Monday, February 27, 2012

Very Unique Painting

This post was planned and executed by Josephine, who wanted me to share with you her idea of doing some, "very unique painting."

First, fill some paint pots with glitter paint (tempera).  Set up a painting surface (in this case, the chalkboard side of our easel).  Then paint your hands and the painting surface (the chalkboard). Then finger paint and draw letters and anything else you want!

Behold, our documentation of very unique painting!  (A note from me: this is a nice way to finger paint inside, and practice making letters...the paint washes off the chalkboard pretty easily).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Easy Outdoor Painting

Winter around these parts has been amazing this year.  In my old age I am not really a fan of snow and ice. I have a total Debbie Downer attitude about it.  A day off school!  Uh, no, not excited about that one.  Work cancelled!?  Nope, not here, not usually anyway.  And I get cold easily. And I hate sliding on ice in the car or on foot and getting wet when it's cold.  I'm a big mess o' fuss when it comes to winter weather.  I'd much rather be swatting blood engorged mosquitoes down my sweat drenched leg during summer.  But this winter has been marvelous!  Warm, no snow, very little discomfort in general.  Perfect weather for a winter wuss.

Friday was a beautiful warm winter day and I was not feeling well.  So I decided to send Josephine and Tess outside with three pots of tempera paint (highly washable) to paint their plastic playhouse.  They (Jo) picked glittery pink, glittery purple, and white.  Those are my girls!  Never enough glitter. I don't like winter, but I do like glitter.  What will be embarrassing once my children are grown is acceptable now. Will I become an old person who glitter puffy paint embellishes her sweatshirts?  Time will tell.  Anyway, I have sent the girls outside to paint toys before, and they love it.  It keeps them entertained for a long time and they get really into it, and the next time it rains, or with a good spray of the hose the paint will all be gone, until next time.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Window Markers vs. Window Crayons

On the quest to cover more surfaces in our house with art and/or art supplies I have discovered a great new tool.  About a year ago I bought us a pack of window markers. We have a glass door that separates our front room from our front porch, and I thought it would be a great surface on which to make art.  Well at the time it was a failed experiment.  Josephine wasn't particularly interested, and while Tess was, I found her one day with one of the markers in her mouth, the top completely bitten off (and consumed).  So I put them up and we hadn't written on the window (with approval) since.  

This past week I decided to try again.  We bought some Crayola window crayons and took out our old window markers (sans the blue one, lost to Tess's weird appetites).  I won't hold you in suspense any longer! The crayons won out, by a long shot.  Perhaps one reason the markers never caught on with Jo is that depending on how you hold them they don't show up on the glass that well.  Not so for the crayons. The color looks thick and vivid and impressive without much effort.  They come in fewer colors than the markers, but they are worth it.  

The girls drew with these crayons for a long time.  I don't have a great comparison shot of the markers, because they dispensed with them as soon as they saw how pretty and vibrant the crayons looked.  Another interesting surprise was how pretty (I think) the snowflakes looked after the girls colored all over them.  This gave us an idea to maybe plan to glue up some tissue paper and then color over it with these crayons for a pretty stained glass look.  Maybe a rainbow for St. Patrick's day or spring.  I really love these crayons, and especially for a small child I would easily choose them over the window markers.  These crayons are a nice way, especially in a smaller house, to make an art surface out of an overlooked part of the house.  Just don't turn your back for too long or your two year old may try to see what they look like when used on your couch! I'm happy to say that at least if you get to it quickly enough some soap and water seem to get them out of fabric.  


Monday, February 20, 2012

President's Day Hats

Happy President's day!  I've tried to interest the girls in the meaning of this day, and they've absorbed some of it.  Josephine in particular is now excited to find George Washington on the one dollar bill and the quarter.  It sinks in bit by bit, right?  They're a little young to appreciate the significance of most of this history, but we made Lincoln hats this afternoon for a quick little craft and some coloring.  We used paper plates, black construction paper, and staples.  These were pretty thrown together, but the girls thought they were hilarious.  

And we read our favorite President book! 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Happy Mardi Gras!

We had a little Mardi Gras celebration tonight.  Before I met Tim I was unfamiliar with many of the more common Mardi Gras traditions, especially those from New Orleans.  I was really missing out!  Tonight I made some jambalaya and macaroni and cheese from a Princess and the Frog cookbook and we had king cake, which was my favorite part.  Thank you Tim for introducing me to king cake!  Sweet bread, covered with sweet icing, and finished off by sugar sprinkles. We have gotten delicious king cake from the Woodmoor Pastry shop in the past, but this time we tried one from Great Harvest Bread and it was great.
The girls made some masks using green and purple construction paper and their hand prints.  We traced their hand prints onto the paper, cut them out, let them add feathers and decorate them with markers, and added a popsicle stick to the back so they could use it at as a mask.  They are cute!

Finally I wanted to mention a nice book on Mardi Gras we checked out from the library.  Called "Mardi Gras and Carnival," it features details about celebrations of Mardi Gras from all over the world.  Happy Mardi Gras!  Go find yourself some king cake!  Soundtrack by Coolbone Brass Band, Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Making Pretend Cake

Nine hours with a toddler who doesn't nap is a long time.  And some things, which in the first three hours, or even in the second three, might not sound like good ideas begin to seem reasonable and even like great ideas once hour seven rolls around.  So it was with this activity!  Yesterday afternoon was nice and warm and I really wanted the girls to get fresh air.  So, to add extra excitement to going outside in the backyard I put together a little 'station' on our deck where they could make a pretend cake.  It consisted of pots, whisks, measuring spoons and cups, a cookie sheet, some water, flour, an egg carton, and some spice jars filled with baking soda.  At least that's how we started.
The girls were pretty excited about this.  At first they weren't sure what to do, but when I explained they could do whatever they wanted they went right to it.

They worked and worked, and then decided they needed sprinkles.  I gave them a few and they came back in a little while later for chocolate chips, which I gave them. Through this process I ended up giving them more flour, water, and finally a banana to add to their cake.  This is not something I'd do every day because you can imagine the clean up was a bit involved, but they had fun, and stayed outside for a long time 'baking'.  

Cake is served!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine's Day Card for Coloring

Happy Valentine's day, what's left of it!  We had a nice day; both girls had parties at their school and Jo exchanged valentines with her friends.  This year we made a valentine with a coloring theme.  Josephine loves to draw pictures of herself with her favorite stuffed lamb, and we wanted to give her friends something they might be able to use to make a little art of their own.  I was also inspired by this valentine.  I started by asking Jo to draw a picture that she'd want to make into a card.  Then I asked her to write "From, Josephine," on another sheet of paper (because her writing takes up more space than she had room for on her drawing).

She explained that in the drawing she is holding lamb, and to the right she drew hearts.  Above and to the right of her head is something called, "fibber island."  No idea!  But, she thought of it, so I like it.  

Next we took a picture of her drawing and opened it in a simple photo editing program  We used Irfanview.  We cropped the photo, adjusted the contrast and brightness to reduce any shadows on the paper, and then decreased the color depth to (2-bit) black and white.  Then we copied the edited photos into Word and arranged them with the text (including the words, "Have a colorful Valentine's Day!" on the upper left).  Once the layout looked good we copied it over four times and printed four to a page.  We used pink and purple construction paper to print to, because those are Jo's favorite colors and what she requested.  

Our final step was to punch a hole next to her hand, put a crayon through and tape it to the back. We added a little strip of stickers taped to the bottom.  Jo was excited because she thought it looked like a page from a coloring book starring her and lamb. That gave us an idea to start working on a coloring book based on her drawings.  Hope you had a great day!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Colors and Counting with a Toddler

While Josephine was at school this morning I needed an activity for Tess that would occupy her without too much help from me.  Tess has a Cheerios book, given to her by an aunt and uncle, that she loves.  It's a cute counting book that has circular indentations to place the cheerios, similar to a puzzle. This morning we stopped at the store to get her colored O's so she could try some sorting and counting games and even make some edible jewelry.

There are cereal brands with no artificial coloring, but honestly, if it's sorting colors you're after, beet juice cannot stand up to Red #40.  So for this project we went ahead and bought Fruit Loops.  I took a muffin tin and put small colored circles of construction paper in the

bottom of each muffin container. I also put out several pipe cleaners so she could 'string' the cereal and make a bracelet.  She really enjoyed the sorting, and went through several cycles of sorting a bunch, eating a bunch, and then sorting again. She started one bracelet and then abandoned it, but I think that would occupy her well as a stand alone activity. She sorted and counted and got her full daily recommended allowance of Blue #60.  It's really an easy and quick activity that will occupy a two year old for a good long time!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Primary Colors

Disney World is still on my mind.  Within the enormity of the parks, I found a familiar quote of Walt Disney scrawled on a small wall: “I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse."  When I read it now, it really turns my thought to Walt Disney the artist.

I found an interesting list of the “Top 30 American Visual Artisans of the 20th Century.” So, when both girls fell asleep in the van this afternoon, I realized that an impromptu trip to the National Gallery of Art would bring us full circle, back to their exploration of Pop Art.  They definitely took well to the surprise of waking up from their naps downtown.

The sole purpose of my visit was to introduce them to Roy Lichtenstein’s “Look Mickey.”

They appreciated it, but “the eyes aren’t right” for Josephine.  I have to admit, the eyes on this piece have always bothered me, too.

There was a Jasper Johns room right next to the Lichtenstein, and the girls really enjoyed spending time in there.


Of course, taking unpredictable preschoolers to the gallery can be quite nerve wracking, but once you get past the stress of your child taking just-one-more-step-closer for a better look, it is quite fun and interesting.  They picked up on a theme of primary colors in the Jasper Johns works well before I did.

Primary colors have been fresh on their mind since watching a fun OK Go video on a recent episode of Sesame Street.

And so colors were definitely the theme for the night.  On the drive home, Josephine wanted to play a "Car Color" game that a friend had taught her today.  "You pick a color, and then you try to find a car that color."  But it was dark, and I tried to explain to her that it is hard to see color when it is so dark.  "Your eyes can see only black and white in low light."  But she remained unfettered.  "That's perfect!  The color I'm choosing is white!"

I thought our afternoon/evening of art was done.  But then, without any prompting or notice, Josephine took it upon herself to draw Mickey Mouse before bed tonight, along with a Minnie Mouse.

Notice the size of the eyes in comparison to Lichtenstein’s Mickey.

Besides OK Go, tonight's soundtrack included John Cage: Piano Music - Part I performed by Giancarlo Simonacci.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Wonder Pets!

It has been hard to get back into the swing of things since returning from Disney.  I'm thinking it'll start getting easier this weekend, or once I get all the laundry done, or after I get used to not eating a cupcake at the end of every day.  Fortunately this week's New Yorker showed up just in time. Inside the February 13 and 20 issue is an article entitled, "It's Good Enough for Me," by Emily Nussbaum about the "renaissance" in children's television we are living through right now.  And yes, we lived it this week!  One of the shows the author likes is "Wonder Pets," and it's one I hadn't seen, but it's one we have on demand so I thought I'd take this low energy week to try it out on the girls.  They, predictably, loved it.

Nussbaum thinks Wonder Pets is, "peaceful, yet also witty and emotional, with themes recognizable from modern notions of child development."  She also says this about it, "The visual artist Jennifer Oxley invented a technique called “photo-puppetry,” in which real photographs are manipulated, broken down, and rigged for animation, invoking a layered universe of textures."  So, yes, I agree.  It's cute, and layered.  The writer also recommends Ni-Hao, Kai-Lan, Phineas and Ferb, and Miffy and Friends.  The girls have not seen those yet, but maybe over time.  It was just one of those weeks!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Entertainment for a Drive

Whew!  What a week.  We went to Disney World!  And it, and interesting, and not what I expected.  I researched enough I'm not sure why I was surprised by the place, but I guess no matter how much you've read about something, nothing compares to being there in person.  I'm going to write more about the trip soon, but I wanted to mention a few things that really helped us on the drive.  Yes, we drove!  It was actually pretty fun, especially the pit stop we made in Savannah, Georgia on the way there and back.  The stop included fried oysters, sweet tea, and pralines. We also collected some Spanish moss and have plans to make something with it.

During the drive the girls (especially Tess) entertained themselves with some awesome little oil pastels and two nice sketchbooks courtesy of Grandma Mollie.  At first I thought the sketchbooks were a little large but the nice thing about them was that they had a hard cover and were thick, making them a nice thick surface to draw on in the car.  The girls could put these on their lap and draw and draw.

The above drawings were made by Tess, and she filled half the book with these.  The oil pastels make such a bold, vivid mark.  They also used stickers in them.  We also had little dry erase activity books that the girls really liked.   

We augmented this with plenty of episodes of Mickey Mouse's clubhouse, Cars, Finding Nemo, and a nice little game for the Nintendo DS called Smart Girl's Playhouse.  I got the DS for Tim a few years ago and thus far we haven't introduced the girls to it.  Josephine did love playing this game in the car.  It was really nice once it was dark and she couldn't read or draw and we couldn't listen to another episode of Mickey Mouse.

Overall it was a great time. We listened to a Disney Princess CD (I know, I know!) that was actually tolerable and the Winnie the Pooh CD which was really pretty great.  We also listened to Mary Poppins and most of the Annie soundtrack.  Also we listened to the the soundtrack to Where the Wild Things Are and it was great!  I never knew Karen O was attached to it (from the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs) but I've been missing out.
It's good to be back!