Tuesday, March 26, 2013
On Tuesday afternoons for the past two months, Ellen and I took a mother and child yoga class while Amabel enjoyed a mixed-media clay class. Our teachers at Blackbird Arts were fantastic and the classes were a highlight of our especially wintery winter. Not only did we appreciate the warm, welcoming creative art and studio spaces—we also made wonderful new friends and renewed a couple of friendships!
Each week after our yoga class with other mamas and little ones, Ellen would take my hand and lead me down the hall so that we could peek into the art room and watch the older children absorbed in their work. On the last day of class, she and I snuck in to capture a few photos!
Here Phil, one of the teachers, is instructing the children in making prints. It is a sort of gift, I think, to give children just the right amount of guidance and then allow them to fly on their own. In this class, young children were given real tools and techniques to create with confidence. I love the look of concentration on all their faces.
And how wonderful to work in a space like this—where inevitable creative mess-making is fully embraced! We're planning to return to Blackbird Arts next week and try a new class or two . . .
Friday, March 22, 2013
It's still white outside. Very white. But this week, in celebration of the first day of spring, we had to seek out some dirt (and make a few messes in the process!). First, there was a little kitchen table project: tiny inside gardens with wheatgrass seed, cherry twig trees, and a few other surprises thrown in for good measure.
And then today we had an adventure to our dear friend's greenhouse. Tucked behind a mountain of snow is a secret balmy world—the beginnings of Reid's organic summer bounty. What a wonderful place to shed our winter layers, plant our first seed babies, catch up with a friend, and take Skye and Rosalind out to play! Everyone came home wet, dirty, and very happy. Have you ever seen children so full of joy just to take off their coats and boots and splash in muddy puddles?
Monday, March 18, 2013
Watching Amabel ice skating on North Lake Leelanau was breathtaking. A slight thaw and then refreeze—combined with just enough wind to blow the snow off patches of ice—made for excellent conditions.
Ice skating on the lake yesterday was particularly magical after reading a beautiful book: Twelve Kinds of Ice written by Ellen Bryan Obed and illustrated by Barbara McClintock. If you have children who love to skate (or if you are an adult who loves to skate!), we highly recommend this lyrical story.
We went out on the lake to go ice fishing with our neighbor Mike again, and Harry even came along this time! Harry did not like the slick patches of ice. He couldn't get used to the feeling under his paws. And when Amabel went too far away from him out on the ice, he would bark until she came back on a snowy spot to reassure her furry guardian.
Inside the ice shanty, Ellen was even more excited about fishing this time and especially delighted with a mud puppy she reeled up and watched slither around. Her favorite part was watching him slip back into the greenish glow of water and swim away!
All-in-all it was another beautiful and successful day on the ice with our generous neighbor! It's hard to believe that spring is just around the corner and someday soon this will all seem like a distant dream . . .
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Monday, March 11, 2013
First Skye, now Rosalind!
A friend asked about all the doll making going on over here recently, and I explained to her that sewing dolls is a new thing for me. For a long time I was very intimidated by the idea. But after making my first two dolls in December, I realized that it wasn't as difficult as I'd thought. And once Amabel and Ellen watched me make a doll from start to finish, they took an interest in the whole process and wanted to be involved. A doll really makes a wonderful project—when I remember to pace myself and work in stages (which is admittedly hard to do when a little girl is eagerly awaiting a new friend!).
As far as the specifics go, Rosalind was based on the same pattern as Skye, but she looks remarkably different because of her fabric, face, and hair (with each doll we learn a bit more!). I've only used Wee Wonderful patterns so far for making dolls, and I highly recommend them for beginners because they are very simply written and not at all intimidating. As an added bonus, the 16-inch dolls fit into most of the doll clothes we already have around our house (although clothing patterns are included with the dolls, we haven't made many clothes yet). Another thing that I'm continually learning is how to use materials we already have on hand or can find at the thrift store. Men's dress shirts are particularly nice for recycling (this is a tip I learned from my Mom). And miscellaneous skeins of yarn—that aren't quite good enough or big enough for knitting projects—make great hair.
After Rosalind was finished, she was introduced to all her fellow pupils at doll school. Then Amabel had the idea to dress up the dolls for "picture day." She carefully arranged a background while Ellen lined everyone up. I found the whole process of taking photos of dolls and other creatures pretty hilarious and wanted to share the results with you in the form of a mosaic. Now all the dolls have miniature pictures of themselves, suitable for trading and sharing! Can you pick out which doll decided to change outfits and return for a second photo?
Monday, March 4, 2013
The sled dog is making progress! He now eagerly pulls both girls down a hill and across level ground.
I usually stay out in front. But sometimes I can't keep up. (Ask Amabel to tell you about the "sled dog incident" from this morning!)
Harry takes his responsibility quite seriously: looking after the girls is his favorite job.
But, don't worry—we don't work him too hard!
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Meet Skye Penderwick: the newest doll to join our family and a character in our current favorite series of chapter books, The Penderwicks. Since Skye was finished yesterday morning, she has not left Ellen's side. We started her last weekend, using this pattern from Hillary Lang's shop. I find it quite humorous to look back at the lovely pictures in Hillary's pattern, because our Skye looks so very different from Hillary's dolls . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me explain.
It started with the Penderwicks. We listened to the first book as an audio CD from our library, and we were hooked. The second book was quickly checked out and consumed. Now we are on the third book. We are trying to savor this one because although the author, Jeanne Birdsall, assures readers that there are two more Penderwick books to come, the next one won't be out until 2014.
I don't remember Amabel begging me to "read a chapter!" of any book as often as she does of the Penderwicks. When we had friends over last night, Amabel suggested that we tell them the whole story of the Penderwicks during dinner so that we could all read the next chapter together afterward. I love the way that these books have come to life in Amabel's consciousness; she talks about the characters as if they are close friends. And I'm surprised how much Ellen absorbs as well. Just when I think she isn't paying attention, she'll pipe up with a curious question. Honestly, I'm not sure what we're going to read when we've finished the third book. (What are your favorite children's books for the younger set? Any suggestions?)
A true testament to a good book, in my opinion, is when Amabel and Ellen start naming dolls and animals after characters in the story. Last weekend we were all set and ready to begin making a doll—pattern traced, all materials on hand—when I realized that we didn't have quite enough of the body fabric I'd planned to use. But the girls (and I) were too excited to wait for the "right fabric," so we rummaged around in our box of felted sweaters and found a large, soft cashmere cardigan. Would it work? We decided to experiment. And then when the doll looked just like a giant peanut (limbs yet to be attached), the girls started calling it Skye Penderwick. Well, we couldn't possibly abandon her after that.
As we worked on the doll over the past week, Amabel did a fair amount of cutting, stitching, and stuffing. She also set up a beauty parlor for necessary hair trimming—the very last step, which she completed on her own. Even though the final result is a bit more lumpy and fuzzy than I'd envisioned, Ellen loves her doll, and that is what matters. Only now, of course, we have to make Rosalind. And Jane. And Batty. (The three other Penderwick sisters.) Oh, and don't forget Hound, their dog. But maybe I can convince Harry to play that part?