Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Getting Wormy With It- Family Vermicomposting!

We have decided to add some new  members to our family.
You may recall that the last time
I made an announcement like this it was to introduce you to "Tiny the Snail"

We also have two geriatric cats, Elly and Daisy...
and our fish (Aquamarine, Baby Gippy, Mooey, assorted un-named tetras,
and an aquatic snail named "Fishy Fin")
and our 2 frogs (Frog Lloyd Wright and Lilly)

Now. We. Have. Worms. Over a pound of Redworms.
So, that would mean we have approximately 600 to 1,000 very wiggly new family members.

"Family members" that arrive by mail in a gallon ziplock bag
with a few stray hitch-hiking flies. 

Hello wormies!
Welcome to our kitchen, we have a nice little, warm home waiting for you
and two picky little girls who won't eat crust.

Get ready for lots of apple cores, tea bags (without staples!), strawberry stems,
crumbs from under the kitchen table, banana peels, coffee grounds, dryer lint, shredded newspaper.

I think we're going to get along  swimmingly....or "wiggling-ly."
Yes, I could have gotten all crafty and made a worm bin from a rubbermaid box
but this one fits in my kitchen nicely, matches my (ultimate dumpster diving score!)
black painted china hutch, and has a handy little drain for that awesome compost tea.

We still have our big Blue Planet bin going in the backyard
(great for leaves, yard waste, and big fridge clean-outs)
but this one is handy for table scraps.

Here are some Worm Composting Links:

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Worm Composting Information
(good step by step photos of how to build your own worm bin!)

How to Worm Compost by

Build your own Worm Bin out 
of Nursery Flats

National Wildlife Federation
Worm Information

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Garden With Kids

This weekend we were busy little bees
building our new raised garden bed
in the front yard
(it gets better sun than our backyard!)

We picked a spot next to the driveway.
I just hope it actually grows and does well 
since I'm the drop off house for our CSA this year
and I don't want the farmer 
(and the other participants)
laughing at my failed gardening attempts.

The girls and I are growing our own
veggies from seed this year
so they can see how our food actually grows.

The girls painted these cute little
 wooden plant markers 
(we got them in a packet from Michaels last year)
with washable acrylic paint.

Then you just seal them with clear acrylic spray.

They look like popsicle sticks with shapes on top.

Then, I put my little first grader, "E" in charge of reading the seed packets
and writing the names on the plant markers.

My sweet hubby got to work
building us this raised "L-shaped" garden bed 
on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday morning, my dad drove out in his truck so we could make
two runs to get a yard of top soil and compost. 

He made it 8 feet long on the two long sides
and 4 feet long on the smaller sides 
of the "L" shape
to make it have easy access for me and the girls on all sides. 

He built it for me with non-pressure treated wood
so we won't have any yucky chemicals leach into our food.
As you can see our side yard slopes so he had to build it accordingly. 

It looks like a Heart from our driveway!
I heart my new garden : )

The finished garden bed,
built by my sweet hubby.

 for my birthday this year from my folks!)

My mini gardener "E" hard at work
labeling her plant markers.

Garden Markers
and seed packets. 

When we finished planting everything, the Frog Princess "E" and I 
sat down and drew a couple of maps
of our new garden bed for our gardening notebook.

We'll know what we planted 
and where we planted it
(since most of our plants are direct-sown seeds this year)

Next year,  we'll have our maps as a guide to see what works and what did not. 

Maybe we'll find buried treasure...(or at least a leftover onion like we did this year!)

We'll grow sunflowers in the backyard
along with our lettuce and radishes that are coming along nicely
in our planter boxes on the deck
(out of bunny reach)
herbs and tomatoes in pots by the playhouse

Thursday, April 22, 2010

* Family Field Trip: Hillwood Museum and Gardens

Happy Earth Day!
Today I'll do a photo-heavy show and tell of our field trip we took yesterday
to enjoy a little bit of this beautiful planet.

Yesterday, I pulled both of my girls
out of school to play hooky for the day and to take a family field trip
to the Hillwood Museum and Gardens in Washington DC.

Both Grandmothers (extra special treat!), Aunt D, baby cousin "A"
and a good family friend accompanied us.

Today's post isn't really an "ART" post but I'll share with you 
our outdoor adventure we had yesterday.

Get ready for LOTS of photos!
(Thank you mom and MIL for bringing cameras,
it was all I could do to get two kids dressed and out of the house 
before 7:30am and into DC on time!)

We did spend part of our time in Marjorie Merriweather Post's mansion, now a museum,
studying her extensive decorative art collection from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Mostly porcelain, faberge eggs, 
chalices, oil paintings, dishes, gowns, jewelry, crystal - bling, bling, and more bling!

No photos of the museum goodies, cameras have to be checked
(with umbrellas and coats) at the door of the museum. 

It was a wonderful just girls adventure albeit a bit rainy that was okay with me, 
we dressed in layers and we had the gardens practically to ourselves.

We explored her greenhouse(s)
Yes, her greenhouse had 5 sections/giant rooms.

So many pretty orchids!

Holy Orchid Vines Bat Man!

 "E" loved the texture of these leaves.

Off to explore the gardens!

Our FAVORITE spot of the day was the Japanese garden.

Umm... I can do this in my backyard right?!

Couldn't go across this walkway -- they were repairing the waterfall...
But... we could do this one

and we all LOVED it!

See all of those little black things on the rock? Those are TADPOLES!!

Not just frog tadpoles but toad tadpoles so we called them "Toad-poles" 
Har har har....sorry. 

Check out this MONSTEROUS
Jack in the Pulpit -- it wasn't all the way open yet and it was bigger than "C"s shoe!

Snack break for my favorite Niece!

After our wet and rainy garden explorations
we hit the cafe (where we had a reserved table waiting for us!)
for a delicious french lunch and fun coloring sheets. 

(Soggy) Ladies who lunch.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Displaying Children's Art Work at Home

When I was an art teacher,
and now as a parent of two little prolific artists,
I am frequently asked, 

"What is the best way to display
children's art work?"
My reply...
The BEST way to display your 
child's art work is whatever
way works BEST for your lifestyle,
decor, budget, and home.

There isn't going to be one
answer or solution that fits everyone.

Today I'll share a few solutions
that work for my family
(and take you on a little show and tell around my house)

1. First option is expensive but will last for years and years.
This would be the professional framing and matting option 
with archival quality, acid-free backing and matting material 
to prevent the art work from turning yellow,
 and UV glass to prevent fading. 

This "abstract" watercolor was painted by 
the Frog Princess "E"when she was 2 and half years old.

I love the colors and the expressive quality of it.
I had it framed in an acid free, archival quality
white mat with a three inch border and a 
simple, contemporary-style black frame. 

It suits the piece and gives it a more sophisticated feel
so that is can hang over the fire place or in our dining room
just as easily as it would in a child's room or playroom.

2. Simple option for paintings on canvas
paint the edges and skip the frame.
If you get tired of them, gesso over them and start over.

These abstract acrylic paintings
were also painted by the Frog Princess "E"
before her third birthday. 

Because I gessoed the entire bottom canvas black
and the top canvas white (before the painted them)
I did not need to frame them. 
The sides of the canvas are already painted by me -- 
it's the same trick I use with my own work,
I paint all of my own painting edges black and don't frame any of them.

This robot painting was painted by "E"
when she was four and completely obsessed with robots.
It hangs with painted edges (and no frame) in our playroom.

3. If you have a lot of work that changes regularly
and you don't want to spend a lot of money, here's 
a solution I used in the hallways at my school.

 This self portrait was made by "E" in Kindergarten. 
I placed it in an 
acrylic box-style frame,
These are VERY inexpensive and a great solution
for creating a rotating children's art gallery 
in a hallway,playroom, or bedroom. 

You can easily change the art work
(in a variety of sizes)
and the look of the whole piece by 
using different paper behind the artwork.

I just wrapped the cardboard box that
fits inside the acrylic frame 
with bright green gift wrap.
(the artwork floats on top of the box, sandwiched between the two layers)

4. An easy solution for stiff paper like
Watercolor paper or work on Card Stock, 
just set the artwork 
(or even a stack of art work that you rotate)
in a wooden plate holder
(they also come in clear acrylic). 

They come in a variety of sizes and finishes
to fit your budget and decor and (bonus!)
can be folded flat and stashed in a drawer
when not in use. 

This is great for seasonal art work
or a nature table display!

5. A dedicated display area 
for three-dimensional art work
like painted pottery,
clay pinch pots, 
plaster hand casts, 
painted picture frames, etc.

This etagere in the corner of our dining room
serves as a rotating gallery for all of our
larger masterpieces.

I also have a hutch that holds china
as well as my daughters' hand-painted plates
we've made at Paint-your-own-Pottery-type stores.

6.  A hanging clothes-line style solution.
We hung this wire (from IKEA's Curtain Department)
and use Metal Curtain clips to rotate art work
(and alphabet/number  flash cards)
around the top of our Playroom. 

7. You can always go with the tried and true
refrigerator covered with magnets
 and kid's art projects.

Great solution for all of those school pieces 
that can be up for a few days (weeks) 
then rotated to the recycling bin,
photographed for a digital scrapbook/coffee table book,
or put in a paper box to be saved/sorted later.

This option doesn't work if you have 
a stainless steel fridge since they are not magnetic!

Other options:
Make your own ART BOOK
Garage Wall Gallery
Wrapping Paper for Grandparents
Custom Notecards/ Gift Cards (I use Snap Fish & Kodak Gallery)
Bulletin Board
Digital Albums
Custom Coffee Table books!
Home-Made Calendars
Curtain rod and Curtain Clips
Clothes Line and Wooden Clothespins

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Preschool At Home: Learning to Recognize Letters and Numbers

The Mini-Saurus "C" (age three) 
is fascinated with 
Numbers and Letters
right now. 

She REALLY wants to know
how to spell her name.

She can recognize it when it is 
written down--
but, she isn't quite there yet 
when it comes to writing it herself

(She's still a bit young for that)

I decided to make her a 
file-folder game
with scrapbook stickers
and some glass rocks from the dollar store.

I made her two sets:
One with her name
one with the numbers 1-10.

(Please Note: Because I don't disclose
my children's names on my my public blog,
I'm only showing you the 
"Numbers" version of this game
but trust me, the name version is super cute!)

I spelled out her name 
with stickers on the rocks,
then I traced each "rock" on a file folder
and wrote her name again in stickers.

While we're playing,
I only give her the stones with the 
letters from her name,
so she doesn't get overwhelmed.

Later, when she's a bit older,
I'll mix in other letters
and/or add other 
family member names.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Preschool At Home: Sorting Animals Two By Two

The Mini-Saurus "C" and I have been spending more time trying to
do some preschool-like activities together while her older sister "E" is away at school.

I've found that I have fewer discipline issues with her when I keep her actively engaged
and actually sit down with her and "play" in a connected and present way.
When she acts up, it is usually because she doesn't have my attention. 

I'm not saying that we need to spend 24 hours a day waiting on our kids hand and foot 
with our undivided attention, nothing would ever get done around here if I did that.

But, I am realizing that because she's an easy kid I forget to really just sit down and play with her
like I used to do when I only had one child (when her big sister was this age!)

Sometimes, it can be hard as a parent to remember to stay connected 
and in the moment with our kids... our minds wander, laundry piles call,
email and facebook updates sing their time-wasting siren songs.

A simple, organized game thrown into the mix with the spontaneous
activities like walks around the neighborhood,
(playing in the sand table, playdoh, puzzles, polly pockets)
helps to break up the day and keeps my mind from wandering.

We dumped out our bin of tiny animals and found matching pairs of two.
They don't have to be identical,  just two of the same kind of animal. 
Then I put some in a bowl and gave her an empty egg carton. 

She enjoyed searching and sorting,
we called it "Mamas and Babies"
and paired up the mamas with their babies complete with tiny conversations 
in little voices for each set of critters. 

After the first round, she started pairing up two animals per opening in the egg carton
to make more families fit inside!

What kind of games do you play to stay engaged with your preschooler? 

One of my favorite blogs, the Parenting Passageway has written some great posts lately
about parenting exhaustion for parents of toddlers
with toddlers and older siblings in the 7-8 year old range!


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