The longer days has brought with it more outdoor play. There are puddles to play in, the sun is out, there is a foot of snow covering the grass after what might be the last Nor’Easter of the winter, allowing us still to do some sledding. You never know what the spring will bring in the North East of the United States. We’ve had a record breaking snow storm in April before, it could happen again. Yesterday was the first day of spring and we can feel spring everywhere.
Little J: The puddles in the driveway remind me of summer.
I heard a bird singing like it’s spring.
We open windows in the house and in the car on these warm days and can here the snow melting and trickling from everywhere, like it’s raining, but the sky is blue, the sun strong.
Little K has started using playdough differently lately. Instead of burying tools and vehicles, he’s started to competently roll the dough out and makes prints with tools. I wanted to set up a provocation for him while we were stuck in the house due to sick family members.
Inspired by the “After Christmas Tree,” the kids and I roll out a large slab of peppermint scented, green playdough. I cut it into a tree shape and add lots of small recycled caps to press into and decorate the tree.
We use our favorite play dough recipe and add peppermint extract. The boys press the caps into the dough, making prints, followed by carving out the shapes to create negative space. With the chunks of dough they pull out, they build other things. Little K makes Angels and Little J makes a sun.
It’s time to take down the holiday decorations.
Little J is so broken hearted, especially about taking down the tree.
We decide to put the tree on the back porch after undressing it of its ornaments.
But then, it is all plain looking, so we decide to make suet to hang like ornaments.
We have the best suet recipe. Click on the link to go back to a post where I spell out the recipe.
We pack cookie cutters with the suet and put them outside to firm up in the cold. It’s been below 20 degrees F outside the past couple of days.
We pop the suet out of the cookie cutters and tie them with twine, hanging them on the tree.
We also hang the tree with painted sticks and stones made previously from another project.
Big K says he’s seen happy birds all over the tree.
The birds come out to feed right after the sun rises.
The After Christmas Tree is a book I found amongst the Christmas books at the library. It about a family that feels the after holiday blues and finds happiness by having a winter party. At the party they go ice skating, drink hot cocoa and decorate an old christmas tree with bird food ornaments.
Little J is sick with a temperature of 103. He’s feeling pretty lazy, so I offer him a project he can do without leaving the couch.
I save lots of recyclable stuff in our art studio. We use these materials when the mood and project suits us.
Usually for sewing, a foam tray works perfectly, but, recently I’ve discovered that a clear plastic lid makes a great sewing surface.
I punch holes all around the perimeter with my hole puncher.
I also have a bag of little bits of yarn leftover from knitting projects.
We tie a length of yarn onto the lid and thread it with a kid-friendly, embroidery needle.
I choose to make this an open ended project, allowing the kids to invent a way to use the materials.
Little J practices a traditional basic stitch.
Little K crosses the middle many times, making more of an asymmetrical sunburst pattern.
We use a transparent plastic lid because light shines through it nicely, so this project would be best hung in the light of a window or in among the lights of a Christmas tree.
I asked Little J, “What kind of ornaments do you want to make for our tree this year.”
It’s a holiday tradition to have an ornament project. Last year we dried spiced oranges and strung them with beads, hanging some on our tree and giving lots away as gifts.
The year before, we made cinnamon-applesauce ornaments.
He said, “I’d like to make yarn balls.”
I didn’t really know what he meant by this, but the image that popped into my mind was a pom pom.
I was in an after school program when I was school age, and one of the teachers was super crafty. Her name was Mrs. C. You could always find me tinkering away at Mrs. C’s table, under her wing, she nurtured and encouraged my artsy side, and I think is one of the reasons I went into teaching art. She taught me how to make a pom pom. At age 7, I knew how magical and genius this process was.
This project can be entirely experimental. Play with colors and thickness of yarn. You can make really dense, puffy pom poms, or really wispy, shaggy ones.
1. Cut 2 circles out of cardboard. How big that circle is, depends on how big or small you want your pom pom.
2. Cut another smaller circle out of the middle of your cardboard circles, so that it look like a wreath.
3. Fit your cardboard wreaths together like a bagel sandwich.
4. Tie cardboard pieces together with yarn, and start wrapping yarn around the “wreath.” You can change yarn if you’d like your pom pom to be more than one color.
5. When it wrapped enough, wrap it more. The more yarn, the thinker your pom will be, but feel free to experiment with amounts. A pom pom with less yarn might be fun and shaggy. A thick wrapped wreath will give you a carpet like pom pom.
6. Wriggle and Fit your scissors in between the two circle pieces of cardboard that’s now buried in yarn.
7. Cut the wrapped yarn around the outside of the circle.
8. Tuck a stray piece of yarn between the 2 circles of cardboard and tightly tie off the pom pom.
9. Slip the pom pom off of the cardboard wreaths.
10. Arrange the pom pom by fluffing and trimming, until you’re happy with the result.
Little J approves these yarn balls for the holiday tree, but you can use these for anything, in any season. They can be used as pretend ice cream in the summer and snow balls in the winter. You can make a garland out of them. There’s no end to the ideas. What would you do with a pom pom?
Happy Pom Pomming!
In the winter, the MOMS Club contributes to two holiday tree events.
The Festival of (Giving) Trees is a four day family event, designed to be a holiday activity. Chosen organizations donate a artificial tree decorated with a theme. The MOMS Club was chosen to contribute a tree. Trees are raffled. The mission is to raise money to help the Silent Spring Institute, the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and the Cancer Center at Harrington Hospital to fight the battle against breast cancer and to help fund cancer research. Over the past fourteen years, the Festival of (Giving) Trees has raised and donated over $390,000 to these beneficiaries.
The theme we’ve chosen for this tree is yarn and color. We score Pinterest for simple, colorful yarn ornament ideas that families can do together.
wrap yarn around a wire shape
finger knit garland
The town’s Conservation Commission organizes a Winter Tree Scavenger Hunt. The object of the hunt is to find 8-10 decorated trees, take your photo with each tree and email all photos to the Conservation Commission between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
The Scavenger Tree will be sticks and stones: Nature’s Best Toys Ever! Approved by the MOMS Club of Sturbridge.
We paint sticks,
color on hot stones,
and modge modge magazine bits onto stones too.
We set up a morning at the local basement of the Federated Church for MOMS and kids to play with yarn. We share project ideas on the MOMS Club Facebook page and set up goodie bags with supplies people can take home to work on the ornaments on their own time.
We will meet at the church to decorate the yarn and color tree.
We will meet in the woods to pick a tree and hang sticks and stones.
We’ve drawn on plates before. I bought a special porcelain pen for the occasion. Later, I learn about Sharpies on plates, works just as well as the porcelain pen and we have more colors at our disposal with Sharpies.
After drawing, bake plate at 350 for about 30 minutes.
I have 3 small, plain, white plates I find at the “treasure house.” The treasure house is a shed at our recycle center, where people can drop off various stuffs that they aren’t using anymore, like outgrown toys, kitchen gadgets, books, etc.
The boys find the plates set up on their little kitchen table, next to a full box of Sharpies.
Little J draws a portrait of his mama, me, and Kiki draws a self portrait. Little K is just starting to show some interest in representational drawing, especially if he can use his favorite color, red. On the 3rd plate, Little J draws a rainbow. I love it when boys draw rainbows. He also loves drawing pictures of skateboarders, pools, mountains, giant mud puddles…he’s a well rounded boy.
“The whole world wants to be golden
like you, sunflower,
to rest in the cool air,
listening to the cricket songs…”
The spring of 2012 starts with 2 store-bought packages of seeds. One package holds pumpkin seeds and the other, sunflower seeds.
We plant both indoors, using recycled, cardboard egg cartons, a blend of soil that was part our compost, and we watch the sprouts break through the soil, growing into the sunlight outside of the kitchen window, nurtured by our water and affection.
When the time is right, we transplant the sprouts into the outdoor soil and they flourish.
We have three giant sunflower stalks and 3 giant pumpkins at the end of summer.
The fall arrives and with it comes wilting sunflower heads and pumpkins ready for carving.
We take the seeds from both, dry them on the kitchen window sill, and put them in baggies.
As the sunflower seeds dry, they change from white to white with a black stripes.
Next spring we’ll have our own seeds to begin again.
Here are a handful of beautiful and HappyLittleMesses approved children’s books about sunflowers:
Gift of the Sun, A Tale from South Africa by Diane Stewart
Mortimer’s First Garden by Karma Wilson
What’s This? by Caroline Mockford
This Is the Sunflower by Lola M. Schafer
To Be Like the Sun by Susan Marie Swanson
Lily stalks are really fun and satisfying to snip with scissors.
For the younger kids, this may be too hard for their little hand muscles, but it’s a great challenge for the older kids.
I’ll warn you, the pieces pop up when they are cut and can be a hazard to those Betty Davis eyes, so hold it away from you as you snip.
I snatch up some interesting cardboard from our stash and some of our colored glue, arranging it all on the cement porch, right next to our lily patch.
The kids busy themselves, snipping and gluing.
After our visit to the Worcester Art Museum we are inspired by Charline von Heyl’s The Wall at WAM and by Ellsworth Kelly’s Orange White. We are most influenced by the simple shapes and bright colors.
I make prints of Ellsworth Kelly’s Orange White and offer them to the the kids as a provocation with the DIY liquid watercolors we made together.
Little J and a friend, both 5 years old, start by tracing the shapes with color. Then, they fill in the shapes with marks, followed by filling in the rest of the spaces. Little K, 3 years old, thinks, “screw this, I’m gonna dump this glass of black liquid watercolor over the paper and see what happens.” He asks me for another paper. His marks are done only with red paint, his favorite color.
Finished art inspired by art.
Epilogue: After I put down the camera and turn my back to clean dishes at the sink, the kids find syringe-type medicine dispensers and use them add more liquid watercolor to the papers. The images dry pale and look like a tie dye sunset.