February 8, 2018
by jenny
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Comic Strips again

I mentioned this (literally) years ago but this still holds true. My kids love comic strips and graphic novels.

Kids especially love Foxtrot, Big Nate (they like the novels more than the compilation of weekly strips, though read them both), and all Raina Telgemeier graphic novels. They also all really like Svetlana Chmakova (Brave and Awkward), and Victoria Jamieson (All’s Faire in Middle School and Roller Girl).  My daughter reads Babymouse and the graphic novels based off of Studio Ghibli books. My son likes HiloFranklin Richards, Amulet, Explorers, Lunch Lady, and so so so many others!  (FYI, those are Amazon Affiliate links.)

My son also likes drawing comic strips. We don’t have natural pen on paper talent and aren’t awesome at drawing at our house, but we still enjoy it and have worked on a few specialties. My son has been working on his drawing lately. He has a bunch of how to draw comics books, but mostly he likes to look up pictures or YouTube videos on how to draw. On YouTube, he likes the Art for Kids Hub station lately – you see a split screen of a teacher showing a kid how to draw easy and cute drawings. We have some creating comic strips instruction books and some books with blank comic templates. My 9 year old revisits The Superhero Comic Kit way more than the others.

And believe it or not, maybe 7 years after we first discovered it, we are still using  www.makebeliefscomix.com  to quickly and easily make our own comic strips online! They are great for making birthday cards for people! We also use it to for some school stuff – it’s great for the kids to break things down and be able to explain concepts or tell a story.

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January 31, 2018
by sarah
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Odd Sock

It has been so much fun for me to connect children’s picture books to art making this fall and winter. Sometimes I start with the project and then find a book. Occasionally the book inspires the project. Other times a book inspires the whole process.

My favorite new picture book is “Too Much Glue” by Jason Lefebvre. It is about a boy who loves glue and getting messy with the art making process.

I was impressed by the local librarian who rose to the challenge of “I need a book with Jell – O in it” after a couple minutes she said: “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” by Judy and Ronald Barrett. By the way – we were working on liquid and solids and made Jell-O then worked with the Gelli print process (I’ll post about that soon).

My daughter grabbed a book of the top of the shelf at the library. You know the ones that are standing up on display. It is called “Odd Sock” by Michelle Robinson . It is about a pair of socks that are separated. Spoiler Alert: they become sock puppets in the end. I am always looking for simple fabric sewing projects to do with kids. Sock puppets worked well. I got cheap socks, brought my bin o’ fabric/buttons/pipe cleaners/yarn, glue, and already threaded big needles. Some kids chose to glue, but many sewed the buttons on for eyes and made clothing out the fabric.

 

 

 

 

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January 21, 2018
by jenny
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Wolf’s Hollow, Ipswich, MA

My son did a research project on wolves last year. His interest in learning about and appreciating the animals carried over into the summer.  When I was looking through a list online of things to do with kids around Boston, there was a listing for Wolf Hollow in Ipswich, MA. No one I knew had ever been there, but lots of people said they’ve passed Wolf Hollow signs on the way to Crane Beach and wondered about it.

There was some information about Wolf Hollow online, but not enough to give me a good picture of what was going on. We booked tickets and headed up there on a Saturday in August. If you look at reviews online, many say the parking/entry is a little confusing, small and odd, but that once you are in it all runs smoothly and I would say that this was the case for us (except that I had the warning from the reviews so expected worse than it really was).

After we pulled in, checked in and were waiting for the presentation to start (in an area that was basically the front yard of an old house surrounded by high fences). We enjoyed looking at the small gift shop, the portapotties, complimentary bug spray, and volunteers sharing some educational material.

Right on time, we were given an introduction and instructions about the presentation. We followed a small boardwalk behind the fences, to a presentation area with a couple sets of small bleachers. It was sort of a zoo presentation feel. There was a large enclosure in front of smallish covered bleachers in which all of the presentation took place. There were three other enclosures that we could see a tiny bit of from the enclosed presentation area. There seemed to be “regulars” who went to Wolf Hollow often, and they all seemed to sit on the far right side (farthest from where you enter the area entrance), so that may be the best view. It was crowded when we went, we could certainly see, but I wouldn’t say we had the best view (3 out of the 4 of us who went are small so generally can’t see in a crowd to begin with not to mention sitting on bleachers with mostly adults sitting in front of us).

We went in August, so the wolves had their thinner summer coats. That along with their seeming tame-ness pretty much just made them look like big dogs with giant paws and pretty large teeth.

All of the wolves were rescues. It turns out there are no wolves in New England. I did not know that. The presentation was fantastic. The wolves were neat to see, but the presenter, who ran Wolf Hollow (said he was a teacher by day) was so incredibly passionate, knowledgable, entertaining and polished, in his performance, presentation and fielding questions it was enjoyable and interesting for the entire time.  There were not a lot of little kids when we were there. It’s probably not going to be super enjoyable for families with toddlers. There was some talk of politics.

My daughter and husband hadn’t really wanted to go, but they had a great time and would like to go back. We learned about wolves in general, wolf conservancy, and about each wolf or wolf/dog hybrid at the rescue. My kids really liked “getting to know” each wolf making the gift shop wares a little more tempting as there were post cards and other products with pictures of the different wolves.

It was a good time. The wolves came for treats so guests could see them up, but weren’t trained in tricks. It was definitely an educational presentation and not an entertainment show sort of field trip. I’d recommend taking a trip to Wolf Hollow, if you are into wolves or conservancy and personal interest or kids who like to learn about that sort of thing!

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January 16, 2018
by jenny
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Fajitas and Mexican Rice

I’ve been working on digging out of the same meal rut. Mostly because my middle is more willing to try new foods in the past few months, but also for my own sanity/desire/taste.

I made these recipes for dinner the other night and it was super easy!!!

My kids tend to shy from any meal that I make that has tomato and/or onion “chunks,” so I wouldn’t say it was an over the top major hit in my house, but it was a minor hit. I think it would go over well in another house.

The best parts were how easy it was, the simple ingredients and that leftovers will make awesome lunches! I used a bag of frozen peppers and onions, which saved me prep time cutting as well as money on the peppers this time of year. I buy chicken breasts from Costco and store in the freezer as well. All the ingredients were relatively cheap and I already had on hand.

The fajitas tasted good, though I might tweak the seasonings a little in the future, maybe add roasted garlic. The mexican rice came out really creamy, almost like a risotto, I was happy about the comfort food factor of that! I used low sodium chicken Better Than Bullion and water instead of the vegetable stock, which I think was actually a great change.

We served with flour tortillas, salsa, shredded cheese and shredded lettuce because that’s what we had on hand, and no one but me likes any other toppings, but guacamole (or straight avocado) and sour cream would be awesome!

Ole!

Easy Oven Fajitas

Perfect Mexican Rice

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January 11, 2018
by sarah
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For the Love of Sketchbooks

Being an artist I have been required to keep sketchbooks for classes and enjoyed keeping sketchbooks for idea generating. Recently I have a lined notebook I can’t go anywhere with out that has to do lists, notes from meetings, plans for classes I’m teaching, and drawings of plans.

My littlest one has recently gotten into keeping her own books. She has them in various sizes. With lines and with out. Sparkly and basic. She uses them all. Most of the time they are elaborate shape designs and color with no particular subject. Sometimes a figure appears.

My bigger kids are loving their “Wreck This Journal”. On page one it says “Warning: During the process of this book you will get dirty. You may find yourself covered in paint, or any other number of foreign substances. You will get wet. You may be asked to do things you question. You may grieve from the perfect state that you found the book in. You may begin to see creative destruction everywhere. You may begin to live more recklessly.” Each page instructs them to do something to the book. It varies from collecting fruit stickers to taking it in the shower.

I have also brought small sketchbooks to the classes I am teaching. The children are loving having there own special books to create in. I simply take one piece of 8.5×11 card stock + 3 pieces of 8.5×11 white copy paper and fold them in half. Then staple them together. I have posted about more complicated bindings here and here

Sometimes adults and children get stuck on what they should be adding to their books. A simple google search for “Sketchbook Prompts” will bring up all sorts of ideas.

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January 5, 2018
by sarah
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Let’s Go Fly a Kite

I am teaching an art class where I am expected to incorporate science and literacy into the art projects. They are learning about air and wind in their classroom. So I thought building a kite would be perfect.

Of course we had to get messy! To make the kite beautiful we marbleized paper with the shaving cream and food color. Before we started we talked about color theory. I realize that rainbow marble paper is beautiful, but I thought ahead and predicted that several 7 year olds stirring up the colors it would get muddy quickly. So we stuck to warm colors or cool colors, avoiding using complimentary colors (green/red, yellow/purple, orange/blue) together.  Here is a video:

The paper dries quickly, so we constructed the kites in the same class. I used the kite making suggestions from this post.  

 

We tried to fly one of the kites a week later. The children had great fun, but the paper ripped quickly. Unfortunately the wax paper that Handmade Charlotte suggested will not marbleize. Someone suggested using Tyvek paper.

P.S. The books we read were: “Kite Day” by Will Hillenbrand and “I Face the Wind” by Vicki Cobb.

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January 4, 2018
by jenny
1 Comment

Two Random Reviews

I wanted to share a couple random things (Amazon affiliate links)!

  • Solitaire Chess: This is a challenging brain teaser. It’s more brain teaser than chess, but you somewhat use the rules of chess movement (only can move in any direction) to play. If you like chess and brainteasers, this is a fun combination.
  • Bee’s Wrap I finally tried this. The internet always seems to be recommending it to me one place or another. It does work. It took me a little while to figure out how to use it. For example, it only sticks to itself, so you have to overlap the Bee’s Wrap on itself to seal bowls, it won’t just stick to the bowl like plastic wrap. They are rather expensive and I’m not sure washing them with gentle soap and water would be enough for me if I were sending them in a school lunch during flu season (or any season?). I like to run things through the dishwasher. So I’m not switched over, but in looking for ways to lower plastic use, these may be an okay option.
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December 30, 2017
by jenny
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Those Giant Crinkled Chocolate Chip Cookies

This summer I was reading about the giant flat crinkled chocolate chip cookies that swept the blog world last fall. Recipe bloggers were trying to recreate and perfect the original recipe and it was on multiple blogs and multiple recipes.

These cookies were sort of the opposite of my go to chocolate chip cookie recipe – big and flat as opposed to small and thick. They both had a gooey aspect, but maybe gooey in different ways. The new recipe was allegedly crispy and gooey. The key to the new recipe was a combination of chilling the dough and banging the pan while baking. Interesting.

I tried one of the recipes this summer. I followed the recipe right off of my laptop. The recipe was deemed a success and the recipe “a keeper” by my family and a couple neighbors who fancy themselves chocolate chip connoisseurs (or at least big fans).

A couple months after that I decided to make the new big flat chocolate chip cookie again. But I couldn’t find the recipe. I searched and I searched and I couldn’t remember where I had originally found it and I couldn’t find it again.

And a month after that, I tried again. And had no luck.

And two weeks, I tried again to find it for a birthday.

AND THEN last week, a different neighbor having no idea I’ve been looking or even knew this recipe existed, but also a huge chocolate chip cookie fan who saw the recipe on instagram shows up at my door with the recipe. The same recipe! How crazy is that? It may not be your version of crazy, but it certainly seemed crazy for me. He had also brought with him a deep longing for giant flat crinkled chocolate chip cookies and bars of bittersweet chocolate to contribute.  I made him the cookies.

My kids and husband approved.

I doubled the recipe and changed a couple things (for example, I refrigerated the dough overnight and then skipped the freezing the dough – though I did freeze the cookie sheets before baking), but it is basically the original – Sarah Kieffer’s recipe from “The Vanilla Bean Baking Book.”  I can give you my recipe, but think you should go to/read about and give credit to the original!

Enjoy!

pan-banging chocolate chip cookies

 

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December 18, 2017
by sarah
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Flowers in December


Every year I encourage the kids to make something as a gift for their grandparents and other family. We discovered these flowers made of glue and wire and thought we would try them.

Wire flowers

Supplies

  • 20 gauge wire
  • wood glue
  • nail polish
  • pencil or large marker
  • paint brush
  • plastic cup
  • optional – cup with dried rice
  • Newspaper (or something to protect table from dripping glue)

Instructions

  1. Cut a piece of wire about 2 feet long. Wrap the wire around the marker or the pencil to make the flower petals. The larger the cylinder you use the bigger the flower. We found the smaller petals were easier to manage with the glue.
  2. Pour wood glue into the plastic cup.
  3. Dip the wire flower into the glue. Take lots of deep breaths and be Zen with it! The glue creates bubbles between the wires. Like most bubbles they are very fragile.
  4. Let dry. We found that a mug full of dried rice helped the wire stand up and avoid bumping into the other drying flowers.
  5. When dry add another coat of wood glue. Once again be Zen with it. At this stage the dried glue is still very fragile. Once the second coat of glue dries they become pretty sturdy.
  6. When dry decorate with nail polish.

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December 11, 2017
by jenny
0 comments

Fall 2017 Sabbatical

Yes! We’re back!

I actually haven’t been spectacularly busy this fall.

Some new things we’ve been doing around here this fall candle making, actually enjoying the Instant Pot (my kids used to groan anytime the crock pot was pulled out, but now I can make meals everyone eats), playing new games, dealing with two middle school aged girls in the house, starting to plan long talked about house projects, and photography.

I’ve been enjoying photography for a long time, but I’m starting to study it more as a science. I’ve been watching some online workshops on camera science and nature photography, practicing some different things and have been playing with a new lens I got my birthday. I’m also starting to play around with actually processing pictures in Photoshop and Lightroom (but don’t know what I’m doing yet).

I think I’ll give our website an overhaul soon, is there anything you’d like to see?

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