The simplest things are what make summer so enjoyable—feeling our feet in the grass, hearing insects hum, enjoying the shade of a wooded trail. Seize the moment by taking your family out to enjoy the natural world with these ideas.
Photo by iStock
A Day at the Beach
Suit up: Even if you aren’t close to the seashore, everywhere has a place where locals wear their bathing suits, whether a river, reservoir or community pool.
Swim time: Spend some time floating in the water, just enjoying being buoyant (and cool).
Cool down: Whether it’s homemade popsicles (find recipes at 3 Easy and Delicious Herbal Popsicle recipes) or a trip to the local ice cream parlor, a cool treat is the perfect way to wrap up a beach day.
A Day in the Woods
Lunch on a blanket: Follow the tips in “Pack a Perfect Picnic” later in this article for a perfectly portable lunch.
Cloud watching: Kick back to see what everyone envisions in the clouds while lunch digests.
Nature walk: A leisurely walk along a wooded trail is even more fun with a nature scavenger hunt—make a list of interesting items to search for such as smooth stones, feathers, flowers or shapely branches.
Pack a Perfect Picnic
Try these tips for an enjoyable meal eaten in the park, on the beach, on a boat or wherever strikes your fancy.
To-go tales: Whatever food you pack, it must be easy to both transport and eat while sitting on the ground. Try salads or rice bowls packed in Mason jars.
Bring on beverages: Be sure to plan for a refreshing beverage: Easy ideas include homemade lemonade in Mason jars (see Turn a Mason Jar into a Spillproof Cup with a Straw!) or herbal iced tea in a big steel bottle.
A tisket, a tasket: If you need a picnic basket to hold all these goodies, Boxsal offers reusable ones complete with compostable utensils and plates. Just need utensils? Check out the reusable bamboo ones in The Dangers of Plastics: 25 Ways to Eliminate Plastic in Your Home, specifically made for on-the-go.
Sit pretty: Don’t forget to toss an old blanket in your picnic basket—one big enough for everyone to fit on.
Consignment, thrift, vintage, old, worn, used, hand-me-down. These words describe clothes or items that have been used before and are now for sale or have been given to someone else to use. They have been recycled and used again. There are many benefits of consignment clothes shopping that may entice you to purchase used goods the next time you’re ready to shop. Check out some of the benefits and don’t forget about the personal satisfaction you may get when you find that awesome shirt squeezed in the row of not so awesome shirts… shopping high, yes!
One of the best benefits of buying used goods is the price. A used t-shirt for $2.50 versus a brand new shirt for $25.50 says it all. Savings, yes!
2. Environmentally Friendly
Purchasing used clothes and goods helps give life to something old, making it new again. Rather than only buying brand new clothes, that old pair of jeans can be worn again and again rather than being thrown away as a perfectly good pair.
The amount of variety from style to brand and everything in between lends for every person to find their unique style and functional piece.
Higher quality clothes that are very expensive brand new can make their way to consignment shops for less than half the price.
5. Less Chemical Residue
This is something to keep in mind particularly when shopping for young children and infants whose skin may be more sensitive. A used piece of clothing may have been washed numerous times releasing any chemical residues from the fabrics, dyes and manufacturing process.
If you are like me and like the looks and style of newer fashions, you can look online or in magazines to see what the latest styles are and purchase items that have similar trends. Lastly, just because you are choosing to buy used clothes and goods does not mean you have to or should only buy used clothes and goods. My personal experience has been to buy new and used clothes and/or goods which can also be an interesting approach to fashion that may add depth and creativity to your style and wardrobe.
Photos by Kristy Severin
Kristy Severin is a mother of two, a certified art instructor, photographer, painter, writer and cook. She earned her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda, East Africa. Inspired daily by her children and love of the earth, you can find her fine art and writings at The Art of Green Living.
Do you have a pair of jeans that you out grew or have a hole in a ‘tragic’ area?
Do you wash dishes or craft and are tired of the leak-through?
If you said yes, then this craft is for you. This DIY jeans to apron upcycling project is easy to complete in one hour. I know I kept a pile of jeans around because it felt wasteful to throw them away. I also hang on to the random 1/2 yard of fabric left over from other projects. Over the years I’ve come up with a few great uses for old jeans and this DIY apron is one of my favorites.
1 pair of jeans with the knees intact. Mine were husband size 35-35
1/2 yard of fabric 45in wide or more.
Thread to coordinate with (or accent!) your fabric
Step 1 – Put your jeans on a flat surface and smooth them as much as possible. Cut diagonally from the groin seam up toward the side of the leg. See the photo below but think ‘short shorts’ as you are cutting.
Step 2 – Examine the cuff of the pants. If there is a bad section, like all my husbands pants have where he walks on them, you want to cut directly in the center of the worst part. If all things are equal go equidistant between two seams. CUT down the leg as straight as possible.
Step 3 – Unfold and refold the leg so the cuff is straight. The bottom will not be level, don’t worry, the top needs to be straight as possible.
Step 4 – Cut a ‘J’ curve into the fabric on the open side (not the fold). This will be the arm hole(s) and for me the measure was 7.5 inches long and 4 inches wide; measure on yourself but remember the top of the apron will not be on your shoulder, and, aprons tend to be one-size-fits-most style fit.
Step 5 – Cut 3 strips of accent fabric then finish the edges with a serger or a zigzag.
Step 6 – Finish all but the top edge of the apron. I used a serger; you could just as easily turn it under and zigzag. In this tutorial I do not show decorative edging around the side edges but you can do that too, however, raw jeans edge look frizzy after washing so choose your method to combat the fuzz.
These next steps sound complicated but they are really easier then it looks. Think about making a fabric sandwich; accent, jean, accent.
Step 7 – Choose what arm you want to start with. Take one of the accent fabric strips and place it 1/2 inch in from the arm hole cut out *Leave 4 inches ABOVE the top of the apron. On the FRONT of the apron pin the accent fabric strip, right side down, around the curve of the arm hole. You will see there is a long tail left over, that will become the tie on the back.
Step 8 – Sew the curve. Wrong side up. Do not stress if it is not perfect!
Step 9 – Pick up the fabric and wrap it around the armhole edge.
Step 10 – Flip over the apron.
Step 11 – Fold under the edge of the accent fabric and fold it around the apron.
Step 12 – On the back, sew down the accent fabric onto the apron. Try to sew on the inside of the first seam to hide the seam best.
Step 13 – Move to the parts extending from the apron; fold the fabric, raw edges in, and sew it to itself.
Step 14 – Take the (sewn) fabric on the top of the apron and loop it down to the apron. Sew securely. This is the loop half of the neck hole.
Step 15 – Sew the two remaining accent strips together end to end to make one very long strip.
Step 16 – Position the seam of the accent strip at the bottom of the unfinished arm hole.
Repeat steps 8-13. You should finish this with a long tail extending up from the top and out from the side.
Step 17 – Thread your long tail through the loop to make the adjustable neck, tie it where you like it. You can stop here if you want, continue to add a pocket or any other accents you would like.
I like pockets, and, you have a perfectly good back pocket on those jeans so unless you do want some short shorts (on my husband! Ack!) I took the pocket right off the back of the pants.
Step 18 – Cut out the pocket leaving a boarder you can easily sew around with your machine.
Step 19 - Position your pocket wherever you want it: top center, bottom right… pin and sew around using a joining stitch or a zigzag.
This is just one way to finish the apron. I have made many versions and for an easier kids apron I just added ribbon for the neck tie and back; that is a 20 min project—10 if you are fast!
Women’s jeans tend to work best for kids, men’s jeans work for woman. If you want to make a larger apron you can use the other leg for extra fabric, just join it to the center part. If you need it longer, add a strip of fabric to the bottom. For me, this size is perfect; I wash dishes and bake and it covers well enough that my shirt does not look like I have 3 little kids/work in a warzone when I go out.
I would love to see how you choose to accent the basic center shape; link to your post or picture in the comments. If you would like more projects from me, or my views on life and raising 3 little girls check out my blog Katy Stuff.
Kate Luthner is a mother of three little girls. Transplanted from Ny to MN, Kate began to blog about life to keep up with her family at home. Her blog, Katy Stuff is updated most every day with posts ranging from DIY projects to kid updates and an occasional book review or view on the news of the world. Kate thinks that if you can make it… don’t buy it.
“It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis.” – Margaret Bonanno
Happiness can be found right at home. When you create a natural and healthy home, that’s where you can find happiness. Here are ways you can make the most of your home, so you can focus on spending quality time with your loved ones.
5 Ways to Be Happier at Home: Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” and “Happier at Home,” shares five ways for being happier at home in your daily life.
Clear Clutter for a Tidy Home: Use these tips and ideas to clear clutter and preserve your sanity.
Versatile Vinegar: Versatile vinegar has many uses around the home. Discover 17 household uses for this multitalented kitchen staple.
DIY Personalized Wall Art: Transform special photos into personalized wall art with this simple but stylish project.
Try This: Round Candles: Clean, simple lines give these round candles the versatility to blend in anywhere. Try making your own!
“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.” —Walt Whitman
Dinner is prepared, the table is set, your family sits down to eat—when we nourish the people we love, it’s a wonderful feeling. Whether you’ve grown the vegetables at home, had a CSA box delivered to your doorstep or selected a bounty at the market, nutritious meals create healthy bodies and happy souls.
Tips for Healthy Eating
1. Pantry Essentials for a Well-Stocked Kitchen: Stock up on these 18 staples and you’ll always be ready to make a quick, healthy meal.
2. Frequently Vegetarian: Making a Case for Eating More Vegetables: A cookbook author and self-proclaimed meat enthusiast makes the case for eating more vegetables.
3. Garlic Recipes and Growing Tips: A star in both the kitchen and the medicine cabinet, delicious, versatile garlic is worth celebrating.
4. All About Salt:
Learn about the science of salt—along with the flavor and best uses of increasingly popular artisan salts.
It’s never too late to live your dream—at least that’s what I learned from Rex Gardner, a man who lives to create music.
Growing up in the tiny Oklahoma town of Paoli (population 300), Rex only heard the kind of music best described as “country,” “hillbilly” and “foot-stomping.” Then at age 13, he watched “The Liberace Show” for the first time. “I knew I wanted to do that—to play the piano like that,” the 74-year-old retiree recalled.
The Gardner family was poor, but Rex’s mother saved up $50 to buy a piano. For three years, Rex religiously took lessons, and by high school graduation he could play Chopin. Next came college and marriage to his wife Edwina. The new couple purchased a Baldwin grand piano, and when they lived in Albuquerque, he spent two years training with Ralph Berkowitz, manager of the city’s symphony.
“We moved seven times, and we moved the piano every time,” Rex recalled. “But I had to make a living.”
Rex spent the majority of his career as a regional financial manager of 25 Veteran’s Administration Hospital facilities in nine states. “My career was very demanding, and I didn’t touch a piano for 35 years,” he said. “But I knew when I retired I would come back to it.”
Retirement came in 1998, and at age 60, Rex resumed piano lessons near his Nashville, Tennessee, home. He has been training ever since, and his commitment to music has been rewarded.
Beginning in 2000, Rex started attending Piano Texas International Academy and Festival in Fort Worth, Texas, an international academy founded for superior amateur pianists during the sixth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. In 2007, Rex spent three months working full time with Yakov Kasman, a professor at the University of Birmingham and former Van Cliburn silver medalist. He then applied to be a competitor in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs and was among the 75 competitors selected worldwide.
“I was accepted,” he said. “When they called me, I almost fainted. I had to sit down in my kitchen chair.”
Piano Texas is the big time for up-and-coming artists around the globe, and it was especially exciting for a retiree who had long deferred his dream. There, he took master classes daily and attended recitals nightly. Many of his fellow students were still in high school, but some were in their 50s and 60s. “There was a doctor from Seattle who is a little older than me,” Rex said. “I called him ‘The Old Man.’”
Rex has since participated in Piano Texas every year.
Today, Rex performs Chopin’s Impromptus #2 in F sharp major and Mozart’s Concerto #20 in D minor (the second movement), although he admitted, “I can’t memorize music in my old age. Your mind can’t retain what it did when you were younger. I’m working on that now.”
He also has plans for what he wants to learn through 2015, such as Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 12 in F major and Liszt's Un Sospiro. He studies with Kristian Klefstad, a doctor and professor of piano at Belmont University in Nashville, with whom he spends three to four hours a day practicing.
“I try to be exact and do it right,” he said of his work. “I want to play the piano, not just hit the key. It’s about timing and knowing how to color the music and express it.”
Rex is happy to have returned to what he describes as “my first love” and believes it is possible for anyone to recapture a youthful dream.
“You can do anything,” he said. “People have different talents. Hook into one of your talents in old age. If you don’t have a plan when you retire, you’ll be dead in two years. Don’t let yourself be bored.”
Pat Pape is a freelance writer, blogger and communications consultant, who lives with her husband and various animals north of Dallas.
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.” — Lin Yutang
The simple life really is the good life, and there are few better times to instill a sense of serenity in our homes than during the introspective winter season. If you feel like your world is hectic, try to whittle down your obligations list, focusing on what is truly important to you and your family.
We have tons of information on living simple in our January/February issue of Mother Earth Living. Whether it’s reducing clutter in your home life or reducing refined grains in your diet, we have the help you need to get started living simply.
5 Tips for Living Simple
How to Organize Your Storage Spaces: Use our tips for a less-cluttered, more-efficient home.
Whole-Grain Flour Guide: Replace white flour in your diet with high-quality nutritious alternatives.
Learn to Cross Stitch, Crochet and More: Occupy bored hands with these useful old-fashioned (but never out-dated) crafts.
4 Swap Party Ideas: Get your friends together for a party and save a little money while you are at it with these swap party ideas.
Vermicomposting 101: How to Start a Worm Bin System: Learn how to make your own nutrient-rich fertilizer with vermicomposting.