Archives for September 2009

Travel Bag

Thanks for all the travel advice!  The most common tip was to buy or borrow a DVD player.  But…we are traveling through a really beautiful part of the country and I don’t want my kids to miss the scenery.  So, I am giving them all sketch books so that they can sketch elements from nature that they see along the way.  Of course the older boys can journal along with their drawings.  And then those journal entries can turn into educational family conversations.
Are you still reading?  Did you believe me?  Actually, I am not delusional enough to think that my kids are going to be “sketching” while we drive.  They are more likely going to be whining and needing to go to the bathroom.  Hopefully we can reach a middle ground between those two extremes.
I am in trip preparation mode and have been having a bit of fun pulling things together.  I am also doing unecessary things like sewing a pair of linen travel pants for myself when I really should be scrubbing the kitchen floor grout and the toilets.
We are on a tight budget so I can’t go out and buy a bunch of stuff to entertain the kids (although I will hit the dollar store maybe tomorrow) but I do have a pretty good stock of supplies already.  I always stock up on crayons and other art supplies when they are cheap just before school starts.
So far I have packed a pack of crayons for each kid (reinforced the box bottoms with packing tape), markers, colored pencils, stickers, notecards, and playing cards.  I am planning to get some new picture books from the library tomorrow and I had a really good time making a bunch of small coloring books for the kids.  They should keep Larkspur, especially, busy.
The coloring books have images on copy paper inside and a sheet of cheap cardstock on the outside.  I sewed the pages together to create the books.
I hadn’t done this before, so wasn’t sure how it would work out.  It actually worked perfectly!  I prefolded the inside pages (all together in one fold-not individually) and also the cardstock.  Jonny traced down the center line with a pencil on the inside page of each book to help me to sew a straight line (not my strong area).  I sewed down that line, backstitching on each end.
My kids, especially Larkspur, just don’t get sick of coloring THESE dolls. I use white out and a marker to make variations on the original.  I copied them at 60% so that I could fit two to a page for the coloring books.  I played around with the printer so that I had one on the front right side of the page, and then if you turn the page over, another on the back right side.  Does that make sense?  Anyway, it worked out so that when I stacked the pages and folded them, there is a picture on every right hand page.
I also wanted to make some even smaller coloring books, because I thought that would appeal to Larkspur.  So rather than using the full paged doll, I used the doll ornament file, and some white out to prepare to make some new characters to color.  Keats saw what I was doing and asked if he could draw some.  He came up with the cat/child hybrid above which I thought was especially creative.  I hadn’t intended to draw anything but more boys and girls.
So, inside these little coloring books are:
these two guys…
…and these two; all inspired by Keats’ drawing.  I think Larkspur will be really excited when she sees these.
Since Keats enjoyed creating his own characters so much, I made quite a few books with these incomplete dolls, so that the kids can create their own.  I am so thankful to Sarah, from The Small Object, for creating and sharing this great little drawing.
My kids can amuse themselves for at least a few minutes with foil stars and blank notecards, so those are in the bag.
I also laminated a bunch of Arthur Rackham art postcards really for no other reason than I just love them and wanted to laminate them anyway.  In my dreams my children would look at these while we are driving and make up stories to tell each other aloud to go with each picture.  In reality they will probably look at them for about ten minutes.
Since I was laminating already, I let the kids choose their favorites from a set of holy cards and laminate them as well.  They are very fascinated by that little machine.  Again, they probably won’t look through these while meditating or anything fabulous like that, but they will probably look at them for a few minutes and maybe fight over who picked which one and who should get to keep it.
And for insurance, we will have Jonny’s laptop which can play Baby Einstein DVDs for Beatrix.  She’s a bit young for t.v., but hopefully she will like them!

Friday Craft: Paper Mache Bowls

I have been working the kinks out of our schedule, and as we are settling into our routine I have realized that Friday is going to be our craft day.   I am not sure if I will do this every week, but hopefully at least every other Friday. I plan to share our Friday craft session here when I do.  My plan is to try and stick to crafts that don’t require a trip to Michael’s.  So far, so good.
Somehow I’ve  made it to age 31 without ever doing paper mache, so I joined the kids on this one.  I really loved this project. I got the idea and instructions from Handmade Home.
The night before, I hunted down four bowls.  One for me to share with Larkspur, and one for each of the big boys.  Each was covered with two layers of foil.  One would probably be enough, but I kept ripping my foil.  The inside of the bowl doesn’t matter, you are only using the outside as your mold.
I also cut the paper strips the night before.  I used a rotary cutter and cutting mat, so this was quick and easy, but obviously regular scissors would be fine.  The strips were approx. 1″ by 4 or 5.”  I cut a bunch of newspaper, some white copy paper, and some colored tissue paper (the tissue paper strips were all different widths and lengths), then bagged it all separately.  I am not sure if you can really see that in the above picture since Willy thinks he needs to be in the middle of everything.
There are the newspaper strips and there is Gabe.  Gabe who teases me for taking pictures of everything, but who then tries to get in every picture. Hmmmm.  Anyway, each of us had our own jar of newspaper strips to prevent a bunch of reaching across, shoving, arguing and all those other things that boys do.
There’s the homemade paste.  I made it the day of, letting it cool before pouring it into individual jars as well.  Here’s the recipe from Handmade Home:
1/2 cup white flour
2 1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp salt
Combine ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickened and paste-like, stirring frequently.  According to the book, you can add a drop of clove oil to prevent the paste from getting moldy.  I am guessing this is if you are going to store the paste, so probably unecessary if you are using it the same day.  I had some on hand, so I added it, just to make the paste smell yummy.  Of course my kids thought it smelled gross.  This recipe made enough paste for four bowls, and possibly a fifth if your kids can restrain themselves from really globbing it on.
Willy, wondering where his bowl is.  No, really he’s wondering if the paste tastes good.
First you paste about four layers of newspaper to your covered bowl.  Brush the paste on the strips and just keep laying them on until you think you have four layers or so.  Each of my kids did this their own way.  Keats was very careful and methodical, Gabe moved slowly and managed to use up all his paste in about five minutes, and Seth was under the impression that we were competing to see who could finish the fastest.
Of course you could stop here with just the newspaper and just paint it after it dries (optional:  apply a layer of gesso and then paint it).
We added a layer of white copy paper to add strength, and to block out the newsprint so that the tissue paper would look all pretty.
Because the tissue paper is so thin, you can’t paint the paste directly on the strips or it will rip. Your bowl is probably pretty wet with paste at this point anyway.  We just pressed the strips on, and then added paste on top to the dry spots.  Be very careful, because the tissue paper rips really easily.
Our bowls were ocean themed in honor of Flipper, whom we’ve been watching lately, thanks to Netflix.
We let them dry on the table for a few hours, and then, because I am impatient, I went ahead and carefully removed them from the molds to speed the drying time.  I layed them on our outdoor drying rack to dry for the rest of the day, but brought them inside that night.
They were still damp the next morning, so back out to the drying rack they went.  By the end of that sunny day, they were dry.
Mine is now holding sewing notions and ragdoll parts.  I’m pretty sure Seth’s is already full of bottle caps.
Easy fun project with great results (from a great book I might add).  You should try it!  What should we make with paper mache next?