Saturday, May 10, 2014

Crafting is for Life, Not Just the Holidays!

I love how crafts can seep into every area of life. My daughter is an autonomous learner, which means an unstructured home education that is child-led and follows subjects that she is interested in. Right now we are learning about the body, and building a skeleton. This term at forest school is all about minibeasts, and there is a new show on the CBeebies channel all about minibeasts too, so we are learning lots about insects! My daughter has taken a great interest in musical instruments recently, and also wants to learn about the vikings. And, as I mentioned last week, we do weekly crafts and activities based around a picture book of choice. All of these topics can include crafts, so not only are we getting creative and arty, we are learning lots, too!


 At the start of the week, we went on a lovely morning out in the forest for the May Bank Holiday. An author was visiting with her book, Teddy Edward's Rainbow Walk, and along with the storytelling and songs was a "rainbow walk" to find lots of different colored "nature treasures" which the children then glued onto a beautiful big rainbow painted onto a large sheet of paper (above). The collage created from the many shades of leaves, twigs, flowers and pine cones was a sight to behold!


Yesterday, we made a tambourine (left) and a kazoo. Both were simple to make and used mostly everyday materials, but the process was super fun and produced great results! Whether crafting from nature, junk or actual craft materials, there are so many DIY instruments you can make. My latest lens on how to Make your Own Tambourine shows you just how easy it can be!

Our skeleton crafts have encompassed both literacy (we recently read and had fun with the book Funnybones), art (chalk drawings, glow in the dark paint, moving paper skeletons), puzzles (printing out and piecing back together skeleton bones) and science - we're building a skeleton week by week with a cool partworks series, which comes with a magazine explaining all about how the body works, and to demonstrate how strong our bones are, despite being hollow, we did a fantastic craft where we stuck about 30 drinking straws inside cardstock and rolled them up to make a bone, before placing things on top to see how strong the construction was!


We also made cotton bud skeletons (right) and pasta skeletons, which LeanneChesser explains how to make in her Spooky Skeleton Crafts, along with toilet roll skeletons, skeleton mobiles and more!  

Minibeasts have also brought out the crafters in us - insect nature collages, making up mud minibeasts at forest school, and even creating our own ant farm out of a plastic container. I can't wait to have a go at making the super cute pom pom peg butterflies that Spelloutloud shows us how to make as part of their Butterfly Unit for Young Children.

You don't have to be a home educator to nurture your child with creativity and learning through crafts - taking time to do this one evening a week or at the weekend will create wonderful memories and teach them so much.










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Friday, May 9, 2014

Pride and Prejudice

There is one movie and book that stands out in our hearts as an all time favorite for most forever hopeless romantics.  Pride and Prejudice is not only a classic in literature, but it is also a work of art in the movie industry.  

It is truly my own personal all time favorite.  Perhaps, largely owing to the fact that my daughter and I spent countless hours watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice throughout her high school years.   Any rainy weekend or holiday break was all the reason we needed to break out the dvds.

As soon as the new version starring Keira Knightley was released in the theaters, we were in attendance for it's debut.  We both now own a copy of that dvd as well. 

Ironically, we each have a different movie version of Pride and Prejudice that we prefer.



PRIDE & PREJUDICE DVD'S REVIEWED

I have personally seen 3 of the 4 versions available and I do have my own preference.   Obviously, the story-line is the same, but the actors do play a major part in personal choice, as well as the depth of detail.  I tend to always prefer the movie that most closely aligns with the original book, mainly because I usually watch the movie because I first loved the book.  

I find deviations distracting even when I do appreciate some things simply don't come across as well on the screen.  I completely understand that screenwriters and directors take liberties to make a more entertaining movie.  

I would love to hear your opinions.  Please leave your comments and tell us which version you prefer.  

However, I will warn you in advance, her reviews will send you running to your dvd players and searching for your own copy, or copies, of Pride & Prejudice.  

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


  




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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Field Photography and Close Ups

This is the third post in my series on the Nature Photography Class I am taking.  Each week we have a homework assignment and the assignment for this past week was to take an artistic photo of a flower.  The photo above is the one I submitted.  It is the backside of a Gerbera daisy.  In order to take the photo I made my own background by draping a black velvet skirt over a chair and sitting the potted plant on the chair.  I used my tripod and zoomed in close to capture this photo.  Here is the photo of the front of that same flower.  The instructor said that although the front flower was a good one he enjoyed the photo of the back since it was a side people usually don't see.  He also said it was good that I did not center the back flower photo.  It gives it more interest.

Field Photography

In the class we talked a bit about field photography with an emphasis on what to bring when you go into the field to photograph.  The main point that I got from this was that you should think careful about what you want to photograph and not try to bring all your gear but rather just what will be needed.  Here are some considerations and items to pack in your bag to overcome them.

  • Wet Grass/Mud--carry a folded up heavy duty trash bag to kneel or sit on.
  • Wind- consider carrying an umbrella to use to block the wind
  • Controlling light- reflectors in various colors-black,white, gold, silver
  • Transporting gear- pick a bag that is lightweight and fits what you are doing....you wouldn't want a heavy bag for a longer hike

Macro  Photography

We also discussed macro and closeup photography in the class.  The instructor said the difference is that macro photography would be taking a photo  at 1/2 life size or greater.  Less than that it would be close up photography.  He said most macro settings on cameras are really close up photography.  He talked about several options for taking macro photos.
  • Macro Lenses--these are great for getting small details.  The lens come in a variety of size and the instructor said if you were to get just one he would suggest something in the 70-80 mm range.  Macro lenses are a bit on the expensive size so you may want to consider the next less expensive option.
  • Extension tubes--these tubes help you to get macro photos without the expense of the macro lens.  They can be purchased usually in sets of 3 and can be used in combination with any lens...zoom or otherwise.
  • Diopter lenses- these lenses will magnify and help in macro photography.  They DO NOT work well with zoom lenses.
  • Focus Rails--this is a great tool that can be attached to your tripod to move the camera back and forth when you are focusing.  Much easier than trying to move tripod to focus.






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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Handmade Mother's Day Gifts

Happy Mother's Day!

Moms never get too old to enjoy those Made by Hand and Handcrafted with Love gifts from their children. And, children should never get too old to create those one of a kind presents that have so much meaning to their parents.

For our mom's birthday and for Mother's Day, my brother and I crafted together to create a unique and upcycled present for mom. We found ourselves Recycling Memories of Love and Flowers. My brother pressed and dried a bouquet of flowers. I learned how to Recycle a Rusted Metal Picture Frame and Watch It Shine.

This turned out to be an easy project and mom spent hours deciding where to hang her framed work of childhood art. My brother's pressed flowers turned out really well for his first time. Here's how he did it:
  • Place a piece of parchment paper on a hard and flat surface. Select a spot that is cool and shaded.
  • Arrange the cut flowers on the parchment paper. Lay the leaves flat and bend flower stems to "pose" the flowers.
  • Place another piece of parchment paper over the flowers.
  • Cover with a flat board.
  • Evenly stack books or bricks on the board. Start with just a few bricks so that the flowers are not crushed.
  • Check on the flowers every day. Add more bricks to slowly press the flowers.

Recycled flowers and upcycled picture frames aren't the only ways to impress a mom. Most moms love jewelry, too. Here's some crafting talent that is waiting to help you create something special for your mom.
Show your mom some love. Give a present that is handmade from the heart.

Until next time, be safe, be well and Happy Mother's Day!

Coletta



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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On Belonging, Astonishment, and Becoming Spring


Each Petal a Heart... My Heart
“Every spring is the only spring—a perpetual astonishment.”  ~Ellis Peters

There are mornings, such as these, when I am baptized by astonishment.  And in these moments of breathtaking wonder, I belong—I belong to the land, to the first wildflowers of the season, to the mountain chickadee and bluebirds, the oriole, the purple martins, and the mighty hummingbirds.

What is the purpose of green living if not this—to belong to that which is a perpetual astonishment?  Without that sense of surprise and sheer delight, the days would merely be hours.

I’m supposed to be writing reviews, but my spirit wants to sing a different song as this glorious day unfolds.  To deny the song would render my writing moot.  One can only write what one feels deeply, madly, and truly. 

On what feels like the first day of spring I have ever truly known, the words that want to be written are tender, unfurling leaves.  To stand under a young elm tree, witnessing buds giving birth to green... how does one review that? 

Perhaps, if I get still, and quiet, and deeply absorb all this green, it will become embedded in my DNA and I can be a perpetual spring. Wouldn't that be something to write on my heart?



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Monday, May 5, 2014

The 2013 Travelers' Choice Destination is Located in Adams County, Pennsylvania

Driving through town
Adams County, Pennsylvania is a highly rated tourist area.  However, Adams County probably does not sound at all familiar to you.  But I bet you have heard of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Gettysburg is listed as “Travelers’ Choice 2013 Winner – Destinations on the Rise” by Tripadvisor.  

Ghettysburg is a historic town, steeped in civil war history.  Military and architecture buffs love touring the area.  I have driven through historic Gettysburg more times than I can count.  I always think that I really should stop and enjoy the sights someday. Or perhaps, make arrangements to spend a night.  Somehow, I never do.

Perhaps, I have only a lukewarm interest in the Civil War era.  That could be the reason why I only drive through Gettysburg year after year on the way to the National AppleHarvest Festival, which is also located in Adams County.  Or maybe I feel like I’ve already seen Gettysburg as I drive through. I’m not sure why I don’t feel the need to stop. Today, however, I read a Squidoo lens by leahjsongs that gives me even more reason to stop and enjoy Adams County.  Leahjsongs tells us about the award winning wines at Adams County Winery.  If you enjoy wines, I hope you take a peek at her Adams County Winery review.

Are you surprised that there are award winning wineries in the mid-Atlantic states? Before moving to this area, I had never imagined that wineries existed here. Not only do they exist, but they produce wines that I like very much. Boordy Winery is a good example.  Boordy Winery is not located in Adams County, PA. It is located in Maryland. But since we were on the topic of good mid-Atlantic wines, I had to mention it.

Returning to the topic of Adams County attractions, you can learn more about Gettysburg at
Destination Gettysburg  which is the official Gettysburg website and see more of the National Apple Harvest Festival in my pictorial.  

If you are familiar with any more Adams County gems (or mid-Atlantic wineries) please let me know!

Monuments seen from the highway

  
Image Credit: Images are mine and were taken during drives through Gettysburg, Pa.  ©Dawn Rae – All Rights Reserved (Click on photo for larger view)




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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Do Not Toss Your Greeting Cards--Reuse Them!

I am a hoarder! I will admit that to you, but you have to promise not to tell my friends and family.

I mostly hoard greeting cards that I cannot bear to toss into the recycle bin or trash barrel. In order to save space, I usually tear off the front of the card so I can use the artwork again in some other form (ie. gift tags -- see the image below, the stocking tag used to be the front of a greeting card).

However, the one practical use is to recycle the front of the card INTO another greeting card. That is actually very easy to do. All you need is some card stock or blank greeting cards and envelopes. You then just cut the original front to fit on the new blank card. Sometimes I find the written verse in a card to be so very good that I trim off the signature on the card and so I can "borrow" the sentiment and glue it into my "new" card.


Having been the "official" Glue Gun Slinger Contributor on the now defunct website, Squidoo, I do have a few adhesives in my crafting tool kit, but my knowledge about glues for "paper" crafts is mostly limited to book repair. However, I have been know to make a paper craft project or two, and I highly recommend Elmer's Washable All-Purpose School Glue Stickscraft glue

While you are on the site, be sure to check out "Card Making and Craft Budget Tips" by writer/crafter "paperfacets". If you are at all interested in making greeting cards, this page will be helpful, indeed.

I have read that it is best to use a glue that will not "wrinkle" the card stock when making a card. Does anyone have a good suggestion for me to try? I am thinking that a glue stick might work. What about glue dots? Has anyone used them? I really like to know about a product before I invest my hard earned cash.







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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Crafty by Nature



 One of my favorite ways to craft is by using natural materials from the world around us. Every week my daughter and I head off to forest school and then have a wander through the forest afterwards, and invariably she will pick up some bits and bobs to take home and craft with!  


There are lots of gems to be found on the forest floor, from pine cones to twigs, leaves to moss. These can be used in so many ways - leaf printing, glitter pine cones in pots or to use on festive wreaths, nature cards and more! 

Our very own mbgphoto shares this tutorial on How to Make a Pine Cone Angel, which you can adapt to make into angels, fairies or elves with your little ones!

Another great source of natural craft materials is the beach. How many different ways can you get creative with a shell? Lots, I tell you! We've made sculptures and mini mermaids, painted pebble friends and treasure boxes, to name but a few things, out of the shells, pebbles, rocks and driftwood that we've encountered on our meanderings.  

Shells - image from JupiterImages Corporation
 Scarlettohairy shows us How to Paint Rocks in her craft guide, and for more beach-themed crafts, I put together a few ideas to get you started in my guide to Sea Crafts for Kids. You'll also find plenty of inspiration in Homemade Beach Craft Ideas by studentz, which includes lots of projects from basic to advanced, many of which can be adapted for children. Which reminds me, if you see a craft you like in a book or online, but it's for older kids or adults, don't write it off straight away - can you come up with a toddler or preschooler-friendly version of it?

Natural materials can be so much fun to craft with, and they can be excellent teachers, too! As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, during the Easter break we had a go at a willow weaving workshop at our local zoo, and came home with two lovely birds nests, which we've been using for all kinds of things. Needless to say, we learned a lot about how clever birds are at making their nests, and how they have to make them strong enough to hold the eggs and soft enough for the babies when they hatch! Greenspirit has a wonderful guide to making Bird Nests Crafts, which little ones would love to help with creating. 


Finally, even if you live in the middle of the city or miles from a beach or wood, you can still find nature's bounty on your doorstep! Find sticks and flowers in the garden, leaves from trees in the street or park... or combine nature and crafts by creating a mini indoor garden in a pot or barrel - perfect for small world play, nurturing green fingers and stimulating creativity! Think fairy garden, dinosaur terrain or even a Lego adventure park. There are lots of Miniature Fairy Garden Ideas to be had such as these by LoveEmbroidery.

Elsewhere in the world of nature, seedplanter shows us how to have Fun with Flowers, while vallain reviews these awesome Model Insect Kits, which once built would look great as part of a nature diorama for small world play. And I just love some of the ideas on lbrummer's Outdoor Crafts for Kids, especially the twig frame, garden markers made from sticks and the super cool grass house!

So, next time you are enjoying a walk out in the natural world, why not have a look around and see what treasures lie waiting to be found?

(c) All photos copyright of the author unless otherwise stated




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Friday, May 2, 2014

Holiday Cookbooks: Perfect for Mother's Day

Mother's Day is just around the corner, so now is the perfect time to pull out your favorite cookbook and plan a special treat for mom.  

If you or your mom love cooking for the holidays, or anytime, a holiday cookbook is also the perfect gift for Mother's Day.  I know I personally have a collection of specialty and holiday cookbooks that I absolutely love and frequently grab for reference.  I enjoy "pouring over a cookbook", as my own mother would say, reading recipes, making a grocery list and planning to try a new recipe.


The Pioneer Woman Cooks A Year of Holidays


Our very own pioneer woman, RenaissanceWoman2010, reviewed a fabulous cookbook for all of us recently in her article entitled, I'm Spending the Holidays with Ree.  I was so impressed by her review, that I simply had to purchase my own copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks A Year of Holidays.

I have my own grandmother's Pecan Pie recipe that I use, but the recipe and featured photo were all I needed to see to know I had to have the cookbook!

The Pioneer Woman's Holiday cookbook is chock full of some great recipes and while I don't know Ree personally, I do know she will now be a part of my holidays too.


May You All Have a 
Happy Mother's Day!



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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Basic Techniques for Digital Photography



Last week I shared my notes for the first session of our Nature Photography class.  Here are some additional points from that first class Nature Photography Class.  The photo of the tulip is one that I took using some tips I learned in that first class.

In our second class our instructor went over some basic techniques for photography.  The list below includes some of the points he made in class that were of particular interest to me.  I hope  you find some that will work for you too.

  • Vantage Point--  Look for a different vantage point for your photos.  Everyone sees an object straight on when they see it, help your audience to see it differently.  Take your time, walk around an object to find just the right place to take the photo and then set up your tripod.
  • Take Both Vertical and Horizontal Views--Even if you think one way would be best try taking it both ways.  You never know when the other way might be what you need for a certain project.
  • Watch Your Background-  How many times are we so focused on the person or object that we are photographing that we don't notice the background till we see the finished photo.  Before you hit the shutter, make it a habit to run your eyes through the outside perimeter of the picture.
  • Waterfalls- To get that beautiful blurr of water take the photo at a speed of 1/15 sec or slower using your lowest ISO.
  • Animals- To get the best reaction from an animal shoot 2-3 shots in close succession.  The first one will get the animals attention and the second will usually have the best reaction.


Each week our instructor gives us an assignment.  This week's assignment is to take an artistic photo of a flower.  Next Thursday I will share my photo with you along with the tips that we get in our third class.  The subject next week will be on Macro Photography. Stay tuned!



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