Monday, October 14, 2013

Moving On

I haven't posted here in quite a while, and I've been taking that time off to think about what I want blogging to look like for me. In the end, while writing here has been so much fun and a wonderful introduction the blogging world, this site is no longer a good fit for what I'd like to be doing.

So, I'm happy to let you know that I'm launching a new site today called Whisk Paper Needles, at Stop by, hang out, and stay a while - can't wait to see you there!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ways to Create: Making Art Journals

I've been working with elementary-aged kids for over five and a half years now, and one of my favorite parts of my job is being able to do creative projects with them. I have seen kids bloom through art projects and I love to connect with them on that creative level! I don't believe in micromanaging their art to get a specific outcome - so most of my projects are based on giving them a fun new way to create and then getting out of their way. I thought I'd start sharing some of those projects here with you. Many of them are messy, none of the products from these projects will look alike, and all of them will get kids creating in whatever way is right for them!

Art journaling is something I have loved for a while now, and so this summer I decided to give art journaling with kids a shot. I know I love journaling in books that I have made myself, and I wanted to give the kiddos at work that same opportunity. So, we spent some time this week learning how to create tape-bound journals - and as always when doing art projects with kids, their creativity blew me away. They created pages thick with a huge amount of tabs, pockets, fold outs, and envelopes (for their Top Secret writing)...
And their journals were just awesome.
This is actually a pretty simple project to do, and the kids loved it, so I thought I would share how we made them here.

First, I talked with the kids about journals and what sorts of things they thought would be fun to include in their journals. When they wanted to make specific things, like envelopes and tabs, we brainstormed together different ways to make the features they wanted (folding pages in half and taping them to make envelopes, taping three edges of a scrap of paper onto a page to make a pocket, folding tape over the edge of a page to make a tab, etc.). Then, they made all of their individual pages. A page consisted of one piece of paper, folded in half, and cut in size they wanted their journal. We kept the supplies simple, and just used paper, scissors, and craft tape.

We all met back together when they were finished, and I showed them how to use tape to bind their journals. Its important for this step that they line their pages up pretty precisely, as shown
below. Some kids who struggled with this step found that working with a partner really helped - one person would hold the pages so that they lined up exactly, and the other partner would tape them together.
After the first two pages were taped together, they flipped them so that the strip of tape was folded in half. Then they continued adding pages like this until their journal was as thick as they liked.

Once all their pages were bound together, we used a thicker piece of tape folded over the entire edge to reinforce the binding.
The journals could be done here, but we decided to add cardstock covers to ours to make them slightly more sturdy. They folded the cardstock in half, cut it to fit the size of their journal, and then used a gluestick to attach it to the front and back of their journal. Since the fold of the cardstock is over the tape binding, this also prevents the tape from peeling off with wear, and makes the binding stronger.

The best part about this project is how much the kids absolutely love their journals! We store them at camp and pull them out when we get back from field trips or when we have some down time in our day, and the can't get enough of writing and drawing in them. And at the end of the summer, the kids will have a beautiful record of  all their adventures and the fun they had. What could be better than that?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Our Mini Rooftop Garden

My husband and I both grew up tending gardens and eating their produce all summer long. I remember so clearly how it felt to head outside with a book, stuffing the pockets of my jean shorts with spinach on my way past the garden. I would climb up onto a comfortable tree limb in my backyard and spend the afternoon reading and snacking on the fresh-picked leaves. Later, at dusk, my mother would send me out to water, and I loved the feeling of dust-dry dirt against my feet as I held our green garden hose.

My husband has similar fond memories of growing up tending a garden, and we've wanted a garden of our own for a long time now. We moved into the apartment we live in now a couple of months ago, and we LOVE it here. The only downside is that we don't have a backyard - something we both desperately wanted.

We decided to ask our landlord if we could have the use of a small deck that's at the back of the house (we live in an beautiful built home that's been split into apartments). He had no problem with that, and so we started a small rooftop garden a couple of months ago. It's tiny - really a just a few tomato plants, some lettuce, basil, and some herbs - but we are so fond of it.

We've already eaten several meals seasoned by the herbs, and one wonderful salad of baby greens, but I'm most excited for the tomatoes. We have a few different varieties that we got from our local seed bank, and I can't wait to try them. There's something hugely satisfying to me in growing my own food - even if it's just a tiny amount. It's nice to finally get my hands dirty and realize that just because I can't have a garden like the one I remember growing up doesn't mean I can't have a garden at all. Container gardening like this is totally new to me; if you have any tips, let me know!

my sister officiating our wedding ceremony - you can just make out the
pots behind our legs (photo by our wonderful friend, Juliet).
Oh, and if the green pots look familiar, it's because they were also featured in our wedding. Our wonderful friend Jenny painted them for us, and we used them to hold the posts of our chuppah. At our old house, they just sat stacked in a closet. We're happy now to finally put them to some good use!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint

I've been working with elementary-aged kids for over five and a half years now, and one of my favorite parts of my job is being able to do creative projects with them. I have seen kids bloom through art projects and I love to connect with them on that creative level! I don't believe in micromanaging their art to get a specific outcome - so most of my projects are based on giving them a fun new way to create and then getting out of their way. I thought I'd start sharing some of those projects here with you. Many of them are messy, none of the products from these projects will look alike, and all of them will get kids creating in whatever way is right for them!

This art project is one that I've done with the kids for a long time. Its a great lazy summer day activity, and one that the kids absolutely love. To make your own sidewalk chalk paint, simply mix together equal parts cornstarch and water in a cup, then add food coloring. Stir together with a paintbrush, and then get painting!

One thing that I love about this project is that it engages kids on a lot of different levels. Super artsy kids can go to town creating their own masterpieces, and very social kids can work together with their friends. One boy I work with who loves to push boundaries and can be a real behavior issue at times spent the entire activity sitting near the food coloring, adding a drop at a time into his cup of paint and watching the colors change. It was great to be able to give him the space to experiment on his own. 

 I do let the kids have free access to all of the supplies for this project. I teach some basic color mixing (red + yellow = orange, etc) and assist kids who ask for help, but I think it's good for them to be able to experiment and interact with the supplies independently. So many times, the art projects they do in school require tracers and  have specific rules about what they can and can't make. There's value to learning how to follow directions, but I believe there's also value in having space to experiment and create on their own.

Have fun making this and painting the town with the kids in your life! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Celebrate Summer - Etsy Treasury

It's been a busy couple of weeks, but with the weather getting steadily warmer and the school year coming to an end out here in California in just 3 more weeks, I've got summer on my mind! I have no affiliation with any of these shops - but I do think that the start of summer is a great thing to celebrate. Here some fun, affordable ways to bring a little summer into your life.

Fresh Squeezed Napkins  - Set of FOUR - nicoleporterdesign
Fresh Squeezed Napkins ...
Modern Dahlia Flower No. 1 Digital Print Tangerine Orange Nectarine - Wall Art  - Home Decor - Spring Summer - Under 20 - AldariArt
Modern Dahlia Flower No...
Neon Faceted Wood Necklace in Aqua, Gray and Yellow / Minimalist Bright Jewelry / Color Block - FableAndLore
Neon Faceted Wood Neckl...
Mint Sea & Cotton Ball Clouds- Summer Art- Ocean Art- 10"x8" Fine Art Photography Print- "Is it summer yet" - theSepiaSea
Mint Sea & Cotton Ball ...
Handmade Long Wallet  BiFold Clutch -Wildfield  Citrus - faithonearth
Handmade Long Wallet B...
Screenprint - Sun Mountains Print Geometric Nature art print poster - limited edition hand silkscreen printed - strawberryluna
Screenprint - Sun Mount...
Geometric Shape Screenprint - bensonbenson
Geometric Shape Screenp...
Art Print , A3, Poster, Hexagons - Yellow, Brown and Mint - Coquevama
Art Print , A3, Poster,...
Art Print 8 x 10 - Technicolor - witandwhistle
Art Print 8 x 10 - Tech...
Good Morning Sunshine 100% Natural Handmade Soap Sweet Orange Tangerine Shea Butter Raw Honey Organic Oatmeal - MadeFarmFresh
Good Morning Sunshine 1...
Jotter, Pocket Notebook, Mini Journal - Dragon Scales - witandwhistle
Jotter, Pocket Notebook...
Watercolour Tree Artwork Bee Hive Print Kitchen Wall Decor - jellybeans
Watercolour Tree Artwor...


Have you had any fun etsy finds lately? Tell me about them in the comments below!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Homemade Pop Tarts

It seems like I am always on the lookout for homemade versions of grab-and-go type foods. My husband and I are both often rushing out the door, and I know that if we don't have easy food to grab on the way, we wind up spending way to much on food while we're out and about. We always try (with vary success..) .to pack lunches on weekdays instead of buying them -  so I usually spend some time on the weekends baking and making snacks to tuck into our lunches for the week.

This weekend I decided to try a recipe from Smitten Kitchen  - I love Deb's writing and her recipes are always amazing! Homemade pop tarts sounded almost too good to be true; I love the idea of the commercial ones, but to me they always taste so flat and stale. These homemade pop tarts are what you wish the commercial pop tarts would be - a crispy, flaky crust, stuffed with delicious, fresh filling. I'll definitely make them again - and next time I'm thinking of using Nutella as a filling. Less healthy, but doesn't it sound delicious?

I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, although I altered it slightly. I believe the recipe is originally from King Arthur Flour.

Homemade Pop Tarts

For the Pastry Dough:
*2 cups all purpose flour (although you could easily substitute whole wheat)
*1 TB sugar
*1 tsp salt
*1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
*1 egg
*2 TB milk
*1 TB  heavy cream (substitute milk for this if you don't have cream on hand)

For the Fillings:
Jam Filling
*3/4 cups jam (I used blackberry)
*1 TB cornstarch
*1 TB cold water

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling:
*4 TB lemon curd
*4 TB cream cheese

To make the dough, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces, then use your fingers, a pastry cutter, or food processor to mix in the butter until it is in pea sized lumps. If using your fingers, simply pinch the pieces of butter between your thumb and fingers. Whisk the egg, milk, and cream together in a separate bowl, then mix into the flour and butter mixture. Knead briefly on a well floured counter until dough holds together. Split the dough into two pieces, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate while you make the fillings.

To make the jam filling, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water and pour into a small saucepan. Stir in the jam, and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool.

Preheat your oven to 350, and remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll out on a well floured surface until it is about 1/8" thick. Cut out rectangles of dough (I used a 3"x5" index card for guidance so that I would get rectangles that were exactly the same size - use anything that is the size you'd like your finished pop tarts to be).

Assemble the tarts by placing about a tablespoon of filling in the center of one rectangle, leaving at least quarter inch perimeter of dough around the edges. For the cream cheese and lemon curd pop tarts, I placed half a tablespoon of cream cheese first, then added half a tablespoon of lemon curd on top. Dip a pastry brush in water and brush generously around the perimeter of the rectangle. Place a second rectangle of dough on top and press firmly with your fingers to seal the dough on all sides. Press with a fork around all outside edges.

Place the tarts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Slit the tops of each tart (or use a fork to poke holes in the top) - otherwise they will poof up in the oven. Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes, until golden brown. Make sure to let them cool before tasting - the filling packs a lot of heat!

As Deb (on Smitten Kitchen) mentioned, I tried the tip from King Arthur and dipped my dough trimmings in cinnamon sugar, then baked them. They were delicious - almost like little bites of fried dough!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beekeeper's Quilt Update

Do you remember a couple of months ago, when I wrote that I'd started a new knitting project? Well, I'm here with an update! I started the Beekeepers Quilt by Tiny Owl Knits in late February: it's an adorable quilt pattern made of hundreds of tiny hexagons knit in the round and stuffed with wool. Each individual hexagon (aka hexapuff!) takes me about 35 minutes and 14 yards of wool to complete - and in the two months since I started the project, I've knit a little over 100!
Here's what 102 hexapuffs look like all piled up:

 And then arranged into a quilt:

Honestly, the arranging is one of my favorite parts! I haven't stitched any hexapuffs together yet because it is so much fun to play with the colors and patterns and lay them out in different ways. It's hard to see in the pictures, since they're taken with my iPod (my camera has officially bit the dust...), but most of the yarns I've used are slightly heathered - I really like the depth it adds. I'm hoping to add some tweed yarn into the mix next.

If my math is correct, to make a finished blanket I'm going to need 880 hexapuffs, so I'm almost an eighth of the way done. I'll make sure to keep you updated along the way!

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