Monday, October 22, 2012

Christmas Trees (Dynamic Dioramas)

 Once the holidays are here--they're here! Time to think about Christmas too. My last post talked about Halloween trees from tomato stems. Why not consider a Christmas tree from grape stems! One of the fun things is you get to eat some yummy grapes before you do this craft. (In fact, the eating needs to be done a few days earlier.) This craft is a great way to show kids how things dehydrate. Enjoy some grapes with your kids, save the stems, and put them on the window sill to dry out. Let the kids check out the dehydration process each day to see how the moisture leaves the stem. When the stem is dry, take it outside and spray paint it white, silver, gold, etc. (Remember, the adult needs to do the spraying.) Once the paint is dry, cover your work area with newspaper. Hold the bottom of the stem and apply small amounts of non-toxic white glue with a paint brush to the areas you want sparkly. Before the glue dries, place the stem in a clear baggie, and shake glitter onto the stem. Or hold the stem, close the baggie with the stem in the "zipper" and softly shake the glitter onto the glued areas. Prepare a small white paper plate with a clump of pliable, inexpensive clay. (I like to also add a little spray painting to the plate ahead of time.) Push the bottom of the stem into the clay and tighten the clay around it. Hide the clay by applying pulled cotton balls to the base of the tree. (Sprinkle a little glitter on the cotton balls too, if desired.) Maybe you'd also like to add sticker stars or something to the tree. Make it fun! Make it your own.

Enjoy some grapes. Let the stems dry out.
This is how to hold the stem in the baggie.
This idea was in my book Little Hands-Create!

The finished product! 

Halloween Spooky Trees (Dynamic Dioramas)

Halloween is almost here. If, like me, you've been nibbling on the fine harvest of small, on-the-vine tomatoes available this time of year you also have been taking them off the vine and noticing what intricate stems they have. Not only are the tomatoes delicious, but the stems, when left to dry and get gnarly, make for great miniature diorama-type trees.

Simply allow the stem to dry on a window sill for a few days. Once it seems dry and looks kind of gnarled, paint the stem black (preferably outdoors) using your favorite brand of spray paint. (Note: Spray painting is an adult activity. Children should not use spray paint.) Hang a bat or sit a black cat or witch on a branch. (I used the bat from the Snipper Critters book I mentioned in my last post, but any free, hand-cut bat or animal cut from construction paper would do.) Push the stem bottom into a wad of clay that you've placed in the center of a small paper plate. Then, cut a black piece of construction paper to fit over the clay leaving a hole big enough to go around the stem piece. Decorate around it any way you choose. 
Use it in a Halloween centerpiece or diorama.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Florida Reading Association News

I just returned from doing a workshop session at FRA. Yes, it went well and the attendees were great, but as always, I failed to get in everything I wanted to in the hour allotted. There are so many ideas to share! My worst "no-no" was failing to send around an 'email gathering list' so I could alert the attendees to when, Happy Birthday, Florida! Celebrating Poetry that Fits in Your Pocket, my new book of poetry, comes out next month. I had a list made up and attached the proposed cover, but somehow it stayed near my podium until someone-after the workshop-asked me to email her when the book came out. I think an hour workshop just doesn't work for me. I need more time to "get it all in."
Still, all in all, my session went well. Meeting the new young teachers and "soon-to-be" teachers is always one of the most rewarding experiences of these FRA events. Stephanie, Tara, Jessica, Jennifer, Hangie, and so many others made me smile and know that the education of the next generation is in good hands. Thank you teachers!

The general craft.
 I try to do "open-ended" crafts at the workshops. I present an idea and a craft adaptable to many uses. This way, no matter if a teacher has K, middle-school/HS or any grade in between, there will be a way to use the craft for their specific need. One craft we did represented a kind of "Webbing" where students
Book of 80+ animals, 40+ activities
and teacher "help section 
are able to visualize connections. This craft is accomplished by having one paper plate in the center and four (or more or less) connected to the center plate with yarn. The center plate becomes the "main idea" or the "topic" and the outer plates break the main idea or topic down into smaller pieces. In the example I give, I have the workshop participants cut out a critter from my Snipper Critters book (Maupin House Publishing). Then, we place the critter on the center plate. The outer plates hold the content the students discover about the critter. In this case, I chose kinds of, traits, habitat, and future, but a teacher might want to add more plates or connect even smaller plates to one, or more, of the secondary plates.

A teacher may wish to not use a critter and instead put, KINDS OF SENTENCES on the middle plate and then declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory on the secondary plates. Or, ANGLES on the middle plate and examples of angles on the secondary plates. HS and middle-school students, just like younger students,  benefit from unusual visuals that stay up in a classroom and reinforce what is being taught.

Open-ended is just that. YOU use it how you want to use it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

June and July 

We traveled a lot during the months of May, June and July--North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, New Mexico and Texas. Seems we'd just get unpacked from one trip and it would be time to pack for another. Still, we had a lot of fun. I also garnered a lot of inspiration for story ideas and paintings. New Mexico was especially interesting. While we are involved with SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) on a local level, this was the first opportunity for Dan and me to get out to their big match called "End of Trail." It was a great match--but so HOT. (I know, but it's a dry heat. . .) NM is also very dusty. (So why did I wear white?) Anyway, thought it was about time I add a "cowboy picture" to the blog along with some of the other pictures from our travels.

The Tall Ships Parade in Virginia
New Mexico Sunset

View from Sandia Peak, NM
At the SASS shoot

Friday, May 4, 2012

"When Magic Helps Us Steer (Celebrating Poetry That Fits in Your Pocket)"

                 Well, here it is! I finished the book. This one is not at all like my others. They were craft and activity books. (Okay, I did sneak a craft in the back of the book for making a pocket that will nicely fit a poem.)
               This glossy paperback is filled with silly poems--and a few thoughtful ones as well. Most of these verses I wrote way back when teaching 3rd grade in Germany. Many were used as handwriting exercises for my kiddos. (Yes, we used to teach handwriting.) They didn't particularly like cursive drills, but once I introduced silly poems, my students were very receptive and asked for more. These exercises were also a good way to introduce poetry form. 

Recently, I had a stress fracture and was in a boot. My mobility was a little limited.  I sat at the computer and began cleaning up files.  It seemed like a good time to look through my many poems. Some were good, some needed a lot more work and others got tossed--but, in the end, I polished enough to publish. I had done a lot of black line illustrations to accompany the poems when they were first written. After tweaking and a bit of redrawing, most scanned well. 

Then came the big leap for me.  I had been wanting to learn more about the new publishing options such as CreateSpace. I'm glad I did. Here is the finished product available on Amazon.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Where Have You Been?

For a while I was good at posting, but as always, new projects sneak in and I'm off in another direction.
My newest project is a book. I'm always working on ideas for new books, but this one has been in the works for a long time. When I was teaching full-time, it seemed that verse and funny rhyme always popped into different teaching situations. We used to teach handwriting. Handwriting books can be boring so I often made up short poems to use where I could combine handwriting with other L.A. activities. The kids loved it, and I did too since I could play with meter and rhyme--and sometimes illustrate some of the verses along the way. The kiddos loves to illustrate my poems themselves which was especially fun. Sometimes a kid's illustration makes the poem take on a whole new direction.

Recently, looking at my files I realized I had hundreds of poems--some better than others. I'd thought of compiling some of them before. The new media and methods of distribution were perfect fits for me and my poetry. I found a universally known POD printer who also has a conversion model for hand held devices. As they say, "Ain't technology great!" In this case, it does seem the perfect fit. Many publishers shy away from poetry even though kids love it. Since it's not always a "quick sale" a publisher's time and money needs to go to the larger, more profitable markets. That's understandable and that's business. Still, it's also nice to know there are other ways to market and get a book (that might not fit a huge market) into print.

My new endeavor, When Magic Helps Us Steer, should be available soon. I'm awaiting the first proof right now.  Here's the front cover before I've added the title.

More Fun with Symmetry and Hole Punches

 Take a piece of paper, any color, any size and fold it. When you hold the fold, no matter what you cut, you will have symmetry when it is opened.

Here I've cut a simple butterfly shape. Of course, I did not throw away the "outline" since it will be part of the final piece of art.

Using the hole punch (yes, one of my favorite tools!) make some hole punches along the spine. Again, fold the critter or shape you made again before making the punches and you'll have symmetry there too.

In this case, I wanted the holes to be elongated so I made one hole and then
made a second one on top of the first hole, but slightly past it, so that the shape was a little more interesting than a simple single punch.

I opened the butterfly to see if I was happy with the holes down the spine. I decided that adding a hole close to the "tail" would make it appear to have a spiked end so I folded the butterfly again and created the tail. While the
butterfly was still folded, the hole punch was used to enhance the tips of the wings.

Once opened and satisfied with the result, I placed it on a white piece of paper. Lastly I took the outline and placed it on the white paper above the butterfly.

I used some scraps from other projects to make some red hole-punch dots to add contrast to my final picture.

I have several colors and sizes of hole-punch dots that I save in containers. (Check the archived posts to see an easy way to store dots.) When I want to add dots of another color, it's easy to simply pull out my saved dots and experiment with them.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Gold Leaf" Fakery

Find any candy or confection wrapped in thin gold foil.
 The wrappers on some candies are gold, thin and pliable making for a great study in gold leaf. Gold Leaf was popular in history--kings, queens and emperors often surrounded themselves with golden objects. Objects were often covered in gold leaf since solid gold objects would have been much too difficult and costly to produce. My little grandson showed me this trick while we were discussing art during the Renaissance Period in History. (He also formed miniatures from the wrappers. More on that at a later post.)

Procedure: First and foremost--unwrap carefully and enjoy the candy!
Place stickers on paper and set aside.*
If there are stickers on the outside of the foil wrapper, paste them on a plain sheet of colored paper. (*Save this paper and put it aside for a fun activity later.) Second, wipe any reside from the side of the foil that touched the candy. This will also help smooth out the wrapper. Third, find a small item you wish to cover with the foil. Lastly, smooth the wrapper, gold side out, over the item and press tightly.
This is how any item can appear to be covered in gold leaf. (Yes, you can use the other side of the wrapper to make an object appear to be made of silver too.) *The sheet that contains the stickers should be put aside and any time you find a sticker, say on a banana skin or on another piece of fruit, put it on this paper with the other stickers. Soon you will find you have a lot of various interesting stickers on the sheet. What to do with this? Look at the next post. . .
Rub off any candy residue.

Find a small object to cover.

Voila! Imitation gold leaf. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Making Connections

Hi! Just returned from a really nice conference at the Space Coast Writers' Guild (Melbourne, FL.)  I had to hobble around in a "pump boot" because of a stress fracture to my right foot, but it didn't stop me from doing my presentations and also enjoying several one-on-one meetings with agents and editors. If you're contemplating attending a conference as a writer, artist or blogger or curious spectator--jump right in. (Or hobble right in.) Even if you've already had some success in your writing and art, getting together with like minded folks and listening to the wonderful workshop speakers is well work the cost of admission. As much as we all love the creative process, remember that writing and art is also a business--use every opportunity you can to share your creative genius with others and develop more skill and more audience.  Have fun!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Faces on the Walls

I draw caricatures. I'm not like a Disney artist who can whip a likeness out in a few minutes. My caricatures are more mini sketches that include a lot of the subject's interests. My husband and I sometimes give them for gifts. Often it's hard to part with one since I've put so much time into the piece. Well, I decided to take each caricature that I complete to a copy center and make a copy for myself. Of course, the thought then is: What do you do with the copy? I found that instead of borders or wallpaper in our "Cowboy Room," it would be a good idea to use the copies for decoration. It worked, as many of them are themed to go with our SASS cowboy activities. I've enjoyed "visiting with our friends" on a regular basis in the form of their likenesses.

Mixing It Up!

For awhile I've been devoting my blog to my crafts ideas to do with kids, but I realize that a blog is very much like a diary of different things. So, while I'm still going to post easy crafts, I'm going to "mix it up" with some great photos and some reflections. This week, for example, I walked out into my back yard and thought about a statement  folks make all the time about our Florida seasons--or lack thereof. Well, I found myself saying aloud, "Who says we don't have seasons?" Then, I snapped a picture and remembered I'd snapped one of the same area in the summer. Okay, so we only have "sorta" two seasons--summer and not summer. But, if you watch closely, you'll see lots of changes and beauty in those two seasons.
Mediation bench in summer.
Mediation bench in Winter.