Nov 22, 2011

Laminated Autumn leaf magnets

There are a couple of ways of preserving fall leaves that I keep seeing popping up on the blogs this time of year. One is painting them with Mod Podge, like Jean does with her daughter over at The Artful Parent, the other is dipping the leaves in wax of some kind (soy/beeswax etc) like here on Autumn Comfort Candles. I was wondering about doing one of these options with the girls, but I was chatting with my oldest daughter's teacher a couple of days ago and she suggested laminating autumn leaves and I started thinking this might make a more useable item for the kids rather than a purely decorative one.

Obviously sealing leaves inside plastic isn't going to give results as natural looking or eco-freindly as the other preservation methods, but I hope that these will last through a good few years of play. My kids would turn leaves made in the other methods into fall coloured dust in no time at all. The other thing about this approach that suits us is that our fridge-freezer is ancient and ugly as sin. Our landlord obviously looked at it's rusty ass and said to himself "no-one's going to want this in their kitchen, but it still works, so I'm not getting rid of it". His unconventional solution was to paint it with the same paint that he used to paint the walls.The result scores a negative eight on the Marthastewartometer. We need pretty things to cover this lumpy magnolia matt emulsion and rust speckled monolith with! Fall leaf magnets to the rescue!

We pressed our leaves in a book for a couple of days, then sent them through the little laminator we have and then cut them out and taped a bit of flexible magnet to the back. You can buy rolls of magnetic tape from craft stores, but we just cut up free magnets that businesses hand out like the Round Table pizza ones that come through the door with tear off coupons attached.

They work like a charm and the kids have been sorting them and making patterns with them. We deliberately walked home along a different road from school this afternoon to see if we could find some yellow leaves to add. Have any of you laminated leaves before? I'm wondering how long I can expect the colours to last before we get photodegredation. They aren't in direct sunlight where they are, so I guess that helps. We'll have to press some flowers in the spring to do this with too!

Nov 16, 2011

Thanksgiving turkey craft over at Alpha Mom

Another crafty thingumyproject for you that I've written up over at Alpha Mom. It's an easy peasy lemon squeezy thanksgiving craft that should help keep the littlies busy at the dinner table and there's a print out template that I made for it too, so pop on over to the post here to see how they are put together (they are made using things that you probably have at home already).

Something that I didn't put in the post over there, but thought that my readers over here would get a giggle out of is the "thankful feather" that Paul drew before he went off to work this morning. Yeah, geek dad is geeky. That's a false colour representation of the cosmic microwave background radiation (including the microwave contribution of the Milky Way, which is the central red part). And Ffion thought it was pretty, so copied it. Definitely keeping those!
Being British rather than American, I've always leaned towards doing generic Autumn type activities around this time of year, rather than specific thanksgiving themed projects, but I was still surprised to find that after eight years of living in the US, this is the first thanksgiving themed craft I've posted about!

We've taken to celebrating thanksgiving by taking a packed lunch to a local forrest. It's turned into a nice tradition for us and one that I look forward to (yeah, it's also nice that I don't have to cook a proper thanksgiving feast. I just have to make sandwiches!) I just looked through some of our old photos from thanksgivings gone by and got all nostalgic. These little people grow so fast!
Hope you have some lovely times planned for next week, even if you aren't from the US and don't have the thanksgiving tradition.

P.S. The turkeys survived most of the day here, even after we had ten kids marauding about the house after school, but around dinner time I found some unfortunate turkey roadkill splatted on the kitchen table.

Nov 11, 2011

Cheapskate cardboard canvas wall display

I know I only just mentioned a couple of posts ago that we still have our leaf rubbing mural from 2009 up in the kitchen, and really this is the right season to have it there too I suppose, but for some reason the urge struck yesterday to change things up a little. Maybe it's because it's getting darker and gloomier out and we are craving a bit of extra vibrance around the house, who knows. It had been a good few weeks since we'd got out the pots of sloppy paint too, and that was a travesty that needed to be put right.

I've got a few of these corrugated sheets of cardboard from inbetween the pallettes of toilet roll at Costco. Actually, I've always got at least a few of these handy, but shhhhhh. We needed something big to fill the white wall space above our kitchen table, so rather than getting the girls to collaborate on one big piece, I thought we'd try a lot of smaller "canvases" that could be put together to make a larger one.

I've always loved seeing posts that other people do where they use proper artists canvases and let their kids paint them and give them to grandparents as gifts or put them up in their own homes, but several factors have meant that we've not gone that route ourselves. Firstly, those lovely stretched canvases are kind of expensive, even if you get them on offer, and especially the larger ones! Secondly, we rent and so putting lots of holes in the walls to hang big things is not really going to happen. Thirdly, and I think this is really the biggest reason, but maybe it's all in my head, is that it seems like a lot of pressure to put on someone. Giving them a canvas. A proper big blank artist's canvas, and saying "go for it. Paint whatever you like". I would have been frozen as a child, torn as to what I should paint, worried that I only had the one canvas and didn't want to waste my chance or mess up what I decided to paint. I think I'd be somewhat like that now as an adult too if you gave me a nice big proper canvas and said I could use it to paint something big for our home.

In an effort to get the effect of having canvases hanging rather than the paper taped to the wall that we've been doing up until now, but not have the kids feel any pressure or have to spend any money, I decided to chop up some of that corrugated cardboard and cover it with butcher block paper for them to paint.

Because we had seven canvases that were all going to be displayed together, I asked the kids if they could explore with colours and shapes, rather than painting people or objects. They were really open to the idea of just playing with the paint, rather than trying to make a representation of something. Honestly, I was expecting a bit more of a push back against the idea of going abstract on this project because both girls are heavily into drawing comic books at the moment, but they always surprise me with the varied directions their enthusiasm allows us to go.

We had a couple of hours in the back yard before the sun packed up for the day and happily, the bairn was very contented to sit and watch her sisters paint, which meant I got a few photos.

Paint, shoot a bow and arrow, go back to painting, it's the creative process right?

Today I put the paintings together to go on the wall by taping two lengths of string to the back of each column of canvasses and tying the strings together at the top. I hung each of the three columns on a single thumb tack, which meant we have this large display with just three teensy thumb tack holes high up on the wall. The cardboard and paper was light enough that we could have hung more from a single thumb tack if we'd wanted to. If our home had stairs then I'd really want to use this method to have artwork all up the stairs.

I have a feeling I'll be making a lot more of these "canvases" in the future, because the children got a kick out of being presented with the various sizes and dimensions to work on, and they could really be free and uninhibited with their painting, because they could see that we could make more easily and very quickly so they could just keep going with it until they felt done. The hallway is likely to get a similar treatment soon I think.

The bright colours in our kitchen came at just the right time, because today was so rotten and rainy and dark that we had to have the lights on in the house ALL DAY! Blergh. I've talked about some of the abstract paintings that the kids have done in the past:

One post about easle painting here
and another one here.

My oldest daughter was especially prolific with these, and I think I was missing the ones we used to have up in the kitchen. They are very proud of how it all looks hanging up like this.

Nov 4, 2011

Halloween 2011 chuckles

I wanted to post a couple of photos of our Halloween antics for you, because I'd mentioned plans to make costumes that the kids had requested and also I wanted to show you the decorations they helped to make for the front yard.

I think maybe I'm an unorganised blogger, because often our seasonal projects are very last minute and I don't get to post about them until after the holiday is over, so too late for readers to really do anything with the idea other than bookmark it for next year if they like it, but in my defence, I do try and do a round up of previous year's antics before the holiday, so I'll likely mention anything we did this year for Halloween, just before Halloween 2012. We were so last minute with our yard decorating that it got done on the afternoon of Halloween itself. We enjoyed the frantic putting it together though and the girls thought it was really funny.

So, I ended up making Carys the Ms Frizzle costume that she had requested, but like I usually do, I left it until the night before, so I was up quite late trying to make the dress. I used an old kid's white shirt and a white knitted dollar tree earwarmer/headband thing for the cuffs of the dress. I would have used the shirt cuffs, but it was a VERY old shirt and the cuffs were too small! The material I got for it was outerspace themed cotton print that I think was likely quilting material. It worked really well though and I sewed some satin type quilt binding around the bottom of the dress. To make the pattern for the dress I used a shirt dress that fitted Carys and just approximated the pattern pieces from that. One thing that was very helpful though was a post by LiEr over at Ikatbag, showing how to adapt a sleeve pattern piece to varying styles of sleeve, whilst making sure that it's still going to fit well. Thank you LiEr! By following her advice I was able to make the slightly puffed top sleeves that Ms Frizzle wears. Very clear tutorial that even me at stupid o'clock at night could follow :)

Kiddo wore a tutu under the dress to make it nice and full and we glued a sun and moon cardboard decoration to her dress up shoes. The finishing touch was just luck really. The local thrift store happened to have a really ratty looking auburn wig for $2, but after a bit of a clean and brush I was able to tie it back into a Ms Frizzle style hairdo and her costume was complete. It nearly didn't work at all when I realised that I hadn't taken into account if the dress would actually fit over her head with the buttons undone, but a tab of velcro on the front placket of the dress fixed that. Phew.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that Ffion had decided to be Rapunzel, which was really easy because there was a princess dress at the same thrift store that we got the wig from for just $3, so all I had to do was shorten it a bit and make her a fake frying pan out of foam sheets from some of computer packaging and a roll of black craft from from the dollar tree. Yay hot glue funtime!

I also talked about the idea of dressing Delyth up as a lizard to be either Pascal to Ffion's Rapunzel, or Liz to Carys's Ms Frizzle, and a couple of readers gave some excellent suggestions as to how we could pull that off, but, well, we saw a frog costume at the thrift store and it was very cute and snuggly and only $3, so we figured it was close enough and she was lovely and cosy in it while we trick or treated.

The thank you cards that we made from Carys's drawing were a big hit with our neighbours and Carys did enjoy giving them out almost as much as she enjoyed the candy that they gave her, so we'll definitely be doing that again next year!

Now for the last minute yard decorating. My kids caught the bug for the game "Plants vs Zombies" from some friends of theirs a while ago. They dont' really do much in the way of computer games, but this one really caught their attention and I kind of like it because it's funny and silly but does involve a bit of strategy and a bit of math. Our front yard is in a similar style to the one in the game, so for Halloween the kids wanted to decorate it with the plants and gravestones from the game. I just grabbed a few of the polystyrene gravestones from the dollar store to use and then I drew out some of the plants and the kids coloured them in. We taped a BBQ skewer to the back of each one to stand it up in the lawn.

Last touch was a zombie mask that Ffion was insistant must be a girl zombie, so she could reinact the game. I'd love to have gone all out with this and made more masks and more plants and maybe even a cut out of Crazy Dave to go on our porch, but we just had enough time to get those few bits done and that was enough to please the kids.

By the time we were done with all the sewing and chopping up paper and cardboard, the kitchen looked like someone had thrown a grenade onto the set of Project Runway, but it all worked out in the end. I've been pretty lucky so far with the kid's requests for Halloween costumes. The last two years only one kid has asked for a costume that you can't find an approximation of at a thrift store.

Last year Carys wanted to be Darth Vader, which was great because a mate of mine had a costume from her son and it was Ffion that needed the custom approach because she was hell bent on being Cindy Lauper from the music video of "Hey Now". Given my habit of leaving everything until the last minute, I'll be in big trouble if they ever decide to both ask for something awkward one year. I know I'm not the only one that gets unusual requests for Halloween costumes, because this year a reader wrote to me about her son wanting to dress up as a chair. Hooray for kids with oodles of imagination! Have any of you had to accomodate unorthodox costume requests? I'd love to hear about them if you have.

Hope you all had a lovely Halloween!