Friday, April 22, 2011

Creative Compulsive: The Next Generation

The master at work during her no body phase.
     Several years ago I worked with young children with autism as an in home Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapist.  One of the many things we worked on were making simple drawings, including human figures.  This spurred my interest in the typical development of the human figure in early childhood drawings.  I did a little research, and learned about the typical steps beginning scribbles, moving to objects with radial symmetry, on to a head with often random numbers of arms and legs, finally arriving at a head with a body and arms and legs.

The last no body human

     Both of my children have spent countless hours with paintbrushes, pencils, and crayons in hand creating masterpiece after masterpiece.  About 2 months before her 4th birthday, my daughter made that mighty developmental leap between bodiless humans and bodied humans.  Literally overnight she replaced her typical head with arms and legs with the a dressed body.  It was like a switch had been flipped.  I suppose it was so amazing in part because I happened to be paying attention, perfectly typical, but no less amazing.  
The first human with body
     It leaves me wondering, why no bodies.  Do the drawings give is an insight in to the child's perception  of the world, or are they simply the reflection of the degree of their mastery of spatial relationships.  Perhaps an even greater question, what drives humans to create images in the first place.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bag the Basics

            My latest class at the Arts Center was "Bag the Basics."  I designed the class almost a year ago, but this was the first time actually teaching it.  It was designed as a comprehensive basic sewing class, including zippers and buttons.  I originally planned the class as a 4 week class, but it is always difficult to tell how long a project will take in the classroom, especially the first time.  The class turned out to be 6 weeks in long.   I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the class and was delighted with what each of the students added to the class.  

     The project I ended up calling, the "Everything Bag," because of it's versatility.  I've made several now.  I gave one to a good friend back in the States.  She carries her little laptop and school books inside.  The one I carry often holds a sketchbook,  various toys, and snacks.  Though my children are older now it would easily hold a diaper or two and a change of little people clothes.  There are pockets on both the front and the back as well as 2 inside pockets.  The front pocket is held closed with a button.  One of the inside pockets is designed to hold writing utensils and a cell phone.  The top zips closed.  
            This project offered lots of learning opportunities for the beginning sewer.   Students learned, straight stitching, topstitching, sewing pleats, and how to sew on a curve.  Though my students had different levels of experience I believe this was the first time for zippers and button holes for most of them.   There were certainly challenges, but I think all of the students were pleased with their finished projects!  Here are the pictures of my students with their finished bags.


I posted the pattern on my Etsy site today.   I am hoping to teach the same class again this summer.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Kitty Birthday Party!

Check out the Ultimate Birthday Party Game Guide! 

      Baby Girl decided on a Kitty Birthday party shortly after Christmas, which left plenty of time to plan for an April Birthday Party!  We started with Kitty invitations, made by yours truly.  Unfortunately all but one invitation never left the house and in the end we just let people know about the party over the phone...sad, but true.  
Party Invitations
The Birthday Banner!
Birthday Banner
       Three years ago I decided to make a birthday banner we could use for every birthday party.  Each year, for each child I add a new piece to the banner with the child's hand print and age.  I add the new piece to the center of the banner, and previous years to the ends of the banner.  It is a great way to look back on how much they have grown and recall fond memories of birthday's past.  

Welcome to the Kitty Party! 

       As children arrived to the main event I handed out Kitty ears I had made by gluing felt to a headband.  I had a little table set up for the kids to make cat and mouse party blowers.  I pre-cut a cat shape out of construction paper, and a tiny mouse shape.  Kids decorated the cat and then attached the cat to the party blower.  I then taped a little mouse to the end of the blower so the cat could "catch" the mouse.  

Birthday Girl with Kitty Ears!

Friends Making Kitty Party Blowers
Kitty Snacks!

We had a lunch time party, so while we were waiting on the Grill Master to do what he does best, there were Cat themed snacks out on the table.

No-bake Peanut Butter Cookie Mice
In a food processor place:
            2 Cups Old Fashion Oats
No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookie Mice
            2 Cups Shredded Coconut ( I used the finely shredded stuff with not added sugar)
            1 teaspoon cinnamon
            Pinch of salt
            Pinch of cloves
Thoroughly pulverize. 
Then add:
            1 ½ Cup Creamy (organic) Peanut Butter
            1/3 Cup Honey
Mix well.
Shape into little mouse shapes and then add roasted almond ears, chocolate chip noses, and a licorice tail.
This recipe makes about 30 mice.  They were a BIG hit!

Kitty Litter and Fish Bowl

Kitty Litter
Found this idea somewhere else online during the planning phase, but developed my own less sugar ridden recipe:
            28 oz. Roasted Sunflower Seeds
            1- 12 oz. bag of Chocolate Chips
            8oz. of Raisins
Unfortunately none of the children knew anything about the joys of having an indoor cat, but they enjoyed the mix none the less. 

Fish Bowl
Just a bowl of fish crackers, would have been cuter if it had been in a real fish bowl, but this solution was more cost effective.  

Party Games!
      I kept the games pretty simple.  We had a good mix of kids, ranging in age from 2 to 9 ½ .  We invented a game of cat and mouse where I pinned paper mouse tails to all the children with clothespins.  I was the cat.  They had to run from the cat and when the cat pulled off their paper tail, they got to join the cat in chasing all of the other mice.  This was a lot of fun, but I did not count on how FAST children can run and how NOT FAST I can run! 
      The second game we played was Pin the Tail on the Cat.  I made a fancy wall hanging for the cat and it doubled as a party decorations before we played the game.  A few years ago I learned this trick from a friend:  have the children draw numbers out of a hat to see who goes first and so on. This really cuts down on the "ME FIRST!"  

Birthday Girl in Action
Pin the Tail on the Cat

The Kitty Cake!
       After games we had a lovely lunch.  I did not get an action shot of the Grill Master at work, but rest assured he did create a master piece!
      After lunch it was time for cake.  Baby Girl requested a strawberry cake with chocolate frosting.  I made a 9x13" cake and then cut it up and pieced it back together in the shape of a Kitty.  Most of the children just licked the icing off the cake, but I heard from adult sources the cake was good, too.  
Kitty Cake

Party Favors!
      For Parting gifts my daughter wanted to give play dough to her young friends, and comic books to the older kids.  A few days before the party my daughter and I made 3 batches of homemade play dough.  We have an excellent recipe, but I think I will make it a separate post!
All Partied Out!
 Very fun day!  The birthday girl had a great time, but was exhausted by the end of it all!

Check out the Ultimate Birthday Party Game Guide! 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Put Away the Round-up and get out the Cooking Pot!

My friend and her LARGE bucket!

     All across Northern Italy you will find people out combing through fields in the Spring sun.  What are they doing?  Looking for the tender and tasty Spring Dandelion Greens!  I was invited to go hunting for dandelion greens for the first time 3 Springs ago.  I had nibbled on the raw greens on various wild plant eating excursions in my younger days.  This is different, this is a full on harvest.  I still get so excited when my friend asks me to join her. 

Helper Boy

Early in the spring find dandelion plants that have not yet flowered.  My children love this activity.  I am amazed at how quickly and accurately they learned dandelion from all other leafy plants out there. 

Dandelion Greens!
Take along a sharp knife.  Cut the plant where it attaches to the root, so you get a whole clump of dandelion, not just the loose leaves. 
Dandelion "clump"
Keep in mind dandelions "shrink" when they are cooked, so gather a good mess.  (Notice the LARGE bucket in the first picture.)
Greens getting clean in the sink.
Once at home thoroughly wash your greens.
Cut the dandelion clump in half and remove the dandelion buds, if desired.  This step also aids in getting all the dirt out.

Notice the little dandelion "buds"
Once they are clean place in a large pot and boil until tender.
They can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to eat them. 
When you are ready to eat them, reheat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
I used dandelion greens instead of spinach in a recipe, the result was delicious. 
I think dandelions are a little milder and more delicate in taste than spinach.