Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wild Sunflower

This summer I have a lovely little surprise in my garden, a wild sunflower.

At first I thought it was a weed and I was going to yank it.  (And by going to I mean eventually and by eventually I mean any time within the next year.)  But one day I was looking at it and it seemed to have the makings of a bud at the top.  So I figured I'd wait it out.  It's not like it's the only weed I have in any of my gardens.  (I'm actually not a very good gardener at all.)

But then, poof, it was a sunflower. 

Thanks, rodent who pooped a sunflower seed in my back garden!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Simple Basil Pesto

The basil plant was getting kinda crazy in the backyard, so it was time for a harvest.  And what do you do with a bowl full of basil?  Make pesto, of course!

Here's a super simple (non dairy) recipe:

1 cup packed basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic

Blend together in a food processor.

Add 1/4 cup olive oil and salt.

Blend more.

Then you get this:


(Magoo thought it had too much zing for his taste, but that's a boy who loves his red sauce.  Mike and I both gave it a zesty thumbs up.  And is there anything better than eating food you grew yourself?  Well, maybe eating food someone else grew themselves and prepared for you.  Yeah, actually that is better.  But this is a close second.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Art Class: Final Lessons

Today was the last day of my three week art camp at the West Hartford Art League.  So.  Much.  Fun.
In week 1, I did sumi-e bamboo with the kids.  Some did alright, but most of them had a hard time.  A lot of the problems stemmed from the paper we used.  I had used rice paper (a traditional paper for sumi-e) but it requires someone who's good with moisture control in their brush. 

Live and learn.

This time I switched to standard card stock and there was much less bleeding.

Like the last time, though, I started by teaching simple brush strokes.  I wanted them to get used to holding the brush a certain way, to moving it across the paper a certain way.  And I think these kids knocked the cat paintings out of the park.  I mean, really.  Aren't these fantastic!

Then, today, we did paper puppets.

This was a complicated project because the kids had to draw, paint, and cut.  Then I connected the puppet arms and sticks (which was a lot of work for me.  Note for next time.)  The only thing tricky here was size.  The kids tend to work small and there were some TINY puppet arms.  Otherwise, they did another fabulous job!

I had a really great time with all the kiddos and I was so impressed by the fabulous art skills that 4 and 5 yr olds have.  Now that Magoo is 9 1/2, I'd forgotten what little ones could do.  Turns out - quite a lot!

Thanks to everyone over at the West Hartford Art League for giving me a chance to teach.  It was really nice to have a group of students again.  And thanks to Magoo, Alex, and Alissa for helping out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Art Class: Crocs, Lions, and Crows

 It's the third and final week of art class and it's a lively group.  The kiddos helped decorate my apron on the first day.


The theme this week is Fairytales/Folktales.  But I'm also using Fables.  Fables totally works!  On Monday, we made "mosaic" crocodiles based on the fable The Crocodile and the Wallpaper.  It's about a crocodile who prefers the orderly flowers on his wallpaper to the wild ones in nature.

On Tuesday, we read The Lion and the Mouse.  I had originally planned on doing a wax resist project, but the kids did such lovely watercolor birds last week that I wanted to add another full watercolor project.

(Above) The mouse got a little lost on the blue lion - but I just love that cuddly face.
(Below) Some other wonderful examples.  I am always so tickled at how one lesson can yield such individual results.

Today I read the story of The Crow and the Pitcher.  You know I love crows.  I HAD to do a crow project.  Originally, I was going to have the children paint the paper to make feathers (mixes of black, purple and blue) but I thought that might be one step too many.

So they focused on cutting out the crow shape and the feathers.  (I pre-painted the watercolor paper.)


Check out the crow with eight feet.  Holy Crow!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Art Class: Prints

Week 2 is over.  Bye-bye Africa!  Well, my theme was really animals, but the movement class was Africa - so I really tried to do a lot of African Animal projects.  (For the most part.)

I love printing.  (Above.)  I think kids can make some really cool art this way.  It's colorful.  It's bold.  And it's fun.  So one day we did insect prints.  (Below)  Here's Magoo pulling one of his prints off his foam design.

When I did this project with the boys at home, I used foam from the bottom of meat containers.  And really, if you can get in the habit of cleaning the containers and cutting out the bases, that stuff works great.  But I'm thrilled that I can buy bigger sheets at the art store.  Then we used little wooden scratchers for the lines and I had the kids press the lips of thin markers into the foam to make the circles.

On Friday, we continued with printing but it was more like block printing on fabric.  I really wanted to do something with fabric, because when I think of African art, textiles always comes to mind.  But we just didn't have the time (or probably the skill level) for batiking.

I had originally planned for the kids to be able to make their own block print "stampers" but after working with 4 & 5 yr-olds for a few days, I decided that might be too much for them.  So I made all the blocks myself and added a few small ones so they could get jiggy with it.

Not too many kids did.  But this girl ROCKED IT!  She really embraced this project and did a slow, careful, beautiful job.

Good-bye Week #2 Kiddos!  You were a gregarious group.  Now I will mentally prepare for Week #3 kids.  :)

Sidenote:  It's interesting to me to note the change in Magoo's helping attitude over the course of the two weeks.  At first the class was a lot more work than he anticipated and he was very upset after day 1 that he would "spend his summer this way."  I told him that he had to be there, but he didn't have to be my helper.  But he was getting paid to help me, so the money thing won over.

Then, once he was used to the kids, their energy, and the routine of a day, he settled into just fine.  Yesterday he was so darn helpful I gave him a bonus dollar.  He's still a 9 1/2 yr old boy, so there are moments when I have to remind him that he's supposed to be helping me and setting a good example, but those are rare.  He's really risen to the task and I'm very proud of him.

In other news:  Looks like it's going to get pretty hot around here again.  I think there will be a great amount of afternoon time spent at the pool.  Hope you're all keeping cool wherever you are!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Art Class: Spiders and Birds

Here's a couple more projects from this week's art class.

(Above) Wax resist stone spiders.  ( It was Magoo's idea to have a spider parade - which was a big hit with the kiddos.  I think they liked the parade more than the actual project.  :)

(Below) Watercolor birds. 

I think these turned out great so I'm going to switch out next week's wax resist project for another watercolor painting.  I used a decent amount of my budget money to buy good quality watercolor brushes, so we might as well use them!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Art Class: African Zomo Masks

It's week 2 of art class and the theme for my unit is ANIMALS.  But the theme for the movement class that is joined to my class is AFRICA.  So I tried blending the two today by making African styles rabbit masks based on the character Zomo the Trickster

This was not an easy project (African patterns, symmetry, tempera paint, yarn) and I certainly hadn't intended on leading with it.  But Suzanne, the teacher of the other unit, was doing Zomo yesterday, so what the heck?!

And you know what?  They rocked it!  Look at all those great masks.

One little girl didn't want to be in the picture.  I don't know if she was shy or didn't feel good about her mask.  (Below)  I pulled her aside to let her know that I thought she had done a wonderful job.  And I wasn't lying.  Take a look.

This mask is COOL!  She incorporated a lot of the patterns that I had showed them: triangles, spirals and dots.  And there's so much control in the spirals.  A lot of 5 yr old kids would have made a mud puddle out of those colors.  So has bold contrast and clear lines.  I LOVE IT!

 Today ... watercolors.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Carnival Party

As some of you may know, Magoo's birthday is right around Christmas time, which isn't the best time to have a kids' birthday party.  So we always do that in the summer, to celebrate his half-birthday.

Now that he's 9 1/2, it occurred to me that he might not want a big party anymore.  It seems to me that I hear of other kids around this age who are starting to feel that big parties are, well, for little kids.  But no, Magoo brought it up one day in June.  "I think I want a carnival party this year."

Oh.  Okay.  I guess we're still into parties.

I can't say I blame him.  I still throw myself a birthday party every year.  I love cake.  I love friends.  I love gifts.  Party on.

(Above)  Here's a view of the backyard pre-party.  I bought some banners at iParty which added a lot of color.  I made a Penny Pitch game and a limbo game.  I bought the Plinko game from Oriental Trading Company (big hit.)  And we had the pop-up baseball pitching game.  There's also a bean bag toss and the Angry Birds catapult.  They're just not in the shot.

I, wisely, hired the 14-yr-old neighbor to help out with passing out tickets and wrangling the boys.  (They won tickets at each game.)  That freed me up to take pictures and actually sit down and chat with the other adults.

Here's Magoo and his crew.

Magoo requested his traditional honey cake - but we jazzed it up with curly-Q candles.

Then, after cake and ice cream, the boys took their tickets over to the prize wagon and filled their goody bags with their winnings.

When the presents were opened, the guests had left, and the day was over, I asked Magoo what his favorite part of the party was.

Was it the games I worked on for weeks?
The cake I made from scratch at 6:30 am?

Nope.  It was the water gun fight that happened after the prizes.

Happy Half Birthday, Magoo!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Art Class: Week 1 Complete

Today was the end of the first session of my morning art class.  I have to say, I'm going to miss some of those little sweeties.  Four days is not long enough.  I would have loved to have these same kids for the whole three weeks, then - I think - some of them would have really blossomed.  That said, when I went in Monday morning, I really didn't know what to expect as far as artistic ability goes.  But they impressed me.  Most were pretty skilled.  There was one little girl who would have rather danced around the room and eaten snack, but the rest of them really seemed into it.

 Here's a glimpse of some of the projects they did.

Kandinsky leaf collage.

Pointillism Trees.

Sumi-e Bamboo.

Next week I have a whole new batch of kiddos and a new theme: animals.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Fourth

We kicked things off a little early and opted for a Third of July fireworks display in our front yard.  Oooooh.  Aaaaah.

Then, on the actual Fourth, we headed down to Gramma's house in Niantic.  Magoo was THRILLED by Gramma's new purchase: a raft!

He and Mike took it out for a spin.

Later, when the rest of the family gathered, we hit the beach.

We all went in the water, but it was still a bit brisk.   So Magoo built a sandcastle, which became a very, very deep hole.

Mike and Magoo dug so deep that they struck water at the bottom.

That's me taking a picture of my reflection in the under-sand water pool.

While digging, Magoo discovered a sand crab!  Can you find it?

He caught it in his bucket, then we let it go.  It was amazing how much focus you had to give that little guy in order not to lose site of it.  It blended in perfectly.

We had a lovely relaxing, beachy Fourth of July.  Hope you did to!  Now it's back to the grindstone and another art class!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Art Class: Hand Dyed Paper

One day done!  And it was a success!

I don't mind confessing that having been out of the classroom for about 10 year, I was a little nervous to have a room full of 4 and 5-yr -olds where I was in charge.  But, apart from the fact that my throat is a little dry, it went really, really well.

The wee ones came in and I had some paper and markers set up so that they could free draw.  One little girl was clutching her mother's neck for dear life and I thought, Uh oh.  This is going to be my challenging one.  But you know what?  As soon as Mom ,left that girl was like a mean of sunshine.  So bubbly!  So cute!

After a little get-to-know-you game in a circle, we did our art project:  hand dyed papers.

 This was a very successful little project and it didn't take long at all.  (In fact, I was banking on it taking longer.)

One the squares were dry, we mounted them on lovely paper with leaves and twigs in it.  (It was nature week after all.)

And when that was all done and we had 10 minutes left, I pulled out the water soluble ink pads and we had fun making thumbprint people and animals ala Ed Emberley.

The kids all did a great job and Magoo did a fabulous job helping out, but I think he found it more taxing than fun (tell me about it) so tomorrow we might have to pack the Nintendo DS so he can scurry off and decompress.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


It's full-on summertime around here.  That basically means I do as much work as I can in the morning, and the afternoons are spent at the pool. 

If Magoo isn't in the water, then he's up on the grass playing LEGOs with Curly and Mo.
Or reading.  He's loving his new book, Penguins of Doom by Greg R. Fishbone.

In other news: 

My class at the West Hartford Art League starts tomorrow!  Did I mention that it's for 4 - to -5 yr olds.  Yikes!  I'm a little nervous about having such young kiddos, but I'm sure after the first day I'll have a stronger handle on it.  But, I'm prepared.  I have name tags, a game, and an art project ready to go.  And Magoo is excited to be my helper.  I'm excited to have him there too.  I think he'll do great!