Improvised Life » kids If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Mon, 22 Dec 2014 15:08:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Second Graders Discover Haute Cuisine Wed, 15 Oct 2014 22:28:13 +0000

(Video link here.) Some brilliant soul at the New York Times had the inspired idea to see what second graders would make of a meal at Daniel, one of New York City’s fanciest, seriously haute-cuisine, restaurants. Six kids from P.S. 295 in Brooklyn were treated to a seven-course, $220 Tasting Menu.

Their reactions are captured in this beauty of a video by Oscar nominated filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz.  It is total charm and revelation to see
kids experience the elaborate creations with truly fresh eyes and unfiltered candor. (more…)

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Lanyards are for Summer…DIY in Plastic, String or Leather Mon, 11 Aug 2014 17:00:36 +0000

Susan Dworski’s post about her granddaughter’s lanyard reminded us of our own lanyard-making pleasures in summers long ago. Somehow we’d learned a number of patterns from braids to boxes and make all sorts of useful things out of them.

But what we remember especially, is the dreamy hours spent making them.

That, of course, got us looking up how to make ‘em and if that material we called “gimp” is still available. It is, here, in beautiful colors..

It got us thinking about lanyards that would be useful in our current, grownup lives, as well as patterns kids we know might (more...)]]> 2 Go DIY (or buy) and Fly a Kite! Tue, 29 Jul 2014 20:00:49 +0000

Fredericks & Mae

Fredericks & Mae‘s beautiful Floralia – Fighter kite is meant to hang a wall to IMAGINE flying in air. Made of bamboo, rice paper, pressed flowers, waxed cord, and gold thread, it’s a “ceremonial kite…in honor of the ancient Roman holiday Floralia…a predecessor to May Day, a festival in honor of the titan Flora…goddess of flowers and the season of spring.”

But for us, it is inspiration for diy kites you can fly, like the one we saw the other day being flown from a Harlem rooftop.

Made by Joel has a great tutorial, one of many kite plans available online. (more…)

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Open House for Butterflies’ Zen-ish Wisdom Wed, 07 May 2014 08:58:47 +0000

Ruth Krauss as illustrated by Maurice Sendak

One of our favorite books as kids remains A Hole Is to Dig, A Dictionary of First Definitions, a brilliant wise collaboration by the great Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak. We only recently discovered Open House for Butterflies originally published in 1960. It is indeed a treasure full of charmingly philosophical, zen-ish, in-the-moment wisdom, perfect for kids AND grownups (And a curiously great house gift). 


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Cut-Out Walls for Kids Rooms Tue, 04 Mar 2014 20:00:55 +0000

Mélanie Rodriguez for The Socialite Family

Lately, we’ve been seeing some swell cut-out walls in kid’s rooms. The clever cut-outs act as doorways and objects of play. The also define the room as being a place for invention and outside-the-box thinking. (more…)

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the tweet powered car Mon, 07 Oct 2013 08:21:07 +0000

(Video link here.)  Under the guidance of innovative education organization MindDrive, thirty at-risk students in a Kansas City, Missouri neighborhood once called the “killing zip code” , built an electric car that successfully converted social media into fuel for a road trip from Kansas City to Washington D.C. A tweet was 5 watts;  a Facebook like, 1 watt; watching their YouTube video, 3 watts.

The car itself is a 1967 Karmann Ghia which the student team restored to working order from the exterior to the interior. The original drivetrain was replaced with an electric one, and they worked out the programming to incorporate the “social fuel” into the car’s operation. (more…)

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what are you waiting for? Wed, 31 Jul 2013 08:47:00 +0000 the whitney museum

the whitney museum

The Whitney Museum recently sponsored a public art project with artist Gary Simmons. To make the project, teens collected responses to the question,What are you waiting for?” from their classmates and the larger community. The handwritten scraps of paper were then photographed, printed, and wheatpasted onto a wall, creating a layered, complex, and sometimes contradictory collection of voices and opinions. They are on view twenty-four hours a day, at the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets. It’s a really great question no matter what age you are. We were struck by some of the answers:

For something different to happen…

Working my craft.

Nothing, I’m good.

A chance to prove myself. (more…)

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the sf bubbleman shows how-to diy giant bubbles + why Fri, 21 Jun 2013 08:04:53 +0000

San Francisco Bubbleman 1 by Susan Dworski from Sally Schneider on Vimeo.

(Video link here.) Some time ago, Susan Dworski emailed us about the mysterious Bubbleman she passes on Highway 101, and sent two little videos.

At sunset today alongside bustling Highway 101 in Tiburon, CA, an unknown man with a boom box coaxes soap bubbles out of the air to enchant children and homeward bound commuters. The 60s lives!

We asked her what the Bubbleman’s story was, so one day she stopped and asked him. His name is Ray Doubleday.  It took a while for him to formulate his answer, which is long and quite amazing (starting here and trailing to the end):

…making these bubbles has led to a number of quite powerful events/encounters, including two women, on separate occasions, pulling over by the roadside, sitting on the curb and crying – one had just lost a close relative, another, coming home from a divorce-meeting that finalized the separation.  they told me they stopped because the unexpected bubbles showed them that love and beauty still existed in this world - (more…)

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stick–lets, flexible connectors from making with branches and rods Tue, 12 Mar 2013 17:48:51 +0000 Sticklets are flexible silicone connectors made in a variety of configurations

One of our secret passions is connectors — not just connectors of ideas – but connectors of physical things as well: materials you can build with. We can’t wait to try out Stick-lets, flexible, stretchy silicone connectors made in a variety of configuerations. (They’re meant for kids, but when did that ever stop us?) You use them to connect sticks and wood or metal dowels to build structures. They got us thinking about the indoor pop-up guest room we’ve been imagining for years. We’d get a bunch of 1-inch dowels and go to town.


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the enduring wisdom of ‘the phantom tollboth’ Wed, 13 Feb 2013 09:20:00 +0000

jules feiffer

We are amazed at how often we return to The Phantom Tollbooth, Nort0n Juster’s classic kid’s book that is celebrating 50 years of stunning popularity. It’s the story of Milo, a bored ten-year-old who comes home to find a large toy tollbooth sitting in his room. In his rarely-used kid’s-size car, he embarks on a surprising journey through a mysterious landscape, beyond Expectations through  Mountains of Ignorance, The Forest of Sight, Illusions, Reality and Dictionopolis to  the Sea of Knowledge. Rich with strange, true wisdom, it’s way more than a kid’s book. Our ancient copy is dappled with post-its marking many bits of brilliance that curiously resonates with ‘the improvised life’, like this from the gateman of Dictionopolis addressing Milo as he tries to enter the city: (more…)

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zero gravity with sunita williams Fri, 01 Feb 2013 09:41:43 +0000

(Video link here.) This video of Sunita “Sunny” Williams giving a tour  of the International Space Station came via our new friend and prolific idea-generator Susan Dworski, with this note:

Totally astonishing. Have no idea how to use. Polar opposite from chairs made of dowels. Maybe you could compare and contrast somehow? Every kid should see this: What math and science and engineering can accomplish. Long, but do watch to the end.

The video IS long but mesmerizing to watch. You can jump in anywhere and see something amazing, including a magical vicarious experience of zero gravity and the extraordinary technology of the space station. Williams’ clear enjoyment and ease with the whole experience is curiously uplifting (and dig that zero gravity hair!)  (more…)

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kid’s modernist chair designs we want to fabricate Thu, 24 Jan 2013 20:59:56 +0000 construction paper chairs designed by kids

We are knocked out by the insanely beautiful, moderne chair designs made out of construction paper by 3rd & 4th graders at Turtle Lake Elementary School in Minnesota. They are highly architectural, thoughtfully made and colored, with a sophisticated minimalist aesthetic. We see them as fine inspiration for chairs and chaises made of plywood or heat-bendable plastic (and remind us that making prototypes can be a form of thinking-out-loud.) We’d be thrilled to have anyone of them in our home. The first and last are the bomb.


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looking beyond the obvious Wed, 23 Jan 2013 09:22:36 +0000

We found this image at (more...)]]> 3 diy stamped gift wrap (from erasers + potatoes) Fri, 21 Dec 2012 16:05:58 +0000 *digikijo


A few weeks ago, after Susan Dworski mentioned that she carved stamps out of erasers, we started thinking about all the things you could do with home-made stamps. Why not stamp a pattern on sheets or rolls of paper to make your own fab holiday wrapping paper? (It’s easy, you just get yourself some Staedtler Mars Erasers and start carving, with whatever tools you have…dip in paint and stamp away — check out our how-to here).

Then we remembered some wonderful gift wrap our friend Holton Rower made with his kids one Christmas. He made his stamps out of potatoes. (more…)

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