Friday, April 29, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment :: inspired by soule mama}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I made this sheep and lamb for our Easter table. Kitten LOVES them and I think they are quite adorable as well. The only downside is that they are very fragile and tolerate only gentle handling, which Kitten is not always capable of and I have to rescue them. Which in turn produces screaming and stomping. Oh well, most of the time they are happily nibbling away on moss or wheat grass. They were made by winding wool rowing around wire frame. Mom is about 5 inches long and the baby is only about 2 1/2. If you want directions, excellent ones are found in Toymaking With Children (although I have an older edition, I am pretty sure the content is the same). It would be so fun to have a whole flock of them and add a shepherd. They also will fit well on Christmas nature table.
It was hard to photograph them because they are white, so I am including another picture. I could not decide which one shows them better.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wet-on-wet watercoloring

This technique is the one recommended in Waldorf preschools as it allows children to explore color in its truest flowing form, without being distracted by shapes. Colors flow, mix, change and imagination can take over freely. This is what I like most about it - you never know what is going to appear in your painting. You may have planned one thing but after the paint dries it may look like something completely different.

Usually children start with one color and progress through all primary colors one by one before being allowed to mix 2 colors. Until school children only use 3 colors - red, blue and yellow.
We started with red during our Red week. To set up you need:
1. A painting surface, wooden board or anything else pretty much, I really liked using shelf liner as I could cut a big piece, it was staying in one place and also kept all glass jars stable for Kitten to dip her brush in.

2. Watercolor paper. Use only good quality watercolor paper as you need it to withstand being soaked and not disintegrate. The size depends on child's age: 8x11 is likely enough for a 2-3 year old, 10x15 for older children. Usually the corners are rounded. It gives a more esthetic appearance, gets rid of sharp angles that give a colder feel and discourages children outlining the border as they often tend to do with a rectangular piece of the paper. Soak it in a shallow dish for 10 minutes and wipe off with a sponge so that it is wet but not dribbling.

3. Sponge for wiping off paper.

4. Separate sponge for wiping brushes on to remove excess water and check for cleanliness.

5. Good quality flat watercolor brush 3/4 - 1 inch width. It really makes a difference and you can get them pretty cheaply in Hobby Lobby or Michael's with a coupon or on sale. I got ours for only about $5.50.

6. Small (baby food size) jars for paints. Use only good quality watercolor paints as the cheap ones will not give the same result. You only need a very small amount - 1/4 teaspoon to 1/4 jar of water and it will probably last for several sessions. You can keep it lidded in the fridge. We use Stockmar paints.

7. Bigger jar with water for cleaning brushes. It is nice if it is transparent do that kids can see how the water color changes.

You can tell your child a story about colors while you both prepare for the painting session, it will help to set the mood. Wet-on-wet watercoloring is a special activity that is only done once a week and you only paint one sheet of paper, maximum two, to keep it significant. The purpose is not to cover as many sheets as possible with color but to experience what the color has to say to you. Always paint together with your child, on your own paper of course, to model the proper care of brushes and attention. Make sure your child understands that before switching colors he needs to rinse the brush really well and dry it on the sponge to see if it is clean. It is helpful to tell the a story about Peter the Brush, who needs to clean his hair well before putting new clothes on.

Kitten really enjoyed this activity for the first minute or so, as is usually the case with the little ones.
I have been doing some on my own to get a feel for this technique. This is a candlelight.
And this was meant to be an island but it changed quite a bit after drying. When I asked Kitten about it she was very determined that it is a "Quack, quack". So duck it is!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter celebration

We had a very happy Easter at our house! My sister came for a 2-day visit and it was very nice for Kitten to get to know her better. On Saturday we finished dying blown eggs and dyed some real ones using onion skins and leaves to make prints (you just put a leaf on the egg, cover it with a piece of nylon stocking and tie it). I made Kulich (Russian Easter bread) and Paskha (pronounced pAs-ha, which is also a Russian name for Easter and is a farmer cheese dessert, made in a shape of a mountain). In the evening, after Kitten went to bed, my sister and I decorated the Easter tree with blown eggs and butterflies (it came out oh so pretty if I say so myself, I am a poor photographer but trust me, in real life it is much better) and transformed the Lenten garden with life.

On Good Friday I placed a caterpillar made of green playdough, wrapped in white fabric, in the grotto. And on the Easter morning it was gone and instead an unusually bright red butterfly was flying above the grotto. I made an egg candle using beeswax. Wheat grass sprouted, thankfully, right on time. The lambs are made of wool, but I will show them in a separate post as I am quite proud of them.

Kitten was very excited to find the transformed Nature table in the morning. She received her Easter gifts - an Ostheimer bunny that you can see next to the grotto above, little gnomes with sleeping beds complete with pillows, and rainbow ribbon rings (both these gifts were made using tutorials from WeeFolkArt).

My friend came over with her daughter, Kitten's best friend, and we had a lovely Easter breakfast and a play date. We were so occupied that I did not remember to take any pictures, oops! 

I hope that you all had an equally pleasant Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment :: inspired by soule mama}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tie-Dye Easter Eggs

The idea comes from Family Fun Magazine but I modified it slightly to get more flowing aquarelle colors, so I will describe what I did. This is another idea of dying eggs that is fairly easily managed with a toddler.
1. I used blown eggs because I don't like how food coloring may seep through the shell and color eggs that you are going to eat. Put a colander in a deep dish, put your egg inside and splash it with some vinegar.
2. Put 2-3 drops of food coloring on the egg while gently swirling it around in the colander.
3. If you want to achieve blended soft colors do not wait and put another color, trying to get the complete coverage. If you wait between colors about 30-60 seconds the colors will have some time to set and the result will be more spotted. You can try adding 3rd color (yellow would work the best as it is less likely to mud the colors). For best results use primary colors or colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.
4. Let sit for a minute and rinse gently. Some color will wash off. Let dry on a paper towel or a wooden skewer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lemon Raspberry Thumbprint cookies

To make 24 cookies you will need:
1 stick butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 1/4 cup flour
some raspberry jam (or any flavor)

Beat butter and sugar until light. Blend in egg yolk, lemon jice and lemon zest. Fold in flour. Kitten really enjoyed trying to squeeze juice out of a lemon, even if without much success. 
Especially because she then got to eat the lemon or what remained of it. And no, I did not put sugar in it! She begs for lemons and limes whenever I have them out.
Form dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge until cold and stiff (at least 30 minutes). Pinch off small portions of dough and shape into 1-inch balls. Place balls on ungreased cookie pan 2 inches apart.
With a floured finger, make an impression in the center of each ball. I love how Kitten is trying to be precise (without any idea where she is supposed to make an impression but hey, precision is the skill that will be useful to her in life)!
Fill the impressions with about 1/4 tsp of jam. I mostly did hold Kitten's hand but she did manage to fill a couple on her own.
Bake in preheated to 350F oven for 11 to 13 minutes until cookies are set and the bottoms are lightly browned. Let sit on cookie pan before removing to rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Red Week

Continuing with our colors. Kitten now knows her red and even attempts to say the word if prompted.
We painted and printed with a red block.
She loved handprinting.
Playing with red playdough. It was very popular and she even learned to say "dough" (in Russian, obviously, not in English). Here she is decorating herself. We also made animals, dishes and food for them (Kitten was the dietician, pinching pieces of playdough off and placing them in cups). The problem with that that I run into was her refusing to play herself and just wanting me to make stuff, which is obviously pointless as she is the one who needs to work on those little muscles. So I started prompting her to knead and shape and modeled it myself, instead of making recognizable objects. Her interest did greatly reduce after that but I think now that we moved onto yellow dough she is getting over her disappointment.
Drawing with red crayons. She is happy here because she just made an "O". Sometimes she names things herself and that is fine (as opposed to me exclaiming "Look, you drew an "O"!" and thus fixating her on this image)
Wet-on-wet watercoloring with red. More on it later this week.
Red hunt. She was not very enthusiastic this time but did find several red objects for me, passing her "test". Of corse I don't tell her that "now we are going to have a test", it is just a way for me to ensure myself that she has learned the color.
This week I did take a picture of a red snack: watermelon and red currant jelly sandwich. We also ate strawberries, tomatoes, red peppers, apples and I am sure something else but I cannot remember. There are so many other red foods!
Moving on to yellow!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Palm Sunday celebration

Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday. We are not really religious here, so I was wondering how to incorporate Easter into our year cycle. Fortunately, the All Year Round book explained the meaning of this festival from Waldorf point of view and now I have no hesitations. I love how Waldorf system looks at religion - it leaves the question of faith to you and relates religion to Nature, something people experienced and tried to explain to themselves for millennia. Easter is just the celebration of birth, of renewal, of spring. And Resurrection of Christ is a symbol of that, so you can decide for yourself whether to talk to kids about it at all. I just explained to Kitten (even though she is so young that no explanation is really necessary) that we are doing what we are doing because the morning is almost here.

The cockerel is a symbol of morning everywhere, so naturally he heralds the coming of Christ and the beginning of the new covenant.
On our Nature table this week will be the Lenten garden with a small grotto, stone path, lake on the hill, tree branch in a dish of earth and 6 small candles. We will light and burn one candle before bedtime until Friday. Saturday is a day of silence.

We also made bread cockerels. The recipe I used was from All Year Round but I guess you could use any yeast dough. If somebody is interested, I can write the recipe here. This is how they looked before baking. I used raisins for eyes and cloves for feet.
And here they are right out of the oven. They were delicious, Kitten was very excited about her bread being shaped like this.

Friday, April 15, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment :: inspired by soule mama}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Passport photo shoot

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Colored playdough

Kitten had enough of white playdough, so I thought I would make something new for her. It was so easy to make colored playdough. So far we have only played with red (for our red week, which is now finished and I will post about it next week) and Kitten has been very enthusiastic about it. The other two colors are waiting their turn in zip-locked bags in the refrigerator, it is so convenient that playdough stays fresh for a long time.
Follow the basic playdough recipe and when it is cooked, split it in 3 or 4 parts. Add a different food coloring to each part and knead, adding more coloring as needed, until you reach your desired color strength.
I used 3 colors and it took about 40 drops to make these.
Your hands will get stained in the process but once all liquid is incorporated, it will not stain child's hands.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Easy Easter egg coloring for toddlers

This is not very satisfying for adults because the result is not very exciting but this is probably the easiest way to color eggs with a toddler. This is also good fine motor practice, much more so than the dipping method.
You need tissue paper that bleeds well, I got ours at Michaels and it was called "Bleeding tissue paper" but not all colors bled well, if at all, so you need to experiment.
Pour some water and a little bit of vinegar into several small jars. Use one jar for each color you are using. For best results use similar colors for one egg, for example blue-purple-red, or light green-yellow, etc. We used red-orange-yellow. Tear (and let your child do it too) small pieces of tissue paper, dip them in water and put on the egg (we used blown eggs and I had to make sure Kitten does not squeeze too hard, the girl loves eggs!).

Continue with different colors until the whole egg is covered.

For best results try to tear smaller pieces. Let dry and peel paper off.
(As you can see, my pieces were too big)
Our orange did not bleed at all, so I dyed it with orange food coloring, which eliminated all white spots and did not change red and yellow, which I was very surprised and pleased about. The result is not fantastic beauty-wise but Kitten enjoyed the process very much, which was my goal. I will make the pretty ones when she is asleep.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cleaning with toddlers

Whenever I clean I try to involve Kitten as well. There are so many reasons to put that extra effort in. It develops valuable life skills, hand-eye coordination, sense of caring for their environment, independence, they get a chance to be with you and imitate you, which is their primary goal in life at this point. If you perform your tasks with pleasure and positive attitude, they will develop this attitude as well and you will get much more enthusiastic help when they are teenagers. At that age they are all about imitation, so make sure you move purposefully, with a smile, mindful of the eyes watching you. Act like you are enjoying yourself and may be you will actually start to! (As a side note, parenting for me is a tremendous stimulus for self-growth) 

So, instead of cleaning either while kids are asleep (thus wasting your self-time that could be used so much more pleasantly), or making them stay in their own room (which for us would involve a lot of screaming and crying, so I don't even attempt it), or tolerating (or not) whining and asking for attention, hand them the same cleaning tool you are using and they will be happily occupied for some time or even a while. Of course, in some cases you would have to clean after them, so I will share with you how we do it in our house and which tasks I think are the best.

1. Dusting is probably the easiest one. Kitten got so into it, she started dusting the same things as I did and then moved on to her toys. I tried giving her a dry cloth, thinking she would not care but she would not have anything other than what I was using, which is a wet cloth, so that's what she got.
 She polished each of these blocks!
2. Bathroom cleaning. If you are concerned about chemicals, just use baking soda, it cleans perfectly. Here Kitten is in the bathtub, cleaning all around her. No cleanup afterwards if you undress them!
3. Window washing. I use water with some vinegar, so that's safe for her. Of course, I am the one doing the final washing and wiping but until I get to that window she can clean it all she wants.
4. Washing dishes. This is probably Kitten's favorite. I put warm soapy water in a tub and add some non-sharp utensils and plastic plates/cups. She can spend up to 40 minutes playing with bubbles, transferring, spooning and pouring water. She is standing on a chair but if your child is prone to falling from heights use Kitchen Helper instead or something like this.
5. Drying dishes. I only allow to handle non-breakables at this point.
6. Helping Daddy with construction projects. She was actually more interested in crumbling foam but she can also hand bolts and things and she loves making a drill spin (without the drill bit attached, obviously).
7. Doing laundry. Kitten LOVES washing clothes by hand. She also helps me to carry clothes to the laundry room, load the washer and is very proud to push the "Start" button.
She probably does more than these tasks, but I just recently started documenting them, so may be I will do another post once I get more pictures.