Archives for July 2009

SK Showcase: Spotlight On YOU!

We are wrapping up a busy week, both here at Simple Kids and in my life offline.  We are on our way out of town for the last weekend trip before school starts (less than two weeks for us!).

I th0ught this would be an excellent week to turn the Showcase spotlight on you!

Have you recently featured a project, game, or book review on your blog?

Have you published an article recently that you are particularly proud of and would like to share?


What links have you come across in the past week or so that you think the rest of the Simple Kids community would enjoy?

It’s your week to shine – leave a link to whatever you would like to showcase this week in the comments.

Happy weekending!

Review: Amanda Blake Soule’s Handmade Home

Last night on our way home from church, my four year old was admiring the painting she had made in her class.  After studying it for a minute, she folded it in half and said, “I’m going to make this into a thank you card!  It is good to re-use stuff!”

handmadehomeAs you might guess, conversations about reworking and reusing “stuff” around the house happen a lot in our home.  The first thing I noticed about Amanda Blake Soule’s Handmade Home (aside from the cozy cover art which features sweet little Adelaide snuggled in bed beneath a handmade banner that says “dream”) is the subtitle:  “Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures.”

Fans of Soule Mama know that Amanda elevates the art of thrifting to the highest heights.  She seems to be able to find the perfect treasure at nearly every thrift store or rummage sale or flea market she pops into survey.  In the opening pages of Handmade Home, she shares with readers why repurposing material to use in crafting is so important to her:

It allows me to live a more financially pared-down and simple life in which it’s possible to work a little bit less and live a little bit more.  It allows me to connect to the past and preserve a more traditional way of life.  It allows me to place value on the work of the hands and the value of human time, energy, craft, and art.  It allows me an aesthetic and a quality of materials that are increasingly harder to find in today’s quick and disposable products.  It allows me to lessen my family’s impact on the very earth we are so blessed to live upon.

She goes on to explain that her desire to create that which is both beautiful and functional laid the foundation for Handmade Home.

At this point, I feel I should confess to you that I am merely a novice in the world of crafting, and I easily feel overwhelmed or intimidated by crafting blogs, websites, and books.  Yet Amanda’s tone and approach in Handmade Home is one that readers will recognize from the creative family – gentle, helpful, warm, and reassuring. From the opening pages to the last, her conversational style pervades the pages, and you can’t help but to be charmed into joining her in the enthusiastic pursuit of handmade and practical projects.

In Part One, Amanda shares some of her tips for finding fabrics and other materials – excellent thrifting tips here, as you can well imagine!  Next she covers some of the basic supplies to collect, but this is not a sewing instruction book.  Amanda shares some of her favorite sewing resources with readers, but readers should know this is not meant to be a “how to” book on sewing.

In Part One, she also offers some loving guidance on how to collaborate with your children as you work together on these projects that will fill a need within your home. This was my favorite part of the opening section, particularly when she reminds readers to “be committed to working with [children] even if their ideas may pull you away from your original vision for a project.  Children are not just the doers; they are the dreamers – don’t deny them that.”  As someone who is always remembering to let go and go with it, this spoke directly to my heart.

The remainder of the book is made up of the projects themselves.  In Handmade Home, you will find thiry-three projects to inspire

  • Family Feasts
  • Wellness and Care
  • Imagination and Growth
  • Adventure and Exploration
  • Calm and Peace

Projects are labeled as beginner, intermediate, and advanced based 0n your crafting experience and skills. I noted that ten of the projects are for beginners and work well for including children.  The lovely photography that delights readers of Soule Mama fills the pages of Handmade Home – both inspiring and explaining the projects.  Amanda’s instructions are simple and straightforward, and readers will find lots of “earthy tips” and “crafty tips” tucked amongst the project pages.

There is much more I could write about the pure joy that is Handmade Home, but I dare not spoil the surprise for you!  Just as the creative family has become the gold standard of resources for families interested in creative living, Handmade Home is destined to become the next book that is sure to become well-worn and dog-eared as families return to it time and again for insight, ideas, encouragement, and motivation.

Of course, I couldn’t wait to start in on a project for our home.  I chose one of the most basic projects – the Fiber Garland from the chapter titled “Retreat: Projects to Inspire Calm and Peace.” Amanda’s garlands are made from scraps of wool; wool – in any form – is hard to come by here on the central plains, so we had to make do with acrylic sweaters.  I also cut pieces of a shiny, satin-y bedskirt I found on a recent thrifting excursion:


This is described as a half-day project, but the cutting of squares took us a little longer than that.  It is summer, though, and distractions abounded.

My four year old squealed with excitement when she discovered I was going to finally allow her to work with the real needles.  (“I don’t need plastic needles anymore!”)


Aunt Emily and I started the garland, and she did a fantastic job of threading piece after piece onto the thread.




In the end, it was decided that this first garland would not be an adornment for our own home, but instead would grace the rather plain and drab exterior of the doll house.  As you can see, Sister Doll is elated to have something some handmade to, um, doll up their pink and purple abode!


As a long-time fan of Soule Mama and as someone who has absolutely worn out the pages of my copy of the creative family, I am so utterly humbled and honored to have been asked by Amanda to receive a copy of Handmade Home for review.  If creative living and responsible stewardship of materials are amongst the things that speak to your heart and your family, I highly recommend that you find a place for Handmade Home in your family’s library.

And guess what?  One Simple Kids reader will receive a free copy of Handmade Home! To enter, please leave a comment on this post telling about your own favorite project that you have created for your home or family OR something you have always wanted to be able to make. This can be anything from curtains to clothing to cloth diapers to quilts and blankets and beyond!

COMMENTS CLOSED!  Thank you for entering!

What We’re Reading Wednesday: I Am An Artist

Welcome back to What We’re Reading Wednesday!  I had planned a special book review for today, but it isn’t quite ready yet.  My sister Emily is visiting us for a few days; Emily is an art teacher, and serendipitously our brand new copy of Pat Lowery Collins’ I Am An Artist arrived yesterday.  I asked my sister to share her professional feedback on this beautiful book:

iamanartistI Am an Artist by Pat Lowery Collins is a wonderful way to show children what it means to be an artist.  Robin Brickman’s illustrations truly capture the beauty all around us.

As an art educator, I have found that all students – no matter what age – have varying insecurities about their drawing skills.  However, young children in the 3-5 range are definitely the most willing to learn about what an artist is and how they can be an artist, too.  Additionally, they are the least likely to be embarrassed about what they’ve created, no matter what it is. That’s why this book is so good for the little ones in this age group because it teaches, at such an impressionable age, how artists see the world around them and how they can be an artist too.

Each page contains the words, “I am an artist when…..” and then shows examples of how artists view their world differently.  For example, artists don’t just see clouds in the sky, they see faces. And artists don’t just see a boring seashell, they notice the shiny iridescent colors reflected on the shell’s surface. I especially love the part about  “…when I make something from the things I collect…” as this is an example of one of my personal favorites, found object art.

This also book teaches the most fundamental skill that children need to hear as much as possible: draw what you see, not what you know. Ms. Collins talks about examining the people, places, and things around them so that they will get a true sense of how feathery the bird is or the spherical characteristic of an orange. This book also shows children how to see the elements of art like texture, shape, and color in the everyday common world around them. I highly recommend this book for parents who want to encourage creativity and right-brained thinking. It shows, in a very beautiful way, what it means to be an artist.

Emily has taught art for the past seven years. She has experienced all grade levels Kindergarten through 12th grade and she truly believes that art education is her ultimate passion.