Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Vegan Bites: Good Fortune

 The Humble Fortune

Mama: "I think I'll whip you up a batch of cookies."
O: "A batch of cookies? For ME? 
Are you teasing me?!
'Cause if you're teasing me, 
I'm going to be angry at you!"

 My New Silicon Baking Mat

In all of our years in China, we have yet to come across a single Fortune Cookie.
Maybe this is less Mandarin, more popular in Cantonese culture (though I've never seen one in Hong Kong either) or this could be the same story as Chicken Balls; heavily adapted versions of Chinese cuisine, to suit American tastes!

In honour of New Year's, resolutions and wishes for 2015, we made a batch of Vegan Fortune Cookies for the eve's celebrations.
A funky but very finicky project!

 Best of the Bunch
This one turned out nicely.
But that was it.
The others were a mix of trying to get the cookie baked just so it was soft enough to mold into shape, but hard enough not to collapse into a heap around the Lucky Fortune.
The baking time was far more than the 14 minutes called for in Amey's recipe; averaging around 25-30 minutes.
Definitely not an easy project with young children, as you had to work quickly with hot cookies.

 Writing Good Wishes

O watched me burn myself and say a few choice words while she wrote out wishes, in Chinese, no less.
I translated on the backsides!

When heaped together, you couldn't really tell that most of them turned out a bit funny-looking with the Best of the Bunch stratigically placed on top for a photo!
Most importantly, it was what's inside that counts (good fortune!)...and the taste got big ratings too!

Wishing you and your loved ones 
a happy, healthy & peace-filled New Year!

Vegan Eats and Treats. Normally when I check out a link for a recipe/ design/ activity, I head to the site's main page to see if it's headed to my Bookmarks. This site did not disappoint! The woman even has a list of vegan-friendly fare from different countries she has visited! LOVE IT! 
She's officially been blog-rolled! (See right Love Play Learn for Amey's blog Vegan Eats & Treats)

Fortune Cookies for the Felt-Lover. These are super easy and sweet
Also 100% Vegan;) 

Plexi Prints

 Getting Started

Baby C slept snug in the carrier with a fever, so something stirred in me to get painting with O, as we enjoyed our last day of 2014.
In her Tinker Box, we included a Plexiglas sheet and foam paint roller with the intent to create Plexiglas Relief Prints, so I set up an Art Space, which in itself, excites me!

The key to this project was having the supplies handy and space set up.
We have old t-shirts for painting, but in haste, a good old garbage bag apron is sufficient!
In addition:
~plastic paint mat (I purchased this in China. Heavy duty plastic from a roll. Many times used.)
~paint roller
~old china plate
~acrylic paint (we chose one colour to create monoprints)
~wet wipes/reusable washing cloth
~heavy paper for printing

 Finger Etching

O enjoyed the experience of rolling the paint VERY MUCH.
So much so, the paint was nearly dry before she etched in her finger drawings.
This project is so simple, so hands on and results are so stunning, it's 100% win.

We learned the hard way that heavier card paper works best.
The softer paper easily stuck to the plexi surface, creating a clean-tear challenge.
We also learned that cleaning the plexiglas between prints can help, as the thin layer of paint dries quickly prior to print-making.

The results were stunning (but I am a HUGE fan of print-making for it's naturally professional look!)
We re-loaded the Gallery Wall (a row of three pant hangers, for $0.25 each at a local thrift store!) in time for 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Workin' at the Car Wash

 Car Wash Station

We visited the car wash for the first time this week, having gone too long sans cleaning!
Needless to say, it was a huge hit, particularly with O. If she had it her way, we'd go daily for the Monster Wash.
Instead, we set up a Car Wash Station, for all of the well-loved dinky cars Daddy gifted O & C for Christmas. These are the seriously good, old cars that have lived strong through life at the farm! 
They were due for a decent cleaning.

We set out the shallow IKEA tote (the under-the-bed storage tote, that serves as our Sensory Play bin) as well as a big pot of warm, soapy water.
At this point, all you have to do is step back and watch the playtime begin.
I couldn't step back fast enough, as both O & C had their hands and feet right in there, pushing me out of the way.

Baby C quite enjoyed the taste of soapy water and metal cars!
Definitely an activity that requires supervision!

She also learned quickly how to shake water out of the vehicles, lift the handle of the pot to create a splashy tote and examine each car for their capabilities (door opening, wheels turning, cab-lifting and so on).

And there's nothing like playtime that doubles as a chore checked off.
The kitchen floors have gone sans cleaning too long as well...until I introduced a bin of soapy water.
Let the splashing begin!

Parenting Picks: Tieramid


Besides some finger puppets and a few new instruments, Tieramid was the only toy we gifted for Christmas. 
This particular one has been all over the world, as we toted it back from China, where we purchased it for pennies.
The quality is a bit questionable, but the concept of open-ended art and architecture is fantastic.

It comes with a set of construction card idea's, which I personally needed to coax the above sample, as my brain needs some creativity-exercises!
Children on the other hand, definitely don't require the cards.
I introduced them, to give O a bit of a start, but she quickly had things figured out and was onto her own unique and innovative creations.

The emotion set was a good starting point.
They're fairly simple and demonstrate how a few flips of facial features can change the entire feeling!

O is not fond of puzzles in the least, but this type of puzzle she seemed very drawn to.
She quickly located the pieces necessary to match the cards and went about her work making faces (and incorporating 'beards').

Next she veered into the world of architecture, building a 'bridge'.

Her third set astonished me.
She created a piece that involved three circles with smaller circles in the interior.
Then she went on to tell me these were representations of a baby in utero.
In her words, "the baby getting bigger in the mommies tummy."

Lastly she built what she titled, "New Year's Cake", which involved a combination of stacked circles, emotion faces and tools from her new Tinker set.

Though we are definitely not lacking in the blocks department, this was a decent addition to our Blocks Box and is already being well-loved.

Fracto Jumbo. A.K.A Tieramid Super Size version. Fabulous! Incorporating body awareness, art and architecture! See Fracto Jumbo.

Architecture Books for Kids. The lovely Playful Learning arrived in my inbox today with a list of Architectural Books for Kids

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tinker Tool Box: Spoiler Alert!

It's Tinker Time!!
Hubby has been helping me construct a Tinker Box as a gift that keeps on giving.
The best part about this 'box-o-tools' is the endless options for creative endeavors!

You can present each object individually for a focused tinkering session.
Otherwise, you could set out a few bits and pieces as a theme for a Creative Space, based on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math).

Have toys you've been wanting to toss?
Offer them up for deconstruction!
I read about this recently and it's brilliant!
Stuffed, battery-operated, mechanical or otherwise, if you're cleaning house or something's on it's last leg,  take it apart and learn about how it was constructed.
The same for old household objects.

 Our Kit

Our kit contains several small activity-starters. 
Each can be expanded.
Wood was left in it's natural state, to allow for design as desired.

 Wood Tree

This set of 5 squares is a lesson in size as well as fine motor skill practice.
Presenting the blocks on their own, could result in architectural exploration.


Our Geo-board has been developed using a small disk of tree trunk and several finishing nails.
Traditionally, the Geo-board would be a grid for creating shapes and designs with elastics.
We opted to create a heart-shape board, similar to the popular Nail Art
Colourful hair elastics are a smoother fit than elastic bands and easier on little hands.

 DIY Blocks

Craft stores sell these wooden blocks for a bundle!
We bought a 2x2 rod of wood for a few dollars and I cut them into squares in the miter box.
These can be designed into dice for various math/number games, or patterned on each side as Art Dice for Drawing Prompts.
You can use chalkboard paint, to change up the design each time they're used
In addition, you can dip dye Rainbow Blocks

These plain old washers received a pleasant pick-me-up with a little embroidery thread

Elementary, My Dear Daddy

As a personal touch, we included a small hammer from Grandpa Roy's garage and Daddy's elementary school ruler (which wasn't even the yellow and black plastic kind!)

Also included:
*Flower Press (two boards with bolts in each corner)
*Plexiglas & Roller (for monoprint art)
*Mini Hammer (pounding flowers into dye, pounding golf tee's into styrofoam)
*Painters Tape (floor games such as: Bulls Eye Beanbags, Hopscotch, Mazes, Roadways)

This kit can be heavily armed with additional tools found around the home.
Such as:
*magnifying glass (examining small parts or nature finds)
*eye droppers
(raiding Grandpa's garage would work!)

T-Shirt Yarn & Finger Knitting

A beloved maternity-turned-nursing tanks bit the proverbial dust this evening.
Four years well-worn.

I own a few more, so I happily turned this one into T-shirt yarn, thanks to Repeat (Cr)after Me

Finger-weaving necklace

My necklace didn't turn out quite as charming as hers (she recommends seamless t-shirts), but it was a quick and easy project I will have to do with O & C next time.
They'll be in the ball of yarn like little cats tomorrow morning!

Daily Doodle: Cats

How long I waited to have a home with my own child's artwork adorning it;)

Elf's Losing Steam

Our little Elf is losing steam.
A few days before Chrsitmas and she's about ready to retire for the winter!

Little Stars

 Simple & Sophisticated

I loved this project.
Not only did it cover a little math and art, touched on the M in STEM for a daily double whammy of Science (see Candy Cane Science) and Math (Little Stars)...but it also encompassed the belief that less is more, my motto for the new year.
Simple and sophisticated.

O had her first go at the protractor.
For the New Year, Discovery Stations are in the plans and I had completely forgotten about the protractor as a math (or art) tool.

As usual, I refrained from filling her brain with what the protractor is meant to do and waited to see how she used it. Children's use of newly introduced tools are often either a) accurate or b) innovative.
In some cases, I use the tool before her as a demo, being careful not to turn it into a "lesson", lest she lose interest (or at the expense of quelling her innovative advances!)
"Lesson" = less.
It boxes in the options.

She certainly was innovative.
She found it frustrating to keep the pin on a point to make a circle, so she used my circle as an Art Prompt for a drawing, completing two eyes circled with eyelashes and the outline of a head.
Then she proceeded to drip water on the piece, making it look like it was crying.
I wouldn't hand this over to an art therapist! But I think it's stunning.
Of course, I'm a bit biased!

This Little Child of Mine


This little child of mine, I'm gonna let her climb.
This little child of mine, I'm gonna let her climb.

In one word: innovative.
In another: determined!

Candy Cane Science

 The Famed Cane

Daddy brought home a box of candy canes for the Christmas tree.
O cannot stop thinking about them.
In fact, on those rare moments where she is off on her own and quiet, I can imagine that she is tucked away with her stolen treasure;) And when I find her, she is smiling green and red all over.
 Pic #1

So I thought I would put the candy canes to other uses, besides bringing my child to hyper for the holidays. We used a load on decorating (and leaving) a gingerbread house with her cousins. Then I found this science experiment on Little Bins for Little Hands
Before placing pieces in water, I asked about the colour of the candy canes and what O thought they were made of. "Sugar and colour" couldn't be more accurate!

 Pic #2

I asked what she thought might happen when we put them in water, to which she had no verbal reply, but made a mixing motion with her hands.
You could introduce a mini chemistry lesson with children a bit older , but we just learned some new words like, dissolve, solids and liquids.

 Pic #3

Before the final Pic #4, we headed out for a walk and when we returned, I was shocked to see what had happened to one of the pieces (below).

Pic #4

As I was examining it and trying to think up an explanation for why the sugar molecules would have branched out instead of dissolved in the water, my little scientist told me she had conducted her own experiment, unbeknownst to me.
"Isn't that cool mom? I put little pieces of noodle on it!"
Thanks, Sherlock.

STEM. Is all the talk in the education domain. Science Technology Engineering and Math. 
If you are a toy producer, you find a way to advertise your product using this acronym and you're all set. 
If you're a Do-It-Yourselfer, you can explore your home, shed and basement for tools and scraps to suffice.
Little Bins for Little Hands has a selection of holiday activities based on STEM  with objects easily found around the home.