Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Someday I will have a studio...

Someday I will have a studio - a place dedicated to art making - with shelves so overflowing with art supplies that creativity simply drips down onto the table where I work. But in the mean time my family graciously accepts that:
 Things like this will sprout up in the bathroom...

And things like these will appear in the living room...

And that the kitchen hutch can't hold any fancy dishes
because it is full of art supplies...

I love my family!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Somewhere Between Here and There - Letter to a Home Town

It has been a long time since I traveled alone with just a toddler in tow. She frets and plays on the long ride, but mostly she sleeps the trip away. For me, the sole driver, life is suspended for the passage of miles. I imagine myself caught in an elevator between floors. The only real difference is that I have some control over what music plays. My monkey mind dances to the tune.

The car is packed to the roof with North Country fare. There are enough fresh picked blueberries to both eat and freeze. The syrup alone makes up for a passenger. But mostly the seats of absent passengers are filled with things from my grandparent’s house. There has to be a metaphor in that somewhere.             

It has been eight months since Grandpa died. The arduous task of sifting, sorting, distributing is beginning to wind down. I claim no credit here. The burdens and privileges were for a generation before mine. Now the estate sale is just a few weeks away. My Grandparents left no shortage of interesting and useful things.

Price tags on memories. The possessions are in a state of flux: personal belongings are transforming into assets of the estate. It is all just stuff now; stuff that they left behind. Now that the immediate family has taken choice, strangers will be able to pay dollars for leftover things. Dollars will wash the memory trail clean. In another house they will begin a new life with new meaning.

My traveling companion will have no memory of her Great Grandparents. I shift the rearview mirror to glimpse at her sleeping face. Right now the blueberries have more meaning in her world. They are her new favorite fruit. The family bible, the tiny china dolls, the smocked pillow mean nothing yet. They are stepping stones I have collected for traveling into the world that came before her. One day she will use them to prompt us, and we will share our memories. Lessons of heritage come through heirlooms.

My dad handed me the box marked “Grandpa Yandeau’s Candy Jar” with instructions. It needs to be filled with hard candy, specifically butterscotch flavor (with the possible exception of Horehound). He recalled how Grandpa Yandeau would use a hammer to break hard candy, then share the pieces small enough that he couldn’t choke on them. Grandpa Yandeau was my Grandma’s father. He was short, a veteran, worked on the railroad and they lived in Rochester. I have no memories of him of my own.

The lights and city traffic pull my monkey mind into the present. Highway driving is better suited for deep thought. The elevator, once stuck, lurches into motion. In two word sentence structure my traveling companion requests “music off”. I pull up in front of our apartment in a car load of North Country fare and memories. I am happy to see my companion by the door waiting to help me unload.  

I hope that this letter has found you and yours in good spirits and good health. Until I write again…

Simple Science

Old School Lunch Tray, Baking Soda, Vinegar, Food Coloring
and 2 Plastic Spoons...
Cause and Effect, Fine Motor Skills, Color Mixing...
I loved watching her face as she was experimenting!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Bunny, Sad Bunny, Totally Rad Bunny! - Toddler Art Project

Happy Bunny, Sad Bunny, Totally Rad Bunny!

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

Time: 15 min (+ Prep)

Theme: Rabbits, Expressing Emotions

Books: Not a Box by Antoinette Portis, Let’s Make Rabbits by Leo Lionni, What’s Your Sound Hound the Hound by Mo Willems

Small (desert) paper plates
Craft sticks
Round Head Fasteners (they look like little nails but the bottom is two tongs that are bent flat)
Adults get to use Scissors, Exacto Knife & Hole Punch

Prep: Cut in and around the center circle of the plate, leaving about 1” of the original circumference as a neck. Trim a slight concave arch on one side to create a nose. Using the edge of the plate that was removed, cut out 2 ears, each about 1/3 of the length of the remaining plate. Punch holes near the bottom of each ear and at the top of the head. Make 3 horizontal incisions in the ‘neck’ just long enough for the craft stick to weave through.

Activity: Each child gets a bunny head, 2 ears, and a round head fastener. With a little help (as needed) put an ear, the head and then the other ear onto the fastener. Color the bunny, giving one side a happy face and the other side a sad face. When done coloring, trade the crayons for a craft stick and carefully weave it into the slots, giving the rabbit handle like a puppet. Experiment with your bunny. How does she hold his ears when she is happy? How about when she is sad? Can you make her look surprised by changing the position of his ears? What about shy?

Notes/Tips: In preparation for this project, talk about how emotions are shown with the whole body. Act some out. Point out what emotions the characters in the books are feeling. How you can tell? For a big kid version challenge them to make a whole rabbit - with jointed limbs. Leo Lionni’s illustrations are a great visual guide!

Making her "Hop Hops" Tell a Story

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


When we were in Northern NY last week, the blueberries were ripening so fast that my Uncle could hardly keep up picking them. I helped pick twice; once while my girl filled her belly basket and practiced her colors (blue, purple & green), then again by myself. We made our way back to the city with an ample supply for eating and freezing.
Back in the city - CSA pick-up day. Our share included... You guessed it: Blueberries! (And of course the ever present zucchini. I am always looking for new things to do with zucchini.) This weeks quest - a good Blueberry Zucchini Bread recipe. I found one on the blog My Baking Addiction (here: http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/blueberry-zucchini-bread/) and with some help from little hands we made a batch. The verdict... YUM! I am actually hoping that we get blueberries and zucchini again.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over… A big kid project

"Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly..." ~Proverb

A Big Kid  Project...

Large paper plate, Small paper plate, Water color paints, Dark colored pipe cleaner, String, Scissors, Hole Punch, Masking tape (optional)

 Fold the large plate in half then cut a scalloped edge on the folded side. The result should be two pieces that look a little like a pair of kidney beans.

Paint the ‘out’ side of the plate to resemble a cocoon, and the inside to be wings. Paint the the small plate to resemble a flower, but just the rim of the inside leaving the center for the quote.

Once dry, write the quote in the center of the small plate.

With the wings facing each other, punch two holes about 2” apart on the rounded edge of the plate. Using the pipe cleaner, assemble the wings by stitching them from the outside in, twisting for the body, then stitching closed leaving the ends for antenna.

Add a string for hanging the flower below the butterfly and also one for hanging the whole thing.

Now the cool part… If you fold the small plate in half, position it inside the wings, tuck the string and antenna in and close the wings it all fits neatly into the cocoon.

And if you close up the cocoon with colored masking tape, address as you would an envelope, use 2x postage - You can send a butterfly in the mail!

Paint My Wings So I Can Fly - Paper Plate Butterfly

Paint My Wings So I Can Fly - Paper Plate Butterfly

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

Time: 15 min (+ Prep)

Theme: Butterflies

Books: Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle


Large paper plates

Water Colors (or other kid friendly paints)

Dark Colored Pipe Cleaners

Adults get to use Scissors & Hole Punch

Prep: Fold the plate in half then cut a scalloped edge on the folded side. (The result should be two pieces that look a little like a pair of kidney beans.) With the pieces still facing each other, punch two holes about 2” apart on the rounded edge of the plate.

Activity: Each child gets a Pair of wings (cut plate) and paints to decorate them with. Encourage kids to mix colors, paint both sides, experiment! When they are finished painting, give the plates a few minutes to dry. (Hint – kids love to wash brushes almost as much as they love paint!) With a little help from an adult, ‘stitch’ the wings together with the pipe cleaner, leaving the long ends to become antenna. Take your butterfly on a flower finding adventure!

Notes/Tips: For ease of clean-up, cover the workspace with newspaper in advance and provide a paper towel to each kid to use as they work. Crayons can also be used instead of paints for an even lower mess factor.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cousins Week - Letter to a Home Town

Cousin Art Time

I don’t want to! I am digging in my heels! I am balling my fists! I am sticking out my bottom lip! I don’t want to get out of the lake and dry off! I don’t want to go and write my column! I want to keep playing! This is my cousin time! Sigh. Okay. I’ll get to it. But first watch me jump off the dock just one more time.

I was the only grandchild for 8 years. That is a long time. When others told the tales of summer get-aways and gatherings with all the cousins their own age, I always felt a little left out. It wasn’t that I didn’t get to go places and do things. I just didn’t have any cousins my age.

There were advantages to being a singleton. I got to go all kinds of places with a lot of different family members. Just one kid, especially one who is adept at self entertainment, is pretty easy to take along. I got to go to Canada and to Michigan. I got spoiled in all the households we visited where their own children had grown.

When I was 8 my first cousin came along. It was pretty cool for the first year or two. She was cute and didn’t do much. I got attention for giving her attention. The thing is she got older and some claimed even cuter. As far as I was concerned she was quickly becoming decidedly less fun and more bother. A 3 year old tag-along was not my 11 year old idea of an ideal playmate.

8 years is a lifetime when you are 8. When I was 16 I was I twice her age (and I knew everything). When I had my first kid, 8 years behind she was still a kid. When she had her first kid, I was a seasoned mommy with two.  A funny thing was happening though: with each year, 8 years became less and less of a gap. These days 8 years may as well be 8 months. She even has more kids than me!

Hosted by our uncles (YAY!), this week we are at Trout Lake. Five adults, three teens, two tweens and four under four; the house is filled to the rafters with cousins. Breakfast goes on for a couple of hours as the seemingly endless stream of bodies awake. Like ants to a melon rind we trail to the lake to swim and play all morning. The melting pot of ages and stages means enough eyes, hands and laps that everyone gets some free time and me time. I have even gotten to write this column virtually undisturbed.

You’ll pardon me now. I must sign off. I want to go check on my daughter the elder. Her 3 year old cousin has been trailing her all day and a 3 year old tag along when you are 11… I have a hunch she’d appreciate a break.  

I hope that this letter has found you and yours in good spirits and good health. Until I write again…

Cousin Play Time

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sunflower Offers Psychiatric Help for a Nickle

In NYC everyone lives within close quarters. There is a thin ledge about 2' high with a 6' fence between the back of our yard and the neighbor's side alley. To utilize the space for plants and provide a little visual privacy we built planters out of old pallets and decorated them to look like market stands. One is a kissing booth, another a monster and the last a tribute to Lucy's Psychiatric Help Booth. The doctor may be out, but the sunflowers are in bloom. Somehow that makes it all okay.