Summer, Time To Unplug

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Here’s what my 10-year-old did with our dining room table one recent morning: he built a battlefield for his Star Wars figures. I love that it’s built out of books and Lego…

And check out that book in the middle! It’s called Unplug and Play, and I highly recommend it for the games and silliness inside (in addition to its usefulness as part of a Star Wars set 🙂

How are you unplugging and playing with your kids this summer? Leave a note in the comments – it’s still July, we are all going to need inspiration from each other about how to keep everyone happy as August rolls around. You’ll be helping all of us with your ideas!

Podcast 016: Overcoming Obstacles with Voiceover Artist Anna Vocino

I’m so excited about this episode, part of our Summer Camp series in which we are setting aside our usual four themes (3R’s, Unplanned Adventures, Kids through the Ages, and Risky Business), pouring a nice tall glass of iced tea – or Long Island Ice Tea, depending on your age and what time of day it is – and going on vacation! We will return to our regularly scheduled programming in September, but for now… Let’s just enjoy summer!

Though you may not know it, you have heard the voice of today’s guest. Anna Vocino can be heard on networks like CBS and Fox Sports, in commercial campaigns for Canada dry, Disney Princess bikes, on The Young and The Restless and Jimmy Kimmel Live! and in many other places… but my favorite place to hear her voice is at the beginning and ending of my very own podcast!

Also an accomplished comedic actor, Anna was a series regular on Free Radio on Comedy Central and performs sketch and improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and at FunnyorDie.com. In today’s show, we learn that, along with a group that includes her now-husband, Anna started a theater company in Atlanta, Georgia which is still going strong 18 years later.

In addition to all of the above, my guest today has celiac disease, and as a result has relearned how to feed herself and her family, created GlutenFreeAnna.com to share her learning, and has a cookbook coming out soon.

Listen for:

  • her inspiring perseverance through the many obstacles that have been tossed in her path; from the “surprise” pregnancy and birth of their daughter while starting the theater company all those years ago, to cultivating the super thick skin required to make it in Hollywood and right on up to how Anna dealt with the autoimmune disease known as celiac, she has cheerfully taken on every unplanned adventure – and won
  • great summer memories (this show airs during We Turned Out Okay’s visit to Summer Camp, when we set aside our usual themes and just enjoy summertime) that Anna has, from going to Methodist Camp as the daughter of a minister, to attending a really great arts summer camp in Michigan with a delicious mystery dessert that she remembers well, even if she can’t recall exactly what it is now 🙂
  • the importance of a strong family bond, both in the family she was raised in and the one she is building with her husband and daughter, in Anna’s life; while she never comes out and says “family is and always has been super important to me,” this love comes through in every memory she shares, every situation she describes

If you take one idea away from today’s show, I hope it is this: autoimmune diseases come in many varieties, and if you or someone you love has peculiar symptoms that are painful and debilitating, yet no one can place, the problem might be autoimmune based, or possibly food -related. But as Anna Vocino shares with us, these problems do not have to be the end of your world; instead, they could be the beginning of a new and better existence!

Conquering Family Clutter and Disorganization: Miriam Ortiz Y Pino of morethanorganized.net Answers Listener Questions

Are you tired of all the sandals, flip-flops, sandy shovels and wet towels that clutter up your home in summer? Do you, like me, still brush past the snow pants and winter coats by the front door, even now in July? Well, then you are going to love today’s post! Because even when we are all away at Virtual Summer Camp, as We Turned Out Okay is, we need to be organized, right?

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Miriam Ortiz Y Pino of morethanorganized.net; our interview will air in September, and I know you’ll want to listen because Miriam is an expert at helping parents just like you and me organize our stuff!

Today, Miriam answers the questions of two listeners and friends, Kristeen and Sheramy.

As you’ll read, their concerns are very different, but they’re concerns that just about all of us have. I’ll turn it over to Miriam, and as you read her responses I hope you get as much out of them as I did!

Kristeen says: Ask Miriam to pretend she spends 24-7 with her six children ages 14 to 2 yrs and she would like a fool proof system to not fall behind with laundry, dishes, toy and homeschool book clutter, keeping fresh fruits and veggies in the house washed prepared and ready to serve to the always starving children and to have the kids always get along cheerfully. I’m not being sarcastic. If she has any tricks up her sleeve I’ll try them:) 

Hi Kristeen!

Sounds nightmarish to me… Not because of all the kids you have, but because it doesn’t sound like you have routines set up to help you run your household and engage the resources of your family. Here are my ideas:

  • define the spaces in your home and what they are used for
  • create a plan of action that is repeatable for each of your frustrations: a laundry plan, a kitchen plan, a schoolwork plan, a pick-up-your-stuff plan
  • yours is not a situation where a quick tip or two will solve the issues; it will require time, work, and dedication

Here’s the link to a free article at my website, about developing a system for clutter control, that will help you get started. Hope that helps!

Sheramy says: So my issue is all my time is devoted to constantly picking up what we have, with no time to declutter. I know decluttering will help with the amount of time I spend cleaning each day. Any insight on how to declutter when you have no time? 

Hi Sheramy,

Let me turn your decluttering question around, and start by stating the obvious: if you have less stuff, there is less to pick up. Everything you can get rid of will give you more time, and so your question really becomes, “how do I stop stuff coming in?” Here are my suggestions:

  • do not buy anything for 30 days (of course perishables aren’t counted); use up what you already have
  • instead of focusing on decluttering, because no one wants to deal with that, plan what you want your life to be and choose the things that help you get there… EVERYTHING else goes!

There are lots of free, specific how-to-gain-control-of-your-stuff resources on my website; I would recommend starting with this article, about controlling clutter as you go. I even offer a course called The Streamlined Clutter Solution which you may want to consider. Hope that helps!

Podcast 015: Top 11 Ways to Tire Out Your Kids

Podcast 015: Top 11 Ways to Tire Out Your Kids

For This Summer Camp episode of We Turned Out Okay, I asked you about your favorite ways to tire out your kids… And you sure responded! Special thanks to Doug Gray, Aisha Newton, Nancy Marsh, Miriam Ortiz y Pino, De Osborne, Shannon Criscola, Amy Blake, Erica Chick, John Winchenbach, my own Jason Kolp, and Deb Petrella for coming up with our most popular ways to tire out your kids.

Here they are!

  • Number 11: Go take a hike
  • Number 10: Dance Party!
  • Number 9: Have a field day
  • Number 8: Flashlight tag
  • Number 7: Indoor and rainy day games
  • Number 6: Ride bikes
  • Number 5: Noncompetitive games
  • Number 4: Obstacle course
  • Number 3: Wacky golf
  • Number 2: Nerf wars
  • (drumroll please…) Number 1: Swimming

Did we miss any of your favorites? Tell me about it! Tweet me@StoneAgeTechie or post to twitter at #oldschoolsummervaca, shout about it in the We Turned Out Okay group on Facebook, or just get in touch with good old-fashioned email to Karen@Weturnedoutokay.com.

Virtual RV Trip!

Have you ever wanted to jump in an RV with your family and take a trip, or does the idea of that make you want to run in the other direction? Right now, you can ride along with my friend Heather Kempskie of baystateparent.com as she and her family cruise the eastern seaboard in their rented Winnebago!

I love the idea of hearing about her adventures as they’re happening, and as Heather and her family are on this trip right now and she is updating her blog frequently, I can’t wait for my next fix!

Best of all, I got to interview Heather pre-trip, and she’s coming back for a postmortem interview in August, and then I will podcast the whole kit and caboodle in September. So you’ll have the live trip now, and get to hear all about it from Heather at the end of it!

In fact, do you have any questions for Heather about the RV trip? Post them here into the comments, or contact me at Karen@Weturnedoutokay.com and I will make sure they are part of our postmortem interview.

Here’s the link to Heather’s blog, RV Outtakes. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am 🙂

Podcast 014: How to Take Great IPhone Pictures with Andre Nguyen of iPhoneographyinsiders.com

I’m so excited about this episode, part of our Summer Camp series in which we are setting aside our usual four themes (3R’s, Unplanned Adventures, Kids through the Ages, and Risky Business), pouring a nice tall glass of iced tea – or Long Island Ice Tea, depending on your age and what time of day it is – and going on vacation! We will return to our regularly scheduled programming in September, but for now… Let’s just enjoy summer!

Great news! During our interview today iPhoneography teacher Andre Ngyen offers you a week’s free coaching by email! You can find out how to get this bonus by listening to the episode. Speaking as a student of his I know you’re not going to want to miss out; his great ideas will help you take fantastic family vacation pictures!

If you want to see the pictures I took with Andre’s guidance, click here – that will take you to last week’s blog post in which I previewed the pictures we talk about in today’s episode. Enjoy!

If you have any desire at all to capture great summer memories, great photographs of your kids and family – and pets – using just your iPhone, then you are going to love today’s guest. Andre Nguyen of iPhoneographyinsiders.com is first and foremost a talented photographer, but most importantly he really wants to help the rest of us take great pictures.

Today’s conversation includes lots of fun stuff: summer memories, dog stories, my excitement about sharing when I got to go see this amazing art installation in Boston on the Rose Kennedy Greenway… and because Andre gave us so many tips and apps, I’m going to list them here:

  • the first, easy and fun, is to simply tap the light source on your phone to completely change the amount of light in the picture; in other words, if you want a picture of your husband kissing the top of your baby’s head with his son in the background, tap the sun – you’ll end up with a silhouette picture! Really, really cool
  • next, be playful – take a variety of pictures of the same scene, in which you have tapped different places on the screen (which left in different amounts of light), try different poses, see if you can capture your kids jumping in the picture, use your imagination
  • when indoors, capturing enough light can be tough for the iPhone which results in grainy photographs where you literally see many pixels; Andre recommends using a strong light source and once again tapping on that light source on the iPhone screen
  • a great app: photographer’s ephemerist, which tells you the angle of the sun, and exactly where it will be setting in the sky, on any given day; Andre uses this to plan his sunset photography, knowing exactly where and when the sun will be passing specific buildings, and then he can pull out his iPhone and play
  • another great app, Slow Shutter Cam,which allows you to let more light in and thus get cool blurry effects – if you take Andre’s suggestion of doing a selfie on a merry-go-round with your children, please send it along! This sounds like the coolest idea in the world, my boys are too old for merry-go-rounds, I gotta see this in action 🙂
  • Andre’s favorite website for getting prints of his photos is called artifactuprising.com, where he’s gotten beautiful print of his pictures at decent prices
  • on instagram, Andre goes by@AndreHarrison, and I just know you’re going to want to head over to instagram and check out his artwork, which is amazing! You can also find it at his two websites: techminimalist.com and iPhoneographyinsiders.com

Once you start taking amazing pictures using Andre’s tips, please email me some pictures! You can do that by going to weturnedoutokay.com/contact, or just emailing Karen@weturnedoutokay.com. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Picture Preview!

Welcome to We Turned Out Okay: Summer Camp Edition! All summer, I am highlighting not just my favorite things about summer, but yours! Every podcast and blog post during July and August 2015 shares our favorite summer activities, memories, and pastimes. If you have a summer favorite to share, well, that’s easy! Shout about it here in the comments, Tweet me@StoneAgeTechie , email me at Karen@Weturnedoutokay.com, or go to weturnedoutokay.com/contact. I’ll be bringing my favorites into the podcast, so you might just hear about yourself on the show!

My interview with Andre Nguyen of iPhoneographyinsiders.com drops into your phone – if you’re subscribed to the We Turned Out Okay podcast in iTunes or stitcher, that is – this coming Tuesday. Andre shares some really great ideas and apps for taking amazing pictures with just your iPhone, and before our interview he gave me some great advice for taking pictures of this amazing thing, the net on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. With his advice, I really took some fabulous pictures… Here are two of my favorites!

IMG_1037 Isn’t it amazing?

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For people who just need to be under the net checking it out, the city provides Adirondack chairs! I sat under the net for an hour, with my toes in the grass, on a beautiful summer evening. And then I left to catch my train home – and came upon this group of buildings:

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The difference between these two pictures was just a simple piece of advice given to me by Andre!

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Same buildings, sunlight coming from the same spot, one was taken an instant after the other… Andre’s tip was to tap on the iPhone at the light source. That is the only change! For more awesome advice, listen to Tuesday’s We Turned Out Okay podcast, when he talks not just about landscapes and sunsets but great family pictures too!

Podcast 013: Kicking Off Summer Camp with Awesome Books!

 

Welcome to the first episode of Summer Camp at We Turned Out Okay! For the summer months of July and August, we are setting aside our usual four themes (Risky Business, 3R’s, Kids Through the Ages, and Unplanned Adventures) and kicking back. We are recognizing that in summer, time moves somewhat differently, and we can set aside our usual schedules at least a little bit – so pour yourself a frosty drink and stick your toes in the virtual sand as you press play.

In this episode I share about four fantastic books that should be on your summer reading list:

  • The Night Before Summer Vacation by Natasha Wing; I kick off the episode reading this book, an obvious and wonderful play on The Night Before Christmas, a picture book that we read at the beginning of every summer, even now that the boys are 14 and 10, because it is just that awesome
  • How To Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell; a great book involving a bet about eating live worms, the fallout from that, and the summer in which it all takes place
  • Time Sweep by Valerie Weldrick, in which a modern Australian boy discovers a way to travel through time and space, befriending a young London street sweeper living in the late 1800s; I read and loved this book as a young girl and it just evokes summertime for me
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling; I love rereading the Harry Potter books in summer, and every time I do something new comes up for me… This reread has me thinking of the big ideas that literature can bring up for us, and there’s a special kind of magic when you combine big ideas and summertime

If you take just one thing from this episode, I hope it is this: as parents, it’s our responsibility to instill a love of reading in our children. Reading is how humans make sense of the world, and there are lots of other platitudes to be said about it – but it’s summer click publish, and platitudes are out! Reading, however, is still in, because not only is it our responsibility – it’s fun!

Campfire Cooking is The Best!

Welcome to We Turned Out Okay: Summer Camp Edition! All summer, I am highlighting not just my favorite things about summer, but yours! Every podcast and blog post during July and August 2015 shares our favorite summer activities, memories, and pastimes. If you have a summer favorite to share, well, that’s easy! Shout about it here in the comments, Tweet me@StoneAgeTechie or with #oldschoolsummervaca, email me at Karen@Weturnedoutokay.com, or go to weturnedoutokay.com/contact. I’ll be bringing my favorites into the podcast, so you might just hear about yourself on the show!

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To kick off summer, here’s a Kolp family favorite: put something on a stick and roast it. For years, we have roasted classic s’mores in our backyard, or while camping, but three or four years ago my husband Ben invented a different kind of s’more when he stuck not a piece of chocolate into the melty-marshmallow-and-graham-cracker-sandwich – but a peanut butter cup!

And so began a new era of invention with s’mores, always including marshmallows (of course!) but with every other ingredient varying according to the whim of the maker. Leaving out the graham crackers and instead making a melted chocolate sandwich, stuffing chocolate or peanut butter cup inside the marshmallow before roasting, layering graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallow before roasting in a rack… there are a lot of different ways to make s’mores it turns out.

It’s also been fun to branch out into non-sweet foods. Roasting hotdogs over a fire, spearing asparagus and roasting it, wrapping potatoes in aluminum foil and placing them on the coals are all really delicious treats, and somehow better because they were cooked with fire.

And then a few weeks ago, the book shown above, Easy Campfire Cooking, fell into my lap! It is a great resource for all things campfire cooking, and if you’ll notice from the picture I got out of my library, so it cost me absolutely nothing (except overdue fees…) and we get all the benefits of the recipes and ideas for cooking with fire.

What do you like to cook using fire? Whatever it is, I hope you get the chance to enjoy it this summer 🙂