the hearts project

written by tammy

open your heart

Get in the Valentine’s mood and start spreading the love a little earlier this year with a project that ends in a gift. While this is a photo project, moreover, it’s a way to leave a little heart in some unexpected places.

Shown, are just a sampling of outtakes from my Hearts Project. To get started all you need is brightly colored paper, scissors, tape, a digital camera, and the guts to look ridiculous in front other people for a few moments.

The adventure began by cutting out a purse-full of hot pink hearts, grabbing my camera, some silver duct tape (for lastablitiy) and going about my week as usual. The only difference being that, like cupid, I left a little love everywhere I went… and photographed it!!  Sometimes it was not possible or appropriate, but whenever I could I left the heart where it was shot, like tiny pink remanence of joy for whomever might cross its path.

There are oodles of things to do with the pics when you’re done, but if you’re want to really go for it, I suggest transforming your digital collection into a beautifully bound book to present to your Valentine. Both Kodak Gallery and iPhoto are great reasonably priced places to get you going.

be stupid, who cares

please officer have a heart

love your neighborhood


my heart is caught in your web

I hope to see your hearts around town!!


wonka party

written by tammy

Someone I know is having a birthday this week and it’s going to be a Wonka Party!!  In preparation for the big day her sister and I helped her make some decorations over the weekend. It was a cold winter day so we spent some time at the table creating hand drawn masterpieces.

We began with GIANT CANDY drawings. We outlined extra-large lollipops then filled them in with rainbow swirls, peace signs and hearts. We drew Wonka Bars and candy canes and candy hearts. Then, when we were all scribbled out, we got down to the serious business constructing the Wonka-Land sized candy you see below.

The project is simple: blow up a balloon, roll a piece of colored tissue paper around it, pinch the ends and tie with curling ribbon. And there you have it… huge party decorations!!

wonka sized candy

As it turns out, the super-cool aunt of another friend also threw a Wonka themed party recently, so here are a few collective ideas to make the magic happen:

1. The Wonka Hat: Create a giant sparkly green and purple hat like the one Willy Wonka wears in the movie. Starting with the birthday child, the idea is sort-of like Simon Says, whomever wears the hat gets to be the leader and the rest of the party goers have to follow along. If they are still up for it, the last kid standing gets to be the leader of the second round.

2. Candy-like Necklaces: Using colored loop cereal (aka. Fruit Loops or whatever natural/organic variety you prefer), let everyone make their own necklaces and bracelets.

3. Burping Contest: Now, if you (or the kids) have seen the original version of the movie, you know that Charlie and his Grandpa drink the fizzy floating drink and the only way to save themselves from being chopped up is to burp. Now I know it sounds disgusting… but it’s just the kind of thing KIDS LOVE!!  Give them some seltzer and let them rip their biggest (mostly fake) burps. Better yet, if you’re having a movie viewing at your party, do it during the scene!!

4. Cupcake Decorating: Instead of cake, get tons of different colored frosting and ewwwie gooey candies and have the kids go wild decorating their own oversized cupcakes.

There are loads of ridiculous ideas one can come up with once you’ve decided on a theme. Mostly… have fun!! And if you throw a candy-themed party like this one, maybe consider including a toothbrush in the goodie bag as a gesture of good will to the parents.


the natural face

written by tammy

Let’s preface this by saying – I have extremely sensitive skin.  Because of this, once I find a product regimen that doesn’t dry my skin or cause breakouts, I’m not quick to stray. As far as face wash goes, for years I was hooked on an alternating system of Dr. Hauschka Cleansing Cream and MyChelle Dermaceuticals Fruit Enzyme Scrub. Then, one day when the Hauschka was empty, an amber jar of  ‘cleansing powder’ appeared in its place (I was not the primary product-purchaser in the household at the time) and I freaked out.

organic face powder wash

My first thought was… WHAT??… Where’s my Cleansing Cream? and,  How on earth am I supposed to clean my face with POWDER?? But I gave it a chance and was surprised to discover that the ‘new stuff’ was phenomenal. Although, in a house with two women, spending $20 a pop on a 6 oz jar of powder that disappeared in less than two weeks, was bit of an expenditure.

organic face wash ingredients

Luckily, the ingredients were clearly printed on the label, and with a little experiment and some help from our friend at the beauty counter at Integral Yoga and Natural  Foods, we came up with the magic formula.

The ingredients are simple: Organic Oat Flour, Lavender and Sweet Orange essential oils.  Add one cup of flour, 10 drops of Sweet Orange and 10 drops of Lavender oil to a lidded container, close the lid tightly then shake vigorously!!  Like jumping up-and-down kinda shaking. And wall-ah — you’re done.

organic face wash powder

I keep my magic powder in a glass jar in the bathroom with a little scoop. To use, simply place a small mound (see top pic) in your hand, add water, work into a paste and apply to your face as you would any other cleansing product.  I’ve been using this formula for two-plus years and I’m extremely satisfied.  (**I do still alternate with the MyChelle scrub once every two or three days).

mix with water and form it into a nice paste


real home style

written by tammy

empty jar love


a thousand paper cranes

written by tammy

Last week, at a Trim the Tree party, a friend brushed me up on my origami skills and re-taught me how to make paper cranes… for this, I am grateful.

A Holiday Story (within a story within a story)

A few days ago, while watching the news, I was touched by a story of David Heard, a young boy with neuroblastoma, who, inspired by an ancient Japanese legend, started making paper crane mobiles to donate to pediatric cancer centers around the country.

origami crane

The crane has been long revered in Japanese culture as a symbol of devotion and honor.  It is said that a crane can live for a thousand years and when they mate, they mate for life. As the legend goes, whomever folds 1000 paper cranes is granted a wish.

After World War II the story evolved to embrace the theme of world peace through the story of a little girl named Sadako Sasaki, who developed leukemia as a result of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

As it was her wish to live, Sadako spent the days of her illness in bed folding paper cranes in the hopes of fulfilling the legend and being granted her desire by the crane. And while she died before being able to complete the task, her friends and family carried out her last wish, completed the cranes, and buried them with her.

In the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the Children’s Peace Monument was erected in memory of Sadako and other children who died as a result of the bombing. On the statue there is a plaque which reads, “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth.

While you are spending time with your friends and family this holiday season why not start a new tradition, make some cranes and mail them to: The Heard Family at 130 W. Lafayette St. in Easton, PA, 18042 and help make David’s wish a reality.

*   *   *   * some resources  *   *   *   *

There is a wonderful article about David Heard and his inspiring and ambitious project, here.

To learn how to make your own origami cranes you can download instructions, here.

The official Hiroshima peace site has a great kids section for those interested in sharing the story of Sadako with youngsters, here.


homemade dog food

written by tammy

Those who know me personally are often entertained by stories of my troublesome little dog. He wears diapers,  jumps on counter tops, dumps the trash, opens doors, barks at everything and everyone… and is the biggest love in the world. They also know that I cook for my dog.

Since I am often asked about his meals, I thought I would share a simple ‘everyday’ pet food recipe that is healthy, lean and inexpensive. My recipes are rough, so bear with me; just give it a whirl and you’ll see how easy it is.

homemade dog food storage

To start with you will need a large casserole pan with a lid.

  • a pound of ground chicken or turkey. the vet told me to use lean meats, no beef for my breed.
  • bag of frozen mixed veggies: carrots, squash, cauliflower, peas, corn, broccoli, beans, almost anything goes. Please read the label and make sure there are NO ONIONS or added salt in the veggies.
  • 3/4 bag or box of uncooked pasta. I usually use omega3 enriched elbow macaroni, but sometimes I just use what is available at home. This dish was prepared with gluten-free rice pasta, which is also a great alternative.
  • roughly 3 cups of water.

Begin by adding a little oil to the bottom of the pan and browning the ground meat. Once brown, add the entire bag of frozen mixed veggies, dried pasta and water. Stir and then cover with lid. Cook for about 10 minutes on high heat, stir. Lower heat to a simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the water is absorbed and the pasta is tender.

Let stand for 10 or more minutes to cool and then, to break down the pasta and veggies, smash everything together with a hand held potato masher.

gluten free homemade dog food

There are many alternatives to making homemade healthy dog food for your pet, this is just one very simple recipe that works for my household. Of course, frozen veggies can be substituted for fresh, and white rice (not brown, trust me) can be used in lieu of pasta.

The most important thing you can do is speak with your Vet about what constitutes a healthy diet and serving size for your breed, then get on the internet, do a little research about foods that are dangerous for dogs (like onions, grapes, garlic and avacado), and go from there.

Remember, as with any change in your pet’s diet, do so gradually to avoid stomach upset. Mix a little of the old food with a little of the new food and wean them off.


I miss my kids (thebabysitter files)

written by tammy

Since moving to NYC I have either payed the bills or supplemented my income by watching some of the sweetest kids in Brooklyn. Over this past year however, I have taken on other full-time employment. While I still see my kids for the occasional weekend gig/visit, it’s not that often, and I have to say… I really miss them.

This weekend I got to spend some time with a couple of my old regulars. They recently bought the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and since we read the first few books together, they were saving this one for me too. Yes- in one night we read 133 pages, funny voices and all!! Then they surprised me with a little birthday party, complete with cupcakes from One Girl Cookies and handmade gifts. My favorite is the outside of this card:

birthday card goodness

Last week I was asked by super-local blog Brooklyn Based about the best gift I ever received as a nanny (check it out here) and it got me thinking about how fortunate I have been… not for the gifts, but the gratitude. It’s things like this that make my heart glow.


large scale artwork on a small scale budget

written by tammy

If you sit around like I do, daydreaming of museum-sized photographs filling your walls, then maybe you should try rasterbating!! (no… it’s not dirty, notice the “r”)

Rasterbating, also known as tiled printing, is a way to take a large image and break it down into smaller, page sized pieces, which can later be reassembled into a whole. So, instead of spending thousands on a 30×40 print, you can get an artful effect for the price of a new cartridge of printer ink and some photo paper. (really, you could use any sort of paper that suits your fancy, I just so happen to have boxes of glossy photo paper laying around my house so I went with that)

Here are some easy-to-follow instructions… clicking on the image will allow you to see the full-sized details:

Since I happen to be a bit of a tech-nerd, I did all of the image tiling myself via photoshop & imageready… but for the not so tech-savvy, there is this great website (although it looks like the website is down right now, so I might just have to write up some steps for the photoshop novice) that will help you through the technicalities.


a picture is worth a thousand words… really

written by tammy

photo alphabet

A few months ago I started a new photo project: collecting letters. What you see above is only a sampling of the ABC’s I’ve snapped throughout the city.

Like bringing little e.lie with me and photographing his adventures, having a side project with the camera is not only fun, but it opens your mind to seeing the everyday in another way.

Check back in a week or so (update: maybe a little longer than that) to see one of the projects I have planned for my new collection… I just need a little more printer ink first.

In the meanwhile grab your camera and click! click!


silly people paper bag puppets

written by tammy

Take your standard paper bag puppet to the next level with a little collaging. These silly paper bag puppets are a combination of magazine clippings, feathers, googlie eyes, glitter, beads pipe cleaner and more…

silly paper bag puppet

We started by going through old magazines and looking for mix-and-match body parts. We cut out eyes, noses, feet, arms and outfits. Then, with a glue stick and the collage box, we got to work assembling funny faces and personalities for our puppets. As we worked, we gave the puppets names and hobbies and voices, and by the time we were done gluing everything together we were ready to put on a show.

The most difficult part of this project was waiting for the glue to dry before we could play!!!

silly paper bag puppets

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