Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Little Bit Witchy

The biggest piece of advice I can give for artist/writers who are exploring art journaling is to never feel like every piece of artwork needs to be original.  Us bloggers post on our blogs and Pinterest so that others will see what we do and gain inspiration from it.  I have some favorite artist blogs that I follow for inspiration.

Penny Lane Ink (not currently updating)
But my all time most used resource is Pinterest.  
I am not looking for a visually stunning piece of art.  I am looking for something that will connect with children, challenge their artistic abilities and provide a writing opportunity.  In my mind, I need to be able to see where I will put words, whether they are my own original thoughts, a collage or a poem or quote I plan to copy.  Young children require more space on the page to write!
I love this page from Art Projects for Kids.  To complete this page we used: Sharpie Markers, Oil Pastels, and watercolor paint.  The simple lines of the drawing create a visually interesting, yet easy to replicate page.  

I always end up saying this, but these are one of my favorites!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Home Economics 101

Some days you can rock out lessons moving casually from one subject to the next.  The learning is an ebb and flow and at the end of the day you are completely amazed by what was accomplished.  Check off math.  Check off science.  Check of history.  

Then there are days when you have to content with the realities of the life you live.  A trip to the grocery store is required for items to cook a dinner for friends.  The dust bunnies can no longer she shooed away banished back to their home under the hutch and sofa.  While it would be so nice to spend the day in pajamas, with classical music playing and books strewn across the floor, some days that does not happen.
This is when I look very carefully at our day.  While I ran to the grocery store, Grace watched two hours of Liberty’s Kids to review her history and get caught up to where she is currently.  Lilah practiced piano and set up our back room for an art journaling session.  
Then we began to cook.  Together.  Grace made her first juice.  Apple, celery, ginger, lemon, zucchini, pear, carrot.  It was delicious.  For some strange reason, this moment reminded me of when I was in junior high and I took home economics as an elective.  I loved being in a room with stoves and counter tops and sitting on high stools at tall tables.  However, all I remember learning in this class is how to make baked Alaska with mini marshmallows.  I vividly remember that t was really, really gross.  
Today Grace learned something that not only can be classified as “home economics”, she learned a skill, which if practiced carefully and often can improve the health of her body.  It can heal illness.  It can strengthen immunity.  It can cleanse toxins.  She is not a big green smoothie fan but she loves juice.  Lilah and I gladly and gratefully drank the glasses she made for us and we capped the Ball Jar full of juice and set it to chill in the refrigerator for her father.  

Lilah, whose preference is clearly baking, has begun to explore cooking.  Together we made a huge shephard’s pie.  She peeled the potatoes while I chopped the carrots and onions.  She browned the ground beef while I minced the garlic.  She stirred in the tomato paste, the broth and the arrowroot.  She mashed the potatoes, layered the corn and finished it off with a heaping layer of creamy mashed potato goodness.  It was fun.  It was educational.  It was life learning at its finest.  We discussed how a restaurant plans and prepares a menu.  Actually, we questioned more than discussed.  I have no idea how a restaurant plans a menu and prepares daily for the food that must be ordered, prepped and cooked.  However, her uncle, Greg’s brother, has worked in many restaurants.  Perhaps he could answer some of these questions for us!  So about it, Uncle Gary......dinner in exchange for your insight into the restaurant industry?

Today was a very different day from one when we got through all our lessons and more.  Our checklist may have a few missing marks, but there is no trivializing the learning that took place in our kitchen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

You are a perfect You

When my girls were young I cancelled all my fashion magazines.  I did not want an InStyle Magazine on my coffee table inviting my impressionable daughters to compare themselves against Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan.  Little did I realize back then that this was in no way going to prevent my girls from repeated exposure to what the media and fashion industry deems to be “beautiful”. 

Disney.  I wonder what Mr. Walt would think of what his company has become? From child stars run wild, to Princesses scantily clad and rail thin derived from fairy tales so distorted from the original that they are barely recognizable copies of the masterpiece.  The marketing machine that is Disney has really outdone themselves this time in their latest collaboration with the upscale retailer Barney’s.  
From what I have read and viewed, this is the plan for Barney’s holiday window.  Minnie Mouse falls asleep and has a dream in which she is “model-thin” and able to wear the beautiful gowns that drape the human versions that walk the runways twice a year at New York’s fashion week.  
From this:

To this:

That is her dream.
I have to be very careful not to be hypocritical here.  I have a husband who works in the fashion industry, on 5th Avenue.  I have brought my children to Fashions’ Night Out.  I have taken them to beautiful stores, gazed at expensive clothing and every year we see the holiday windows.  I am well aware of the artistic expression and talents of many of the creative people that work for these companies.  They are artists.  They create a fantasy world which the majority of us do not partake in.  
It is up to us, the mothers and the fathers, to have an open dialogue about what true beauty is.  It is NOT a size zero.  It is NOT having the latest clothing.  It is NOT about the color of your hair and the shade of your foundation.  It is NOT about how many friends you have and where you shop.  I have been careful to balance sharing in the fun side of fashion, like attending FNO this fall, with responsibility, like leaving when the time was right, when it became more about being seen than having fun. 
I do believe that companies should take into consideration the young girls who see images everywhere and base their opinions of beauty, body image and self worth on them.  I do not think companies should be censored or fined for their business decisions, unless they cross a line such as using underage models or breaking pornography laws.  Companies like Abercrombie and Fitch and Calvin Klein have always walked a very fine line between what is advertising and what is crass trash.    I believe in using my dollar as a consumer as a vote.  I have never purchased anything at A&F, nor will I.  Now I add Disney to my list of stores I will not spend my hard earned money at.  My girls are too old for their products but I have nephews and cousins who are not.  
If Barney’s goes through with this holiday window campaign, I will not visit their store this holiday season.  I am sure they won’t care....I am far from their target female shopper.  But I will add my voice to the outrage.  I will send my daughters the message that beauty is not defined by a Visual Director sitting behind a desk at an office in Barney’s corporate headquarters.  
I just finished reading the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld and the key theme that I took from this book series is that if we seek to have our beauty validated or defined by outside sources, whether it be the approval of peers, or society, we are never going to find peace and happiness with the person we see looking back in the mirror.  I tell my girls over and over again, “You are a perfect YOU”.  
Find your own acceptance and definition of beauty.  
Do not let Barney’s or Disney define this for you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pumpkin Time!

Our family has a tradition of pumpkin carving with cousins.  We look forward to it every year.  It is the official kick off of the holiday season ‘round here.  

Homegrown Learners

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Piano Practice

Music fills our home as the girls prepare for upcoming performances.  Throughout November and December the girls have several opportunities to share their love of the piano with others.  They are working daily to polish their pieces.  
One of the girl’s friends is a very talented pianist.  Last week she played us a piece from memory.  I assumed it was a classical piece from a composer like Bach or perhaps even Mozart.  My jaw hit the floor when I found out it was her own composition!  Little did this child know that she inspired Lilah to begin tinkering with the keys.  First Lilah took a simple song that is played only with the right hand and added notes for her left hand.  Pleased with the outcome, she composed her first piece of music!  I hope this is the beginning of many more original pieces of music.  
You never know where you will find inspiration.  
Never stop seeking it.

Rondo alla Turka:

Toccata and Fugue:

Lilah's performance piece:

Lilah's original composition:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Yale Splash was this weekend.  It is a program where middle school and high school students can attend classes of their choice taught by Yale Students.  There are similar programs at colleges and universities throughout the country. 

This was a great opportunity for Grace.  For most middle school students the novelty of selecting classes and finding their way around a school has worn off.  For a homeschooled child, this is very new and exciting.  Schedules were distributed and after a brief explanation of the layout of Harkness Hall, she was left on her own to navigate her way through her morning.  

Her course selection included: Wilderness Survival, Mathematical Origami, The Science of Ice Cream, The Chemistry of Explosions, The Life of Einstein.  The classes ranged from lecture, to hands-on experimentation.  She enjoyed them all, but she shared with me two of her frustrations -- disruptive classmates and the inability to get up and stretch when needed!  

By lunchtime she was ready to take a a break.  It was a long morning.  We left our house at 8:00am, classes began at 9:00am and lunch was not until 1:00pm.  Since Lilah had a 2:00 art class a few streets away, she and Greg met Grace and I at Yale.  Fortunately my niece, who is a student at Yale, was able to take a break from midterm studying and join us for lunch.  I am so grateful to her for taking us to the cafeteria so the girls could get an authentic college experience.

Walking into the cafeteria gives you feeling like you are at Hogwarts, walking into the great hall.  Heavy wooden tables line the room and lighting floods in through large windows.  Chandeliers hang from vaulted ceilings.  Pumpkins and gourds line the fireplace and tucked into the corner is a Steinway Grand Piano.  The food is a mix between traditional college food like waffles, bacon and eggs, and home fries but to my pleasure it also offered some healthy choices like salad, flat bread with artichoke and sun dried tomato, hummus, and homemade soup.  There was soda but also soy milk.  It was a lunch we will not soon forget.  

The highlight of Grace’s day, if not her whole year came when she realized she could play the piano!  I assumed it was for performances only but when a student sat down and began to play Grace’s fingers began to twitch.  It was getting close to the time we had to head back for class but we waited to see if this student would finish.  She did and Grace took her turn at the bench.  What a gift my niece gave her by sharing her time and her campus with us.   I don’t think she knows what it meant to Grace.  Yes, she loved her classes and she loved learning new things, but her favorite part of the day was playing the Steinway.
*The sound quality of this video is not great but I wanted to preserve the moment.

When Grace went back to class, I went back to my work.  I brought my computer and my print out of my eBook with the edits my father made for me.  I had the luxury of 4 uninterrupted hours to work.  I worked at one of my favorite coffee shops.....

 and I worked at the Yale Library.  This is where I would come every time I needed peace, tranquility and a space to work.  My niece told me that during the day, this part of the library is open to the public.  I was shocked.  I assumed it would be restricted to Yale Students.  This means I can come here again!  

This was a very good day for all of us!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


A little bit of fall in a jar......

Pumpkin Spice Granola 
  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup apple juice concentrate (I used apple cider)
  • 3/4 cup palm sugar
  • 1/2 canola oil
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • I added 1 cup dried cranberries as well!

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In large bowl combine oats, flour, and salt and stir.
In food processor (I used blender), grind your flaxseeds.  Add apple cider, pumpkin spice, puree, and vanilla. Blend well.  Pour into dry mixture and mix.
Spread on baking pans and bake for 70 minutes, turning the granola over with wooden spoon or spatula every 20 min.   Cool.  Add cranberries.  
I like to keep my granola in a large Ball Jar in the freezer.  It never lasts more than 2 weeks!

*This recipe came from my newest cookbook (Lilah’s cookbook actually.....Sweet & Easy Vegan: Treats made with whole grains and natural sweeteners by Robin Asbell.  It was modified with gluten free flour, apple cider and cranberries.  I highly recommend this cookbook!  Two recipes tried so far and both have been superb.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Lilah is really enjoying her art class.  It is a mini-class which lasts just three weeks.   I love that her teacher is incorporating story writing with the art of anime.  It merges both her passions. 

When her class ends next week she will have a comic strip story board.  It will be her choice to leave it as is, or use these boards to develop the story further.  

Personally, I like it just the way it is!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tootsie Roll Floral Creations

As much as I struggle with my love/hate relationship with social media, recently it gave me a reason to love it.  Karen @ Homeschool Girls posts pictures of her daughter’s cupcake class on Instagram.  Lilah looks forward to these pictures every week for inspiration in her baking.  When she saw that Keilee created floral arrangements using Tootsie Rolls, she bought some and began experimenting.

Hours were spent making these flowers.  I am guessing three?  I was not home when the baking began but walked into a home that smelled of vanilla yumminess and was filled with the melodies of Taylor Swift and I was greeted by my apron-clad girl rocking out in her kitchen without a care in the world.  

Studies show it takes an investment of 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.  She is well on her way to meeting that goal!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Do Little Things with Great Love: Collage Friday

Sometimes things happen and you don’t know the reason.  Teenagers die. Loved ones fall ill.  There are complications from surgeries.  You desperately miss your friend who is so far away. Carefully planned schedules fall apart.  Pets almost pass on before their time.  You end up asking yourself why?  What else can possibly be piled on to an already overloaded mind and body?  I know I am not done.  I know there is more to come.  It is already on the schedule.

I also know that there is something to be learned from this.  What it is I am not sure.  I keep repeating the quote that God will not give me more than I can handle.  I also am continually reminded that my burdens are minimal compared to others and often I feel I have no reason to complain.  I don’t know scripture.  When I am in need I can not call a verse to mind to help me, so I look them up and I find peace in their words.
Isaiah 40:31 NIV
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint
We all seem to want the same things more or less.  We want our children to be happy, healthy and safe.  We want a warm home to protect us and keep us warm.  We want our spouse to be by our side holding our hand in happiness and in sorrow.  We want our pets to live forever.  We want our children to learn and thrive and succeed.  We want good food to nourish us.  For those of us who are religious, we want God to guide us and give us fortitude.  We want our families to never know true suffering.  We want to appreciate our blessings and appreciate our gifts.
While this has been a stressful fall in so many ways, the lesson for me in this is to appreciate my blessings.

I have healthy, happy children.  We have a cozy home to call our own.  We have connected once again with people who bring joy into my life....their support has been a true gift.  Our dog, Daphne, is recovering from her near-death experience.  She taught us all what a gift life is and how it should never be taken for granted.  This week I have marveled at the courage of my children, as they have taken steps in pursuit of their dreams.  I have listened to music fill my house as the girls practice the piano and guitar.  I have watched my daughter beam with pride when she played a piece of music she spent hours composing.  We are back on track in our lessons and some quality work was completed this week.    For all this I am grateful.
When times make it hard to persevere, it can be challenging to put one foot in front of the other and walk on.  We are stronger than we think.  We can all do great things, or like Mother Theresa said, when we cannot do great things, we can all do little things with great love.

Homegrown Learners

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Electronics: Little Bits

Grace’s interest in electronics was sparked (no pun intended) during our Snap Circuit Class.  She and Lilah created many of the circuits in the kit and watching the lights light and the alarms sound.  Snap Circuits is a wonderful introduction to electronics but Grace wanted to move ahead in her learning and layer her learning moving towards electrical engineering, where she can build and construct circuits to solve problems or just make very cool things!

We have moved away from our Snap Circuits kits and are purchasing another kit that allows for more creativity and the beginnings of engineering in a way that children of all ages can understand. Little Bits are hard to find right now.  Amazon has them $20 over the list price and Little Bits site is sold out!  

The girls also had the opportunity to take apart an old stripped laptop.  The purpose of this was not to understand how a computer works, but rather simply to gain experience using tools that are necessary to work with electronics.  It was fascinating to gain a glimpse into the inner workings of a machine I use every single day.  So complex, yet so simple.  Screw after screw hold together the layers of metal, plastic and circuitry.  I do not have a technical-thinking brain.  As I saw all the letters scattered on the ground, removed from the keyboard pad, I immediately thought how cool they would look on an art journal page!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lilah's Manga Drawing Class

I don’t know what prompted Lilah’s interest in manga.  As far back as I ca remember it was there.  She is not a huge comic book fan.  She does not watch Japanese Anime.  No Powder Puff Girls.  I have Sprited Away in our Netflix Instant Queue but so far we have not watched it.  I don’t know where her interest began but every now and then she will pull out all her Chris Hart books and spend hours and hours drawing.
Here are some of my favorites:

I did not ask for her input when I registered her for a 3 session class on manga drawing.  This drew her ire, for she is not one to sign up for classes and did not want to go.  I pleaded for her to try one class and keep an open mind.  She went.  I will never forget when I called her to check in on her.
  • “Did you like the class?”
  • “Uhhhh....huh...................” (giggling)
  • “So is that a yes?”
  • “Maaaaaaaybeeeeeeee” (again giggling)
  • “Are you going back”
  • “Maaaaaaybeeeeeee”
  • “Can you just tell me how right I am?  I really would love to hear it!”
  • “Nooooooppppppeeeeee!” 

My silly, silly girl.  I am so glad she liked the class and will attend the next two weeks.  The next class will also be a divide and conquer kind of day with each girl doing separate activities but I should be able to get her to class and peek into that folder and see what drawings are hiding inside.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tri State Weather Conference

 Last year when Grace was attending the middle school Meteorology Program at WSCU, she was made aware of the Tri-State Meteorology Conference, a professional conference held at the university every other year and open to not only professional meteorologists but also weather data collectors, and weather enthusiasts!  

Ten speakers presented on topics that ranged from historical data collection in Upstate New York to Duo-Polarization Radar and why it should matter to you!  Out of the 10 presenters, all were excellent but some were too technical to hold the interest of a twelve year old.  Her favorite presentations were about the 1938 hurricane, the October snowstorm of last year, the MA tornado outbreak also of last year and geological changes the weather creates and how geological conditions affect weather.  

Note taking is a skill that takes time to develop.  Although this format was purely lecture and the information presented would not have to be regurgitated in test format, I used the opportunity to model note taking for Grace.  I took my notes the “old fashioned way” with a pen and pencil.  I am a scattered note taker.  I draw arrows, box in information, and sometimes even doodle!  Grace prefers to use her iPad and copied my notes the best she could. 

 There were many projects that she was inspired to begin as a result of this conference such as: keep more detailed daily weather notations and call them into the local tv station, learn what a ham radio is and how to build one, and begin a science club with other children her age. She was also made aware of how much work will be in her future in order to prepare for college as a science major.  From the presentations it was apparent that the science of meteorology is based on three things: calculus, probability and statistics.  Not three of my strengths!  Her future educational path will be determined based on her goals and desires.   

After the tornado presentation Grace leaned over and whispered that she would like to explore the Red Cross.  I agreed wholeheartedly.  While Grace is definitely passionate about weather, she is equally passionate about the human element and how people are affected by natural disasters.  We are going to contact The Red Cross, Americares, and Save the Children to explore this further. 

Saturday made me thankful to have help in the parenting department.  It was a divide and conquer kind of day.  While Grace and I were at WSCU, Greg and Lilah were in New Haven exploring one of her interests......manga drawing!  More to come on that soon.......

Monday, October 15, 2012

Art Journaling: Butterfly Page

My art journaling groups that took place over the summer have  ended.  My original Monday group still meets from time to time but the three families are very busy people and more often than not we cancel.  I miss this time of creativity and companionship.  

I am beyond thrilled that friends of mine who participated in my open Summer session decided they would like to come more often and create art...and share words and time and friendship.   I have been looking forward to meeting for so long and finally the time has come!

The coolest thing about these girls is they take my model and mostly disregard it!  They may be inspired by it but they feel no need to copy it.  They turn their page into something completely original and unique.  
As we go forward, there are many new techniques I would like to try.  I want to watch tutorials with them and experiment with new materials.  I want them to look back a few months from now and see how they have developed as writers and artists.  

I am giddy with the thought of a regular time to meet.  Isn’t that a great word, giddy?  Prepare yourself for more art journaling posts.  My ebook has stalled.  I plan to finish it when we take the month of December off.  Right now there just is not time.......

Butterfly Art Journal Page 
  • used wallpaper samples (free at most paint supply stores)
  • paint, natural sponges
  • glue, scissors, black sharpies, gel pens
Directions: have children cut out one wing, doubled to insure  symmetry.  Body of butterfly is made with words.  Have children think of as many character traits as possible.  

Time: approximately 90 minutes.

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...