Monday, April 25, 2011

DIY Storage: Using our Blessings to Their Fullest Potential

Our society has been shamefully labeled a “culture of consumers”.  And now that we sit in a recession, we find ourselves wondering why we were never really taught how to budget or prioritize our needs.  I find the answer lies in our definition of the word "needs".  Somehow in the last century- particularly in the last 30 or so years the line between necessity and luxury has faded.  A generation has been raised with the understanding that not only phones, computers, and televisions are a basic right...but internet, texting, and 1000's of channels are simply expected to accompany them.  And everything seems to be disposable...only built to last long enough for the next version to replace it a few months later.  Blinded by our "need" to consume, we foolishly treat the growing concept of “going green” as a new age trend or a bright new bandwagon to jump on.  Conservation, reducing waste, and recycling is not a movement forward, but rather a visit to the past. 

During the Great Depression (an ACTUAL recession) my great grandmother washed and dried her aluminum foil and reused it meal after meal.  Pie tins took turns carrying cherry, blackberry, and apple pies before they were relegated to the backyard for the grandchildren’s mud pies.  When my great grandfather wore the knees out in his enormous pants (He was 6, 5”) my great grandmother would cut the fabric down and make play clothes for my mother and her 3 sisters.  Peppermint tins were repurposed as sewing kits and aprons were not just a fashion statement. People were grateful for what they had and did what they could with it.  I’d like to teach my daughter a genuine appreciation for the blessings God gives us and the ingenuity to use everything to it’s fullest potential.  When I "need" something, I look around to what I have or what I could make, create, or repurpose.  Boxes are great for storage and organization.  I love the look of the fancy canvas boxes in the catalogs…all uniform in shape, size, and color, perfectly labeled and functional.  However, we are not always blessed with the money to purchase those, instead we're blessed with lots and lots of diaper boxes... and a roll of wrapping paper:
These boxes line the top of my art studio shelf.  They are part of my d├ęcor and get lots of use! 

These are a collection of former formula and oatmeal containers that are now my fancy pencil, paintbrush, and do-dad holders.

Would you like to share a project with your child that requires creative decision making and uses supplies already available? Of course you would! Here is the basic idea…with soup cans (or fruit and veggie cans –whatever you have!)
I use this as a project with my art students all the time!  Have fun!

1. Tear the wrapper off of used cans and discard  (make sure to only use cans that were opened with a can opener. Cans with pull-tab tops leave a very sharp edge!)
2. Wash the can thoroughly (I just put them through the dishwasher)
3. Select fun wrapping paper, scrapbook paper, or draw/paint your own
4. Measure the paper on the can and mark the size
5. Cut a panel of paper to fit around the can (cut another one for the inside for a finished look)
6. Put some glue along the edges that overlap and slide it on the can (or in the can)

7. Ta-da! Enjoy!

People always comment on how well organized, colorful, and orderly my studio (and my house) is…and I can’t help but let them in on my little secret:  An absence of finances creates an abundance of appreciation. 

Here's to potential blessings!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Crazy Messy Fun: A Kaleidoscope of Color

This post contains affiliate links.
This is one of my favorite activities to do with my art students. I love that it overlaps in to the properties of motion, reveals a hypnotizing transformation, and has scientific undertones. 

The supplies are simple:

1. Whole milk (lowfat milk works, but not as well).
2. Food dye (or my very favorite art supply - liquid watercolor!)
 3. Liquid detergent (Dawn is the best!)
 4. A Q-tip
5.  A shallow pan or dish (pie tin works great!)
Here is a demo from one of my teaching heroes, Steve Spangler (the other one is Mark Kistler, in case you’re curious):

If you're not in the mood to watch the clip, here's a quick list of directions:
1.Just poor enough milk in the dish to cover the bottom.
2. Add a few drops of food coloring - any colors you fancy!
3. Dip the q-tip into the soap
4. Touch the surface of the milk with the soapy q-tip
5. Enjoy the beautiful kaleidoscope of color!
So fun! This activity is always a big hit during my “Splash of Color” camp session. It’s almost therapeutic as layer after layer of color ripples outward from the q-tip.

Here's what happens when several droplets of soap are scattered over the surface.

And here's one at the end of it's run. A student had begun stirring the milk, creating a grayish tint.

I am a huge advocate for 'good clean fun' because I believe it has such value in a child's development. Of course, I'm a fan of messy fun, loud fun, and crazy fun too, but simple activities like these are teaching tools for your children.  They're not words in a textbook, or pictures on a screen, they are the real and art in motion.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wholesome Harvest: Planting and Praying

What is more gratifying than planting a garden?  Tilling the earth, planting a seed, and harvesting fruit (or veggies!) is a wonder to the young and a miracle to the old...unfortunately it is a lost art.  It has been trampled by the hectic pace of modern life and forgotten along with practical necessities like apprenticeships, domestic skills, and parenting.  My husband and I swim upstream as we fight our culture’s social disconnect and drive for self-fulfillment to provide our daughter with genuine, wholesome childhood experiences that will serve her physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Gardening is something we are just beginning to learn. Each season brings a new opportunity to apply what nature taught us with our last harvest.  We are hoping to model for our daughter, the faith it takes to plant a tiny seed, the patience to produce a budding plant, God’s glory in all living things, and appreciation for the bounty you are given.
Here’s how we got started:

My husband and I built a raised garden bed and made a canopy structure that can be removed during sunny days and returned during storms. (8’x4’x24”)  It is a small start to the garden we would eventually like to tend, but it is all we had the room for now.

 Our daughter and I filled jiffy pots with soil and planted the seeds (cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, basil, cilantro, and parsley.) 

We also started with a few small potted plants (tomatoes and peppers).

 She watered them carefully and we kept them in the shade until they started to sprout.

 We laid down a soaker hose in the garden and made room for the plants. We invited friends over to help with the planting process since their yard is too small for a garden and we wanted to share the experience.  All the kids worked together to dig the holes and give the plants a home.

We already have two little green tomatoes starting, true leaves on our cucumber and zucchini plants, and the carrot seeds are in the ground. Now we wait... and pray for a wholesome harvest.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Crazy Messy Fun: Crayola Colored Bubbles

Are they fun? Are you kidding me??  It’s like a crude combination of paintball and the ever classic: bubble machine.  First of all, who doesn’t love bubbles?  They are mysterious and beautiful.  They use them at weddings and parties…even my dog likes them! However, these bubbles are “a horse of a different color”.
Are they washable? Well…."Keep away from brick, vinyl, finished and unfinished wood, wallpaper, painted walls, carpeting, draperies, and other materials that cannot be laundered...etc." These colored bubbles are truly a play-at-your-own-risk kind of toy...and I don't see anything wrong with that! 
If you haven't seen or heard the reviews they’ve been given by parents ranting about their stained carpets, ruined clothes, and the misleading title: “washable”, let me fill you in: They're quite "colorful" in their word usage. They even aired a news story where parents demanded Crayola  recall the product and change the formula.   Which seems reasonable…until you actually read the reviews. In reading these sob stories you will quickly find that many of the reviews were from parents who handed the bubbles to their 3, 4, and 5 year olds and sent them outside - alone. Really, people??  These must be the parents who believe Color Wonder paper eliminates the need for actual parenting.   Not only does leaving a 4 year old unsupervised with colored bubbles sound like a disaster waiting to happen, but it is also a missed opportunity to see your child enjoy a truly unique experience. I mean, my daughter was neon orange…how awesome is that!  So, after testing the bubbles myself, my plea is not for Crayola to change their formula, but for parents to engage with their children.

My review: We enjoyed the wonder of Crayola Colored Bubbles last week during our stay in California with my husband’s parents. They bought the hand crank bubble machine and 3 colors of bubbles for our 2 year old.  After a cautious pause, my husband ripped the package open, loaded the orange bottle, and took it out in the yard.  We stripped our daughter down to her diaper and started it up.  We were amazed at the intensity of the color and were all giggling like schoolgirls as they popped.  When my daughter was thoroughly covered in the neon goo, my husband said, “Go give Mommy hugs!” which resulted in a game of duck and dodge until I could get to the hose.  The water hit her head and streams of orange came down her face.  We started to question the “washable” tag on the box and laughed at the thought of a permanently tangerine colored child.   But, it rinsed right out of her hair and skin…. can’t say the same for my father-in-law’s lawn. Oops.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Stifled by Freedom - choosing my blog theme.

Choose a hosting site, check. Select a color template, check.  Add gadgets, photos, and  fonts, check, check, check.  After all the finishing touches were complete, I stared at my bright, shiny, new blog and… had no idea what to write.  I thought, “Wow! I can write anything…about anything!” Absolute freedom! Hmm…that’s a little terrifying, actually. Concepts rolled through my mind, highlighting my eclectic interests. Once I started I couldn't stop: “I should make my blog about…motherhood…..mmm, or art?  Projects! Tutorials! Hmm…what about my art studio? Free advertising. Whoohoo! And my Etsy shop. My notecards… ooh, what about baking? Recipes and…. or planting and caring for a garden….Oooh, teaching! As a teacher and a mother, I have lots of thoughts on….what about nature? Or crafts? Or nature crafts?  My family?…lots of fun stories there. ”  It was more turrets than brainstorming, but either way it wasn’t helping. 

Overwhelmed by my ever-growing list, I challenged myself to narrow it down to one all-important topic. What was I most passionate about? What did I most want the world to know? What could I make interesting week after week? I was quickly defeated by my inability to play favorites.  Why can’t I write about teaching my daughter ASL one week and have a drawing tutorial or a muffin recipe the next?  I knew if I chose just one theme I would feel the burden of responsibility to be an authority on the subject.  And since I am more of a renaissance woman than an expert in any one area, I knew I would just have to have to embrace the diversity and hope my readers will too. 
No longer stifled by the freedom to write anything I want, I sat down and wrote about nothing in particular. Hope you enjoyed it. =)