Sunday, October 28, 2007

Playing with Clay

Yesterday was a cool day with just enough rain in the air to make you want to stay inside. It seemed like the perfect weather to cook up something on the stove. We decided to make something of the inedible variety--that being a batch of play clay. It is so easy and you can't buy the consistency of the homemade version.

Here's the recipe we used:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Food coloring (we use cake decorating pastes)
Mix the flour, water, salt, oil, and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until it holds together (keep mixing or it will stick to the bottom of the pan). When the clay is cool enough to touch, knead it on a floured surface and add food coloring. Store in an airtight container. We tripled this recipe which made more than enough for three eager kids.

With many of my kid's projects I remind myself that it's the process not the end product that is important and makes the little wheels in their mind spin and their creativity grow.
Play clay is all about the process--the squishing, bending and manipulating. Then there's the ease of crumbling it all up and starting over again.
A batch or three of play clay easily consumed over two hours of art time--which means no computer, tv or video games. Ahhhhh...tell me that's not worth every grain of salt!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Our School Rules!

The older kids are at school today, but not at this school. This is the satellite institution we've put together in our basement. Classes don't start here until after the real school gets out. This academy opened shortly after I found myself at an auction at an old neighborhood school that was being demolished so that it could be rebuilt. Everything had to go. Entire classrooms including all of the contents (whatever you could carry away or remove with your own tools and sweat) were being auctioned for as little as $10.00. I ended up with desks and chairs, maps, tables, books, a metal file cabinet and more. I can't tell you how much fun my kids and their friends have down here taking turns being students and teachers. And nothing makes me smile more than when they "play" school.

One of my favorite details of the kid school is this little "classroom rules" sign that popped up one day. Mind you I have said these things over and over again to my kids (with the exception of rule #4...which isn't an issue considering we only have one child that can read.) It is reassuring to know that the rules are floating around in their heads even if they don't always follow them. These are good statues for adults too. It's pretty easy to forget "be nice", "we are all friends" and "do your BEST!" Actually if I would change one thing it would be to capitalize the "your" in "do YOUR best" i.e. no one else's best. Otherwise I think my third grader has it down. What a ruler! : )

Monday, October 15, 2007

Solving the Puzzle

Believe me I know. My posts have been a bit few and far between the last few weeks. It's a matter of all of the blank spaces that need my, basketball, pumpkin patches, classroom volunteering, design work, hugs, art, bedtime stories, plumbing issues, homework, meals, date nights, dance lessons, laundry, birthdays etc etc.

However, I think I found some answers in a 1926 crossword puzzle book I purchased coming back from St. Louis a few weeks ago. Initially I picked it up because the patterns fascinated me, but as I peeked inside I discovered so much more. "Do's and Don'ts For Solvers" applies to more than crosswords. Click on the photo at the very top to read for yourself.

And then I started to wonder about the first owner of the book. A gal named Nancy who wrote her name in the front. She seemed to have figured out many of the answers, but maybe she peeked at the completed puzzles in the back of the book. Kind of like a home-cooked meal vs. "cheating" with take-out. Does it really matter in the end? Isn't the point to not stress so much over one problem, but move forward in the puzzle? "Don't spend so much time with the long words unless you are sure of them. They will appear when the short ones have been solved." Shortcuts taken to complete the less important tasks allow us to move ahead and spend more time on the bigger and more important challenges we face. Perhaps some spaces will be left blank for the time being. "When you have written in all the words you are sure of, you will have plenty of clues for the unknowns."

"If you are hopelessly stuck try another puzzle. Inspiration sometimes waits for a return engagement." Maybe tonight one of the short answers is spelled P-I-Z-Z-A so you can solve and complete one of the more important answers.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Space Crunch

We remodeled our 1940s kitchen almost 10 years ago. That was before kids. We knocked out a half wall separating the eat-in part with the kitchen part. The change certainly allowed for more counter space and a more open feel, but we still have by today's standards what is considered a small kitchen. Our love for the neighborhood makes that small kitchen easier to bear as does the latest seating solution my Dad crafted for us. We are determined to use ever square inch to the fullest and this wrap around booth style seating arrangement does just that. Before we had a table for four in the center and had to pull in another chair from the dining room to eat. There is no way I'm serving dinner to my kids in the dining room until they stop dropping and spilling things. Not that our dining room is fancy-smancy but it does have a rug vs. ceramic tile. So suddenly with the booth we are able to seat all 5 without bumping elbows. We can even squeeze in a couple of extra friends.

My clever father also added seat storage which is absolutely wonderful. Here we store our coloring supplies that are easy access whenever someone gets the urge.

I was snapping these pix around evening snack time. The funny thing is when Brendan came in and instead of utilizing all of these new seating options, decided to "share" a seat with Nora. I think it's so cute that they want to be close to each other. Who needs a bigger kitchen anyway?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Country Living

This past weekend I couldn't resist climbing out from behind my desk and getting to the Country Living Fair. It was held at the Workshops of David T. Smith in Morrow, Ohio. The ads had been running for weeks and as hard as I tried to ignore the promos, it beckoned. This is the second fair that Country Living magazine has sponsored with the first being in Chicago. We went this past Sunday which was the last day of the fair. Not only was the weather beautiful, but vendors said that the crowds were the thinnest. I heard stories of people waiting for two hours just to get off the highway exit the day before! Yikes! The only regret my husband and I had was the choice to bring three kids. While they were generally well-behaved it was pretty boring for them with the exception of a mini-hay maze to crawl through. We would have loved to have spent more leisurely time browsing and listening to the craft, food and decorating demonstrations (esp. me!), but this was not an option. So enjoy this photo stroll through the grounds with no one pulling on your sleeve asking if it's time to go home yet.

I love the albino pumpkins. And I think I'm going to use this guy for carving inspiration this year.
These stuffed fabric pumpkins are on my to-do list. You know the one that includes everything I'm gonna do as soon as the kids all hit college?
Cara can't resist touching!

Maybe it's a good thing the kids are pulling at our sleeves...I could have spent a fortune here.

I want those flashcards for some new work that I'm doing. However I've seen them at yard sales for MUCH less than $4 each. I ended up making it out with a FarmChick necklace (well two, but one's a gift!) from the pix way top and then a painting by artist Irene Gates. All justified. My birthday is next week!

Monday, October 1, 2007

"Rooster for Ransom"

Would it be odd to admit I kind of miss him? I haven't seen Reece the Rooster since June when I shipped him at a package/ship place. I made the package guy swear that he would package Reece up like he was his own child. I can't blame the nice package man for looking at me strangely--like "who is this eccentric woman shipping a bound-and-gagged rooster to Chicago?" I had brought a kid or two with me that day so police and the mental health department wouldn't be notified.

All in all the project was a fantastic experience. It was the ultimate crossword puzzle for stretching my brain in new directions. The mental challenge included how the whole thing would be constructed and pieced together, how the palette from the cans would color the piece and how I'd make texture from aluminium. I made the old time cut letter ransom note completely out of Red Bull cardboard packaging. I used a mix of every type of carton I could get my hands on...4 packs, 12 packs and the case packs. By the way you can click on the note to make it bigger.

The most frustrating part of the chicken making process was the sticking. I purchased and experimented with at least 6 different glue products. In the end--after losing my fingerprints to gorilla glue--I think I figured out what sticks aluminium and what doesn't. Next year I'll be ready.

By June deadline, 128 Red Bull masterpieces were submitted from all over the world with 38 being chosen for the Chicago exhibit. To see the '07 show in its entirety go to Click on Chicago exhibit and then gallery. You'll see who the Rooster will be hanging with in Chicago at the River East Art Center when the exhibit runs from November 9th-18th. You can enlarge the works of art and spin them around 360 degrees. I confess I get a big kick out of making Reece spin until he's dizzy and begging for mercy. You can also read each artist's bio which incorporates their inspiration. My piece did not place in the top three (shhhh...don't tell the chicken) which include "Vitalized Dragon", "Inside Out" and "A Casual Toss". Incredible, incredible work. Not just the judge's top three, but the entire show. I am completely honored to be a part of it.

Now for the shameless plug for my blog readers: VOTE! You can give the chicken a rating (I'm recommending 10) and then hit submit. Two prizes remain including the Internet vote and the People's Choice at the show. Regardless of prizes, the experience has been and continues to be absolutely amazing. Reece-you're still number one in my book. I'll see ya soon.