Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Exploring West Virginia Through Little Passports

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Our next virtual adventure through Little Passports took us to West Virginia. We've never been there and had a great time learning more about it!

The first activity was about Bridge Day. On the 3rd Saturday of October, the New River Gorge Bridge closes to cars to allow people to rappel or parachute from the bridge, or launch themselves as human catapults into the river! Good grief. We were fascinated reading about it, but Trevor and I are about as risk-averse as people can be and have no interest in trying any Bridge Day activities!

West Virginia is the home of Marble King, which makes more than a million marbles a day. Trevor dug out his huge collection of marbles so that we could make some neat marble art, inspired by West Virginia. Trevor was only 5 the last time we did marble art. Tomorrow I'll show you how we turned our art into birthday cards. 

We were intrigued by the West Virginia cooking project, Pepperoni Rolls, and decided to have them for dinner. Here's Trevor kneading the dough.

While the dough was rising, we continued with the other activities in the West Virginia State Journal. We learned about West Virginia's music, including two of its four state songs. We read about famous events in the state and did an activity based on the West Virginia State Museum. It's on our must-visit list for our eventual trip to West Virginia!

Next was a challenging maze that taught about summer activities in the Appalachians. (Trevor LOVES mazes.) The pages about winter in the Appalachians included a word search and a cool science experiment involving flour. The flour was already out from making Pepperoni Rolls, so that was perfect! We filled a tray with flour to simulate snow. 

Little Passports suggested using clay to make a boot and cardboard to make a snowshoe, but we improvised with a transformer character and a mini paddle. First, Trevor dropped the transformer into the 'snow' from a standard height. Then he taped his feet to the paddle and dropped it from the same height. He repeated the steps several times. Trevor was able to see how snowshoes' larger surface area distributes the impact of a person's weight, preventing them from sinking deep into the snow. Try it yourself! 

We played with the flour for a good 30 minutes, trying all sorts of variations and designing our own experiments. It was a lot of fun and a great way to pass the time while we were waiting for our dough to finish rising. 

Trevor hates for his hands to be dirty, but he was all smiles this time. 

We cleaned up the flour just in time to finish our Pepperoni Rolls. We made five large rolls with pepperoni and three with cheese instead. We curved the cheese ones into C's so we could tell them apart. Both were delicious!

Another great adventure with Little Passports!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Our Boy Scout Artventure

Trevor and his friend Landon met and became close in Cub Scouts. When their time in Cub Scouts ended, they joined different Boy Scout troops. While I'm proud of each boy for choosing the troop that was the best fit for him, it's a bummer that they don't see each other weekly like they used to. Through merit badge experiences, they've been able to experience at least that portion of Scouting together. A few weeks ago, Landon's mom (Angela) suggested that we get our boys together for an end-of-summer adventure. Since I am a counselor for the art merit badge, I suggested that we have an Artventure. So we did and it was awesome.

We started our day bright and early in the nearby city of Davis (where I went to college). Davis is an amazing place for artists. There is public art on every block downtown.


There is an art-themed parking garage with murals on the walls and gorgeous mosaic benches. An ART-THEMED PARKING GARAGE. Is it any wonder I love Davis?


Even the staircases in the parking garage are covered with art.

Throughout the city, there are seven painted pianos in public places. This one is at the Amtrak station. 

As we enjoyed the many murals, statues, paintings, and other artwork, the four of us had a long discussion about what art is, why it is important, and how if affects us as humans. We identified art that is especially meaningful to each of us and talked about the reasons why artists create. We talked about the elements and principles of design and how an artist can use each to convey a mood or message. 

Then we headed to The Artery, which is a cooperative art gallery. It was so neat seeing such a wide variety of creations. I chose an exhibit of whimsical gourd birds and showed the boys examples of each of the elements and principles of design. 

Then it was their turn to find some art that spoke to each of them. One at a time, they showed examples that they found of the elements and principles of design. 


We spoke with one of the artists about her work, which incorporates flowers from her garden onto fabric and other surfaces. The boys learned about different careers in art and what education and training is helpful or necessary to go into a creative field.  


We left the gallery and found a shady spot to do our first of four drawings. The art merit badge requires boys to 'render a subject of your choice' in four different ways. We started with pencil. I brought along artist-quality pencils in a variety of hardnesses. We experimented with them, then used them to make a drawing. Angela and I did drawings also; that's my quick pencil sketch of my point-and-shoot camera.


Our next stop was Crepeville for lunch. While we waited for our food, we moved on to our second drawings. This time we used pen and ink. 


We left downtown Davis and headed to one of my favorite Davis parks for our third drawings. This time we used pastels. I brought both soft pastels and oil pastels so they could experiment with each. 


The boys enjoyed the playground for 30 minutes or so, then we headed to our final sketching location. This time, we worked in charcoal. It's a hard medium for me, and particularly challenging for the fountain I was trying to draw. I had to work hard to soften it so that it didn't look like the children were playing in a giant flame!


The final requirement for the art merit badge required each boy to design his own logo. We talked about the elements and purpose of a logo, then they began creating using PicMonkey (affiliate link). The two couldn't be more different!

By the end of the day, we'd had a great time, learned a lot, and enjoyed each other's company. And both boys completed the art merit badge. 

Whether you are in Boy Scouts or not, I'd absolutely recommend having your own Artventure! Pick a city, pack up some art materials, and head out. It's a wonderful way to stretch yourself as an artist, build your creativity, and enjoy the world around you. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Simple Chalk Eclipse Art

Steve and his sister left yesterday for Oregon, where they will meet up with their parents for the solar eclipse. He has been planning this trip for years. To say that Steve likes astronomy would be a gross understatement. Astronomy is as important to him as crafting is to me. Here's a very simple craft that combines both of our loves. It only takes about two minutes, which is about how long Steve will enjoy totality from his viewing spot in Madras, Oregon. Trevor and I will see a partial eclipse (about 75%) from here in the Bay Area.


Chalk Eclipse Art


  • cardstock
  • circle punch
  • black construction paper
  • white chalk


Punch a circle from a piece of cardstock. Put the punched circle in the center of the black construction paper. Trace a heavy chalk line around the circle.

While holding the circle in place, use your finger to pull the chalk outward from the circle. (Easy to do, but difficult to photograph!) You can pull the chalk out as little or as much as you want. Older children may want to incorporate prominences, helmet streamers, coronal loops, the diamond ring, or Baily's beads

Remove the circle to reveal your eclipse!

Will you be viewing the eclipse on Monday? Where will you be? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

First Day of Middle School

Trevor started middle school yesterday. After six years at his elementary school, it was a big transition for my boy who is not a big fan of change. I'm happy to report that he absolutely loved it and is really excited for the year! 

As always, I took a picture of Trevor before school. When I dropped him off, I was feeling nostalgic about his first day at his elementary school, so when I got home, I found that photo from his first day of kindergarten. How fun to see how much he has changed! I wanted to drop everything and create a scrapbook layout with the two photos, but I don't have a photo printer and I only had about 10 minutes before I needed to start work. Fortunately, it took less than 10 minutes to make this:

Look at little 5-year old Trevor! So cute with his nicely combed hair, navy polo, and Lightning McQueen lunchbox. He's still cute, of course, but he's so grown up now.

So how did I make this? PicMonkey. Literally all I did was collage the two photos, open a blank canvas, add the corkboard background, place a white rectangle on top, insert the photos, add the text, resize the title, and then add the pushpin overlays. If you've never tried PicMonkey, I highly recommend you check it out. If you've tried it but it's been awhile, you might want to give it another go. They're adding new features all the time. I use PicMonkey practically every day and can't imagine my creative life without it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

'Put Me In the Zoo' Costume

I randomly had an idea for a simple, literature-based costume for a preschooler based on Robert Lopshire's classic, "Put Me in the Zoo." Now that my niece lives out of state, I don't have any local preschoolers in my life. So I made the costume, brought it to Bandon, and hoped that Allison would model it for me. She did, though I had to snap photos very quickly. Look how cute she is!

And speaking of cute, here is Trevor reading the book to my godson (my cousin Tim's son), Teagan. 


Put Me in the Zoo Costume


  • yellow t-shirt (I used an adult medium for 4-year old Allison)
  • newspaper
  • acrylic paint (red, orange, green, blue, purple)
  • large spouncer
  • q-tips
  • yellow headband
  • yellow felt
  • scissors
  • hot glue


1. Put newspaper in the t-shirt so that the paint does not soak through from one side to the other. 

2. Use the spouncer to make painted circles all over the t-shirt. I did one color at a time, leaving spaces between them. 

3. Use a q-tip to fill in any circles that are not perfect. 

4. While the shirt is drying, cut ears from felt and glue them to the headband.

5. Turn the dry t-shirt over and add spots to the back. 

This simple costume is adorable as is, but you can add extra details if you want. Consider making a felt tail, or using facepaint to add a little black nose. So cute!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Glass Fusing at Sage Place in Bandon, Oregon

During our family reunion in Bandon, Oregon, the whole group went to Sage Place for a glass fusing workshop. Everyone, from the grandparent generation down to the 4-year olds, participated. It was awesome. 

The workshop was taught by Anne Sobbota, the owner of Sage Place. This charming studio hosts regular classes as well as workshops for groups or special occasions. Before starting our workshop, we browsed through the Discovery Center to view the glass versions of local flora and fauna. It's stunning.


Anne started our workshop by showing us sample projects and all of the materials we could use to design our creations. There were so many possibilities!

After further instructions, safety information, and helpful tips, she let us loose. Some of us chose to make fish, others made tiles, and the rest made coasters. 


Some had a design in mind, while others played with the materials until something beautiful emerged. 


Anne did a great job making sure everyone was enjoying themselves. She even had coloring pages and extra fish for the kids who finished early. 


Look at the concentration of 4-year old Teagan. Future artist, for sure! 

This is my work station. I chose a blue smiling fish and decorated it with yellow, lime, orange, and grey. 

We spent a little over an hour making our creations. When they were done, Anne put them in the kiln to fuse. Two days later, they were cool and ready to be picked up. Every single one turned out beautifully. 


If you ever find yourself in Bandon, I highly recommend doing a glass fusing workshop at Sage Place! It was great fun and surprisingly affordable. And now we each have a special souvenir from our time together. Thanks again to Anne for helping make our family reunion even more memorable.