Category Archives: Crafts

Discovering the inner artist: tricks for bringing out the creative child.

This weekend my husband and I headed to the local art museum.  There was a gallery featuring artwork by the local high school students.  Incredible.  Even the pieces missing symmetry or the ‘perfect’ level of shading impressed me.  The effort.  The thoughtfulness.  The unique perspective of each student manifested as creative license in each piece.  

I thought of my own daughter and wondered how in the world I would ever be able to encourage the artist in her, considering my lack of formal artistic training.  It’s one thing to teach your kid how to glue construction paper and glitter and popsicle sticks together, but it is another beast altogether to teach a child to recreate, on paper, with a pencil, the world around them.  

Naturally, I turned to my mother for guidance.  How do you teach a kid to draw when the whole idea intimidates you?  I grew up watching her draw–for fun, to earn some extra money, and with us.  She somehow managed to be encouraging even while she carefully corrected us.  She taught us to forgive ourselves when our drawings didn’t look like we thought they should.  She taught us to try again, because trying again was fun.  I remember drawing with her so clearly, but I don’t remember her technique–how did she teach us to embrace the challenge of recreating something on paper?

She agreed to write up her thoughts on the subject to share with you all…

It is a common misconception that children need to be taught to draw.  But really!  They don’t need someone to show them how to make a mark.  They love to make marks—on walls and floors and brothers and bellies.  I can’t remember a time that I didn’t have a pencil in hand, but it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I learned how to “draw” in spite of countless hours and a small fortune invested in lessons.  Soon after, I started teaching at my daughter’s elementary school as a volunteer.  What I discovered is this:  Teaching children to draw means first teaching them to see and teaching them to see means giving them permission to ignore the symbolic world of our educational system.  There’s nothing wrong with symbols: this post would mean nothing to you if you had not mastered symbology (i.e. letters) in school.  But when it comes to drawing, I find that spaces, lines, texture, hue, saturation and color are much more interesting than symbols. (more…)

da Vinci schma Vinci: Ice art for the creatively challenged.

It is finally warming up here.  I should be elated, but I find that warmth has turned the snow to mud.  Except for right by the front door–our main entry way is always shaded, and continues to be a slippery death trap.  The house feels cramped and boring after this cold winter.  Even the dog seems lethargic.

I have been in need of color and something creative to do, so this morning I tried ice art.  I saw something similar to this online a few weeks ago somewhere–I can’t for the life of me find the page again, but a quick search pulled up dozens of other moms and teachers who’ve done the same thing.  And I found this cool video of salt melting ice in slow motion.  Some recommend using liquid water colors which can enhance the melting, but I used just plain old food coloring.


How to make a recycled bike chain bracelet

The last time I gave handmade gifts to my friends for Christmas I was 11. I hand painted them all little wooden rabbits.

Twenty plus years later I decided it was high time I made another batch of handmade gifts. I first came up with this idea because I wanted to make something ‘bikeish’ for my much missed mountain biking buddy in Reno. After making a bracelet for her I loved it so much I made more. Who knew  you could make something so ascetically pleasing out of  an old bike chain and some utility cord.

Here are the supplies you will need: (more…)

DIY ‘Natural’ Christmas Tree Ornaments

We’ve started a tradition of having our kids make a new Christmas tree ornament every year. I like having our tree decorated with meaningful bits of child craftiness from Christmas gone by.

This year I was searching the web for ornaments ideas that we could make, and that also had the following characteristics: 1. kid friendly (as in they would enjoy making them), 2. would allow the ability (i.e. surface area) to write our names and the year on the ornament, and 3. something that might also get us outside in order to collect our ornament making supplies.

I found several options, so I thought I would share.

1. Peanut Snowmen. You can buy these on Etsy, but it would also be fun to make something like this. 2. Twiggy Christmas Trees. Check out the site for instructions, I think these are the ones we will do this year. 3. Driftwood Ornaments. Drift wood is cool all by itself, wish I lived near some. Also, check out that site for more holiday decorations with driftwood, the post is pretty cool. 4. Snowflake Ornament. Not really any instructions here, but a cool idea to make your little something like this. 5. Hanging Ornaments. I really like these! I was thinking it would be cool to use small red sandstone pebbles and tiny pieces of ‘sea glass’  you can find on the beach at Lake Tahoe. 6. Clay Leaf Prints. My kids would really like this one, and that website is really cool!!. 7. Hanging sea shells. We’ve gathers a lot of these over time, their all sitting in a jar, this would make them more useful. 8. Tree Cookie Ornaments. This site give you instructions on how to make these, or, just cut some tree cookies and let your kids draw on them? 9. Hanging Acorns. There is just something so simple and pretty about this ornament. I just really like it, and they would be fun to gather.

And don’t forget to use that Queen Anne’s Lace you collected last summer…

My 10th Anniversary work of art

Joe and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary last month. To commemorate the occasion Joe, knowing I’m a sucker for the hand made gift, made me a bit of art.

Some might look at this and wonder why on earth he would give me a bird made of dead plant matter instead of a diamond encrusted jewel on such an occasion. I think you guys probably understand.

There’s symbolism in this little bird. We met in the fall. Our first date was a hike among the changing leaves. We were married in the fall. Our boys were born in the fall. I’m somewhat obsessed with this season…

A the bird? It’s a wren. My favorite bird. So diverse, so happy. Most are rather small, palin and inconspicuous, but are known for their loud and often complex melodies. Joe thinks the wren and I have a few other traits in common. And my favorite wren? My daughter Viviann Wren. My new favorite piece of art? This one.


Christmas ornaments grow in July

I know it’s not even close to Christmas (despite what Mountain Mama would have you thinking last week), but none-the-less there’s something Christmas related that has to be discussed this time of year: Christmas ornaments. Specifically ornaments made from flowers, because NOW is the time to be collecting your future Christmas Tree Baubles.

This idea comes from fellow OutsideMom Heather in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’s an ornament she makes out of a flower known as Queen Anne’s Lace (or wild carrot).

It’s the perfect ornament because it looks so much like a snow flake. And they’re beautiful! It blooms this time of year and can be found almost everywhere in the US and Canada. I happened to notice last week that it’s flowering in the Sierras, so I collected some.

Here’s how to make your ornament:

1. Take a hike.

2. Collect your flowers. Queen Anne’s Lace is the best option, but you can also try Cow Parsnip (beautiful name isn’t it). Collect lots, they’re fragile so you’ll want to make plenty incase they meet an untimely death. (more…)

Gift Ideas for Outdoor Families

Christmas is coming up (I know, duh). And while I’m sure most of you have all your holiday gifts squared away (wink wink), for those who don’t, this post may help. All are gifts that will encourage you and your family to be outside. Note that they are also realistic, I refrained from listing a Sportsmobile and the entire inventory at Jacks Plastic Welding.

Let’s get right to it, here are my top 10 picks. 5 Things you can make and 5 things you can buy. Plus links to other outdoor Mom bloggers who are posting about outdoor family gifts today as well.

I’d also be interested to know what your’re giving this holiday…

5 Things You Can Make/Assemble


Silence is golden, duct tape is silver


What do MacGyver, astronauts, and writers have in common?

We all keep rolls of duct tape in our backpacks, our cars, our boats, our spaceships, and our homes.

Ah, the sticky stuff.  That super-adhesive, water-repellant, ultra-durable, handyman-staple:  Duct tape.  I love the sound it makes coming off the role.  The slightly synthetic smell.  But mostly I love the many ways it can be used.  Is there anything in the universe more versatile?  I imagine aliens in every galaxy find it as useful as we do…

Today, we celebrate duct tape and its many uses.  Here’s just a handful of the ways this substance can improve your life.  Did we miss one?  Tell us about it at the end!

Fix Something

1. You can use duct tape to patch darn near anything!

  • Backpacks, tents, shoes, hats, or any other leaky piece of equipment.  Duct tape sticks to itself as well as it sticks to anything else.  Put a piece on the inside of the hole, and another on the outside, and stick the pieces together through the hole!  Problem solved.
  • Also, ski pants.  I fall a lot on my skis.  I use duct tape at the hems to patch up the rips caused by my edges cutting into the sides of my ski pants every time I tumble.
  • Bathtub leaking?  My aunt’s tub has a crack in the floor.  She just taped it over with a strip o the sticky stuff.  That tube probably has another ten years of good use now. (more…)

How to make a bracelet out of plant fibers

The following video shows you step-by-step how to make a bracelet, or neckless out of plant fibers. It’s really easy, just happened to be easier to show you through video. This was the first piece of jewelry Joe ever gave me. Come to think of it, it’s just about the only piece of jewelry Joe’s ever given me. Smart man.

The final product will look something like this, depending on what type of plant you use.

I apologize for the camera shakiness in the first minute. Turns out holding an iPhone steady is an art form I had not yet mastered.

Outdoor (ish) Themed Do-it-yourself Halloween Costumes

If your like me, you’ve procrastinated making your child’s Halloween costume.  Now, with less than a week to go, you’re frantically looking through your cloth scraps, first-aid kits, and compost pile for something you can strap to your child and call it a ‘costume’.  “But I look like a soggy English muffin” your child says, looking in the mirror.  “Nonsense!” you parry, “That’s the darndest unicorn costume this side of the Mississippi!”

For the sake of your child, we’ve put together a small list (well, it started out small) of nature-esque costume ideas that you can throw together with ease.  Well, most of them, some are probably a little to advanced, but we’re craft-challenged. (more…)


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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