Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Water Color Resist for Thank You Cards...and Ennui

Josephine had a birthday over a month ago and as planned she had a nice party with lots of friends and family and very generous and sweet gifts. After the party it came time to write thank you notes and I developed a case of preschool art block, similar to writer's block except with an aversion to finger paint and pipe cleaners. Ennui set in. I love that word by the way, but whenever I want to use it in a sentence I stop myself because I'm never sure how to pronounce it, even though I've looked it up plenty of times. Just more ennui.

I taught Jo the word and she told me I was over complicating things as usual (although maybe that was me talking to myself) and would I please put this shoe on her doll and could she please have some gum and Tessie's a meano-moo. Finally, Jo and I decided she'd do some water color resist to make her cards. This is always fun, and it always looks cool, especially if you use liquid watercolors. I cut some watercolor paper in half and Jo wrote all her classmates names and drew them little pictures with a crayon. Then she picked a handful of paint colors which I put in a muffin tin for her and she painted the cards. The watercolor doesn't absorb into the paper where the wax crayon is and the look is really pretty.

The only downside was how long it took us! Jo is still working on making her letters so things are already a little slow going and coupled with my...apathy we'll say, it took a few weeks longer than it should. But it's done now and they look cute and better late than never, right!? And Jo got to practice a lot of writing and work with the liquid watercolors, which we all really enjoy. Of course I then forgot to take a picture of all of them together since the effort of making them nearly did me in and I could only recover (still working on that by the way) by sitting still and sighing deeply.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Making Radish Chips with our First Harvest

I have some posts composed in my mind, but have not gotten myself to write them down and hit publish lately. Look, there are auctions of American Girl doll clothes to monitor on ebay, episodes of the Real Housewives of New Jersey to watch, and my latest favorite thing, to read (which scares the pants off me's a horrifying world).

We did something fun today though, and worthy of sharing. We picked our first harvest of the season, a bunch of very pretty and spicy radishes. This variety is called Easter Egg for the lovely scarlett, pink, and ivory colors of the radishes. I like the way radishes taste, but the really fun thing about growing them with the girls is how quickly they go from seed to pretty round radish. We planted this square foot of them a month ago!
While Josephine would need to be medicated to put one of these delicate little things to her lips, she really enjoys picking them with me. She and Tess came out this morning and we pulled them. They grew much better than they did last year, which I attribute to my actually reading the square foot gardening book, rather than just having it around for looks. I only planted sixteen seeds in the square foot so I didn't have to do any thinning, which I think really messed up the roots last year. We still had a few long skinny radishes, but most of them got nice and round and plump. They are really spicy! I wanted to try something different with them, so we made radish chips, using this recipe (essentially you steam the radish for 5 minutes and then sprinkle the sliced radish with paprika, a little cayenne, and salt, and bake for 20 minutes).  Pretty yummy! They were small, but very tasty. They would be good sprinkled on a baked potato, or anything else that could benefit from a small, salty, crunchy condiment. I cannot wait to watch our tomatoes, peppers, borage, cucumbers, and squash (among a few other things) grow this year. 

A few of our radish chips

Friday, May 4, 2012

Some Flubbery Dough and Cake

I haven't meant to let so much time pass between posts! We've had a few things go on in the past few weeks, in particular Jo's birthday celebrations (yes, plural celebrations, multiple cakes...actually seven butterfly cakes and one Chuck E. Cheese cake and sixteen rainbow cupcakes, but who's counting!). In between some of these things Tess and I had a few mornings together, just the two of us, and one morning we made something called, "Rubbery Flubbery Dough." The recipe is from the book "First Art," by MaryAnn Kohl, which is a wonderful book full of inspiring art especially for toddlers and twos.

I'm not sure I loved this recipe! Tess did have fun with it though. The downside to it is that the dough isn't as long lasting as regular play dough (or play clay as Kohl calls her recipe in this book) and it is stickier. But it does have an interesting texture that is pliable and soft and definitely more rubbery than regular dough. I was going to dye it, but Tess requested white, so I didn't add food coloring.

There are three ingredients in the dough; salt, cold water, and corn starch. To make the dough we poured 1 cup of cornstarch and 1/2 cup of cold water into a mixing bowl and stirred that up and set it aside. We put one cup of salt and 1 cup of hot water in a saucepan and brought it to a boil. I think I should have stirred this up better, or gotten the water even hotter, to help dissolve the salt. Anyway after the salt water comes to a boil, pour the water/cornstarch mixture into the saucepan and turn the heat down to low. Stir until the mix is dry and thick. The mixture was significantly stickier when I first removed it from the pan than after it cooled, so if it feels sticky but looks thick and dry I suggest taking it out of the pan and letting it cool. If it's still sticky let your little one knead in more cornstarch. Tess loved that part! Cornstarch has such a cool texture. Actually the cornstarch and water mixture is pretty cool by itself.

Anyway Tess first enjoyed mixing in the cornstarch to make the dough a little less sticky, and then she took our colored popsicle sticks and spent a long time poking the dough with them, I'm sorry, making a cake. Who knows where she got the inspiration to make cake?!  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Color Mixing with Popsicle Sticks

Josephine's birthday party was this past weekend and as a part of the favors we gave the kids small wooden birdhouses. I'm not sure they could really be used that way, but they were cute and we also included some supplies the kids could use to decorate them. This week we've been experimenting with painting wood with liquid water colors so Jo painted her birdhouse with them. The liquid watercolors look really beautiful painted on wood, like the wood was stained a really pretty color. The liquid watercolors are a great paint to use on wood, because the wood absorbs the color really nicely.

We did another fun experiment with Tess using wooden popsicle sticks and the liquid watercolors. I bought the girls some colored popsicle sticks a while back but wasn't sure what to do with them. I decided to use them to illustrate to her more about mixing colors. We took a yellow popsicle stick and painted it with red watercolor paint to watch it turn orange, then took a red popsicle stick and painted it with blue (actually 'teal' but it worked) to make purple, and then took another yellow popsicle stick and painted it with the blue to make green. They worked great and Tess really enjoyed it. She then dumped most of a container of gold glitter glue on them to make a sculpture. There is almost no end to the cool stuff you can do with the liquid watercolors! We are going to try to think of more fun things to do with these colored popsicle sticks...maybe even keep painting them and make one large sculpture.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Starting the Garden!

This past week we started working on our garden. I am so excited about this. Last year was the first year we planted a garden and we had fun with it. For inspiration we used a book called Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots and it is such an inspirational and fun book! It has lots of great ideas about gardens to plant with kids. You can pick from themed gardens, like a pizza garden, or a a moonlight garden, but there are also suggestions for popular plants to grow with children. Plants that are popular with kids for one reason or another like pumpkins, cherry tomatoes, hollyhocks, and morning glories among many others.

I don't actually know much about gardening, but I've been having fun learning. We built two raised beds so we could use the square foot gardening method. Although I ignored this part at first last summer, the method relies on more than just the raised bed to work. Depending on the plant you are supposed to plant either 16, 9, 4, or 1 plant per square feet. For the radishes we just planted for instance we planted 16 seeds in one square foot. This way you don't have to thin the seedlings and don't have too many radishes at once. You can also rotate what you plant in each square foot throughout the season. Radishes by the way are one of the recommended plants to grow with children because they go from seed to radish in a little over a month and they come in pretty colors like pink, red, purple, and white. Right now we have one square foot planted with radishes and one with an edible purple flower/herb called borage.

Since some of the garden got eaten up by rabbits last year we are also trying a green wire fence around the beds in the hope that this will deter some of the critters. Today I sent the girls outside with some ribbon to decorate the fence a little and make it look a little prettier! I was inspired by this post from The Artful Parent. The girls liked it and wound ribbon over and over and pulled it out and wound it again. It looks pretty too!

We are still pouring over the Burpee catalog and trying to decide what to plant, but so far we are planning cherry tomatoes, small red sweet peppers, a small watermelon, some mini pumpkins, and a galvanized tub full of potatoes. We will also put in some morning glories and will plant a packet of pink poppy seeds featuring Princess Belle (can Disney market anything with a princess, or what?). We are also going to plant a bean pole tee pee for the girls to enjoy. I can't wait for the summer! What do you love to plant in your garden?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Aluminum Foil Challenge

It's great to be back from spring break.  We had a really nice time and I want to write about a fun place we stayed up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and I will, but tonight I'm going to write about the "Aluminum Foil Challenge." I "invented" this to get the girls to go outside into the backyard to play. They both like the backyard, and actually Tess loves the backyard, but they are sometimes reluctant to go out at first. So to entice them I gave them a roll of aluminum foil (not including the box with that spiky thing that tears the foil) and told them it was a challenge and to make something and get back to me so I could photograph it. This occupied them for a long time and they were both pretty thrilled with it. It's always the most open ended stuff that engages them, isn't it?

I think there are several items around the house this would work with (and that I plan to try soon): band-aids, a box of Kleenex, a box of wipes, a roll of paper towels, maybe a box of salt. Sometimes it's also a relief (for me) to give them access to something I usually try to keep them from wasting and just let them do whatever they want with it! It's kind of the same feeling I get when I'm having a bad day and I mentally decide to say yes as much as possible with them. So, yes, Jo, take that roll of foil and wrap it around the deck pretending it's Rapunzel's hair, and yes Tess, please rock your aluminum foil baby to sleep.

Friday, April 6, 2012

An Awesome Art Show

This past week has been spring break here at our house and we've had some fun times. We've had some trials too, oh Super Nanny could pass some judgement (and also just other people in the grocery store, at the library, etc), but overall we've had fun.  We had an exceptional time visiting a new show currently ongoing at the Hirshhorn Museum called Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space.

The Hirshhorn is a contemporary art museum and a part of the Smithsonian. It's my favorite Smithsonian museum, and the girls usually love it too.  Before I had children I didn't think much about how children experience art museums.  The girls can engage with paintings on a wall in relatively small doses...but contemporary art is often three dimensional, often has fewer elements and simpler lines than other art, and doesn't usually rely on some understanding of a narrative to engage with the work. Other than the fact that the subject matter can sometimes be too mature, or at least hard to explain, I think contemporary art is so fun to experience with children.

This new show is no exception and is even better than most because it's interactive! You can touch stuff. And while the adults stand around looking at one another awkwardly, the kids dive right in. They had absolutely no qualms about walking into a cube shaped room with a Jimi Hendrix soundtrack blaring, plopping themselves down on one of the many mattresses laid on the floor, heads comfy on a pillow. None of them picked up the emery boards laid conveniently on each pillow and filed their nails (but you can if you go and you should!) but otherwise they accepted the whole thing as if, of course you can lay down on mattresses in the middle of an art gallery. That is why experiencing this with kids is so great. SPOILER ALERT: there are pictures of newspaper clippings projected onto screens in the mattress room and the artist outlined some of the features of the people with cocaine. It wasn't obvious to our little kids though. Unless it was but that hasn't come up yet. Something for the kindergarten teacher, perhaps?

The kids favorite part was running through a piece called Blue Penetrable BBL. This work consists of many cords (they are made of some rubbery feeling material though, not cloth) suspended from the ceiling in the center of a room. Walking though the space is amazing; it's disorienting, and really otherworldly. It's a very cool sensation, although trying to keep track of my two kids made me dizzy. You are left feeling like the whole room is pulsing with movement and light. I loved it! But, I do think it may have given me a migraine. The children could have spent all day just walking though that piece.

The other cool thing we did was re-visit the Dan Flavin piece and use some highlighter pens to make glowing drawings in the gallery. The highlighters looked so much like they were glowing in the bright blue light that people were stopping to ask where we'd bought them! The whole experience was so very fun and unique and if you are anywhere near the DC area you have to check this out and take your kids!