For lots and lots of good reasons, I have taken a rather long hiatus from this blog.  The list of excuses is long and boring… busy, little screen time, exercising, cooking, crocheting, playing, walking, reading and socializing!  Blah, blah, blah… Happy!

The most important reason though is that I just haven’t wanted to write.  And, after years of being obligated to write, of trying to write to save my career, in fact.  I decided that if I didn’t want to write anymore then I didn’t have to!  


But, recently I’ve noticed that it’s not really true anymore…  I keep thinking about writing. Fantasizing about writing, even.   I keep finding myself drafting things in my head… wandering through the supermarket and imagining a short story, encountering something interesting and wanting to write an article (news not journal!), narrating a blog post in my head while crafting.  And, I’ve started to think that maybe that means I can let myself transition from an academic (yuck) to a writer?  

Maybe I can write and still be free?  (Do you also hear the chirping birds when you read that line?)

So, I will be back soon.  I am going to reorganize the blog a bit and then I’m going to start writing here again.  Check back next week.


At the start of the summer I challenged my kids to make something everyday.  Big Girl looked skeptical, clearly imagining one giant project after another.  But, she quickly agreed once I pointed out how many different ways there are to “make something.”

For the next 5 posts, I’m going to share some highlights from our make something challenge.  The rules have been as basic as can be:  make something using your imagination (rather than a kit or strict rules) and as much as possible try to use stuff we already have in the house.  Cooking counts and so do temporary structures.

One of our cheapest and most impressive group projects was to make lanterns using mason jars, elmer’s glue, food coloring, and nail polish.  We mixed glue with food coloring and used a sponge brush to apply the colors.  Each of these jars took two coatings.


IMG_3982We were inspired by some reading we had been doing about India as well as some lanterns we had seen for sale at Pier 1 (but I refused to buy 🙂 ).  So we painted them in bright jewel tones and used nail polish to create designs.

The final effect is really charming.  It took a few hours from start to finish and we have enjoyed making them our table centerpiece– especially when we are having Indian food for dinner.  Yum!



So that was 6 posts in 7 days and I have really enjoyed writing here again. Thanks to those of you who read too!

I’m heading out of town today for the long holiday weekend this morning.  The kids and I are going on a 430 mile road trip.  When I return, I’ll be posting about how much I over-prepared for this trip, whether or not is saved my sanity and maybe even successfully entertained two kids who seem to get car sick at the mere mention of the car.

But, I won’t be able to report back while I’m away.  Because I am travelling without my computer! Yes, that does make me almost as nervous as driving 430 miles alone with two kids!


I had lunch today with two of my former grad students.  For both of these women I have served as their dissertation co-adviser and mentor for several years.  Over that time we’ve become friends.  Now, we are in the process of removing me from their committees and learning to be just friends… Partially that’s because it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that I’m done with academia but also because… I am a terrible mentor right now.

One of my students friends has a three month old baby and she is preparing to start collecting data for a dissertation.  And, she’s under a strict deadline in order to qualify for a fellowship.  Every time she would worry that she hasn’t been writing or describe some preposterously elaborate childcare/writing/researching/travel plans that she’s worked out in order to get some writing done in order to meet that deadline, my heart would break a little.  I remember in agonizing detail having a 3 month old and trying to finish a paper that I knew I needed to get out under review that month.  Just typing this sentence makes my blood pressure rise and a panicky feeling start to descend.

My other student friend is dying to have children, anxious about her future, and described how in order to collect data she and her husband have spent only 1 entire week together since November.

And, today, I had nothing helpful to tell either of them.  Because what I really wanted to say is that the deck is stacked against you, if you chose to have a family you are not likely to have the career you imagine.  And, time is fleeting.  Babies grow so quickly.  It gets harder and harder to have a kid the older you get.  Stop worrying about those writing deadlines and enjoy what you have now.  Don’t put off the family you desire because it may be too late when you get there.

BUT, THAT IS NOT WHAT  A MENTOR SHOULD SAY.  That isn’t going to make the long, lonely road of dissertations and writing any easier.  And, at any rate, they know my story. They know every detail of how and why I was denied tenure.  They know that I’m disillusioned with academia these days.  They know that I have come to see it as a credentializing endeavor focused far too much on profit and prestige and very little on learning and creativity.

So, for now, we go out for Indian food.  I smile and joke around.  Maybe in my relaxed posture, my relationship with my terrific kids and my truly authentic smile I indirectly pass along the only advice I have these days:  If you are not finding this path to be fulfilling and joyful, then you should consider another.  If you are loving what you are doing, then keep doing it.

Rachel's iPhone 236Like many other parents, I spent a large part of early June attending end of year celebrations, preparing children to say goodbye, and thanking teachers for their work.  For us, this included deciding to make 12(!) homemade teacher gifts.

We wanted these gifts to be affordable but special.  After (too many) hours of brainstorming, browsing, reading, and websurfing, I finally hit upon the idea of making fabric covered journals.

These cost us only about $4 each to buy the notebooks and some additional elastic ribbon for the closing mechanism.

The full list of materials:

5″ x 7″ soft cover bound notebooks (not spiral)

10″ x 14″ piece of fabric (cotton works great, brocade was a disaster) to cover the notebook

9″ piece of elastic ribbon to bind on the back cover and stretch around to close the book

9″ piece of regular ribbon (we found 1/2 inch to be a nice size) to serve as a bookmark

2 4 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ pieces of paper to line the inner cover

modge podge or elmers glue and foam brush for spreading the glue

Optional: fabric flowers, beads or other embellishments to attach to the closing elastic

It takes a couple of days to make the journals as you need to allow enough time for the glue to dry in between steps.
Rachel's iPhone 138

Step 1: Cut fabric (trust me, don’t use brocade!) to allow for one inch overlap on all sides. Cover the journal in glue.  Fold the fabric over the journal, smoothing out any bunching or bubbles.  Do this for one cover at a time and then stand up with the pages spread out to dry.





Rachel's iPhone 151Step 2: Once the fabric has completely dried and
adhered to the journal, cut the fabric to allow for folding on the inside of the journal covers.  This requires cutting a v at the top and bottom middles along the center page binding.  (Top left corner of the picture).  Also cut a v at each outer corner to create a neat corner edge.

Step 2: Fold in the edges of the fabric onto the inside front cover and glue into place.  Be careful not to get glue on the front page of paper and be sure to prop open so the front cover has time to dry.  I found we needed to complete the front cover one day and the back cover the second day in order to allow sufficient time to dry.

Step 4: Once the fabric is secured and dry on the inside and outside of both covers, it’s time to attach the closing elastic and the bookmark.  I used the hot glue gun for this.  I put a dab of hot glue in the left top corner of the back cover about 1″ from the top (bottom of the fabric edge but where paper would cover) and attached a ribbon to serve as a bookmark.  I repeated the process on the right top corner and right bottom corner to attach the elastic.

Rachel's iPhone 207            Rachel's iPhone 208

Step 5: We lined the inside of the front and back covers with decorative paper.  The girls wrote brief notes to their teachers on the inner cover.

Optional:  For Big Girl’s main teacher we attached a fabric rose to the elastic closure.

I know this project comes too late for anyone to use for this year’s end of the year gifts but maybe it will work for some of you as a holiday gift or an idea for the future.  The great things about this project were that both kids really made them on for their teachers.  They picked out the fabric and cut it, glued it down, picked out the paper and glued that, etc… Also, for anyone with lots of fabric scraps this is a great use for them!  Since we could use fabric scraps these were really affordable so I could let both girls give one to every teacher they wanted to say thanks to!

Downside, because of the drying time, they took a long time to finish up.

Even so, I’m totally making one for myself this summer!

Rachel's iPhone 233

That works!

Rachel's iPhone 132I bought way too many essential oils this past winter, partially spurred by the lip balm making projects and partially because I find it so hard to resist those magical looking vials.

So, in my quest to save money, live cleanly and make stuff everyday, I decided to make our own herbal bug spray.  After reading about 75 recipes this is what I came up with… and it has totally worked so far; even when camping!

This is for a 4 oz bottle that I picked up from our local coop.

1 Tablespoon Witch Hazel

15 drops citronella

10 drops cedar

10 drops lemongrass

5 drops lemon eucalyptus

5 rosemary

10 rose geranium (I love the smell)

3 1/2 oz of boiled or distilled water

The recipe is based mostly on studies about efficacy of various oils and what bugs we want to repel (mosquitoes- citronella, cedar, lemon eucalyptus, rose geranium and some report rosemary does too and ticks – lemongrass and eucalyptus) but it also is based on the fact that I have really sensitive skin and didn’t want anything that could sting (like peppermint or a vodka base).  And, I like things to smell good too.

I might have had to buy a few of these oils… but at least I didn’t buy anymore bug bands or Herbal Armor this year 🙂

(By the way, that’s 4 out of 5 days for a post.  Trying my best!)


I always hated this question.

As a kid I answered it with shrugs, silence or imitation. “Uhhh…. teacher!”  There was only one time when I could answer it with certainty: When in grad school.  It was a one way road.  Why get a Ph.D?  To become a professor.  Before my late 20s, then, I found this question some where between stressful and irrelevant.

As a parent, I hate it even more!

We were at a children’s festival a few weeks ago and there was a tent sponsored by a bank. Kids were encouraged to enter the tent to learn about saving and to have their picture taken dressed up as “what they want to be when they grow up.”  We skipped that tent.

I didn’t want to stand there while my 8 year old and four year old tried to decide if they wanted to be a doctor, ballerina or astronaut WHEN THEY GROW UP.  I don’t want them to focus on being a grown up.  I want them to enjoy being a kid!

Aside from the way it rushes kids to think toward the future.  The question of what you want to be when you grow up also bugs me because it lends toward gender normativity. What do you think most four year old girls pick when choosing between pink tutus and green scrubs?  It’s not little kids only.   For a recent class project girls in Big Girl’s Second Grade class said Business Worker, Teacher, Writer and Artist, boys in the class said Business Owner, Principal, NFL player, Doctor and Architect.  Want to look up the average incomes and gender distribution for those incomes? Power differentials too?  The gender wage gap is based, in part, on an expectation gap that starts when kids are really young.

The question also is a product of the project of training kids to be employees and consumers. I don’t want my kids goal to be to make money or to work for some company. It was a bank asking those kids, you know?

Getting older younger, gender normativity, and consumerism are three totally legitimate reasons to object to something, right?

But, recently it’s been bugging me even more… because for me, in my current state of contented unemployment, the answer is yet again elusive.  I don’t know what I want to do with myself for employment.  But what I do and who I am are not the same thing.

So, I’ve been coaching my kids and myself.  When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I urge them (and me) to say, “Myself!”




I’m starting small and easy…
Rachel's iPhone 171It’s true what the internet says… this time.  Roasted Starburst are delicious!!!  Really, really delicious!


Rachel's iPhone 177Turns out, though, they can be improved.  I tried stuffing the starburst into a marshmallow.  My goodness, it was amazing; tangy, sweet and melty.  Think of them as S’mores for the fruit flavored crowd.

Two other awesome camping ideas:

-For my birthday I received a cast iron campfire popcorn maker.  Others (my husband) were (inexplicably because popcorn is his favorite food) skeptical.

Turns out it works great and is worth dragging around!

Rachel's iPhone 181
Campfire popcorn made with olive oil.

I used olive oil because it’s what we have in the cooking bin for camping.  I also bought a taster pack of different types of popcorn kernels from Hoosier Hill Farms.  I think the Mushroom popcorn is yummiest but I haven’t tried the Ruby Red yet!

-After Little Girl fell out of her camp chair and landed on a rock for the 100th time, I decided we needed some alternate (close to the ground) camping seating.  I remembered the sit-upons I used to make for girl scouts when I was little.  They were a pile of newspaper (NY Times in my house) in a garbage bag (heavy duty, if you were smart) and sealed with tape (duct, if you knew what you were up to).

Rachel's iPhone 178
Camping Sit-Upons made from left over foam, tarps, cotton stuffing, fabric scraps and camp-dry spray.

But… times change.  We only subscribe to the digital edition of the NY Times and duct tape comes in hundreds of colors and patterns.  So, my girls and I made super glamping style ones.  We used foam from old things lying around the house (great use for old nursing pillows!), cotton batting and stuffing, fabrics from my stash and lots of duct tape.  (All of these items could be bought from a fabric store.)   For the bottom we used a cheap tarp and then I bought a can of camp dry to spray over the fabric layer to make it water resistant.

These are so comfy and I styled them as backpacks (using folded over pieces of duct tape secured at an angle at the top and bottom) so each kid can carry her own to concerts or camping.

Phew… that wasn’t so hard.  But, practice makes perfect so I’ll be back again tomorrow.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted…  but boy do I have a list of excuses!

Top four:

-I’ve been so busy!

-I’ve had writer’s block!

-I’ve been giddily enjoying my state of unemployment by indulging in leisure!

-I’ve actually been taking time to exercise!

Given this state of busy laziness, I’ve mentally started a couple dozen posts but never found my way to my computer to actually draft a post.  And, as every writer knows, writing is a habit.  When you don’t practice it gets harder.

Since I like this blog I don’t want to abandon it, I’m setting a 7-day-7-(mini) post challenge.  For the next 7 days, I am going to post briefly about something I’m thinking about (Orlando shootings, making friends as a grown-up, crochet patterns for summer, the good and bad of cooking with kids) or something we’ve done (bell jar lanterns, Chinese character drawings, homemade bug spray).  They will be short posts so I hope the frequency doesn’t drive anyone too crazy.  I hope too they will help me get back in the writing habit.

Thanks for reading!