The Perfect Christmas gift: Painted TOMS

You need a pair of these.

Christmas is right around the corner. 28 days and counting.


I almost never have early inspiration for Christmas gifts. This is usually how it goes:

Me: Hmmmm. It's December 22nd...I should probably go shopping...what to do...what to buy...oh, I know! Let's make crafts! Proceed to not sleep until December 25th.

Let's do something different this year, guys. First, let's shop for hand-crafted items because they are so much more heartfelt and unique. Not to mention, much cooler.  And second, since last Saturday was Small Business Saturday, buy something from a mom and pop shop. Support those businesses that are trying to make it in this economy. We are trying to feed our baybays, ya'll!

That said, if anyone is interested in a pair of custom-painted shoes--TOMS, Converse, Vans, whatever tickles your pickle, send me an email and we can work out the deets.

Or, head over to my Etsy shop, where you can find all the information you need to buy yourself, or someone you love, an amazing Christmas gift, painted by ME (or my husband, depending on how sleep-deprived I am!). It's a win-win situation, if you ask me.


Modern Art 4 Kids: Frank Stella Sculptures

This sculpture was created by my son, a fourth grader.
If you ever want to calm down a group of kids and engage their hands and minds at the same time, you should definitely do this: create sculptures. So, what exactly are sculptures? Here is the definition:


The art of making two- or three-dimensional representative or abstract forms, esp. by carving stone or wood or by casting metal or plaster.

Make or represent (a form) by carving, casting, or other shaping techniques.

noun.  statue - carving - statuary - sculpt
verb.  carve - sculpt - sculp - chisel - engrave - model

In simple terms, it's something you build and it's anything that you can view from different angles. Children of any young age can create sculptures. It engages all of their senses and you will be amazed at what they come up with. Our inspiration:

Image: Onsite

We decided to study the American artist and printer Frank Stella, whose work spans five decades. He's one of the first artists to use shaped canvases. We studied Stella a few years ago with amazing success. I knew I'd want to do this project again. His shaped canvas paintings slash sculptures were our inspiration. This really cool kid's art project can be created with very simple materials, such as cardboard, scissors, masking tape, a glue gun, paintbrushes and tempera paint.

My cute art students creating shapes from cardboard. Your younger students may need help with the scissors.
Once they have their shapes cut, they began to create a design by overlapping their shapes. This is what makes it "3-D"! Then they secured it with masking tape, until it was their turn with the glue gun to hold it all together.
Once the glue dried, we painted our sculptures with tempera paint. Acrylic craft paint would work great too.
Miss Maya painting her masterpiece. You go, girl! Look at how amazing her creativity is.

I love the intensity of my artists!

Maya's finished sculpture.

Some students created people shapes.

My fellow art teacher, Mr. Cortes, sharing each student's artwork with the group.

The holiday break is coming soon. So is a houseful of bored kids who want to drive you mad crazy. Now you have a cool, inexpensive project for them to do over their vacation--they can create Christmas-themed sculptures, ornaments, robots, cars, fashion design, play food, pretty much anything they want to create. If you have younger kids, cardboard might be too tough for them to cut. Cereal and pasta boxes are the perfect alternative.



21 Uses for Coconut Oil

After the turkey orgy last night, I rolled myself out of bed this morning looking just like Ursula when she turned back into a giant, fabulous drag-queen octopus at the Prince's wedding in The Little Mermaid and wrote a post about the many uses of miraculous coconut oil.

I use it but I don't think I use it enough. I'm about to go all crazy crunchy granola and start using this stuff for everything--makeup remover, oil pulling, hair conditioner, eczema soother, energy booster, metabolism starter, and heartburn killer. to name a few. I'll let you know how it goes.

Until then, head over to BabyCenter and check out my latest post: 21 Mom and Baby-Friendly Uses for Coconut Oil. I just wish I would've tried these remedies out when the chil'rens were little. Lord already knows I used to be a mad scientist in the kitchen, creating lotions and creams and concoctions for our health. This would've been so convenient.

Pass this along to your barefoot and pregnant friends. Peace and love, ya'll.


Thankful for laughter

This was originally posted a couple years ago on The BabyCenter Blog. It's still the truth.

When posed with the question: what are you thankful for? I really had to ponder. Sure, I’m thankful for family, friends, health, my children, my husband and the fact that we aren’t living near the river bottom yet, washing our clothes in the stream and grilling muskrats for dinner.

Very thankful, yes.

But I have to say, I am very very thankful for laughter. It has kept me sane in the midst of insanity, which is my life sometimes. Shoot, who am I kidding? My life is insane pretty much all the time.

Laughter has kept my heart light. Laughter has helped me see that most situations are temporary. Whether it be a giggle, a raucous knee-slapper, or one of those thank-gawd-I’m-wearing-a-panty-liner deep belly laughs, it has kept a smile on my face and I’m able to keep going.

If given the choice to laugh or cry, I choose laughter. That’s what I’m thankful for.


Homeschooling: Letting your child learn at his own pace

My sons have a long history of being late bloomers when it comes to reading. My oldest son Noah used to trick me by making up elaborate stories while he read aloud. I remember being so relieved, so proud that he was finally reading all by himself! Yes! That is, until I investigated further and discovered the little turd was pulling my leg and making it up as he went along.

Le sigh.

Solomon was a late reader, too. He was not an independent reader until the age of...ten. I know some of you are freaking out just reading that. You might have put your child in tutoring, reading bootcamp, special education, you name it. But he is an awesome kid with a very analytical, creative mind. He was enjoying life to the fullest--who was I to say something was wrong because he couldn't independently read at ten years old? The education specialist at my charter school we attended at the time was really helpful in supporting me while I lived out what homeschooling means to me--letting my kids learn at their own pace, or child-led learning. I stood my ground and we gave him a year before we discussed learning disorders and special education. Much to my delight (and relief), his reading took off like a rocket sometime later. This was just last year. Now he's leisurely reading The Hobbit (my requirement for those who want to see the movie next month).

I wasn't surprised when my fourth son followed in his big brother's footsteps. Cyan turned ten last April, but he was far from knowing how to read. I think he was further behind than Solomon was.  When he attended charter school last year, the teachers were awesome in helping him--they tutored him once a week, they created a learning plan to suit his needs and they allowed him to take all of his tests orally, etc. They knew what I already knew--he was a sweet, bright little boy and not delayed in any way. He was eager to please and neat to a fault, but he was now growing somewhat self-conscious because he wasn't able to read along like his classmates.

I'll admit, I faltered with Cyan. I worried maybe he really did have a learning disability. I just couldn't understand why it was taking so long for the lightbulb to go off. His teachers were putting more and more pressure on me and understandably so, but all I knew was that I desperately wanted to protect my son's self-esteem and preserve his love of learning. Constantly worrying about his progress and state testing was not something I wanted for any of us so we persevered until the end of the 2011-2012 year with the charter school. I knew we weren't going to come back.

I wanted to rededicate ourselves to homeschooling. Truly learning at our own pace, studying the subjects we wanted to and not giving a rat's a$$ about state funding, state testing and graphs that show where you should be in life. I wanted my boy to thrive, and I knew this was something that was going to happen at home.

The boy whose name means turquoise: Cyan (pronounced Sigh-ann).

I'm happy to say Cyan has exploded the code of reading! Wahoo! Yes--you go, boy.

After working three additional days a week with his grandma-mom since September, his reading skills have grown in leaps and bounds. He is fully reading books and stories and spelling words that he was nowhere near being able to read back in May.

But what makes me the most happy is the smile on his face! He is so proud of himself. He wants to read everything now. He can't get enough of books, which hello, warms my fat little bookworm heart. I've been waiting for one of my kids to be a bookworm like I was. I'm so excited at the world that is about to open up for him.

Could he have learned to read in the charter school? Yes, probably. But at what cost? And after how many months? And how many tutors? He learned in the comfort and safety of his own home. No one teased him. No one made him feel like he was behind, or "dumb". We taught him how to read not because we were worried we might not get funding for next year--we taught him so he could finally experience the joy of reading.

I'm so thankful for the privilege of homeschooling. I'm also thankful for my mother, who loves Cyan enough to take time out of her life to help her grandson learn to read.

It takes a village, guys.


Stenciled Burlap Luminarias #MarthaHolidayPaint

Every year I make my mother a Christmas gift. The story goes, she's the hardest woman in the world to shop for. Not because she is too picky, but because if she wants something, she just goes out and gets it. Lately, my mind has been percolating--what am I going to make for mom this year? Well, I think the lovely people from Plaid and Martha Stewart Paints have solved my problems. They sent me a fantastically large box of craft goodies that made me squeal every time I pulled something out.

No way!
Yesssssss (said like Napoleon Dynamite).

Adhesive stencils, brushes, multi-surface paints, daubers, glass etching cream, glitter paint, Crystal Ice effect, glass paint and liquid gilding--all this good stuff was in the box! I know, right? I have enough goodies to make a ton of awesomeness over the holidays. I'm pretty happy about that.

Back to my gift idea...one thing I admire most about my mama is her faith, so I usually make her something inspirational. She hangs my paintings and framed signs throughout her house, and every year they make their seasonal appearance. They are like old friends--I'm always happy to see them. This year, I thought I'd make something a little different and create burlap-wrapped candleholders, or Stenciled Burlap Luminarias.

Here is what you'll need:

I wanted to continue the inspirational trend and spell out the word peace on the luminarias. I mean, seriously, who couldn't use some peace during the hectic holidays?

I used Martha Stewart's Adhesive stencils and they were uh-mazing. So easy to just peel off and stick on the surface of your choice. Since I was using burlap, my stencil got a little furry but no biggie, it was easy to pull off the little threads.

What I did was eyeball a square piece of burlap and wrapped it around the half-pint jar (don't forget to remove the lid). You don't want the burlap to be too big and bulky, just enough to cover the jar. Once you find the size you like, cut out however many pieces you'll need. Position it on your jar and then secure it with a piece of sisal twine.

Now it's time to paint! I found it easier to position the stencil on the jar, rather than laying the burlap flat on a surface. It's less work this way and little to no paint bleeds through.

Press the stencil down to make sure the paint doesn't bleed.

Gently dab Martha Stewart Multi-Purpose Satin Paint.  I used Beetle Black. I also used the smallest brush in the set.

Continue with the rest of the letters on each burlap-wrapped jar.

I went back and stenciled each letter twice because I wanted to make them a bit darker. The stencils held up great. Once they were finished, the luminarias still needed some pizzazz. I knew just the thing--snowflakes! A white Christmas is unheard of here in sunny So Cal, but it's nice to pretend. I made small snowflake tags to hang on the sisal twine.

The non-adhesive stencils work just as great.
I used both sizes.
I had quite a few small treasures called milagros from Sueños Latin American Imports, which I thought would go perf on the snowflake tags, to give it some Latino sabor.

I mean, who wouldn't want a random hand on their snowflake tag--come on now.

Once you are ready to display your luminarias, put a tealight candle down inside the jar. Be careful with the loose fibers of the burlap when you are lighting your candles. Trim away any unraveled string, if need be. A reader gave me a fabulous tip--use LED electric tealight candles such as these from Lowe's instead, to decrease the fire hazard! Why didn't I think of that, people?

I'm really pleased with the way my luminarias turned out. I think my Mom is going to love them, don't you?

Disclosure: I received product and payment via The Blueprint Social (www.theblueprintsocial.com) for this post, however, opinions are 100% my own.


Dia de los Muertos 2012 Wrap-Up

Where did half of November go? 

I've been so consumed with family, travel, homeschool and life that I've seriously been lagging in the blog department. Ten lashings with a wet noodle is in order. The holidays and all of its crafts and projects are ramping up, but I wanted to put a vigorous point of closure on all of the lovely Dia de los Muertos events this year.

The first event was Dia de los Muertos at the historical Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It was huge. Ginormous. Amazing. So much to take in and see!

Photo by MayaintheMoment
Photo by BoifromIpanema
Me and the fabulous Boifromipanema.
The aguas frescas were the bomb dot com. Especially the lemonade/limon/pepino agua. I need an IV of that good stuff. STAT.
Hanging out with the talented AZ artist, Patrick Murillo.
Loved this little guy just hanging out.
The lovely La Marisoul, frontwoman for La Santa Cecilia, beautiful and haunting as always.
Serving face.
Amazing giant calaca sculptures.
Frida and Diego altar.
My brother and sister looking amazing, as usual.

Here are a few videos that capture the spirit of this event. First, the Aztec dancers in the afternoon:

And then later on in the evening, La Marisoul and La Santa Cecilia on the main stage:

You can check out some amazing photos at L.A Weekly, for next year's inspiration!

And then a week later we celebrated Dia de los Muertos with the entire family in downtown Riverside. It was crazy packed but I loved the fact that there were so many families present--all the little ones getting a taste of Mexican culture. Love.

Painting my face, with Frida over my shoulder for inspiration.
So fun! Used Tulip Body Art to create this.
The streets were filled with people in the Day of the Dead spirit.
My little ladies with el catrin y la catrina.

Love the candlelight.
Giant papier mache mask.
Jeshua's makeup was amazing!

He also painted her makeup as well. Look at the detail on the neck!

My brother-in-law and his honey looking fierce.



This Lego was getting down.

My last minute DIY project: lace sugar skull tee!
My beautiful sister.
Their costume made this amazing jiggling sound.
Miss Midgey and her sugar skull lollipop.

Division 9 Gallery's Artsicle Artruck

I don't want this season to end.
If you are in Southern California next year and decide to attend either one of these events, my advice to you would be: GET THERE EARLY. Traffic and parking was a nightmare. Expected, but a nightmare nonetheless.

It's been amazing, friends. And now, on to the holidays!
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