Thursday, October 31, 2013

A multicolored castle

This is our Lego castle. It took us a week, and most of our bricks, to build.
What massive structure have you created with Legos lately?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Hobbit Feast!

September 22 is my oldest daughter's birthday. It is also the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. If you are Tolkien fans like we are, you will understand what a treat it is for my daughter to share her birthday with such famous literary characters! And it may come as no surprise to you that she requested a Lord of the Rings themed birthday celebration.

She was turning 18. It was quite possibly the last real birthday party she would have here at home. So we indulged her, and planned a Hobbit Feast that even Bilbo himself (and the dwarves, no doubt) would have been proud of!

No Hobbit party would be complete without this
sign on the door! I found the sign online and printed it,
then tea stained it to make it look like parchment.

We tried to give our house a Hobbit hole feel by having
little touches like these candles and a map of Middle Earth.

Hobbit beverages. We also had tea and coffee! 

The feast! There is always a lot of food at a Hobbit party.
See the "One Ring Cake" as the centerpiece? I forgot to put
the mushrooms out before I took the picture, but we didn't
forget that hobbit favorite.

Our Hobbit feast menu. I left off strawberries
and cream, but they were there!

An uninvited guest, the largest spider we've ever seen in our house!
My younger daughter said it was "the spawn of Shelob." Fitting.

Whatever the occasion, themed parties are tons of creative fun! What kind of themed party might you have at your

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Making Marbled Paper

Making beautiful marbled paper is messy business, but there's nothing quite like having paper you designed yourself to use for crafting. This paper can be used in just about any paper craft you can think of -- card making, scrap booking, a background for a drawing or college, or it can be unique stationery for a note to Grandma.
Here is what you need to make your own marbled paper:
  • sturdy paper, such as card stock or thick drawing paper
  • food coloring in a variety of colors
  • shaving cream foam (not gel)
  • waxed paper 
  • an old gift card or other object with a smooth, flat edge
  • a toothpick or skinny paintbrush
1. To begin, spread out newspaper over a large working area. Cut several sheets of waxed paper and arrange them on your working surface so that you have a working space a few inches wider and longer than the paper you will be working with. 

2. Put a generous blob of shaving cream in the center of the waxed paper.

3. Using the gift card, spread the shaving cream evenly over the waxed paper, so that the area is slightly larger than the paper.

4. Drop a few drops of food coloring, in contrasting colors, onto the shaving cream in a random pattern.

 5. Using a toothpick or the wrong end of a skinny paintbrush, swirl the food coloring around until it looks marbled. It is similar to making a marbled cake.

 6. It should look something like this:

Don't worry if yours turns out looking messier. It will still
look interesting when finished!

 7. Set the paper directly onto the shaving cream and press gently and evenly to ensure all of the paper is coated.

 8. Remove the paper slowly. It will be covered in a thick coating of colorful shaving cream.

 9. Use the wide edge of the gift card to scrape the foam off of the paper, and wipe the colorful foaminess back onto the waxed paper to be used again.*

 10. And now you have a beautiful sheet of marbled paper. Leave it to dry overnight!

*You can use the same batch of shaving cream twice. Follow these steps again with the shaving cream that you scraped off the paper. Try not to mix it up too much when you spread it out over the waxed paper, and don't add any more food coloring. The paper will not have the same swirly pattern, but it will still be interesting.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


We've talked about giving our kids cameras before. Taking photos can be a fun way to get creative no matter where you are! And with things like iPhones and iPods, taking pictures is easier than ever. These photos were taken by my daughter Samantha during our recent vacation to Minnesota, using an app called Instagram. What's fun about using Instagram is that you can experiment with different photo styles, lighting, brightness and contrast, black and whites, and so much more. 

Samantha loves her Converse, and I love the contrast
in this photo. It really pops!

Pretty cool (or hot!) close-up of the smoldering fire.
Have your kids done anything creative with a camera lately?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Did you miss me?

I've been a busy lady for the last 2 1/2 months: we sold our home, had a baby (our eighth, and we're thrilled!), moved to a temporary rental home, and bought another house two states away. Whew.

We're about to move to the new house, and I've packed up most of the household again, including a lot of our children's things.

So what are they supposed to play with now?

I was quite pleased to find them this morning, playing with dolls and accessories they'd improvised from pipe cleaners. Not a single "I'm booooooored," or nagging from Mom for them to find something to do.

A slice of pizza

Table and chair, with a flower centerpiece



Doll #1 in the chair

I'm told Doll #2 is pregnant :D

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When was the last time you played with Legos?

Legos are as important as bread in our house. We just can't live without them! My kids and I have had many late nights working on some Lego project, most often some kind of house or building of some sort. After the hours and hours of building, our masterpiece will be proudly displayed on the family room shelf, and taken down often to be examined, played with or adjusted.

Legos, or other similar building blocks, are the ultimate creative toy. You can make just about anything you think of with the right assortment of Legos. If you haven't gotten the Legos out in a while, why not make an afternoon or an evening of it with the family?

You might just end up with something awesome, like this:

It's a Lego hotel, with two guest rooms and a pool!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Creative fun on the North Shore

Our family went on vacation to the north shore of Lake Superior recently. My husband's parents came along with us, and we all had a fabulous time despite the chilly northern Minnesota weather.

We spent a lot of time chillin' out at the beach, enjoying the waves and relaxing near a bon fire. On the first day, Abuelo (that's Spanish for Grandpa) built this for the kids:

Now, that's what I call creative outdoor fun!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Recommendation: Crafty Chloe

Here is a book recommendation for all of you with crafty kids. Crafty Chloe is a charming picture book about a little girl who uses her crafty creativity to solve a birthday gift dilemma.

So read the book! And check out the Crafty Chloe Make-Stuff Blog to find fun crafts for kids.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Mini Poetry Workshop!

Let's face it: poetry is hard.

But it can be fun to write, especially if you understand some of the things that make poetry so darn cool. Like imagery, alliteration, rhythm and, of course, rhyme! Once you (and your kiddos) understand more about how to use these devises in your writing, poetry can become less of a struggle, and more of an engaging challenge.


This is simply what you see put into words. When done well, imagery will transport a reader from one place to another, if only in their mind. It is what gives a poem, or any other piece of writing, a sense of place, and can greatly affect the mood.


Before me the grasses bend

in rhythm with the breeze,
and a cottonwood’s leaves shimmer and dance in the sunlight


Alliteration is a series of words that begin with the same sound, as is often done on tongue twisters. Using alliteration in poetry adds a layer of interest to the way a poem sounds when read aloud.


His blood is black and boiling hot.
He gurgles ghastly groans. 

(from "The Troll" by Jack Prelutsky)


All language has a natural rhythm. In poetry, especially rhyming poetry, the rhythm is often a predictable pattern of stressed and unstressed beats, like in a song. This rhythm is usually referred to as meter.


Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

These lines have a predictable patter of stressed and unstressed beats. The pattern is simple; every other syllable in each line is stressed. The trick to meter is working the right words into the poem in such a way that the words' natural rhythms will fit into the meter. You can see in the example below how I have fit other words into the same pattern:

Blizzard, blizzard, watch it blow
Whirling, swirling, ice and snow


This one is fairly straight-forward. It is good for budding poets to learn the difference between true rhyme (cat/fat) and near rhyme (rain/again).rhyme can be one of the trickiest parts of writing poetry because of the challenge it can be to find a word that 1) fits the meter, 2) makes sense with the rest of the poem, and 3) rhymes perfectly. A good rhyming dictionary, like the online one at is a handy tool.

Now, you try it!

1. Have your kids practice imagery by writing descriptive phrases of things they see around them.

2. Practice making up goofy alliterative phrases.

3. Try working on rhythm by writing new words for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Say the words aloud to hear how they fit in the meter.

4. Make lists of rhyming words.

5. Now you are ready to try writing your own poem!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fill Up the Art Box

Whether it is one big box or a few boxes and some dedicated shelf space, it's good to have all or most of your art supplies in one area when creating time comes around. In our house, we use a combination of shelf space and the art box. Here I've filled up our art box with some of our most used items to give you an idea of what kinds of things you might want to include in your collection of art supplies.

Having a box like this is handy for those times when you might want to bring your kids outside (on the deck, porch, to the park) to get them creating. Everything you need is there, with the exception of paper and water. Upon close inspection, you should see the following items:

  • two kinds of paint
  • paint brushes of varying sizes
  • sponge pieces
  • a container for rinsing brushes (we use repurposed lemonade mix containers)
  • scissors
  • a star-shaped hole puncher
  • two kinds of glue
  • pencils
  • a box of oil pastels
  • markers
  • paper towels
  • styrofoam for stamping/printing
  • repurposed lids and fruit cups for paint mixing
  • an eraser
  • fabric scraps for collage
  • old magazines (on the bottom) for collage 
Some other things you might want to add to your box could be crayons, colored pencils, lengths of yarn or string, and other little bits that could be fun to collage with.

What other things might you put in your box?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Celebrate Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month, which is a great excuse for you share the wonders and joys of poetry with your children. Exploring various forms of poetry with your kids is a valuable way to get them talking and thinking about imagery, figurative language, rhyme, and meter. The cool thing is, you don't even have to mention those fancy, technical words when talking about poetry. Kids will often pick up on those things themselves without realizing it.

Here are some ways you can explore poetry with your children this month:

  • Read lots of poetry, in different forms. Pick up a poetry book or a rhyming picture book to read at bed time. Poetry anthologies are good resources because they often have a variety of poetic forms to choose from. Nonsense rhymes and limericks can be fun to start with, but don't be afraid to wade out a little deeper and read some haiku or free verse. 
  • Encourage your independent readers to read novels in verse, such as LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech or MAY B. by Caroline Starr Rose. For teenagers, I recommend SHARK GIRL by Kelly Bingham and OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse.
  • Write poetry together. One thing I did with my children when they were younger was to change the words of children's songs, such as Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star or Jingle Bells. They might also enjoy writing list poems, like Shel Silverstein's Sick or Jack Prelutsky's It's Raining Pigs and Noodles
  • Make up tongue twisters. Doing this can not only be fun and hilarious, but also gets your kids practicing alliteration (puffy pandas paddle in puddles).
  • Have a poetry night at your house. Encourage your kids (and you and your spouse) to choose a poem (or poems) to read aloud or memorize a poem to recite. Make it a real celebration complete with party snacks. This could be a way to end poetry month with flair!
Later this month, I will talk specifically about different forms of poetry as well as some fun ways to blend poetry and art. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Felt art

A couple of weeks ago, I was working on a hand-sewn project when one of my little girls wandered in to hang out with me. While we chatted, she watched my every stitch. 

I wondered if she'd like to give sewing a whirl.

We went to Walmart and picked up several sheets of felt and some matching embroidery floss, plus a large-eyed, easy-to-thread needle. When we came home, I showed her how to thread a needle, how to knot the end of her floss, and a very basic running stitch

She was ready to roll:

This is now a favorite activity of hers, and it keeps her busy for hours.


For kidlings that are a little too young to use a needle and shears, consider making some sewing cards: punch holes in a thin piece of cardboard (like a cereal box) with a hole punch, and let them practice the ins and outs with a shoelace or a piece of yarn. They'll love being just like mom.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tips for Painters

Here is a good tip for keeping art/craft time fun, neat, and cost-effective.

When working with acrylic paints, you will find that, unlike watercolors, they are not water-soluble once dry. But what do you do with all the blobs of paint that are left over when craft time is done?

Drip a drop or two of clean water onto the blob of paint, set the paint cups (we use old peanut butter or mayo lids) onto a tray and put the whole thing into a zipper bag. Seal the bag up and you can leave it for a day or two without it drying out.

Here are a few other tips to remember when using acrylic paints:

  • Acrylic paint is good to use on heavy paper, paper board, canvas and wood crafts. It will not stick to glossy surfaces such as glass or plastic. 
  • Acrylic paint will not wash out once dry! Wear a paint shirt or old clothing. If paint gets on your good clothes, rinse them in cold water right away to help remove the paint and prevent a stain. Same goes for carpet. Avoid painting in a carpeted room if possible, or use a drop cloth to keep the carpets clean. 
  • Remember to wash brushes right away.
  • Acrylic paints mix well and can be thinned with water. 
Have fun painting!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Creative babies

Babies are naturally creative, too!

Creativity, in its infancy, comes in the form of learning how things sound, look, smell, taste, feel, and what they do.

"What will happen if I smoosh this... or hit that - with this? Stretch this?"

Stimulate your little one's imagination at a tender age!

Some "toys" that encourage exploration and yield satisfying results for the infant artist:

~ wooden spoons and metal bowls and pans, for music-making
~ small boxes, for stacking (and toppling)
~ mealtimes, for "finger-painting" and a variety of textures and tastes
~ hiding-and-finding games with mama or siblings, for problem-solving
~ a mirror, for self-study
~ someone to read brightly illustrated stories, for literary development
~ the family's piano, lullabies, and recorded music, for singing, dancing, and composing
~ people who laugh and cheer at baby-antics, for performance

No need for expensive computerized learning toys and posh private pre-schools. Everything your prodigy needs is right there at home already.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Project Idea -- mixed media pictures

Get your kids inspired with a few cut-up sponges, some poster paint, paper and glue...and look at the kind of art they can do:

Sponge painting is so easy. All you have to do is dip and dab! Start with a slightly damp (not drippy) square of sponge, dip into the paint and dab onto the paper. Add details to the painting with pieces of construction paper, like the sun's rays in this project.

What will your kids create with paint and sponges?