Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dirty Laundry

For more on the Elevated Envelope project, please start with the post below.

We sent out a malicious clothes dryer with some laundry.  See?  They're peeking through the door.  The heat setting dial is a photo of a chicken's eye.

We put our elevated envelope in another envelope to protect it since that acetate and silver paper might not have held up through international mail.  The "protective wrapper" was printed with images of a dryer's internal workings and an owner's manual.

Our surprises included three bookmarks featuring the occupants of the dryer.

Tofu made the Lint Monster who is quite pleased with itself.

Mischief made the Shrunken Sweater who seems quite distressed and embarrassed.

I made the very Lonely Sock who has lost its mate in the drying cycle...but seems to have moved on.

We had so much fun with this project.  The kids enjoyed making the first fuzzball and first shirt, but it took a bit of urging to complete four of the same thing, especially with the bustle of the school year.  It was all worthwhile to see our random scribbles become...laundry with personalities.  Plus, we received a message from an artist in Australia who said that the wicked dryer gave her family the giggles.

Elevated Envelope Surprises

In October we participated in the Elevated Envelope swap hosted by Ephemera.  Several times during the year, Tara at Ephemera hosts an international art envelope swap.  We thought about this for a long time since so many of the entries were astoundingly fabulous.  Some people painted original art; one person embroidered the skyline for each recipient's town; others made letterpress creations.  We were in awe and nervous since the guidelines said that participants should bring their A game.  The theme for the October swap was "Malicious Surprise."  We talked it over, Tofu, Mischief, and I, and talked it over some more.  I tend to obsess.  We decided that we could do this, and it would be a collaborative project.  You can sign up for around ten exchanges, but we signed for four, which meant that we found four spectacular surprises in the mail

Our first envelope came from an artist in Australia.  She generously sent each of us a treat: spider and cobwebs for the boy, a hairband for the girl, and chocolate and tea for me.  So thoughtful!

The second envelope came from a graphic artist and teacher in Canada.  We actually squealed out by the mailbox when we found this petite enveloped.  Hand-drawn robots and rockets...awesome!  Our treat was a  print of an original linocut.  Mischief Maker particularly liked the pumpkin.

Three monsters brought this itty bitty envelope to us.  Hand-painted paper and hand-drawn creepies.  Even the Australian stamp was fun!  This artist said that participating in the swap encouraged him to pick up his pens again, and we delighted that he did.

This envelope took so much planning and thought and work.  We admired everything from the paper textures to the various lettering styles.  What was inside?  Was it enough that three creepies greeted us on the outside?

Meet three more creepies!  Fabulous!  We loved it all.

Tara sent every participant an envelope too.  Look at those eyes!  Plus, the glossy, drippy-feeling ink was creepy too.

Aha!  The treat was a postcard from a cat named Henry.  We had great fun with all the creepy cuteness and spent a lot of time ooh and aahing over the artworks from our talented exchange partners.  What did we send out?  Alas, we were late by a couple of weeks.  Onto the next post.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Care Packages with Care Bears

One of our little friends is staying with grandparents for the week of Thanksgiving while her family is going on an important trip to a developing country.  This little one will enjoy Thanksgiving surrounded by lots of loving aunts and uncles and cousins, much more fun and safe.  Yet she undoubtedly will miss her parents.  To help add to her holiday festivities, we are sending her happy mail.  Everyday Tofu Girl writes a note, and then we tuck in fun things like stickers, scratch art, and beads into whatever packaging we have on hand, like a file folder.

Inspired by the Givers Log's Thirteen Ounces or Less mailing experiments, we sent off a small, lightweight toy in its original packaging.  Taped it well; stuck on a bunch stamps and an address label; and that was it.  For me, one of the challenges to sending out stuff is finding a box or envelope.  Since we are mailing stuff everyday for a week, with zero time to track down shipping supplies, we have really had to think outside the box (yup, seriously).  If all of this works, I might send out gifts and such on time instead of months later.  Surprise!


Tofu Girl's design...with some of the lower mouth chewed off by a squirrel or some other creature that wanted to feast on fresh pumpkin.

Mischief Maker's design

Ready to greet trick-or-treaters

Sunday, November 4, 2012

When Auntie Visits

My sister is visiting for a few days.  She went shopping with the kids and sent me this photo:

The kids seem to be having fun, but really, out of the three, my sister got the most chuckles from these turkey-dos.

Monday, October 29, 2012

At the Table

The MailMeSomeArt blog opened a swap for painted papers.  The call was intriguing, but I could not decide what to do until I saw a demo of applying gesso over writing.  I wanted to try a version of that!  On the very same day, one of my students mentioned her interest in Thoreau's and Emerson's ideas regarding charity.  Hmm...big ideas are great; focused ideas are even better.  She ended up writing about Charles Loring Brace's orphan trains program which she found astounding.  And we both could still think about Thoreau.    

Here, a few handwritten lines from Walden became the background for the painted pages, topped with layers and layers of gesso and water soluble painting crayons (that's what the tin says; I inherited them).

Tofu Girl joined me at the dining room table which is more often set with things other than plates.  She always has a project in mind and is more familiar with our canisters of markers and pencils than anyone else. She thinks about colors and made herself a color swatch book of sorts.  It's actually a jar of the names and samples of colors on scraps of paper.  I wondered why one couldn't simply open a box or jar to see the names, but silly me, she carries the plastic jar around.  Much easier to hold one jar full of colors than many containers of pens and pastels, right?  Plus, when I open a tin, I am already searching for a specific color, but Tofu seems to be inspired by the colors themselves, thinking about them in relation to others and in various shades.  She watched as I mixed the paint crayons with gesso and gave me tips: "This yellow, not that one. You're covering up the words with too much red!'re wiping it off.  That's better."   

Then her brother came in to see the pages drying.  "That one has too much white still," he said, pointing; he liked the pages with stronger splashes of color.  "Nooooo," protested his sister vehemently.  They were about to argue about which ones were "better" when I said that pages were finished and that was that.  ...It sounded just like dinnertime around here.  At least we usually agree on dessert.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

BumbleDogs and the Halloween Pet Parade

What would get me out of bed bright and early on a Saturday morning?  Usually, we arrive near the closing of a nearby farmers' market...and head for the baked goods stand before visiting the other tables. (The bakery lady is actually a farmer.  Lucky for us, she has left the selling of local vegetables and meats to the other farmers and instead, concentrates on making a wide range of delicious, old-fashioned breads and cookies.)

We were on time (can you believe it?) for a pet parade on this particular morning.  The most popular costume for dogs this year was the bumblebee.  All dogs this time too; last year, we saw alpacas and even a baby goat.

This little t-rex won a prize.  Cute.  From this angle though, it looks like the dinosaur has wrapped its tiny arms around the dog and is nibbling on his head.  ...Did dinosaurs ever nibble?

I think the parrot was crowd favorite too.  The dogs were so sweet, keeping on the costumes and gamely participating in the parade. 

Princess Jasmine.  She had on a whole harem outfit.  Who knew such costumes existed?  The purple color suits this happy dog.

This guy next to us barked and cheered.  He was very excited (too excited to parade, his mum said).

Fresh cookies, hot coffee, and party dogs = a good morning.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Look High, Look Low

more photos from the Wee Faerie Village 

Look Close

Look around

Tiptoe on a bench to look high

Peek into the windows below

See inside

Fairy Magic

On this lovely, mild, and sunny autumn afternoon, we explored the Wee Faerie Village at the Florence Griswold Museum. Is there anything more magical than seeing a fairy house?  (...And besides seeing actual fairies?)  Visiting more than thirty fairy places!

We started with a Japanese-styled community. Each little home included tiny tatami mats, and this building featured itty bitty traditional storage chests.  Enchanting!

As we approached this glittery home, a little girl grabbed my arm excitedly. "Fairy dust! A fairy dust factory!" she squealed.  (She pounced on me at another house as well, squealing: "You have to see this!")  Could she tell that I found all of these places magical too?

Tofu Girl and I peeked around the other side and found...fairy dust!  So sparkly and in so many different colors. Love those jars with the acorn lids on the left. I think we will be making some of those soon.

Such a sweet home surrounded by flowers and vegetables. Mischief Maker pointed: "Look! See the watermelon?"  (It is the green oval in the middle of the photo next to a cluster of gray rocks and some light green moss.)  The brochure guide offered a story and an "I spy" challenge for each home.

Could this afternoon get any better?  Yes, yes!  The barn-like education center offered two crafts, as well as cider, donuts, and a big bowl of candy.  Okay, back to the crafts: each child could make either a mask or a wand.  Guess which one was more popular.  Moreover, children could choose a short, stubby wooden wand or a long, pointy wooden wand.  Guess which one was most popular.  Decorated with bells, stars, pipe cleaners, and beads, all the completed wands were bright and fun.  I did, however, wrap a foam sticker around the end of Tofu Girl's wand after she inadvertently stuck me in the chin with the sharp tip.  We learned to keep away from the dozens of other kids' wands too.  One mother told her child: "Keep it low!"  As the girl obediently swung her wand down, she nearly clipped one of the guys on staff in the nether region.  He then walked around the craft room cupping himself in protection.  Watch out for those fairy wands.

We spent all afternoon marveling at all the incredible fairy places.  The museum gave every visitor a bracelet made of silver elastic, beads, and bells, and we were supposed to jingle to alert the fairies of our approach.  That meant the many, many visitors created a gentle music as the bracelets tinkled every time we moved our arms, which was often.

Here, Tofu Girl explains that the fairies who live in this home likely climb out and then slide all the way down.  More photos to come in another post.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Hello! Mischief Maker here. For one of our vacation before school, we went to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The best hike we went on was the Flume Gorge. There we saw the Glacial Boulder, which weights about 300 tons....

We almost got crushed. (Just kidding.) Anyway, there were a lot  more waterfalls to see along the trial and we were only at the start of the hike. We walked for a while to see anything else interesting, so then we got to the Flume Gorge waterfall. It was so awesome! Everyone was really excited and we had to talk at the tops of our lungs to hear each other.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Karen Isaacson at Mail Me Some Art has a warm and encouraging blog which nurtures the creativity of people who like to paint, snip, glue, stamp, and sew on paper. She coordinates fun, themed postcard swaps, and as sweet as she is on her blog, I was nervous about sending in something.  Are my cards too messy? What if the recipients do not like them? Are they any good?

I do know that the cards were fun to make; I joined the black and white card swap.  The card backgrounds were printed with a (new) microfiber dishcloth, and then I swished on arcs of paint which were inspired by the striking wingspans of migrating geese.  The collaged feathers came from black and white photos of a wyandotte chicken, which is pictured in color on the bottom left, that we saw at a 4-H fair; these chickens are absolutely stunning.  The textured surfaces were made with clear dimensional paint and topped off with a spritz of acrylic to prevent any stickiness.

After clinging to the cards for weeks, I finally sent them off.  I emailed Karen because I hesitated so long that I was late.  She was very kind, telling me to "throw that nervousness out the window."  My kids ultimately provided the much needed affirmation.  Do these look okay?  Should I send them in?  Yes, they answered.  They are clear and honest with their opinions (sometimes too much so) and they know what they like.  Both kids also see themselves as artists.  What happens between childhood and adulthood that we lose that confidence in our creativity?  Or maybe that is just my take on it.  In any case, the cards were incredibly fun and relaxing to make, and I think I might even be up for another swap...maybe (I was going to say something about chickens but nope, not this time).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pretty Organized

I saw this on Pinterest and thought: "Genius!"  What a pretty way to store ribbons and possibly washi or deco tapes too, though their ends would remain taped down.  Any inexpensive basket with openings would work, or even a box with holes punched on two sides.  Hmm...I wonder if this would work for Tofu Girl's piles of ponytail holders.  The original post came from ohcraftsnet.

Ribbon organizer

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Not Like the Storybooks

Charlotte was gentle and wise.

Charlotte's Web

Miss Spider sounded so sweet, making the softest silk hammocks.

James and the Giant Peach

Miss Flora Spider has amazing eyelashes and looks almost as friendly as she claims to be.

Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends

Then there was this:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In the Yard

The lovely, mild September days were disrupted by showers of heavy rain and strong winds today, though it it is still warm.  During the past couple of weeks, we have been trying to spend as much time outdoors as possible while daylight hours still extend past dinnertime. Other creatures have been enjoying the sunshine with us too.  Mischief Maker crawled on his belly to take photos of this beautiful red-tailed hawk who sat with us for a long while. Every once in a while, it would turn its head to look at the boy commando-crawling closer in the grass.  For the most part, it seemed to enjoy the gentle warm breeze while it looked for lunch.

As I was downloading photos from the camera, I found this one. I don't know which child is holding the grasshopper since neither is as squeamish as I am. The child who took the photo seems to handle a camera quite well too.  If I get past the ickiness of bugs, I can see why they found this one so striking.

Little rabbits and groundhogs and other creatures visit or live in the yard as well.  Once in a while, deer, turtles, frogs, and even a slinky fisher stop by.  It's all a treat and happy reminder of summer days which flew by too quickly.