons. (See the dragon’s menacing face in the circular window.) Next, imaginary play...

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