we have grown wheat grass in our Easter baskets in the past, but we won't be this year as we will be in Florida visiting my dad at Easter!
Suna has some nice instructions here.
we have grown wheat grass in our Easter baskets in the past, but we won't be this year as we will be in Florida visiting my dad at Easter!
Suna has some nice instructions here.
these were so fun to make!!!
i made them using freezer paper stencils and bleach.
this one, for our friend G for his birthday, was made using the postive space cut-out, and spraying bleach all around it.
for the next two items (both for Miss Maxine!) I used the negative space cut-outs, sprayed bleach, rinsed and damp dried, then ironed on the postive space cut-outs and did another round of bleach.
the boys will make their own t-shirts in a workshop I'm teaching on Sunday- I'll post their results when we get there...
Our neighbour gave us a bag of old half-used candles and we melted them down, added some crayons for colour, and poured them into our sand and rock molds. (the wax has to be hotter than usual to stick to the sand a bit- this is not a bad tutorial)
When I was a kid (Lee's age actually) I went through a phase of being obsessed with candlemaking. I remember making sand candles, ice cube candles (also fun!), using crayons to colour them, and setting a pan of wax on fire. whoops!
These candles were a lot of fun- I'd like to try to make some with beeswax.
i love Christmas, but i love it to start about a week before the actual big day- no sooner.
my one exception is advent calendars. i find it helps kids who are WAITING so patiently for Christmas when they have a little tiny thing to open every day. in the past we have always gotten the Playmobil or Lego ones. This year we got Asa the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar - i couldn't resist. He is such a fan. I didn't see anything especially nice for Maxine, so Lee and I had fun wrapping a bunch of little prezzies and hanging them on ribbons.
the cat likes them too.
As Lee and I were working, he said, "Mama- I bet you have an advent calendar for me too. You just want to surprise me!" Ugg. No I didn't! At 10, he's at that in between age- too old for most toy presents, but young enough to care if he's not getting them. A promise of a movie date with me or his dad before xmas solved the problem...
our Island community had a pumpkin carving party on Saturday
Lee and Asa made Jack-O-Lanterns 100% by themselves and I helped Maxine (she drew the design, I carved)
What was interesting to me was how completely each pumpkin said something about each child's personality:
Maxine's (far left) is all about the eyeballs. People with defined eyeballs are what she loves to draw lately. Plus her pumpkin is just really cute.
Lee's pumpkin (middle) is quirky just like him.
Asa's abstract Jack-O-Lantern (far right) is slightly perverse and different from everyone else's (notice the knife stuck in the side)
I don't want to put the children into little boxes by analyzing them this way- I just love how each child shines through in his/her creative expression!
the garden party was relocated indoors due to the loads of mosquitoes presently sharing the Island with us. it didn't stop Maxine and her friends from having a very fun time!
of course they ate cheesies and drank pop (an annual birthday party indulgence around here.) we did manage to get some fruit in them- one activity was to make your own fruit kebab!
we had a small craft: the kids painted craft store butterfly frames and added some glitter.
today i printed out tiny pictures of the birthday girl and her friends. a helpful friend took some great shots of the kids at the party with this in mind.
i especially love this one of Maxine and her friend Aya!
i'll give the guests their finished works of art with her thank you notes (tomorrow's project!)
last week i went into Lee's class and we did some needle felting. his teacher thought it would be good for the kids to do a landscape, and indeed, it was!
my personal favourite- a felted Toronto skyline including the CN Tower
it is such a great craft to do with kids (i'd say age 5 and up) because it is so fast, easy to learn and forgiving.
Maxine has been really into dressing and undressing her baby dolls lately. She had been asking me for shoes for her dollies, so one day last week while the boys were at school she picked some wool from my scrap bin and we set to work. I traced around each baby's foot and cut out 4 ovals per pair (2 tops and 2 bottoms). In the tops, i cut a smallish hole closer to the back for the foot opening and then sewed the top and bottom together with a blanket stitch. the yellow pair is felted wool and was good to go (I wanted to needlefelt a little design on them but Max was adamant that she liked them plain!) The pink pair needed reinforcement around the opening so as not to unravel. they slip on easily and stay on pretty well. Next and bigger goal: I'd like to make a bunch of doll clothes for her birthday in June. Maybe I can do it if I start now! :)
i did it- well, they did it! (last year i set a goal for this year to help the children make gifts for each other).
Lee made Asa this papier mache piggy bank and started his brother off with $5 from his own savings:
Lee made Maxine this ladybug shirt:
(he drew with markers onto iron-on transfer paper. more about that technique in this post. I repurposed a turtleneck Maxine would never wear by shortening the collar and sleeves and making them 'fancy' with a lettuce edge on my awesome new serger)
using polymer clay, Asa made some statues and a bowl for Lee. for Maxine, he made a beading set with a personalized 'M' box:
the best thing was all of these gifts were thought up by the giver, executed and presented with enthusiasm, and much appreciated by the recipient.
yay for giving!!
Asa had the wonderful idea to paint these dollar store parasols that he and Maxine got at a birthday party. they used acrylic paints. Maxine's parasol had a design on it already and she just painted right over it. super fun and easy!
did you notice that there is a zombie in this scene? i was working on a sewing project that involved reconstructing a white t-shirt- Asa grabbed the cut off sleeves and put them around his head, added the red and green face paint, and taped tissues to his clothes- Instant Zombie!!!
he's still my costume boy
"what was I thinking?"
just kidding. this was actually a lot of fun. from my Montessori days (I used to work at a Montessori preschool) i remembered that this is a nice tactile activity. i squirted some shaving cream onto plastic placemats- it would be a lot better if you could squirt it directly onto the table, but it would have gotten into the cracks of ours. Max and Asa spent quite a long time swirling the shaving cream around. when the shaving cream started to migrate--
or, 'beware of zombie boys'
you may have noticed the boys' creepy masks in the costume contest this summer. (we repainted Asa's to a flesh colourlike Lee's mask)
when i was a kid, we made these plaster cast material masks a number of times. they were so much fun to make and decorate. my mom sent me this magazine ad to remind me of those masks:
of course i pictured all the fun they would have decorating them with bright paint, glitter, feathers, etc, as we had. i thought Asa might make an animal mask similar to the one above.
but, no, they painted their masks flesh-tone and solid black (Lee was planning on painting a beard and mustache on his- he still might he says) Is this a gender difference? was my idea too girly maybe? (the other day they were riding their bikes, spitting in to the air, and seeing if they could 'ride into the spit.' they laughed their heads off when i said "that is so disgusting!! a girl would never do that!")
anyhow, Asa wore his a lot-
here's a little basic tutorial on how we did it.
you will need: a couple rolls of plaster coated gauze (made for making plaster casts for broken limbs, but i got some at an arts supply store), petroleum jelly, water, and whatever you want to decorate your mask with
prepare: cut the gauze into multi-size strips. get your bowl of water and some rags ready. lay out an old sheet and wear old clothes- it can be drippy and messy. tie back your child's hair and coat his face and eyebrows with petroleum jelly.
make the mask: dip a strip into water, use your fingers to squeegee off the excess, and smooth it onto your child's face. cover the entire face with 3-4 layers of strips, overlapping in different directions. your child must remain very still. wait 5 minutes or so for it to dry and then have your child wiggle his face to loosen it
let the mask dry overnight-ish before painting it. we poked holes at the temples and threaded through elastic to hold them on.
we made garden stones for my man for Father's Day this year. we were inspired by a neighbour of mine who has started a community pebble mosaic project).
i was intimidated at first by the concrete, but in the end it was pretty easy.
the kids and i collected stones, beach glass, pinecones and leaves. we filled 3 disposable aluminum baking trays and half-way with sand. we wet the sand and then stuck our objects in and around the sand. (you are essentially working backwards- whatever is sticking down into the sand will be exposed on the finished stone, and whatever is sticking up out of the sand will be buried in concrete.)
i then carefully mixed and poured the concrete on top. we used plastic fridge magnet letters to write a message on the bottom of each stone before it dried.
my neighbour recommended wrapping each stone in plastic to cure for at least 3 days (i only did 3 days since we won't be walking on ours) then we turned the stones out and hosed them down to get the sand off.
my man was very pleased with these additions to our garden.
we had a lovely, unexpectedly indoor party this weekend for Maxine's birthday.
we were all set for a garden party- decorations ready to go (bunting from last year, painted cardboard toadstools), garden beautified, guests prepped (Maxine told everyone the party wasn't at her house, it was "at my grass"). alas, rain kept us inside. a grey rainy day is not very nice for photos, but here are a few anyway!
i made tulle fairy skirts and felt fairy crowns to decorate. (great tip- i hired a few 12 year old babysitters to help with the little kids!) the fairy skirts were strips of tulle that i cut and tied onto a length of grosgrain ribbon (i got the idea here) I bought some letter stickers and 'bridal' decorations at the dollar store and the big girls hot glued them onto the crowns. the costumes were then also the party loot!
i love the birthday chaos amid the sea of tulle-
the whole party was inspired by this photo on the Spring issue of the (free!)(and wonderful and gorgeous!) LCBO Food and Drink magazine (LCBO is the Liquor Control Board of Ontario- or booze store- only the government can sell booze in Ontario)
I fell in love with this cupcake and the way it was styled. i wanted to make something similar for Maxine- and it made me think of a fairy cupcake. Maxine liked the idea of a fairy party, so away we went!
here's my interpretation- mini-cupcakes and a small flower shaped cake (cream cheese poundcake- a seriously good cake- recipe below) with sugared flowers from our garden.
don't be afraid of trying the flowers. they were remarkably easy to do- Maxine even helped me.last but not least- pink marshmallows for the guests to take home.
Here's the recipe for the Cream Cheese Pound Cake. It's from Bon Appetit a few years ago.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
Butter and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Using electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and salt; beat 10 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in flour at low speed until batter is smooth (do not overbeat). Transfer batter to pan.
Place pan in cold oven. Set temperature at 200°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase temperature to 250°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase to 275°F; bake 10 minutes. Increase to 300°F; bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour longer. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Wrap; store at room temperature.)
Asa had his birthday party yesterday (tomorrow is his official 6th birthday) at the beach.
15 kids and many of their parents and siblings joined us for a gorgeous sunny day filled with
and alien cupcakes
the cupcakes were once again from the book Hello, Cupcake! (i made the tv dinner cupcakes for Lee's birthday this year. very fun. but i think i'll have to hide it now! i miss coming up with my own birthday cake designs and these aliens were actually pretty hard to do. let's just say they looked better in the book. although, the kids (and every kid i've ever seen look through this book, including my man's 16 y.o. boy cousin) LOVE this book. for the grown-ups, i made Black Bottom Cupcakes- so delicious- i highly recommend them. (recipe here is the same except for 1 cup of chocolate chips added to the cream cheese filling) This is also a good recipe because the cake part is vegan so if you have vegan guests you can just leave out the cream cheese on a few!
i was a bit worried, but the pinatas were successful- paper mache over balloons, made mostly the day and evening before and dried in the oven (scheduled strategically with the cupcakes and that night's dinner). i don't really recommend this because of the tendency of air to expand as it heats. i was able to repair the one that dramatically burst and my man and Asa decorated them with day-glo spray paint. the kids had a lot of fun banging away at them with a hockey stick. (how Canadian!!)
and the best thing about a beach party? you don't have anyone at the house! we brought chips, root beer and watermelon and the kids were so happy.
Asa designed (and i printed) a limited edition Alien t-shirt for his friends to take home. here's Asa sporting his and looking SO big i can't believe it!
i was exhausted last night- i tend to take on a bit more than i can comfortably handle for birthday parties (well, in general really!) but i really think it's worth it to me. am i justifying the craziness? my hope is that when they remember the slightly obsessive compulsive parties their mom threw for them when they were kids they will know how deeply i love them!
this is my favourite project to ever come home from school with a kid:
one of Asa's teachers seriously rocks the recycled craft arena. this is a clementine orange box with one side removed, painted and turned into the Toronto skyline
(the kids know it well- it's the view from the school)
I love it- a styrofoam ball Skydome, cardboard tube/empty tea light/glue bottle CN Tower, and pompom/cork/cardstock buildings with pompom tree tops. how cool is that?
last week i spent the morning with Asa's class doing some needlefelting. (Lee was my assistant. Maxine got to hang in the classroom with the other little guys- she was so excited!)
I find 5 is a really good age to start with needlefelting. they are old enough to focus and also aware of the sharp needle danger.
Asa's friend's squirrel and Asa's duck with baby duck
too cute! i especially love the clouds in both pieces.
Lee made Asa this shirt for Christmas:
he drew with Sharpie pens directly onto a piece of iron-on transfer paper. (pencils don't work-he wanted to sketch his design first- but the pencils scratched the coating of the paper. also, remember the finished project will be a mirror image of the original- writing must be backwards!)
after helping Lee with this project and seeing the satisfaction of the giver and the receiver, i resolve to help each child make a gift for the others for Christmas and birthdays. we have done this sporadically, but i think it is important on these holidays to teach the joy of giving, along with the getting.
for inspiration, i will revisit Design Mom's posts about sibling gifts -here, here, and here. (she has 5 kids and is expecting a 6th- she is one of those women who i both admire and envy for her apparent ability to 'do it all') (which reminds me of a quote i read recently: "If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself..." -from the poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann)
back to my little guy's shirt- as you can see, Asa is quite happy with it!
a few days before Christmas, five other mums and our twelve kids got together and decorated and exchanged cookies.
i made a zillion sugar cookies and brought all the fixings for our kids to decorate them while we mums sipped mulled wine. everyone brought an extra dozen cookies for each other person, so at the end of the night each family left with 5 different kinds of cookies.
here's our friend Faye with her creations:
the whole night was a hit- a new tradition has begun!
Auntie Mar recently gave the boys the new Lego Star Wars dictionary. there's a scene in it that some fans ("AFOLs"- Adult Fans of Lego!) created including aliens with heads made of modelling clay. we have also seen other fans who create Star Wars Lego minifigs that don't actually exist in Lego products using polymer clay- here's an example.
Lee and Asa wanted to try. they are usually not big crafty guys (Lee said the other day "is this another one of your stupid Martha Stewart projects?" when I suggested leaf rubbings) so i was extremely happy to set it up for them.
They both spent an hour making heads and made them with such amazing detail. Asa especially, who is a very active guy to say the least, was completely immersed in the process. I think they call that FLOW. The alien guys were a total success and are all hanging out in Mos Eisley Cantina.
if your kids want to try it:
1- we used regular Sculpey but I would suggest getting some of the flexible Sculpey, as the finished heads are rather fragile. bake according to the package directions.
2- the kids formed the heads right on the bodies, and I carefully took them off so as not to squish the neck hole. if the neck hole is too big after baking, stick a little bit of modeling clay in the neck hole and it will stay on.
this guy is my favourite- Asa's "Crabby"- a mini (short legs) with "crab claws for a beard!"
are you starting to think about holiday gifts? here's an easy method to silkscreen on fabric.
make t-shirts for your whole family, or all your kid's friends (a special edition t-shirt makes a great party favour)
as you may know, Lee and I have made lots of t-shirts together for his 5YO t-shirt company. this is the latest design- aimed at members of our community. we'll sell them this year at our Christmas Boutique.
it is a great way to put kids' artwork on shirts- for the child or for anyone! here are some other designs Lee has drawn that we've turned into shirts:
to make your own silkscreen you will need:
- an embroidery hoop
- curtain sheer fabric (synthetic, not stretchy, fine gauge, thin enough to see through easily)
- Mod Podge - non-water soluble craft glue
- paintbrush, pencil
- your desired image
to print on fabric you will need:
- fabric ink (i use Speedball Opaque Fabric Ink)
- a stiff paint brush
- a plastic putty knife or something similar to press down ink
- your desired t-shirt, canvas bag, fabric, etc
1. trace your image onto the curtain sheer in the embroidery hoop with a pencil. this one is Lee's drawing of our Island ferry and the block letters ISLAND.
2. using the Mod Podge, paint with glue over every space where you DON"T want the paint to go. you are leaving UNCOVERED the places where you want the paint to go through the screen onto the fabric. Let it dry overnight. Hold the screen up to the light after it's dry, make sure you don't see any little pinholes or spots that you missed- if you do, touch up your screen.
3. Put a book or a piece of cardboard inside your shirt to protect the back of the shirt. Lay it out flat with your screen centered on top. Dollop some ink on, and spread it out, pushing down through the screen with the brush. Then use a putty knife to smooth the ink and push it through the screen- concentrating on down rather than side-to-side motion.
4. carefully lift the screen off of the fabric. I find I can, with practice, do about 5 prints before I have to rinse the screen and start again if I am working quickly. you definitely don't want the ink to dry on the screen or it will be ruined. rinse the screen under cool running water with a small brush or plastic scrubbie and let it dry for another round!
5. Let dry overnight, and heat set according to the directions on the ink. i put my dry shirt into a hot dryer for one hour.
my mom gave us this tie dye kit- so fun! i hadn't tie-dyed since i was a teenager. i soon remembered the sudden urge when he dye is mixed and flowing: 'what else can i tie-dye?' which in this case led us to inviting over some friends and neighbours to partake in the fun.
Our friend Julia is laid up with a broken ankle. And check out Asa with one of his crazy daily (!) costumes- underneath the ladybug umbrella and black velvet cape is a purple fleece balaclava and cat whiskers- his sword is on the table.
it was a great all ages activity: the littler kids needed help with the tying, but could do the dyeing just fine.
(Lee is wearing a tie dye he made at camp)
here are a couple of the shirts in action.
(another day, another costume for Asa- ninja at the beach- you should have seen some of the strange looks he got)
Martha has some cool techniques to try.
this would be a fantastic birthday party activity- instead of the dreaded 'loot bags.' but each guest would have to go home with a wet shirt filled with dye, to be rinsed and opened in 24 hours- or do what we did and everyone come back 24 hours later to open the surprises!