28 May 2013

This is WAR!

After the various and sundry rabbits and ground squirrels did this:

to my parsley and this:

to my calendula and this:

and this:

to my strawberries and this:

to my kale, I did this:

to my garden.  Sadly, I am almost positive that I heard little bunny and ground squirrel snickers behind my back the whole time I was putting it up.

22 May 2013

Bean Dali (January 2013)

Watch out Salvador Dali, there's a new surrealist in town!  Surrealism appeals to an eight-year-old and, I have to say, I totally get it.  Like many other months, we start with a famous painting:  Persistence of Memory

You might need to embiggen it to see the melty clocks.  Or if you choose not to, we have a bonus melty clock:

The hands even move, so you can set it to whatever melty time you choose.  Next is a painting based on an less famous, but nonetheless well-known Dali motif, The Elephants:

Those are some serious long legs on those pachyderms.  Since Dali was know for his crazy mustaches, this month's self portrait took some liberties with gender:

It may not be clear from my photograph, but the mustaches were made of pipe cleaners and make this one three-dimensional.  And finally, a not-so-still-life.  I don't think this was inspired by a particular work, just a great example of surrealism and the unexpected.

Since Bean's grandma and grandpa visited The Dali Museum back when her uncle lived in Florida, they will definitely need to find their old pictures and compare notes with Bean at some point!

21 May 2013

Bean Picasso (December 2012)

Since Bean had her last art class of the year yesterday, it's definitely past time to be finishing up the fall artists.  December was Picasso and, because of the holidays, one of the shorter months.  One of the projects was a cubist self-portrait:

This is certainly a memorable project, for all the wrong reasons...Miss Bean has a pair of pink pants that are liberally decorated with this exact shade of green paint and, because the paint wasn't dry when we picked her up, I also have some of this green on my favorite sweatshirt.  Oh well, the price we pay for great art!  

The next one is inspired by the Three Musicians.  Bean ended up with Five Musicians:

I think this is in the running for favorites from the class.  I just love pretty much everything about it: the great colors, the curly armed maraca player (with a bit of Carmen Miranda going on in the hat), the saxophonist that looks like he belongs in a smoky jazz club, the bassist that can hardly reach his bass.  Love it!

11 May 2013

Oh yeah, there are boys in the house, too...

Now that I have finally gotten back to blogging, I have been so absorbed in getting Miss Bean's art class posted and up to date, that I haven't said anything about those two boys that live with us!  We have all been keeping busy with classes and interests.

I posted earlier about fencing.  Miss Bean quit fencing at the end of March, but Bug has been going strong.  He loves it and is raring to go every Tuesday and Thursday.  I had wondered if twice a week would get to be too much, but I think he would be tickled if he could go seven days a week.  Most practices are doing drills and practice bouts that give everyone a chance to both fence and referee for each other.  For a while he was thrilled just to get a touch in a bout now and then, but in the last couple of weeks he has won several one-touch bouts.  It is great fun for me seeing him gaining skills and confidence and getting some nice compliments from the coach.

He is also very active playing Minecraft.  We finally got the version for the computer in February and all three kids are having a blast with it.  I enjoy seeing him learning about computers, solving problems, and collaborating with his siblings while building worlds.  As he starts working with friends, I imagine he may be designing maps and mods and all kinds of stuff.

Another interest of his that, while not up on his radar constantly, has been sneaking in here and there is Mythology.  A while ago we read Edith Hamilton's Mythology as a bedtime read.  It was a little bit dense for him to be reading right now (I used it as a textbook for two classes: one in high school and one in college), but reading it aloud in small doses, he enjoyed it a lot and we read with the iPad close at hand so we could look things up if we needed.  Recently, we started reading the Iliad.  It started out like some of our other bedtime reading with me reading aloud, but in the last couple of weeks, he decided that he wanted to read some of it aloud, too.  So, we take turns, alternating pages, each night.  We're about halfway through and are planning on tackling the Odyssey next.

Beeb is still small enough that most of his "work" looks like playing, but he has been trying out things too.  He started tumbling and trampoline class after the first of year and seems to be having a good time.  Miss Bean has joined him since she decided to stop fencing.  He continues to love turtles and bugs and playing on the computer or video games with his older siblings.

One thing that he has been consistently interested in recently is playing the accordion.  I'm not entirely sure where he came up with the idea (not that it matters), but he announced one day that he wants to do it.  Since then, he reminds me periodically that he still wants to play the accordion.  In April, our public library had a nice little accordion recital that he and I attended.  He was completely enchanted by the music from the start, but started getting ants in his pants when the performer was talking between numbers.  While he was pretty fidgety during the second half-hour (the whole recital was about an hour), he still managed to mind his manners until the end.  We got to look at the accordion close-up at the end and he is still gung-ho to play.  We'll have to look into a student-sized instrument though as we learned that the accordion that was being played at the recital weighs about five pounds more than Beeb does.  Meanwhile, I got the iPod he uses set up with Pandora stations for zydeco and polka, both of which have accordion, so he can listen when he wants to.

Other than her art class, Bean started taking piano last fall.  She is a bit lukewarm about lessons as playing piano doesn't come as naturally to her as drawing and painting does.  She has also been taking tumbling with Beeb this session.  While she mostly enjoyed fencing while she was doing it, she was at a disadvantage to Bug as she just isn't as physically mature and coordinated since she is two years younger.  She was a hard worker and doing her best, but it just wasn't coming along as naturally or as easily as it was for Bug and was starting to get frustrating for her.  She can try again in a couple of years if she feels like it or maybe she'll decide that it just isn't her cup of tea.

Bean Monet (November 2012)

Of the artists studied in the fall, I think Monet might be Bean's favorite.  In addition to painting a picture of lily pads:

and the famous bridge in Monet's garden in Giverny:

we read several stories about both Monet's garden and his life in France.  As a result, she is already making plans to go to France to see his garden, Matisse's chapel, the Mona Lisa, and all the other famous art, too.  Poor dear is going to discover the rude awakening of champagne taste on a beer budget before long.  Meanwhile, we will file it away under "Maybe Someday."

10 May 2013

Diva Challenge #117

Weekly Challenge #117: "New Official Tangle: Schway"

Schway was a lot of fun, though I bit off more than I can chew with this tangle.  First, go look at the Diva's site and see how all the little arrows happen.  It's pretty cool.  The original plan was to fill in more arrows, but this week has been ridiculously spring-like and lovely out.  After the cool/cold and wet going on so long, we just couldn't be inside much this week.  A hike in the Arboretum with the boys during Bean's art class, a LONG park day on Tuesday, a run over to a close park after piano lessons.  Yesterday and today are gray and rainy and I spent most of yesterday coping with the fact that playing outside means chores get neglected inside.

I will probably continue to fiddle and fill arrows over time, but, even so, it's kind of fun with just a few filled in.

09 May 2013

Bean Warhol (October 2012)

Here I was being such a good girl documenting Miss Bean's art class when--ooo, shiny.  Or maybe it was a squirrel.  Anyhoo...back to art.  October was Pop Artist Andy Warhol.
Quick, what's the first thing you think of when I say Andy Warhol?

Of course: Campbell's Soup Cans!  Tomato Soup to be exact.

Another project combined something that Warhol used as subject matter with a favorite Warhol technique:

In this case, the prints weren't screen prints, but instead, they used a stylus to draw their picture in a foam meat tray which they then used as a stamp with bright colors, finishing up with painting over the drawing lines in different bright colors.  So, they still captured the "mass produced" reproduction idea that Warhol used, even without the fuss of setting up screen prints.

Considering that October had five Mondays, I have a strong suspicion that at least one project didn't find its way to Bean's art portfolio.  I know that the bananas took more than a single session, but I'm not sure that these two works took up five sessions.  'Tis a mystery.

30 April 2013

Bean Van Gogh (September 2012)

Miss Bean's classes started in September with Vincent Van Gogh.  I knew the art she made in this class was going to knock my socks off from the first thing they brought home, Starry Night:

Yes, I admit, I may be biased, but this was the best one in the class.  Miss Bean wasn't even the oldest in the class at that time (it was much bigger in September than it is now).

Next up is Sunflowers:  

Since Van Gogh painted lots and lots of sunflowers, this isn't a copy of any particular picture.  Instead, the teacher brought in a vase of sunflowers that she put in the middle of the table and they all painted it.  It was fun seeing all the different paintings, each from a different perspective depending on where around the table each kid was!

And a still life (with a bonus sunflower, of course):

I think this may have been a warm up before the Sunflowers still life.  Also, this one might need to be rotated 90° counterclockwise.  Bean couldn't remember for sure, but this was her best guess.

And finally, a self-portrait:

Neither Bean nor I are 100% sure this one belongs in the Van Gogh stack, but she vaguely remembered that they talked about colors being connected to mood. With my limited art history background, that brought Van Gogh's self portraits to mind and seemed to fit better than the other possibilities.  Note to self:  I really need to stay on top of these things and make notes right away, don't I?

Diva's Weekly Challenge #116

This week's challenge is called "Blind Sighted" and challenges us to use a blind string...just what it sounds like.  Put the pencil on a border, close eyes, and draw a string.  Once of the advantages of using my little sketchbook instead of a regular tile is that it was pretty obvious when I just about to run into the spiral binding or when I went lurching over the edge of the cliff page.  I tried to experiment with a little more white space than I usually have, but I felt like it still needed something:

So I tried tangling the stems of the Zingers:

I think it was my inability to draw parallel lines for the stems that was bugging me, but I kind of like the tangled stems, so we'll go with that.  Since I tend to get bogged down looking at a blank frame, the blind string made that part a little easier, so a fun challenge!  Thanks, Diva!

24 April 2013

Artist Girl

Bean has been the resident artist for a long time now (this picture still cracks me up).  This year, she has been taking a homeschool art class at the Monroe Street Arts Center up in Madison.  In the class, they focus on one artist each month.  They learn a little art history, see some famous examples of their art, and do art projects either copying famous pictures or doing their own take in the style of the artist.  It will come as a surprise to no one who has me the girl that she ADORES the class!  Her only complaint was that some of her classmates were more interested in talking to each other than making art and were disturbing her.  My vivid imagination is imagining the top picture from the link above.  Since the first of the year, the class size has gotten smaller and she is better able to concentrate, and even when the class was bigger, I don't think the noise was a make-or-break deal.

Anyway, today the sun was out for a change (no clouds, rain, or snow for a change), so I finally got all of her class art projects hauled out into the sun to take pictures.  Over the next week or two, I'm planning on posting her pictures by month, so watch this space.

The other fun part about the class is the other things it has led to outside the class.  She and I have been hauling artist biographies and stories and picture out from the library.  We read three out of four volumes of a nice kid-level art history series (the fourth volume isn't in our library system, or more precisely, is but the only copy is lost) and watched an older PBS art history series (Art of the Western World).  Currently, we have segued off the beaten path to read about illustrators.  Along with the monstrous pile of books we have been hauling home from the library each week, one was Talking With Artists, which, for each of fourteen artists, gives a short biography and then has each artist's answers to eight questions that are commonly asked when folks like these talk to students or do a reading.  In addition to reading from the book we have also put holds on several books by each illustrator, so we read and look at pictures after we read about one of the illustrators.  We are currently a couple of illustrators in to the second volume and I just discovered a third volume.  I guess we'd better get reading!

The sad thing?  First, we have already read down the pile by at least a dozen books since the beginning of the week.  Second, this stack doesn't even finish off the second book. It's a good thing the librarians like us, or they would be hating us with all the holds we have been picking up!  We'll whittle down this pile a bit before putting holds on books by the last few illustrators in Volume Two.

Anyhoo, more pictures, less blabbing in the next several posts as I get Miss Bean's masterpieces posted.

22 April 2013

Happy Earth Day

28 March 2013

"Spring" Break

Alternate title: Denial Runs Deep
Although we don't give a fig for the school calendar most of the time, we have really noticed Spring Break this year. For one, we are having a week with no art class, no fencing, no piano lessons, and no tumbling. Further, Spring weather has been unusually conspicuous in its absence. At a certain point all you can do is throw up your hands and say "To heck with it." So, we did, and went to the park.

Yes, there is still (significant) snow on the ground. Yes, the temps topped out on the 40's. Yes, she's wearing short sleeves.

Yes, my choice of footwear may not have been the most appropriate.

Yes, we had a great time.

Yes, it was just what we needed. There was even a rumor going around to the effect of an eyewitness sighting of my sense of humor. Imagine that.

01 March 2013

And still more crystals

Our sudden interest in crystals turned out to be extremely timely, as last Saturday was the Friends of the Geology Museum's Winter Workshop. The topic was "Bubbles of gas in lava that solidified as they cooled and then are gradually filled by the crystallization of impurities in ground water seeping through." If that's too complicated for you, you can go with the museum's title: Geodes.

We learned how geodes form (see bubbles, lava, and impurities, above), saw pictures of geodes big enough to be a bathtub (but the sharp edges of the crystals would be ever so unpleasant on the backsides, so not recommended), learned that completely filled in geodes are agates, learned that beautiful purple geodes can be found in both South America and Africa from a place where they split apart from when they were part of the super-continent Pangaea, and were informed that when illustrating the part of of a talk about unearthing geodes in Chihuahua, Mexico, an Internet search for images almost uniformly yields small canines.

The highlight of the whole thing was cracking geodes:

And a bonus picture of Beeb rockin' the safety glasses (and badly needing a haircut).

Aren't they pretty?

The clear, sparkly stuff in the one on the right (belonging, appropriately princess-like Bean) is quartz. Four quartz make a gallon doncha know. The one on the left is Beeb's and has layers of chalcedony (the milky, bumpy stuff) over quartz. The one in the middle is mine and has a wonderful combination of chalcedony bumps and worms and sparkly quartz. Bug squirreled his away into his lair long before the photo shoot, so you'll have to take my word for it that it was equally cool.

Here's a close-up of mine:

The grand finally was getting to see these Trancas geodes under short-wave ultraviolet, which made them fluoresce green!

28 February 2013

More Crystals!

Our rock candy ended up in the win column. Mom learned a few things to make the process go more smoothly next time and the kids got a tasty examples of crystals to admire.

I'm a bit behind the times as these pictures were taken several days before Valentine's Day. We have even been continuing the crystally fun...more on that soon!

02 February 2013

En Garde!

Bug and Bean both joined a local fencing club just after the first of the year.  Bug adored it from day one, practicing advances and retreats and lunges as he moves around the house.  Bean was a bit more skeptical.  She is at the young end of the club and things weren’t falling in place as easily for her as they were for Bug, who is both older and more agile.  But we have been sticking to it and keeping on and last week they were rewarded with getting equipment to use and getting to fence in their first bouts. 

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Both of them were very nervous about being shish-kebabbed and half convinced that they were going to die from stab wounds, so I was curious to see how it would go.  Their opponents were a brother and sister pair that were the next newest of the newbies. They fought valiantly:

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Miss Bean was a bit tentative (which isn’t exactly a huge surprise for those who know her personality), but nevertheless managed to back her opponent almost to his end of the strip twice, but still lost three touches to zero.

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Bug jumped right in (which is also not a big surprise to those who know him) and scored two touches before his opponent got her bearings and ended up beating him three to two.

I remembered to get a picture of Bug shaking his opponents hand after the match:

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I will admit a bit of trepidation after the matches as some of us are not known for being gracious losers and were very nervous about the whole thing to start with, but, after I checked for stab wounds that might leak when drinking water, I was very pleased with the verdict:  Huge smiles, sparkling eyes, and unanimous declarations of “That was SO awesome!”

31 January 2013

Game Day

We are loving going to game day with our local homeschool group. We meet at a library meeting room or a cafe and bring our favorite games to share with our friends and hang out for a couple of hours.

It isn't as effective as park day in getting the wiggles out, but we sure wouldn't pass up an opportunity to hang out with friends. Even if we have to remember to share the space with others and keep our voices down.

22 January 2013


With temperatures yesterday topping out at a balmy 11°F (and that was at midnight, it just fell from there), we've been thinking about snow and ice.  We had tried making ice marbles once earlier this winter, but it didn't go well.  We got our water balloons food colored and set out and two of the four froze overnight, but by the time we went out to take the balloons off, it had warmed up to the mid 30s and they were back to water.  Then we had a warmish week or so where our nice big snowfall gradually melted off the lawn and the liquid water balloons looked at us reproachfully every time we went by in hoodies rather than parkas.  It did eventually get below freezing again, but with daytime temps hovering around freezing and bright sun, they didn't stick around very long.  So we decided to try again now that it is cold and will hopefully stay that way for a bit.  It went much better this time:

The blue one is tiny since it was the first one filled.  I took it off the faucet to see if it looked full enough.  Since there was plenty give left in the balloon, I tried to put more water in and promptly learned that it isn't a good idea to put a water balloon with food coloring in it back on the spigot.  Fortunately, it cleaned up pretty easily and I managed to evade the nickname "Smurfette."

Before we got in the kitchen to make our marbles, we had been watching Arthur on Netflix and saw an episode where Francine tried to make rock candy.  Miss Bean perked right up and wanted to try herself.  I Googled madly for a few minutes and determined that we didn't have all the supplies to get rock candy started last night, but while I was looking, I recalled an interesting project I had pinned on Pinterest a while back.  We did have everything we needed for borax crystal snowflakes so we started those instead.  We diddled with pipe cleaners, borax and boiling water and the next morning we woke up to these:

After they dried, we hung them in the front window so they can sparkle in the sun and sparkle, they do.  This was a quick, easy, and fun project.  We even read about crystals on the web for a while and saw how the smooth facets reflect the close-packed internal atomic structure.

So after we did our grocery shopping (and got some clothes pins), we were ready to make some rock candy.  We had planned on making four jars, so I did four times the quantities in the recipe we used, but it ended up with enough super-saturated sugar solution for six 12 oz. canning jars.
This one is going to take a lot more patience.  Most of the directions say 3-7 days for crystals to form, so we'll be checking them regularly.  Good thing we have lots of other fun stuff to keep us busy!