Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Boxes are the best

I have probably taken a photograph of my children in a box every week of their lives! They love sitting in them and going to new imaginary places in rockets, planes, cars, fire trucks, elevators and carriages.

This box has had a number of incarnations and on the day that the above picture was taken it was a school. You can see they are sitting on tiny chairs, but what you can't see is the enormous pile of pens at their feet.

I almost forgot that Margot has also made this same box into a Sarcophagus, and herself into a mummy using toilet paper and washi tape!

One of the best things about playing in boxes for me, is that there can be as much or as little direction from the parent. There are endless things that they can come up with on their own, or you can get out the paints and Xacto knife and build a house with opening doors and windows.

Do your kids like to play in boxes? What is their favorite thing to do with them?

I am linking this post to 'a portrait of my kids once a week for 52 weeks' over at lovely Che and Fidel.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Freak Flag Fridays

Yes, it's Saturday and I'm writing my Freak Flag Friday post now. I've been looking forward to writing this post all week, but as you know life can be messy and throw you a curve ball.

On Tuesday my husband got a bad concussion when he slipped and fell on the ice while out running. He couldn't remember how he got home (about 20 minutes of lost time)! He's not been himself since and the doc assures us this is normal. The CT scan looks fine, but it's really odd to have someone you know not seem like themselves. He looks like a lost little boy most of the time even though he's trooping off to work.

Our brains are at once so delicate and resilient.

On Monday I was excited about Friday, but then Friday arrived and I was so discombobulated by the week that I couldn't get the post done. So here I am on Saturday night writing while my husband is asleep and the kids are watching a movie.

Next Friday I'll explain how Freak Flag Friday came about - I promise.

I hope you have a good weekend.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I was inspired by Rachelle over at Tinkerlab to help grow the community of artists (large and small) on Instagram. Follow Tinkerlab's tags #creativetable and #tinkersketch.

And join in Messy Lab's too - - #messylabcoloring - - Try to take the photo as your child is in the process of coloring, using natural light and not a flash. We'll get a better chance to really see what you are creating that way.

Add the hashtag to the comment under your photo.

I can't wait to see what you and your kids are collaborating on. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

going with the flow with salt dough

Another title for this post might be 'How to go with the flow when your preschooler wants to do something completely different than the activity you planned to do with her'.

I didn't tell her what I had in mind as I do like to go with the kids creative ideas, but today I did have what I thought would be a fun idea brewing.
I wanted to make salt dough people and creatures and then make a diorama for them.
She wanted to feel the ooey mixture of salt flour and water on her hands.
I wanted to add one color to each ball of dough that would then get made into a specific shape.
She wanted to splatter color all over the big mound of flour and salt.
I wanted to be careful not to get food coloring all over our hands.
She wanted to smoosh all the colors onto the ball and see how many she could get on her hands.
I wanted to break the ball in to smaller pieces and color each of them.
She wanted to make a volcano.
I wanted to play with the volcano.
She wanted to cut the ball in to smaller pieces and bake them 'into candy'.
Before baking on parchment paper for 2 hours at 200 degrees. You can also let them air dry over night.
The stained counter top before I scrubbed it with Bon Ami. 

 It was a wonderful lesson for me to remember to listen and have patience. Do you find it true that you have agendas and lists for the day and if they get derailed it can be very frustrating? If you are a parent, have you become more or less patient when this happens (since having kids)? 

Losing track of my agenda is a daily occurrence for me and sometimes I am more patient than others.

I tend to be more patient if I've slept well, not drunk a glass of wine with dinner the night before, and had 30 minutes to myself before the kids wake up. 

What about you? What helps you to be more patient with your children / co-workers / spouse? 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

2.16 portrait of sibling love

These two are seriously best buds. They play, fight, love, play, sleep, laugh, cry, play, eat, sleep, read and poop together every day. It makes my heart sing to see the love between them.


"I want to make art" is M's latest refrain. Now this isn't once a week, or even once in a blue moon, it's every day. Yes, every day I hear in a loud clear voice, usually from across the house "Mummy, I want to maaaake aaaaart".

On the particular day that I am thinking of M was sitting on my lap at the end of lunch. She saw the Mod Podge perched at the end of the table and asked to make a robot. To be honest I didn't have the energy to get out paper, scissors and odds and ends for collaging so I said "use what's on the table already". 

Sometimes it's a good idea to let go of our perceived notions of what art should look like, or how a child should do an art project. Look at what is in front of you in a new way. Tooth picks and cheese could be a tower, paper and forks could make a tent, and left overs could become an orange rind and pretzel robot.

These moments teach children to look at every day life with new eyes, to be fascinated with the world around them, to practice non-linear thinking, and in this case we also talked about what shapes she was using to create her robot.

I'd love to hear what fun and quirky things you have made with your kids that surprised even you?

A messy post by Margot

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Monday, February 11, 2013

studio set up + stamped valentine cards

It's been a long time coming and finally I have a studio with light (It is a very gray day here in the midwest so please excuse the lack of sunshine). This sun room (next to our living room - see the corner of the couch?) was my kid's play room and I have claimed it! They now have the office for a playroom and it is so cozy and chock a block full of toys, lego and art supplies.

I love setting up a new space as I try to cull out the objects and tools that are obsolete or have just been hanging around too long. I have a much more edited version of a desk now (below) and the trick will be keeping it this way. Any suggestions welcome!

This (below) is my box o' collage goodies. It sits right next to me on the warm radiator, and when the cat is not trying to lie on top of it I can easily access it. 

So far I am loving it, although I think the rules about using this space are still a bit like this day - gray and fuzzy. We'll work on that.

We did make some valentine cards yesterday at my studio table. R + M were so excited to see how I carved a lino heart  and glued it on an old stamp handle we had hanging around in our stamp box.

We used these exquisite name stamps carved for my kids by Molly Carlson of Emerson Street Creative.
I met her at my kid's school Artisan Fair in December and we talked about what I was looking for. Low and behold a couple of weeks before Christmas she emailed me with photos of these stunning stamps that she hand carves.

You can see more of her stamps in her shop on Artfire. She also has beautiful prints of Gulf coast wild life paintings she has done (they were originally sold for a fundraiser after the oil spill).

R + M are going to write each child's name on a card and hand them out at school. It is a custom that I am still getting used having grown up in England where we did nothing for our class mates for any holiday. There are some very fun and beautifully designed packs of cards to buy these days, but I couldn't pass up a chance to use our beautiful stamps. Thanks Molly.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

portrait of my kids once a week for 2013

My children are mad about dressing up. It's probably the thing I have to clean up the most around out house. There will be Princess Leia dresses, knight armor and fairy wings distributed in a wave across our dining room as they make costume changes. Here they are a cat and a fairy. I love their twinkling mischievious eyes.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

washi tape cards

"Mummy, where's the tape"? I think I hear this question 25 times every day. I'm not sure if you've found this but kids are addicted to tape like I am addicted to coffee. I could drink it all day and they could stick, wind up, bind and hang tape just as often. 

Washi tape used to be off limits to the kids in our house, but then I thought why just look at it in all it's prettiness on a shelf in my studio when I can have it all over the house? It also doesn't need scissors to cut and peels off walls without taking paint off too. What could be better?

Yesterday we made a birthday card for R + M's grandmother using washi tape, oil pastels and, of course, our current fave - glitter!  Make a simple design with the washi tape on paper or card stock. 

Color with pastels, pens or pencils around the tape. With this heart we also added glitter. We put a thin layer of Mod Podge inside the heart, careful not to touch the tape so that it wouldn't glue it down too.

Carefully peel off the washi tape to reveal the designs underneath. For the letter B we then painted a thin layer of Mod Podge and added glitter to the open area. The kids thought it was hilarious when I wrote on the envelope of the card "Beware: Glitter Galore"!

(I did put a thin layer of Mod Podge on the cards when they were dry to seal the glitter on to the page).

Going in the mail today! Late, but not forgotten, dear B.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I don't normally post about things that happened more than a month ago, but I stumbled upon these photos this morning and they made me laugh so hard I feel I have to share them.

These shots were taken in October 2010 by a friend of ours, David Sampson. He's faithfully documented our kids as they grow and we try to support him by sporadically going to hear his amazing band, Cains and Abels play. It's hard to go to shows now as they are so late (I feel pitifully old saying that)!

I remember that this day in October wasn't particularly cold and so we went outside. I think we gathered as many fallen leaves as we could for the kids to play in and laid out a plaid wool blanket for us to sit on. As many events  with kids go it started out organized, fun and under control. Within 10 minutes we had reached disorder, hair pulling and gleeful screaming!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dirty Concoctions

Miss M is sitting at my side begging to make another dirty concoction right now! Its her favorite pastime at the moment, along with drawing on her face with markers a close second.

Materials needed:

Lots of small bowls
Lots of small spoons

As many or as few as the following as you wish:
flour (wheat or white)
baking powder / soda
water, milk, juice, cold coffee or tea, vinegar (if you want froth try vinegar and baking soda)

Plus any other things you find in the back of your kitchen cupboards that you think would be fun to stir into a messy oooey gooey mixture!

To change the color try spices like paprika, or cumin. Throw in a few drops of food coloring or experiment with veggie juices like beet root.

We usually start with a small amount of water and I put a little of each ingredient in bowls as we go along. She scoops the various powders and liquids in to her mug or larger bowl and stirs with delight. I also try to remember to have her smell the various ingredients, but she normally does it before I even mention it now!

Please let me know what other ingredients you stumble upon that are a hit.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Art kit

Both of my sisters are great cooks. One is a very good baker, and the other complains that most of the cakes she makes never rise! I've been thinking a lot about her today as her daughter is going to be 3 tomorrow and I'm sure she's making a cake and wondering how it's going to turn out. On her blog about cooking with children you can read about the fantastic rocket cake she made for her son last year. The same year that my son wanted a satellite for a cake! I'll have to post a photo of it as I was pretty proud of it.  
Last week I put together a little art kit for my niece. You can see above and below that I included beads with the letters of her name, oil pastels, stickers, ballet tattoos, and feathers.
 It was incredibly satisfying to gather all the ingredients, so to speak, and distribute them in the tiny glassine envelopes (I love tiny things).
I hope to have a link to my etsy shop in the coming weeks with some small art kits for sale. There are some incredible art kits out there, but they are usually large and expensive. I hope I can make mine small and inexpensive. It would be great to also offer personalization with beads and a cut paper letter, as I did with the letter M for my niece.