It’s the Holidays – You Know What That Means…

Every year as part of our holiday get together with our cousins, we make fun gingerbread houses, usually out of graham crackers and most of our effort is around the decorations, but this year we wanted to test our structural skills and make a fully standing, made from scratch, holiday house. As an added bonus, we signed up for City Hall’s annual gingerbread house competition!

We used a great ginger bread recipe for the dough that we found here. We used hard candy to melt into the cookies as the windows. We would recommend having done it that if you try this yourself, you let the cookies bake for 5-7 minutes first, then add the candy. Putting it in and the beginning of the bake time resulted in unsynchronized bake times, and some might say slightly undercooked cookies! After letting it sit overnight, we began the decorating! Of course we all had our special themes which included the bumblebee house (bee merry, bee bright!) by Mom, the classic winter wonderland house, by Olive and the chicken avalanche party house ( you can guess who’s that one is!).

Anyway, voting for best house at the city takes place starting December 7th, so if one of us wins the contest, we’ll update the post!

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We even made little stained glass windows with melted Jolly Ranchers! It smelled SO GOOD!

 

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Apologies for the horrific lighting we made these late in the day so the pictures are iffy (also there’s chickens sledding inside the house.)

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A Persian Thanksgiving!

Happy belated Thanksgiving! At our home, we understand the history around this occasion and with this knowledge of violence and sadness and what happened to the Native American people and culture, we choose to use this time as a celebration of diversity and acceptance that different is good. A way for all of us to dip into another culture to better understand things we may be making assumptions about, or not even take the time to notice.

As a family, each year we choose a different country to learn about. We dive into their culture, history and food, and this year we chose Iran! We learned how to wear a hijab, niqab and burka and understood more deeply that it is an expression of modesty.

The people who live in Iran are predominately Persians and we started by learning about the country’s history which of course, included a lot of wars sf hostile take overs.  TRUE FACT: the Roman-Persian war lasted for over 694 years, between the years of 66 BC and 628 AD and it’s considered the longest human conflict in history.  DID YOU KNOW: 70% of Iran’s population is under 30… we thought that was very interesting and something that makes you think twice. ANOTHER INTERESTING FACT: Iran is the biggest supplier of turquoise, saffron, pistachios and caviar on the world. So cool!  There are obviously many more interesting facts but we thought we’d keep it light and just let the video down below work its magic share some history and knowledge with you – beware – the vlogger is a FAST talker and really packs in the information!

Another major part of our Thanksgiving celebration is the food! We try our best to make a traditional replica of the country’s native food which usually includes spices, dips, meat or veggies and something exotic we’ve never had. For our feast this year, we had rice with saffron, yogurt and eggs, kerchief flat breads with spices, a traditional persian salad made of cucumber and tomato and pomegranate molasses, carrot moraba (which is basically a chutney with cardamom infusions), the ever popular, Fesenjan and home-made fruit leather – It was quite a feast!

Our whole family’s favorite part is busting stereotypes and taking the time to learn about traditions, cultures and religions that make the world so awesome. Hope you had a marvelous Thanksgiving however your family celebrates it. Three cheers for Thankfulness!

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Here’s our ultimate Thanksgiving feast!

The Great Banquet!

As you might remember from a post a while back, we volunteered again at the Holland Rescue Mission’s Great Banquet the day before Thanksgiving. Families young and old, students, police and firemen were on the scene to help set up tables and centerpieces, food and desserts for over 1,500 people that were treated to a full Thanksgiving feast free of charge. It takes hundreds of volunteers to set up, prepare and plan for this annual event! It was such a welcoming environment and so well organized. Every detail was attended to from small crafts at each table to care boxes that community members donated for any family who needed household supplies to take home.

This year, we were dessert cutters and packers and helped set up tables and condiments. We are honored to have been part of such an auspicious event!!

Stay tuned for our post on our own Thanksgiving extravaganza!

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The Time is Now… Oooh!

The Heidelberg Project. We have heard about it for years. We’ve read books and watched videos. And then… we were there.

Heidelberg Street in Detroit. One street, homes standing silent, witnessing mountains of ‘things’ piled in and around the homes. The homes that are left anyway. There aren’t many since 12 of them were burned down over the years. We thought it would look more lively and colorful – a bit more of the “wow” factor.  But that wasn’t the case. Colors had been sun faded and what was left was weathered belongings. Some wrapped completely in plastic wrap. Others, iconic to the project stared back at the street where people were trying to make sense of what it was. We could imagine it as it may have been when freshly constructed, but to us, it felt run-down and a little sad. We guessed that made its own statement on the communities that have been left behind to deteriorate.  We had heard that they were taking the whole thing down (making room for Heidelberg 3.0) which made it more urgent to see this famous installation executed by Tyree Guyson.

Driving through the streets, we saw lots of clocks and signs that said “the time is now”. On the HP website, it explains that they are intended to ask the viewer to think about what time means to them. It was SO MUCH STUFF! Where did all the shoes come from? It made us want to find a teleportation device so we could instantly clear spaces in our own home!! It was a LOT to look at and hard to make sense of where all that stuff originated.

The visit prompted much conversation between us. What was it like for the neighbors who lived and (still) live on this street – can you imagine it?!? Once installed, was there an upkeep plan or was the intent to allow it to fade with time? We wondered if this fulfilled the vision Tyree Guyton originally had for his block. It was meant to bring to the light, the problem of blight in east Detroit’s neighborhoods…. is that what it has done?  Of the hundreds of thousands of visitors a year that come to see the installation…what messages do they leave with?

The project has evolved – they offer paid tours & DVDs, there’s books and bumper stickers. An art academy. Educator kits. Our biggest takeaway was that those are all frozen in time – bright colors, newly installed statements. But when standing there looking at it in person, it is an entirely different story. It felt deeply sad to us. Old communities in sprawling neighborhoods of Detroit, desperately in need of help. A brilliant way to bring conversation forward, but what has the actual impact been on fixing the problem it talks about?

It was a complicated visit we are still talking about daily here on Water Street – guessing we will be for some time. I guess that’s what art does for people. Makes you think in a way you hadn’t before seeing it. High marks for the Heidelberg Project on that one!!

Another big thank you to our ever-thoughtful tour guide Hannah Fine for taking us here after our Murals in the Market extravaganza!!

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This photo, taken from the HP’s website, shows Tyree Guyton in front of the famous ‘dot house’, one of the first of the now, street long installation.

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Murals in the Market…

It’s hunting season here in Michigan and while we know a lot of people that are out in tree stands watching for deer, we headed to the urban outdoor spaces of downtown Detroit to hunt down Murals in the Eastern Market!

As stated on their website, “Murals in the Market  is more than an international mural festival, it’s a creative platform that inspires and encourages community engagement using public art as a vessel.”

Street after street we saw dozens of pictures which had intricate line work and many inspiring quotes – I’d never seen so many large paintings in one place! I was so impressed at how crisp they got those lines and how many different kinds there were, they all had a certain feel about them and I loved how no two were alike! The messages were about freedom, individuality and equality. Creativity is a given seeing as no 2 were anything alike! After taking roughly 100 pictures, I felt VERY inspired to do some artwork myself. In a city where places are often run-down and color is very limited, it was wonderful (and thought provoking) to see so much time, effort and bright colors put into a very urban place. I feel like it made that part of the city seem a lot more welcoming, peaceful and happy… looks like their plan worked!

If you’re ever Detroit, it is worth the stop, especially if you are there on a Saturday morning when they have the most remarkable and sprawling Farmers Market you’ve ever experienced!!

A very special shout out to Hannah Fine for taking us on an amazing adventure through the streets of Detroit neighborhoods. She is has a fantastic knowledge base of the city and things to do and experience! Thank you Hannah – You are AWESOME!

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I absolutely LOVED how silly these foods looked! :01

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Isn’t that amazing? Really makes you look twice, right?

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Craft Fairs are Coming to Town!

Since I’ve been little, we’ve always done craft fairs every year around the holiday season as a way to learn about business and to have fun making and selling our stuff at the same time. For every project we sell, we have to pay back all expenses before claiming any profits. We also choose a local charity to donate a percentage of our earnings to. Spread the cheer!

This year we are selling our wares at 4 different holiday craft fairs in and around our town. We always have so many ideas of what we want to make, it’s hard to decide which to pick. Anyways, roughly 2 years ago we sold some organic, hand printed market bags as one of our projects for a summer fair, but because of a small flaw in our systems they didn’t turn out as well as we’d hoped. So now, we’re seeking justice with some large (28″x28″) organic, hand-printed tea towels!

With the use of foam sheets, scissors, glue and wood, we created stamps depicting cars, feathers, houses, fish… we got it all at here at Water Street Academy! After stamping them with fabric paint and letting them dry overnight we heat set them with an iron and then we sent them to the washing machine for a good cleaning. Once we re-checked their quality for minor warping or stretching issues, we wrapped them up and put a small photo of what they look like unwrapped so no re-folding required during the selling process… Trying to keep things simple :0)

It was a super fun and easy project to make – you should try it yourself for gifts or to spark up your own home for the holidays!

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Here are our stamps in process of being made and although this looks like a huge mess, its nothing compared to how our projects usually look!

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Mid Terms…

Here in America, Mid-term elections are Tuesday. It is a tense time for everyone. For those who do not remotely support the current trajectory of our government and those who are in great support of giving it another boost in that same direction.

Each election, I take my absentee ballot home and one by one, we review the candidates, what they say they support and what they don’t. We read websites and watch videos. We quiet the hateful words and screams for our vote, We learn how the candidates present themselves and try and figure out what they can actually accomplish should they have the honor of serving our country and communities. Each of us cast our vote at the classroom table and give reasons for why they voted that way. No answer is wrong. The ballot is complicated and comes with it’s own list of questions for me that need research to unearth. There is no straight ticket voting on Water Street. Too many assumptions there.

One of the reasons we homeschool our girls is to offer them the opportunity to spend time to try understand the complicated world they are growing up in. Since we started, it seems I am doing the same right along side them. As in every election, but even more now, the media is showing it’s worst face. It’s hateful dialogue is fear based and polarizing. It is a behavior we have zero tolerance for in our home.  About 2 years ago, I saw a paragraph hanging in our close friends’ home. The author was unknown, although I so wish it was. I have taken the lines that resonated (most of it!) and added in other points I feel are important in our home, and also in life. It hangs in our home.

If you live in America, and plan to vote Tuesday, please consider kindness to our earth and humanity before allowing media to dictate what is right and wrong. After all, like it or not, we are all one family. Grateful you are ours, wherever you are.

in our home