the art closet

A few weeks ago, we unpacked a big box of Isaiah’s art supplies. At our old house in Boulder, there was a cabinet in the living/dining room area, which we used as Isaiah’s “art cubby.” It was perfect, as he could access it, and it had doors that closed to hide the mess that a preschooler’s accessible art supply storage area inevitably became. After we moved from our rental in Maine to our “forever house,” as we’ve been calling it, we didn’t unpack the art supplies box right away because I wasn’t sure what to unpack it into. I had this idea that we needed something special and, of course, aesthetically pleasing, to put all of the art supplies in. Specifically, we needed a beautiful antique jelly cabinet, found on Craig’s List, for an amazingly low price.

Well, weeks passed and, not only did this jelly cabinet not present itself, but the money that would have been used to purchase it went toward other things we needed for the house. So, I started to think about alternatives. After unpacking my small collection of coffee and tea sets and crystal bowls into the built-in china closet in the dining room, I found there were two (counting the floor) lower shelves, perfect for a new art supply storage space!

Initially, as things got unloaded and piled in there, I worried that we had too much stuff and not enough space… Since the door is glass, closing it to hide a messy pile of pipe cleaners tangled with random balls of string and sticky glitter glue tubes, etc., wasn’t an option. I don’t do well with messes. (I know– how, then, do I live with a four-year old and a toddler? Lots of deep breaths. Oh, and after-bedtime clean-up time. Isaiah cleans up everyday, but, well, he’s four, and I’m fastidious about our living space, sometimes, perhaps, to the point of obsession.) So…

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent some time watching Isaiah use the closet, and re-organizing and re-arranging the shelves, finding new and improved storage containers for various supplies, and making new labels for them. (Isaiah can’t read yet, but someday…)

Yesterday morning, while Isaiah created some art with glitter, and Quinn explored body art with purple magic marker and green glitter glue, while simultaneously leaving a trail of teeny, tiny balls of mint green play dough all over the house, the art closet was finished! I love it!

In addition to art supplies, the bottom of the closet houses activity books, sticker books, and a stack of large, laminated posters about leaves, trees, bugs, butterflies, etc., that we found last summer at a yard sale. As Isaiah and Quinn get older, the art closet will evolve, I imagine, as storage for more science, nature, and other homeschooling supplies.

Isaiah’s almost four and a half now, and Quinn is 18 months, so my homeschooling plans for this coming school year are very loose, involving, I hope, lots of use of the stuff in this closet, as well as baking projects, free play, backyard explorations, and visits to the local library and the beach. Setting up this closet reminded me of setting up my preschool classrooms in years past. I have always loved the arts and craft corners the most. Inspired by my time spent in a Montessori classroom, I put together a couple of trays, ready-made with all the materials needed for a specific type of art project.

Loose glitter is not something I’ve previously given Isaiah free access to, but I thought I’d try it and see. As soon as he saw the containers of glitter in the tray he asked if he could use it. He worked very intently for a long time, and really seemed to enjoy these simple materials.

We hung it up on his art line to dry, and for display next to some of his other recent artistic explorations.

Hooray for art!

Advertisements

the blessings of spring

We celebrated Easter yesterday, our first holiday in Maine! For us, Easter is a celebration of spring. It is another opportunity to express our gratitude toward the Earth and Mother Nature, for all of Her gifts: from the food we eat, to the flowers we are seeing blooming outside, to the cool, fresh ocean air we are fortunate enough to be breathing these days.

A few days before we left Boulder, we celebrated the first day of spring, the Equinox, with egg coloring.

Most of the eggs were eaten immediately after being colored, but a couple were left to grace our Nature Table.

In early March we cleared all of the wintry treasures off the Nature Table, and then Isaiah set it up for springtime. He spent a long time thoughtfully arranging all of his gnomes, animals, stones, shells, pine cones, and other nature treasures — and what a beautiful display he created in honor of spring’s arrival!

Last week, we finally unpacked the box containing the Nature Table, and Isaiah spent some time re-creating the spring scene. Yesterday, we colored some more eggs for Easter. A couple of hard-boiled eggs turned out to be a great mid-morning snack for Isaiah, to balance out the early morning jelly beans and bites of chocolate bunny that he began his day with.

The Easter Bunny visited our house while the boys were sleeping, and left some wonderful spring-inspired treats and treasures for them. When Isaiah was a baby, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to support a belief in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, etc., but after some thought and discussion, Joe and I decided that we wanted to foster in our children as much of a sense of wonder and belief in magic as possible. Our world, after all, is often sorely lacking in these things. So, we’ve invited them all in, and I’m so glad we did! It’s so much fun. Yesterday, Isaiah asked me, “Mama, do you think the Easter Bunny, like, travels?” After some musing, he decided that there are likely many Easter Bunnies, living in different areas, hopping around leaving baskets of treats and hiding eggs for children, with some help from the local spring fairies.

Isaiah’s basket was filled with all sorts of goodies: a set of child-sized gardening tools, gardening gloves, and packets of seeds, colored pencils carved from tree branches, a beautiful wooden swan for the Nature Table, a chocolate bunny, a chick sugar cookie. (I think our Easter Bunny shops for treats at Whole Foods. Thank goodness!)

Quinn’s first little Easter basket had a sweet little board book in it from a series of seasonal books that we love, and a little wooden gosling. Instead of things like jelly beans, chocolate Earth balls, and glow in the dark bugs (!) the handful of little eggs in Quinn’s basket were full of rice cereal puffs and raisins. (Isaiah thought this was very funny.)

Later in the afternoon, it was time for the egg hunt! The big, tree-filled yard of our spring home here in Harpswell was perfect for egg hunting. It had been raining, but it stopped just before we went out to look for the eggs, and was surprisingly warm outside. A beautiful spring afternoon…

After the egg hunting excitement, we had one final treat: sharing a delicious home-cooked Easter dinner with some of our East Coast family members. We are very blessed, indeed.


Playsilks!

A few days ago we had some friends over to dye playsilks. Such a fun project! Very easy, and the color transformation was quite magical to behold. If you have not yet heard of playsilks, they are a lovely, simple, open-ended creative toy, appropriate for all ages, from babies to big kids. You’ll find a rainbow array of them, I’m pretty sure, in any Waldorf classroom. (And now in our home too!)

We’ve had one green playsilk since Isaiah was about 18 months old, and he plays with it almost every day, in so many ways… often it is his “Super Isaiah!” cape, but it also finds it’s way into various other costumes, as a skirt, headscarf, belt, sling…. it’s also been a doll blanket, a carrier of wooden vegetables from here to there, a backdrop for our nature table, and, in recent months, a peek-a-boo cloth for playing with Quinn. I’ve been wanting to expand the playsilk collection beyond just the one, but they are, I think, pretty expensive if you buy them pre-dyed at the toy store. So, I did some research online for instructions (of which there are many!), ordered a stack of more reasonably priced white silks from Dharma Trading Co, and planned a playsilk dying playdate!

If you’d like to try this at home, here’s what you’ll need:

  • an assortment of scarves in whatever sizes you’d like (we used 30×30 inch ones)
  • a few stainless steel or glass pots or bowls
  • a couple of large metal spoons and/or tongs for stirring
  • distilled white vinegar (to help the color set, though some instructions say you don’t need it)
  • a whole lot of Kool-Aid (we used about three packets of the same color per silk)
  • (optionally, you can use food coloring, about 20 or more drops per silk; we used this for blue, as we couldn’t find a blue Kool-Aid)

First we soaked the silks in a big bowl of hot water, with about 1/4 cup of vinegar added. They soaked in there for 15 minutes or more, depending on how sidetracked we got. Then, in another pot, we put about 5 or 6 cups of hot (but not boiling) water, with more vinegar (again about 1/4 cup). We added three packets of one color of Kool-Aid, and mixed until it was dissolved.

We placed one silk in this pot, and swirled it around until it was submerged in the dye bath. Then we left it there a while, wandered off and played elsewhere, came back to check our silk’s progress, intermittently swirling the silk around in the dye… (side note: the smell?!? It was out of this world, and so reminded me of my childhood! Isaiah remarked that it smelled good enough to drink, “if it weren’t such junk, right Mama?” Right. While Kool-Aid shopping earlier, my friend’s son asked her why they make it look like it’s something you could eat, when it’s not? She decided to let him assume that, obviously, a packet of dye should not be ingested! You can read her post about this project here.)

Pink lemonade...

We squeezed out the excess water, rinsed it in the sink until the water ran clear (which for most of the colors was pretty immediate, though in many online tutorials the instructions call for rinsing, and rinsing, and rinsing…), and then hung the silk outside on the line to dry.

After the first one, we started dying two at once, in about 10 cups of water, or enough to cover both silks (with 6 packets of Kool-Aid.)

We soon realized that the swirling and mixing during the dying process is helpful in getting the dye evenly distributed, if that’s the look you want. When we just plopped them in there and left them, the effect was more splotchy, tie-dye style.

Overall, this was a really great project to do with preschool age and older children, with a beautiful end result that will likely be played with for years to come!

sweet february…

I’ve noticed that some folks don’t like February much — it’s winter, after all, which can be very cold and full of, perhaps, inconvenient weather, especially for those not inspired by outdoor winter sports and activities.  I can see how winter might seem dreary and endless when you’re right in the middle of it, past all the holiday cheer and twinkle, with many more weeks of chilly winds and icy sidewalks ahead. Despite these less pleasant aspects of the season, however, I am discovering that I really love February.

First there’s Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc, which is one of my favorite Earth Celebrations. It falls on February 1st or 2nd, which is mid-winter, the halfway point between the shortest day of the year, Winter Solstice, and the Spring Equinox, when the length of day and night are equal. So, on Imbolc, February has only just begun, and already the days are starting to lengthen, as the wheel of the year turns determinedly onward toward spring. There is a “quickening” happening, an enlivening that I can sense, as the first subtle scents of spring start to move on the wind…the smell of melting snow, damp earth… this is the time when the sap begins to rise in the trees (this month’s full moon is called, in some traditions, the Sap Moon), and some of the first seeds sleeping deep down in the soil begin to awaken. Oh, there are still plenty of days to spend playing in the snow, and plenty of evenings to spend cozying up inside, hot tea in hand, knitting or reading in lap, gazing into the flames of mid-winter’s hearth…

I love this mix of energies: the still, quiet depth of winter, with it’s beckoning toward slowing down, turning one’s gaze inward, and focusing some attention on sifting through musings, ideas, visions and plans; and that quickening, the anticipatory hum of the very beginnings of movement toward the active manifestation of those winter dreams.

And, the chocolate! February is the only month, I believe, with a holiday dedicated to the expression of love in the form of handmade cards, extra hugs and kisses, cupcakes, and chocolate.

Ah, sweet February. Until next year…