Friday, April 27, 2012

DeLa Vega Inspired

DeLa Vega Mural at Union Settlement in Harlem
A few weeks back I shared some examples of De La Vega's artwork with the middle school students I work with. We talked about the words he chooses and how coming across them at random might change one's outlook on the day. Then, armed with a bucket of colored chalk, they left words for others. The kids covered almost the entire block with words that held meaning. It is days like this that I am reminded why I do the kind of work I do.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Barbie's Pet Chicken - My latest karartke

Looks like Princess Barbie and her friends are raising back yard chickens.

I wonder how long until the new Barbie Coop hits store shelves...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Duck, Duck Goose Swan Paper Plate Puppets - Toddler Art Project

Duck, Duck, Goose, Swan - Paper Plate Puppets

Age: 18 Months - 5 Years (younger ones need more supervision)

Time: 10 min (+ Prep)

Theme: Swans, Geese, Ducks

Books: Duck & Goose by Tad Hills, Petunia by Roger Duvoisin (for older kids), any variation of the Ugly Duckling or Old MacDonald

Orange or Yellow construction paper
Paper dots (leftovers from a hole punch) or Googly Eyes
Small (desert size) paper plates
Glue sticks
Masking tape (for attaching handles)
Adults get to use Scissors
Prep: Cut a triangle notch out the side of each plate, then cut a crescent following the inner circle half way around. Cut triangles of orange and yellow construction paper for the beaks (about 1” acute). From an extra plate cut a ½” strip at the widest point for a handle (exact length is not essential, so if you are making a lot, you can get 3 handles per plate)

Activity: Each child gets a cut plate, beak, eye, feather, handle & glue stick. Fold down the center of the plate to make the wing. Glue on the beak and the feather. With some adult help, attach the handle to the back with masking tape. Waddle, Waddle, flap, flap!

Notes/Tips: If you fold the handles in 1/3rds then fold the two ends in half again it will create a tab on each side that can be taped down easily (see pic). Crayons can be introduced to this activity to make it longer. If you have bigger kids that want to join in the fun, the more the merrier - but they can do all the prep themselves!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly to my Home - Toddler Art Project

Ladybug Ladybug Fly To My Home

Age: 18 Months - 5 Years (younger ones need more supervision)

Time: 10 - 15 min (+ Prep)

Theme: Ladybugs & Beetles

Books: The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle, Can You Make a Scary Face? By Jan Thomas, Beetle Bop by Denise Fleming

Black & Red Construction Paper
Parchment or Wax Paper
Round Head Fasteners (they look like little nails but the bottom is two tongs that bend flat)
Adults get to use Scissors and a Hole Punch

Prep: From construction paper cut: 1 bug body (I used ¼ sheet of black paper to make an oval with a head ‘bump’) and a pair of outer wings (apx. 4” oval cut in half - red). For inner wings cut a pair of teardrop shaped wings from the parchment/wax paper (apx. 4-1/2” long). Punch a hole at the top of each wing and at the ‘neck’ of the body.

Activity: Each child gets a pair of outer wings, inner wings, bug body and a fastener. With a little help, assemble the ladybug by stacking the pieces upside down on the fastener (red-red-white-white-black) then spreading the ‘tongs’ to hold it together. Color your ladybugs wings with dots, hearts, stripes, whatever you like!

Notes/Tips: Larger fasteners are easier for little fingers, so choose ones that are ½” or larger. The size and shape of these bugs can easily be modified to become a part of a larger ‘garden’ collage or to sit on tissue paper flowers.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Letter to a Home Town - April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This is the 'Letter' that was published in last week's Gouverneur Tribune Press. Sometimes I write about serious stuff... 

Last week’s headline overshadowing my designated corner of page 4 read in bold font “Sex... It’s time to write about it!” I am taking it as a sign. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
It went through my mind several times that this could be the subject of my next column. I shied away from it. It is too personal. It is too political. It is potentially inflammatory. It isn’t dinner table conversation.  But we should be talking about it. We should be admitting it happens. We should be taking steps to prevent it. We should be actively creating a culture where it is not acceptable or expected behavior. All too often we don’t. Today I am.
The trajectory of my life has been intrinsically impacted by sexual abuse. This is something that I am neither proud nor ashamed of. I am not inviting judgment. It is simply a fact. I would venture to say that your life has been impacted too. Sexual assault is a persistent issue in our culture, urban, rural and everywhere in-between. Though the experience may not be first hand, rarely, if ever, does someone escape the influence.
We are surrounded by images of sex; in commercials, in movies, on TV, in music, in video games, on the internet, in magazines, on billboards. In contrast sex isn’t something we are comfortable talking about. We dread the day we have ‘the talk’ with our kids (as if the knowledge and moral boundaries we hope they will exercise could be passed on in a single conversation). Education is often limited to the mechanics peppered with some vague concepts called love and commitment.
When it comes to sexual assault, the conversation is most often framed as how to protect yourself and what to do if it happens to you or someone you care about. Conversations are overwhelmingly aimed at women (and girls). Words like ‘victim’, ‘guilt’ and ‘blame’ come up a lot. These conversations are important. They reinforce the fact that it is not okay for someone to use sex as a weapon of dominance against you.
It is also not okay to wield the weapon, but how do we have that conversation? How do we teach the potential offender not to be? How do we define the line between sex appeal and objectification? How do we encourage and award a show of respect and self control? How do perpetuate the setting, communication and respect of personal boundaries? How do we define consent? How do we create an atmosphere in which the act of sex is expected to be a mutual decision guided by accurate information and personal moral boundaries?
I don’t have an answer, but I do know that no problem is ever solved by denial and silence. Sexual assault is a persistent issue in our culture. We have a lot of differing opinions about sex and sexuality, but most everyone will agree: a weapon of dominance is not what it should be. It shouldn’t be awkward to talk about that.
I hope that this letter has found you and yours in good spirits and good health. Until I write again…

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Silk Dyed Eggs

When our Cochin Bantam hens started laying last year, it seemed like everyone who saw them commented on how dainty and beautiful the eggs were. This got me thinking – maybe I should make some sort of a craft with them.
I think it was my cousin who suggested that I silk dye them. Apparently way back in the day there was a Martha Stewart episode that featured her being taught how to silk dye eggs. I didn’t see it. What I did see was this instructional filled with luscious pictures: that made me absolutely want to try it myself.

I dyed my first ones back in November using an old skirt that I had. They came out great. I went out and bought some silk ties and did some more. I found out that the darker colors, specifically purple and blue, transfer the best. I also found out that some ties, even though they are marked silk – are lying. I made ornaments with the dyed eggs (I always blow them first), sold a few at a local craft fair, but mostly gave them away as gifts.
This spring when the girls started laying again, I decided I would make another batch for our spring holiday basket. So far I think this is my favorite way to dye eggs!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Letters to a Home Town - The 4th Trimester

This Letter is almost exactly two years old - I am posting it now in honor of my Super Woman Cousin who delivered and 11lb 3oz baby boy last week!

This is What 11 Pounds of Nutella Looks Like

I’m in, what my companion has coined, the 4th trimester of pregnancy, more commonly referred to as postpartum. For those unfamiliar with this stage, hopefully this Letter will give you some insight (thus preparing you for the inevitable experience or encounter with the mother of a newborn). For those who have been there… I’ve heard that it is good to be able to laugh at one’s self, so please feel free to join in.
            It is a widely accepted fact that new parents are sleep deprived zombies. Actually, at least for the new mom, being sleep deprived has been going on for months. Rest has been regularly interrupted by bouts of heart burn, desperate dashes to the bathroom, leg cramps, and so on. The primary difference (and advantage) is that in the 4th trimester the resulting state is rightfully recognized. Once the art of sleep diapering is mastered, 3rd and 4th trimester sleep patterns are amazingly similar.
            There are a million PMS jokes, but brave is the soul who dares joke about the hormone induced rollercoaster a new mother is on. To jest is to risk the wrath of emotions propelled by the highly flammable vapors of estrogen and progesterone. In my experience there is little rhyme or reason for what might trigger which emotions. This makes it equally likely that I might be found on the kitchen floor literally crying over spilled milk or rolling on the floor laughing reading greeting cards at the drug store.
            Along with being a sleep deprived combustion chamber of hormone fumes I, the new mom, am breast feeding. I know that when babe and breast come to some agreement regarding supply and demand it will be easier, but in the mean time… I hereby apologize to every fresh heifer I ever cursed at for kicking the milking machine across the barn. Now I understand.
              As if by the wave of a magical wand, many of the discomforts of pregnancy disappear as soon as the baby arrives. Swollen feet and heartburn seem a distant memory. (Oh, the foods I can eat again. Bliss!) Unfortunately, physical abilities do not reappear with the same swiftness. I can again lie on my back without feeling lightheaded, but... Have you ever seen a turtle turned onto its back struggling to get up?  Stop laughing and give me a hand! Just because I can see my toes again doesn’t mean I can reach them.
            For all of the discomforts and frustrations of the 4th trimester, I have to say that I like this one the best. Gazing into the eyes of a newborn has a way of putting all of the challenges, physical and emotional, into perspective. As funny looking as they are (admit it, newborns ARE funny looking), they are mesmerizingly beautiful. So beautiful that even the most sleep deprived zombie can see it. 
            I hope this letter has found you and yours in good spirits and good health. Until I write again…

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mail-able Art for Easter - Toddler Art Project

The process of this project is a lot like the I Spy one I posted a while back, but with an interior frame added. It is also sized so that it can be sent through the mail!

Mail-able Art for Easter

Age: 18 Months - 12 Years (younger ones need more supervision)

Time: 15 min (+ Prep)

Theme: Eggs, Easter, Mail

Books: Open
Contact Paper (sticky clear stuff)
Black construction paper
Transparency Paper
Assorted scraps of paper, yarn, tissue, sequins, spangles, foam pieces, etc
Adults & Big Kids get to use Colored Masking Tape and Scissors

Prep: Cut an ‘egg’ out of ½ a sheet of black construction paper, then trim the inside to create an egg shaped frame – you can remove the whole of the inside or segments to create a design. Cut (1) piece of contact paper per child slightly larger than 1/2 sheet of transparency paper (apx. 6 x 9). Remove the paper backing. Using tabs of masking tape, secure the contact paper to the table sticky side up. For younger kids, adhere the egg frame to the contact paper for them. Write the address where the card will be sent on a small (about “1 x 3”) piece of decorative paper.

Activity: Each child gets to decorate their ‘egg’ with items of their choosing. When they are finished, an adult can assist placing the address in the center of the design, then placing the transparency paper over their design to seal it in.
Finishing: (Can be done by just an adult or older kids can help) Trim the excess contact paper so that it is flush with the transparency. ‘Edge’ the entire design with colored masking tape folded over the sides. This will both create a frame and further secure the items inside. The final piece should be about 8” x 5” and can be mailed with a regular stamp (not postcard).

Notes/Tips: This project can be modified for other seasons by changing the shape of the construction paper frame – or using none at all. Just remember to keep proportioned like a greeting card. It is a lot easier if you can set this project up in advance of the kids coming to the work space. Choose age appropriate items to go inside (no spangles for the wee ones). Distributing the little items on a paper plate will save on a ton of clean-up!