Saturday, April 30, 2011

cannon beach at the oregon coast

From folks who have traveled to some of the most awesome ocean shores around the world I have heard that the Oregon coast, our own local seaboard, is among the most beautiful on the planet. 

Today we spent the entire day in Cannon Beach.  We enjoyed a few chilly but nearly wind free hours in the sand and also walked through the forests and rocky shores of Ecola State Park.   

At Indian Beach, where we watched the sun set and ran from the incoming tide, we also found some small bits of charcoal and drew a little family on the stones to witness Father Sun with us as he dipped into the ocean and our glorious day drew to a close.

Friday, April 29, 2011

a spot or two of color

When friends hold hands it just warms my heart.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

finger plays

Since the time Naiya was a small baby we have played with rhyme, song and hand gesture games.  We've collected a number of what are often called "finger plays" over the years and I am so delighted to discover those I've not heard before (especially when my dear child is the one to bring them to me!)
A few weeks back Naiya brought this one home from school.  (She was so excited for a chance to be the teacher...)

Shoemaker, shoemaker, make me a shoe
Have it ready by half past two
Sometimes red and sometimes brown
Is it up or is it down?
Before she begins she finds a special small object, usually a pretty stone and holds it secretly in one fist.  Then holding both fists closed she taps one on top of the other, switching back and forth as she sings.  At the end I then have to guess which hand holds the special stone.  Whether I'm right or wrong, she giggles with glee at her game and wants to perform it many more times.

Click below for more fingerplays...

Monday, April 25, 2011

severe wind advisory

Today in Portland we had a severe wind advisory.

To a four year-year-old this just means a whole bunch of fun with the new pinwheel Oma and Opa gave her for Easter.

The wind also seemed to have swept away the everlasting gray that has dominated so many of our days.  About an hour after this photo, however, it did start to hail.

wooden shoe tulip festival


On Earth Day last week we caught what we thought was going to be the last weekend of this year's spectacle but the Tulip Festival in Woodburn has been extended until May 8th!

If you're in the Pacific Northwest you'll know it's been a wet, wet Spring thus far.  Because of this the tulips got a late start but, as usual, now that they're here, they're bursting with all the Springtime glory that they're famous for.

If you get the chance, this is definitely an outing I'd recommend for the whole family.

It's a beautiful display of acres and acres of gorgeous tulips as well as some carnival type bouncy houses and rides for kids and, of course, the Cow Train!

When we told Naiya we were going to the Tulip Festival, the Cow Train was all she wanted to talk about.

I, on the other hand, am just in it for the flowers.

(It was beautifully sunny but quite windy and somewhat cold.  Since we forgot Naiya's hat, you' might note that she's wearing tights on her head...the only extra clothing we had on hand.)

spring song in the rhododendron garden

 Spring is coming, Spring is coming
Birdies build your nests
Weave together straw and feather
Each one doing her best
Spring is coming, Spring is coming
Flowers are coming too
Pansies, lilies, daffodillies
All are coming through
Spring is coming, Spring is coming
All around is fair
Shiver, quiver on the river
Joy is everywhere

Thursday, April 21, 2011

toy library

Despite all of our best efforts to keep the stuff in our house to a minimum, we have acquired, over the years, a grand collection of toys, books, hand made creations, stuffed animals and dolls and oodles and oodles of stones, pine cones, acorn caps and various other natural wonders as play things for our little girl.

A few months back I attended a talk by Kim John Payne on the ideas from his book Simplicity Parenting.  The basic premise of which is that in today's modern world our children are exposed to and overwhelmed by too much, too soon, too quickly and are given far too many choices.  We agree, just by nature of the lives we have chosen to live, with nearly everything he says about protecting the environment of our child so that she may slowly and naturally become herself.  Kim's four key principles for simplifying are basically 1) Reduce the volume of toys, books and clutter (as well as general environmental sensory overload in the form of light and sound) in the child's environment  2) Establish rhythm to give children a consistent and predictable framework within which they can relax and feel at ease  3) Create intervals of calm and connection in the midst of chaos and doing and 4) Scale back on media and adult influence on children's play and consciousness.

At some point when Kim was describing his approach to the first and most elementary step of reducing, he made mention of a Toy Library.  He didn't go into specifics but based on basic library principles I took all the toys and playthings I've been rotating in and out of boxes in our attic for years and placed them up there neatly on shelves instead.

Now, we're not excessive toy people.  I honestly feel that we've made concerted effort to not have much to begin with.  We have nearly gift-less birthdays and almost every holiday is based more on gathering and celebrating the love and presence of family and friends than on the exchange of material things, but I do love to make things and I think it's sweet that the grandparents just can't help themselves.  The playthings that are just too much to fill the few baskets we have and to put away every day are, for the most part, things we like (or at least one of us is emotionally attached to).  That's why we've kept them.  What a gift then, this Toy Library has been.

Using some bookshelves we recently acquired, we removed the toys, blocks, dolls and whatnot from boxes and instead displayed them much as they would be in a toy store.  (Luckily, we have plenty of space in our attic for this but I suppose one could use a closet or other location instead.)  We told Naiya about this new magical exhibition and when she saw it she was thrilled.  The rule from day one was that she could have any toy she wanted from the library at any time as long as she replaced it with something from the bounty of items already in use in our home.

On about the third day of Toy Library she did ask if it would be alright to exchange something of mine instead of something of hers but, although I was impressed with her crafty ingenuity, I quickly put the kibosh on that.  Since then she has embraced the exchange absolutely.  Our house maintains its number of play objects and Naiya's excitement over "new" things with which she can create and imagine her dozens of worlds and adventures is astonishing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

sweet things that aren't candy

Now, we don't deny our child candy, but we're pretty big on regulation of the sugar substance.  Even when she pulls in a cache of the stuff for the candy holidays (Easter, Halloween, Valentine's Day, Christmas, etc.) we confiscate it and dole it out piece by piece. Usually after five days or so, our dear one forgets about the stockpile and mommy and daddy have to take care of it for her...if you know what I mean.
Yup, that's what I mean.
And I really don't need to eat candy every day either.

That's why, for a few years now, I've been trying to come up with candy substitutes, at least on the occasions over which I have some control.  And the Easter Hare and I, well, we're good friends.  I've got a lot of pull when it comes to this upcoming celebration.  We've had talks about candy and there will be some for our lovely Naiya Sophia, but that Hare will have some other goodies to offer as well.

Since this has been a discussion amongst mommies I know, I thought I'd share some of our current and past ideas.  Some are bought, some are easily (or occasionally not so easily) made and almost all are of natural materials.  This particular list of ideas are things that will fit inside of an egg (of either the felted or plastic variety) and a few have been listed on this blog before.  I don't know how well connected you might be with that Bunny, but if you've got any sway and you're looking for non-sugar Easter Egg filling options, perhaps this will help...

Mini wooden figures.
These people are from PlanToys.  The bunny is from Holztiger (which can be quite pricey), and the chick was, I think, locally made.

Hand painted stones.
I did these a few years ago with regular old acrylic paint and had turtles, bees, flowers, sunbursts, and sheep but these ladybugs (currently residing on our Nature Table) were all I could locate at the moment.

Needle felted critters.
This little guy was put together in about 10 minutes.  (For a quick tutorial click here.)

A variation of the above but in 2-D
These butterflies as well as some bees and dragonflies were made of craft felt with edges sewn in a simple blanket stitch.  (We hang these on our seasonal Spring tree.)

Little knitted finger puppets.
Perhaps I ought to be embarrassed to admit that I still do not knit.  These were all purchased at various fairs and crafty stores.

Felted flowers.  (Are you sensing a love of wool on my part?)
For a tutorial on these click here.

Pocket people.
Made with three wooden beads (one large for the head and two small for the hands) glued onto a tiny armature of a single pipe cleaner with bodies of felt sewn on with the standard blanket stitch.  They're stuffed with wool and some have wool roving hair.  They've all got acorns for hats from our neighborhood trees.  (Click here for a tutorial.)

Additionally we have stuffed Easter Eggs (or other holiday vessels) with wooden bead bracelets and rings, fairy stickers, fancy bells, those little cut crystals that refract light and make rainbows in the morning light, dried fruit, polished stones, play dough, beeswax (molded into simple shapes by hand or with cookie cutters), silk scarves, hair clips and lip balm.

I will admit that when Naiya does find the occasional egg with actual candy inside, she is quite, quite pleased.  I would warn therefore to create with discretion.  There's nothing that'll quell the desire to craft like the disappointed face of a beloved child upon discovering a darling trinket it took you hours to make.

the angel in our basement

This is the lovely Sarah.

Sarah is the wonderful woman who currently lives in the space we rent in our basement.  When I say we have a renter in the basement folks often cringe.  The basement?  Of a hundred year old house?  How must that be?  It's actually quite nice.  It's a full on one bedroom apartment with an actual bath in the bathroom, a kitchen (minus an oven) and a fireplace (although that particular feature is not functional).  Sarah even says it's the nicest apartment in which she has ever lived.  Plus she gets her mail delivered by a four year old.  AND has several complimentary visits from said four year old up to four times a day.  (I have to restrain the child.)

Yesterday when I was in the laundry room adjacent to Sarah's apartment, Naiya came down and asked if she could check if Sarah was home.  I gave her permission and she rounded the corner to knock on Sarah's door.  I heard the tap, tap of those little knuckles and a few seconds later (no answer from Sarah) the hysterical cry of my daughter as she ran back into the laundry room and fell sobbing to the floor. 


(I think we last saw Sarah the day before yesterday.)

It took me about three minutes to comfort Naiya with promises that we'd see Sarah tomorrow.

Thankfully, our dear Sarah loves Naiya too.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

books of spring

A few posts back I mentioned some of our favorite seasonal books by Cicely Mary Barker.  At the moment we're thoroughly enjoying Flower Fairies of the Spring.  I had also mentioned The Story of the Root Children by Sibylle von Olfers and the way the characters from that tale have dominated our Nature Table since before this particular season had even sprung.

In celebration of what seems like an actual Spring day today (with, you know, real sunshine and outdoor play without four layers of clothing to keep ourselves warm), I'd like to share just a few more of our other seasonal favorites as well.

The first is Miss Jaster's Garden by N.M. Bodecker.  This is a book I've had since I was a child.  It tells a sweet and somewhat fanciful tale of a woman who resides in a villa by the sea and the hedgehog who lives in her garden.  As the first blossoms bring joy to Miss Jaster, Hedgie the hedgehog unwittingly runs off with a patch of marigolds, baby's breath and sweet william.  The illustrations (also by Bodecker) are lovingly detailed pencil drawings with soft water colors that delight both Naiya and I.

A book I recently acquired is Spring from Wynstones Press.  This is a collection of songs, stories and poems that I use a lot for story time and puppet shows as well as for singing transitions and small celebrations of moments in our days.  It isn't illustrated but since it's contents are so simple, it is the source of much that I share with Naiya by heart (which is to say that I sort of "memorize" the material from this book and share it with my daughter without the actual anthology in hand).


Another recent find is Big-Stamp Two-Toes the Barefoot Giant (Spring Tales of Tiptoes Lightly) by Reg Down.  Tiptoes Lightly is a sweet little fairy who has, in fact, a whole series of books written about her and her friends and adventures.  We've been using this as our bed time reading and love the innocent seasonal stories that are thoughtful and gentle but are at times also humorous and occasionally ridiculous.  (Both Ryan and I take issue with Mr. Owl the Vegetarian.)


Lastly, in the Spring gardening theme, The Empty Pot by Demi is a really lovely Chinese tale involving the growing of flowers, an emperor, a poor boy and the noble virtue of simple truth.

I'd be so pleased to hear about your Spring favorites!  Please feel free to leave your front runners in the comments.  I read and appreciate every comment left (even if I'm not so good at responding).  I'll try to share any additional suggestions I receive or find before we transition into our Summer collection.

Happy reading!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

paper star lantern tutorial

I suppose it isn't exactly the right time of year for stars and lanterns, but I've got a paper folding fascination at the moment and so was drawn to a project I had wanted to do back in Autumn.  During last lantern season I was looking everywhere for instructions to make these beautiful paper lanterns and couldn't find them anywhere.  I ended up purchasing a lantern that was already made and since I've been struggling with some difficult folds and designs of other paper crafts, I decided to unfold the seemingly simple lantern I bought and figure the thing out for myself.  Like all traditional origami, no glue or cutting (once the basic outside shape of the paper is made) are required.  I feared that once I unfolded my lovely store-bought version I wouldn't be able to get it back together but thankfully it wasn't nearly as difficult as I assumed.

Since in my own quest for instructions I crossed paths with many other people looking for the same thing, I thought I'd do my best to share what I learned.  There may be better ways to do this and certainly my origami terminology will lack a little something but this is how I worked it out:

Begin with a 12" square of paper to end up with a lantern that is about 7" across when complete.  (Those beautiful wet-on-wet water colored paintings our children are turning out each season make for the lovliest lanterns.  Also, 12x12 is the standard size of the amazing array of scrapbook paper found at local craft stores.)

(Feb., 2012 edit:  A video tutorial of this project can now be found here.)

With what will ultimately be the outside of your lantern (the painted side) face up, fold the paper in half horizontally and vertically and then again on each diagonal effectively dividing the page into eight pie wedges. 

For  crisper creases and to help fold thicker card stocks, try using a bone folder.  The more exact the folds, the nicer the finished project will be.

(The dashed and dotted lines shown here are guides for the next step.)

To further divide the paper into 16 wedges, turn the paper over (painted side down so this second set of 8 folds are "valleys" to the first 8 fold's "hills") and make another fold between each of the eight sections by lining up the existing folds and the center point.

To help illustrate I marked the paper with dotted and dashed lines.  The dotted lines (marked on both the front and back of the page) fold to align directly on top of the dashed line.  (For more exact alignment, check the line at 90° and make sure it also aligns exactly with the corner fold underneath it.)

At the same time these folds are being made, lightly mark with a pencil the triangle piece that is sticking out at each of the four corners.  

The only scissor work of this project takes place here.


Cut off  the four marked corners of the paper.

With all of these folds complete and the corners removed, the octagonal "pie" will now have 16 wedges.

With the painted side down, using the existing lines between the eight points as a guide (the dotted lines), fold down the paper edge (on the dash-dot line that connects the end points of the dotted lines). 

For extra visual assistance, note that the solid lines lay one atop the other.

Repeat this fold eight times.

It might be easiest to understand this by first folding in the top, bottom and two sides, creating a square, then unfolding the paper, rotating it 45 degrees and repeating the process of creating a second square.

In the end there will be an eight pointed star formed by the folds (or two squares - one overlaying the other).

Fold in the edges of one of those squares. 

Again, if the paper has a painted side, it is face down for this step.

Flip over the paper (so the outside is up) and fold in the already creased corners.

This is where it gets tricky and the instructions are best understood with paper in hand just trying to work it out I think...

Between each folded-in corner, reach around to the other side of the paper and gently grab the center point (where the arrow is pointing) from the back side.

It will, by nature of the existing folds, turn into a triangle as it is pulled.

Flip that triangle over the edge until it too points to the center of the side of the page that is currently face up.  (For illustration purposes I drew the arrow on both sides of the paper.)

The center of the paper will start to crinkle and this is totally fine.

Continue doing this all the way around.  By carefully cupping the paper and helping pop the folds into their proper place when necessary, the star pattern will begin to take shape.

I have to say that when it all just fell into place I was quite surprised.

Press the project down onto a flat surface to flatten the bottom into a level cup shape.  

The lantern I purchased was coated with oil which increases the translucency (and sort of magical quality) of the paper.  To do this simply rub with any vegetable or olive oil prior to folding and let it dry overnight.  (I would suggest perhaps attempting your first version without. )

Of course, these beautiful pieces are made of paper and so are quite flammable.  I would suggest placing a glass votive around an open flame prior to putting it in the lantern and, as with all burning objects, caution should be used and candles should never be left unattended.

My mum likes to use those little battery powered tea lights and they are, of course, quite safe and a great option for very small children.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

my weakness

We were driving to a restaurant this evening and Naiya, in typical four year old fashion, asked how long it would be until we got there.
"About ten minutes," I told her.
"Mommy, can you grab that restaurant and bring it closer so it won't take so long?" she inquired. 
I thought this such an intriguing idea that it took me a minute to answer. "You mean bring the restaurant to our home?" I finally asked.
"Not into our house," she replied, "just closer."
Before I could respond, she reconsidered. "No mommy, I don't think your arms are strong enough."

Monday, April 11, 2011

parent portrait

Naiya has been making family portraits lately.  This one is from the chalk board and only includes the parental units.  She tells me I'm the one with the long hair.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

wet felting

I just finished a clutch of wet felted eggs for Easter and, as promised, I thought I'd do a how-to for wet felting.  This technique is great for all kinds of play objects like fruit and vegetables...

 or play mats...

...wall hangings or whatever.  Felting is basically the process of binding together the microscopically barbed fibers of wool (or other natural fibers) into a solid mass.  There are several methods to accomplish this irreversible process of making solid fabric from individual hairs.  Dry felting uses a barbed needle to catch and entangle layers of fiber through repeated poking while wet felting employs friction and water (sometimes alternating hot and cold) to swell, intertwine and bind a jumble of strands together.

Begin with pretty much any kind of natural fiber.  Most felters use sheep's wool but goat (cashmere), alpaca, rabbit (angora), and even dog hair are viable options.  If one is not harvesting from a pet or farm animal, already processed (cleaned, carded and combed) wool roving is probably the easiest fiber to find and work with and can be found (natural or dyed) at various craft and yarn shops or on-line.

For making eggs, I began with natural and plant-dyed wool roving.   Since the dyed roving is more expensive, I usually begin with the un-dyed as a base and then make only the outer layers in color.  For making eggs one will also need little plastic eggs, tape, soap (any liquid or solid soap will do), a bowl of very hot water, a bowl of very cold water, a good work surface (that can get wet), a few towels and (optionally) a felting needle.

For a core I used a little plastic Easter egg.  The egg was wrapped in tape so that the initial fiber wrapping would have something to cling to.  (The plastic was too slippery.)
These eggs will ultimately be hallow and the plastic egg will be removed.  Should one wish to make a solid egg or other object, begin instead with a piece of roving tied in a knot to form a permanent core.

The fiber is spread out a bit to loosen it and then wound around the egg in very thin layers.  The layers ultimately bind best when several of them are laid across each other at right angles giving the scales of the fiber a good chance to interlock.  The individual hairs of this particular roving were long and by carefully pulling them out and keeping them connected in a continuous strand, I was able to wrap the egg much like one would wind a ball of yarn.

When I could see no more of the underlying egg, I wrapped with the colored roving in similar fashion.  (This is a solid colored egg.  To make designs - lines, polka dots, et cetera, one can use a felting needle to decorate the egg at this point.  Alternately, embellishments can be added after the solid egg has been completely felted.)


Wet the egg with water as hot as your hands can stand and lather a bit of soap (liquid drops or flakes from a solid) in your palms before gently pressing down the loose fibers.  They may stick to your hands but persevere.  Press and lightly squeeze the egg until the fibers stay in place.


Once the fiber stays put, start rubbing very carefully.  As the fibers begin to bind, pressure can be increased and hands will glide more and more easily over the egg.

Passing the project back and forth between cold and hot water will help the fibers expand and contract and assist with the binding.  The more solid (felted) the fibers become, the more vigorously one can massage the project.

As far as the felting goes, that's pretty much it.  It took about 15 or 20 minutes of  rubbing and massaging to shrink the fiber down so that it clung very firmly to this egg and was quite solid. 

It was then rinsed and allowed to dry prior to cutting a slit to remove the egg.
(One might also cut a jagged, cracked egg edge if that look is preferred.) 

Should the inside of the egg have loose fibers, simply wet and soap up your hands again and gently massage the egg's inside area.


The opening can be left as is but I like the finished look of the blanket stitch. 

Most of the eggs (seen in the basket above) I decorated at this point with small bits of roving and a felting needle.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...