Crafts-in-Boxes


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Normally, I hate crafts in a box. Why you ask? Because I can and should have invented them before they were a thing. In fact, I did try to create such a thing way back in the day.

Whenever I blogged a craft, I tried to save up enough extra supplies to mail a few friends a “craft in a box” but it never worked out because I was always short one dowel or one button or one tiny tube of red paint or whatever.  The half-filled boxes sat around my house collecting dust and annoying me. Basically, I just never got my act together.

You can imagine my chagrin when I walk down the aisles of Michael’s and I see any number of crafts that I invented for my job at alphamom.com all boxed up and on the shelf selling for a eight bucks a pop.

But whatever. I am an inventor not a marketer. (Hold-up. I AM a marketer. What is wrong with me?!!)  I’m just not a mass-assembler-machine-robot. I work for myself with no extra elves shopping for me or sweatshops mass-producing what I tell them to. Excuses, excuses…

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What is funny is that we get a lot of crafts-in-a boxes for gifts. I guess people think, They’re crafty. I should get them some crafts!  That’s logical enough and I am usually really happy to receive such things even though in my head I’m already thinking about how I can regift it to someone else because I am the CRAFT SNOB!! I invented the paintpen+mug/wooden button=mushroom/paint-your-own-teapot/tie-dye sock puppet craft FIRST!!!

When I really start getting snobby-crazy is when they tell me that I should write a blog post about this really cool craft-in-a-box that they bought at Michaels. That’s when I start mumbling to myself and banging my head on the table… But whatever? Right?

I know you are trying to remember if you ever gave me a craft-in-a-box and I assure you that it was not YOU and if you did, I am just about to turn this story around and tell you that YOU ARE MY SAVING GRACE and I will now eat humble pie so don’t get defensive just yet.

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Guess what the kids have been doing for days now that I’m trying to work from home and babysit at the same time and summer vacation has been lasting for an eternity and a day? CRAFTS IN BOXES!!  That’s right. We are not too proud to open a box and bust out a craft. In fact, I LOVE THEM because my kid is now eight and very self motivated and she can do crafts by herself for hours and hours and hours. She can EVEN READ DIRECTIONS. It’s been amazing.

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So thank you, Mom, and everybody else who got us crafts-in-boxes over the years. I’m glad now that I saved them on those very high closet shelves because now it is like Christmas and all day long the kids that file in and out of my superfun! house are being very crafty all by their very crafty selves.

Crafts-in-boxes are a very beautiful thing. Whoever invented them should get a prize. Shoulda been me.

Huntington Beach Library and Park Adventure!

HBPark4It all started because we wanted to go to The Mud Park. You know, the Huntington Beach Adventure Playground where you can play in the mud, slide down black plastic into a giant puddle, raft across a swampy pond and hammer nails into plywood and make tree houses? Have you head of that place? If you’re local, you should definitely check it out. HBPark1 However, before you go, you should really check their schedule and not google’s schedule because The Adventure Park is officially closed as of August 15th this year. You can imagine our disappointment after we’d talked about it for weeks, packed a special non-perishable picnic lunch and worn our officially designated *mud clothes* for this great occasion. Comments from the peanut gallery went from You are the best mom ever! to This is the worst day EVER, rather quickly. Boo, hiss, etcetera… HBPark2 But wait! There is this great big wilderness park (aka Huntington Beach Central Park) sitting right next door to explore! And guess, what? It even has mud! Off we went with a bounce in our step. HBPark3 Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Well, more like: leaves and branches and ladybugs, oh my! But that’s enough for my little charges. They were off and running. HBLibrary1 After about twenty minutes of exploring, somebody (ahem, me) had to go to the bathroom so I dragged the girls back up the hill to the Huntington Beach Central Library. Have you ever been to the Huntington Beach Library? It’s probably my favorite library in Orange County which says a lot because I’ve been to a lot of libraries around here and they are all gems in their own way. HBLibrary2 The first and most impressive thing about this library is the giant water structure INSIDE the building. That’s right. Three stories of open air water falls right next to books. Only in Southern California could you get away with such craziness. I asked about mold or too much humidity for the books and the helpful reference staff assured me that it’s never been a problem.

The fountain was originally built (in 1974) outside of the library but when they added the expansive children’s wing, they enclosed the waterfall and it’s massive spiral (wheel chair access!) ramp. This also cut down on skateboarders jumping and injuring themselves on the ramp which was apparently a real problem. I can see why! How fun would that have been?!! HBLibrary3 There is so much to share about this library I could seriously take up a week researching it. But for sake of time and brevity, I’m just going to gloss over a few things I picked up in my mad dash visit.

As you probably gathered, my quick trip to the bathroom turned into a high-speed journalistic investigation. The librarians were more than happy to answer all my questions and they didn’t even seem to mind the two little girls wandering behind me, getting into mischief. I’m thinking it’s quite common. With the very loud waterfall, talking doesn’t seem to be a problem in this library.

I should have guessed by the many levels, the low ceilings, the criss-cross grids of lines everywhere and the groovy 70′s architectural details that this building was designed by somebody noteworthy and cool. Of course it was!

It was designed by Richard Neutra and later finished by his son Dion. Neutra as in one of my favorite typefaces that I may or may not  be guilty of over-using on every graphic design job that crosses my desk. There is an extensive article about his work here. (Somebody desperately needs to hook them up with a better web designer. Or maybe it’s just me.)

If that didn’t impress you enough, you might like to know that this library has a coffee shop in it’s lower floor. (I wanted to say basement but there is actually a basement and it’s not open to the public. I wonder what lurks down there…) So, yes, you can order a latte and sip it while you read your books and listen to the white noise of water cascading by your cafe table. Sadly, the barristas are not trained in latte art. I asked! But feel free to give them a hard time about it and tell them Secret Agent Josephine sent you. Of course a big tip might help too. HBLibrary4The girls loved the children’s section, of course. I’ve actually taken Bug here before a long time ago for a show in their theatre. Yeah. There’s a theatre and about eleventy-seven rooms you can rent out for parties and weddings. It’s just an amazing building all around. Fishtanks and bubble walls, pencil machines (the girls’s favorite — bring quarters) a geneology room and an old fashioned conveyer belt that sorts books…wait, what?!! HBLibrary5 Yes, you read that right. The Huntington Beach Library was cutting edge at one time (a long long time ago) and they had a conveyer belt that would automatically bring books from the outside of the building into the center of the library and sort them into their right sections by robotics.

Unfortunately, since the library was such an early adopter, the machine was one of the first of it’s kind and it broke down constantly. As you can see by my photo in the top right, it was quite big and clunky. It annoyed patrons with it’s irregular noises of books thunking and thudding along. The library finally shut it down for good about ten years ago and now they must use human power to carry the books wherever they go. Since it’s too costly to disassemble, there the wonder-conveyer-belt-of-yesteryear stays in the middle of the library like a dinosaur forever nodding to the inventions of yesterday.

Personally, I think it makes for the coolest story ever, right next to the story about the library being haunted by Mrs. Talbert (It’s true! Ask the friendly reference desk!) and the fountains outside that are not working because there is a leak in the moat.

A library with a moat. Now you can see why this place fascinates me. And I didn’t even check out one book. HBPark6After my little exploration of the library we finally went back outside. I found a spot to plop myself down for a picnic and their girls were off on their own exploration. HBPark7 We didn’t even scratch the surface of this park. We could have explored for days. The girls played, I relaxed in the shade… HBPark5 Mud Park Schmud Park. We didn’t even care about it anymore.