Tag Archives: art & tech

a gift for his teacher

This year Ronan was enrolled in a local Montessori preschool. He went five mornings a week from 9-12, as part of Florida's Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program. He had a great experience – he enjoyed being there and it jumpstarted him with regards to combining letters to form words (CVC, for those Montessorians). It also allowed me some alone time with just Calum. It was wonderful to be able to give this time to Calum like I had given it to Ronan at that age. While I think there are some things that could use improvement (stricter adherence to the "snack" protocol and more Montessori materials), one of the things that we felt made his year a success was his teacher. She is patient and kind, but firm. She's always available to talk about concerns and she's genuinely excited about learning and that translates to the children. In short, I think she was a major contributor to his success this year. So, of course, we wanted to find a proper way to thank her.


So, we made her a "thank you" book. While I would love to take credit for this lovely idea, I was merely the recipient of such a wonderfully crafted book when I was a Montessori teacher.  It made such a lasting impression on me, that three years later, I thought it would be the perfect gift to give to a wonderful teacher. A way to say thank you – in homemade fashion.




Ronan and I both contributed to this book. I wanted to make sure she understood how important we felt her role was in Ronan's past year. It could have been a bad experience, but he excelled and enjoyed himself. (Plus, we tucked in some gift cards for good measure)!


All of the artwork was done by Ronan (or me). We used sheets of cardboard (from the back of the construction paper collection) for the front and back pieces, which were then painted by Ronan. It was a quick project that we hope had a lasting impression.


birthday crowns

Among my our new family traditions is the very popular birthday crown. We started with Ronan's fourth birthday and it seems to be one of the easiest handmade birthday gifts to give (and make). It's simple, doesn't take up much space and is genuinely well-received (always nice for a handmade gift to be well-loved). Plus, I get to stretch my creative limits and consider the personality of the child and how the crown will be used. Each time I make one, I think it is my favorite. And, then another comes along. A recap of the past few months…

…delicate and full of brightness…



…fit for a princess…


…calm and playful (even with a bit of a cold).


I love this picture – the boy, his crown and the action of a mind-blowing sneeze.

Handmade Easter gifts

We all came together this weekend for good food with family and friends. There was lots of thanksigiving and joy for the season. Easter baskets were filled – in the nick of time – and spinach pies were made and delivered to the table. And, there were lots of handmades for the kids.


First, we dyed eggs with all natural materials. From left: roasted beets, red cabbage, curry powder, turmeric and a spinach/cilantro mix. We steeped the veggies and herbs for an hour with boiling water…and the eggs were soaked for four more hours in the fridge. Not too much instant gratification here, but very nice results.


The green deepened the next day and the red cabbage was a big dud. And, I needed to mash the beets a bit more. But, of course, I had some handmades that I needed to finish.


Pom-pom chicks…you can't have a mama hen without some babies! (From the book, Creative Play for your Baby). They were pretty easy…I ended up felting them to keep the yarn from pulling out of the pom-poms.


And, what has become my Easter handmade tradition : mama-made people. Last year, it was a fireman. Initially, I couldn't find one that I liked, so I made him. This year, our minds have been on farming and urban homesteading. There was very little thinking about this year's doll: a little farmer girl seemed like the perfect addition. She's already working on her animal husbandry.

(Joe made the wooden gates too…we all got in the handmade act. More on that project later).

From the hand to the the heart

Our house seems to be a very busy place. I know we don't have the monopoly on activity – in fact, we probably can't even come close to lots of situations. (Especially since I have a cousin who is the mother to four boys). FOUR! Oh goodness…

…but, they love her a lot and are fiercely loyal to her (two are grown up and out the house and they are still this way). I want that for my boys. And, so, I quiet the "messy" voice in my head and turn up the "let's go outside" voice. I try to listen to the "he's learning something" voice. I place special emphasis and value the "homemade" voice the most.

So, of course, we've been busy…

(Winter squash medley for Calum…ready to be frozen)

(a 1st birthday crown for a friend)


And, in my house, homemade can't be complete without a sewing project (or two) left out on the table. Waiting for a few minutes here and there to be eventually be finished.

It's completely normal to listen to the voices in your head, right?

watercolor painting

Last year, when I began reading about the Waldorf philosophy of education, I was intrigued by the emphasis on art and handiwork. During my Montessori training (and subsequent teaching) there seemed to be a lot of lip service paid to art. It was something to be admired, but it was not at the forefront of a Montessori classroom. Many of the activities were craft projects – created to express art – but separate from real life.

So, I was drawn to the idea of creating and crafting with children- while they assisted or not. During the past year, I worked on craft projects while Ronan "helped" or worked on his own project – or went on playing by himself. He saw me crafting on a regular basis. And, while my regular crafting has slowed down to a trickle, I've been more aware of making sure he has some art-based projects to call his own. (With a little help, of course…)


As I am new to wet watercolor painting, I enjoyed that this book described some "typical" types of paintings (by age) and emphasized the process and feel of the art. I especially liked that Ronan was included in all aspects of this set-up: he wet his paper with the sponge and helped to mix the paints. It's always more fun for me when I get to paint my own picture while simultaneously watching the deep concentration that the paintbrush brings out in my son.


printing with yarn

Mondays seem to be “art” days around here. I like staying at home on these days after an active weekend. Often, I have a bit of downtime on Sunday which allows me to plan out our Monday morning. After our morning walk, R worked on a nature collage while I took advantage of the lengthy nap my wee one was partaking in.

We have two birthdays comings up and homemade cards were on the docket – which coincided nicely with a growing library book stack that needed to be addressed. I was on the lookout for a craft project that would double as a birthday card. So, I pulled some books from the bottom of the pile for a quick scan and found this one. Many of the projects in this book are too advanced for my three-year-old (or so I thought), but I was drawn to one that I wanted to try – printing with string  – a natural fit, don’t you think?


I drew out a picture with pencil and glued down some old wool yarn (too scratchy) that I had in my stash. Once the glue dried (a couple of hours), I painted the yarn and made a “print” from the raised yarn. While I was working on this project, my curious three-year-old requested some yarn to cut – and a hand-drawn candle of his own to cover in string.


Of course, he needed a print of his own yarn creation.


This was the first of many (mine and his), but the wheels are already spinning for new ideas. I think t-shirts might be an interesting mommy and daddy project. Or, cloth bags for the grocery store. We’ll stick with paper cards for now.


Happy weekend!


Handmade for the babies :: mother hen

A little bit of crafting and I can see the world in a whole new light. A completed project makes me feel so good about myself – it reaffirms my ability as a crafter and I know that I can tackle those less than appealing projects with a new gusto.  I am definitely a more patient wife and mom to my family when I get a little bit of quiet time with the sewing needle. (That feeling stays with me even when that lone crafting turns into a group project!)


Plus, I get to cross something off my "to-make" Christmas list. (And such a long list it is…) Do you remember this post and this one? The people who brought forth Creative Play for Your Toddler, published another book for making toys for the wee ones. It's been staring me down for the last few months – begging me to get started.


The creative juices are flowing and I can hear those squeaky wheels turning. My brain is scrambling with all sorts of fellow farm animal fun for my little guy. I've already had a request from the older brother as well, so we will have to see what type of animal I can create (or he requests). I just hope it is something that looks good with a wool felt coat.

Painted Butterflies: a crafty project for a rainy day


This project occupied my 3-year-old for an hour and a half…and he is not really an art-kind of kid. Usually, painting lasts 20 minutes and then we move on to building structures or dismantling the ottoman (again). I was completely astonished that this project went so well.

We had seen a wooden butterfly on a stick at our local craft store and Ronan was intrigued. I knew we could whip something up at home with stuff from around the house. All you need is some paper (for painting, we use a heavier stock), wooden skewers, and a wine cork.


I hand-drew a butterfly (approximately 4” x 4”) and then cut it out and only used one side to trace the other butterflies. You will need to fold the paper over. This makes the rest of the butterflies symmetrical, although, most kids won’t care if it’s not perfect.


I drew some details on a few butterflies to get Ronan started and left a few blank in case he wanted to do his own thing. He painted for 20 minutes and then moved on to crayons and markers.

Here is the point where I'd love to show you a picture of my child painting his butterfly. Alas, he is three and we do give him choices…

Me: "Hey, Ronan, can I take a picture of you painting?"

Ronan: "No."

Me: "Really?"

Ronan: "No, pictures, Mommy."

Me: "Okay." (sniff, sniff)


To complete the project, grab your used wine cork and make a hole using a pair of scissors, an ice pick, or something thin and sharp. Snap your wooden skewer in half and put the pointy side in the cork.

Seeing as how I am very, very pregnant, there isn’t a whole lot of wine being drunk at the moment, so the only cork I had was rubber. I had to slice the bottom with a knife to make it level for the table.


Tape the butterfly to the stick and attach another butterfly on the other side. Display proudly!

Milk Paint for kids


We've been experimenting with paint around here lately.

A lot.

It's as if I've been reading lots of art books for preschoolers…

such as, First Art by Maryanne Kohl.


She has a great recipe for milk paint. We've been experimenting with different types all week. This batch was made with Wilton's icing colors set. I happened to be at Michael's and this was the only type of food coloring they had. At first, it didn't seem to blend very well, perhaps, due to the small amount of oil in the dye kit?

But, a week later, after being stored in the refrigerator, the paint was nice and thick and the colors blended nicely. The consistency was quite thin when I first mixed it, but after sitting for a week, it's quite thick.


Well, since I didn't want to limit my options, I picked up some food coloring at the grocery store – McCormick's. You know, the traditional stuff that has discolored small children's teeth at birthday parties since they invented red dye #5. This stuff blended quite nicely and although it is still quite thin, I've put it in the refrigerator to give it the same test.

So, on to her recipe:

Homemade Milk Paint
This makes enough for 3 half-filled small baby food jars (those are Earthbound's tiniest jars). Her original recipe calls for double the amount, but for a few paint sessions, you could get six colors out this recipe.

1/4 cup powdered milk
1 tsp cornstarch
small jar for mixing
1/4 warm water
food coloring

Mix powdered milk and cornstarch together in a jar. Add warm water and which until completely dissolved. (This may take a few minutes, but is worth the effort).

Pour the milk into individual baby food jars and then add food coloring.


Some things that I've learned:

1. a jar works better than a bowl to combine the water and milk. Unless it is a very deep bowl.

2. use a whisk. A child-sized whisk works exceptionally well. (I think ours is from an IKEA set).

3. to make red paint, you need to use A LOT of food coloring. (a bit scary when you think of the dyes in Tylenol).

4. this will stain clothing. (Especially when you start to write your blog posting thinking your husband is keeping an eye on the 3-year-old and your husband still thinks you are watching him. And, then you realize that your 3-year-old is experimenting with pouring the paint onto the paper and it spills onto his pants because, of course, we had him take off his shirt).

5. cut-up egg cartons (ours are cardboard) work very well to mix paint or pour out small bits so the colors are not mixed. And, they offer a great lesson in color-mixing and experimentation too.

A quilt for all seasons


From The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau and illustrations by Gail de Marcken

After a long search, she finally found him. The king's royal clothes were in tatters and his toes poked out of his boots. Yet his eyes glittered with joy and his laugh was wonderful and thunderous.

The quiltmaker unfolded the king's quilt from her bag. It was so beautiful that hummingbirds and butterflies fluttered about. Standing on tiptoe, she tenderly wrapped it around him.

"What's this?" cried the king.

"As I promised you long ago," the woman said, "when the day came that you, yourself, were poor, only then would I give you a quilt." The king's great sunny laugh made green apples fall and flowers turn his way.

"But, I am not poor," he said. "I may look poor, but in truth my heart is full to bursting, filled with happy memories of all the happiness I've given and received. I'm the richest man I know."

"Nevertheless," the quiltmaker said, "I made this quilt just for you."


(End of the Day pattern)

For two dear friends on the occasion of their marriage (albeit a tad late). Congratulations to some kindred spirits…we look forward to all of the goodness and light you will bring to the world.