Let’s share favorite summer recipes

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I’m looking for some summer food inspiration and thought we could all share our favorite recipes or meals. It’s so much easier for me to get inspired to bake and seek out sweet recipes (as evidenced by my scone mania) but I need a little help when it comes to regular meals.

I’ll share my current faves first, then hopefully you’ll share your favorites!

Spicy Honey Chicken Salad from Our Best Bites

Mmm… Harry and I both salivate over this salad. We’ve made this so many times! At least every other week.

Tabbouleh from Ina Garten

I’ve been making this recipe, substituting quinoa for the bulgur, for two years now, ever since I first saw the idea on Angry Chicken. This is a summer staple around here. It’s great to have in the fridge for a cool lunch or dinner, especially when it’s too hot to cook. I’ve started adding grilled chicken sometimes, from another Barefoot Contessa recipe that a friend introduced me to.

espinacas con garbanzos from Smitten Kitchen

These are so delicious and addictive! They’re not actually all that summery — maybe more ideal for cooler weather — but sooo good I can’t stop making them! 

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce from the Food Network

Our neighbor brought some of these over a while back and I’ve made them since. I’ve tried different chicken satay/peanut sauce recipes in the past and this is my favorite so far. I also love how you wrap it up in a lettuce leaf!

Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite summer recipes and meals?


Picking a rainbow

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Meet Ariella from Childhood Magic

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Ariella is the soulful mama of
two behind the beautiful blog, Childhood Magic. Here she shares her parenting
inspiration, her favorite projects, and a few photography tips.

***Note: Readers will have a chance
to win two of her beautiful handcrafted star lanterns at the end of this
interview.***

JEAN:  I’d
love to hear a bit about your journey to motherhood and your ideal of motherhood.
Was your childhood like this?

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ARIELLA:  My childhood
was very similar, except my parents were even more eccentric than me! They were
wild free spirits and taught me to break every rule in the book! Seriously,
they are amazing people who instilled so many powerful and beautiful things in
my brother and me—I try to model my parenting on everything they did, just a
bit more organized and refined. 

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I want to raise my children outside
the box as my parents did, but I also want them to be able to follow the rules
and function in the box if need be! My ideal of mothering is to raise healthy,
thriving children and to always search for that middle ground between
artist/rebel/rule follower.

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JEAN:  Your
family homeschools and I understand that you were yourself homeschooled, also
in the Waldorf style. Was homeschooling or not homeschooling ever a question
for you? Or was it always a given that you would homeschool your children?

ARIELLA:  It
certainly was not always a given. I question it all of the time. Before I had children,
I pretty much figured that I would never homeschool because I thought I wasn't
organized enough. Then after I became a mom, I started to feel this deep urge
to homeschool and I was so torn about it! I was literally sleepless for months,
agonizing over what to do about school. Then it hit me, if I wanted to
homeschool and do cool, fun, magical things all day long, then what was
stopping me? Did I somehow think there was something wrong with me? That I
wasn't up for the task of following my own dreams? From that point on I made
the choice to stop thinking I wasn't "good enough" or "organized
enough" to be a homeschooling mom. I dove in with two feet and at least
six days out of the week, I am totally thrilled and passionate about my choice.
The other one day of the week I feel like packing up and running for the hills!
I figure feeling like that one day out of the week is a fine enough ratio for
me.


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JEAN:  Can you tell us about the art and
crafts you do with your kids? How do you choose what to do and where do you get
your ideas and inspiration?

ARIELLA:  The crafts
we do here at home are mostly Waldorf inspired. My fondest memories of my own
homeschooling are of the times that my mom really focused on Waldorf style
education—so I feel that may be why I feel so connected to the crafts and philosophy
now that I am an adult. 

When
trying to come up with ideas for projects I have found that the internet is the
most amazing resource. I love the melting pot of the crafty blog world. Parents
and crafters from all over the world freely sharing their ideas and
inspirations! Resources and ideas were so much more difficult to come across
when I was growing up as a homeschooler. These days, with the internet you can
connect with like-minded people from all over the world and exchange ideas and
stories on a daily basis. I would have to say that is my favorite thing about
blogging, the connecting with kindred spirits across the globe!


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JEAN:  What
are some of your favorite projects?

ARIELLA:  I am a
lantern addict. I love making anything that glows—we have a mantle at home full
of every kind of lantern possible. Paper stars, tin cans, jar lanterns, balloon lanterns, watercolor lanterns. I love them all! I also love working with
beeswax and making candles.

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JEAN:  Your photos are amazing! Can you
give us (me!) a photography lesson!? What are your top tips for taking great
pics of children?

ARIELLA:  Thank you!
My number one suggestion for taking good pictures of kids is to LOVE your
subjects. My kids are my muses and I think that love translates through the
lens and then into the photographs! I have to admit that I am not trained
in any way, and technically speaking I don't always know what I am doing. I
just tinker away with the settings, and when the photo looks like how I want it
to then I am happy! Of course it helps to have a fairly decent camera, I have a
Canon Rebel xsi, and only one lens, the standard 18-55. I always shoot on the
manual setting and use natural light. I tend to over expose the pictures a
little bit, so they always look very bright and then I saturate the colors even
more on my MAC iphoto program.

JEAN: Thank you so much for sharing, Ariella! The world you are creating with your children seems truly magical! 


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Readers who leave a comment by Monday, June 21st at 12 midnight will be entered into a random
drawing to win these two star lanterns, handcrafted by Ariella.

The random number generator picked #121, so congratulations go to Kendra for winning the star lanterns!

it's great to learn more about ariella and how she came to
homeschooling! i love the rainbows she weaves, and i'm happy to have
found your blog too!


Stained glass leaves

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Look! A stained glass leaf! Isn't it pretty?

I was inspired by our leaf rubbing banner to experiment with the idea a little more yesterday (when Maia was at a friend's house and I probably should've been doing dishes) and I ended up making several different stained glass leaves* to hang in the window with our summer leaf banner.

*Okay, I know I should probably stop calling everything "stained glass" just because I hang much of our art in the window. I know it's not really stained glass. I like the term though, better than suncatcher, and am not sure what else I would call it.

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Anyway, first I did my leaf rubbings. Besides the colors above, I did a few with white. This time I set each leaf upside down so the rubbings were done against the more prominent  veins on the bottom of the leaf.

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Then I did a wash over the leaves with liquid watercolors.

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After the paint dried, I cut out each leaf

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and hung them in the window with the banner. This photo doesn't do them justice. They really look beautiful!

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Here's a detail of one of the leaves. I made this one with a white oil pastel (the others were done with crayon) and teal watercolor paint.

Most people seem to save their leaf art for the fall, but these leaves are decidedly summery!


Crayon Leaf Rubbings :: A Summery Banner for the Window

Crayon Leaf Rubbings

Reader beware. This is yet another 1.) stained glass window project that combines 2.) leaf rubbings with 3.) crayon resist, and 4.) liquid watercolors. All of our favorite materials and methods!

Crayon Leaf Rubbings

First we did crayon leaf rubbings. The leaves were spread out across the table and covered with a long sheet of paper torn from the easel roll.

Crayon Leaf Rubbings

Maia's friend Marlise was over for the afternoon and this was an indoor break after lots of backyard swimming, water play, and story telling. I showed them how to use the side of a crayon to do the leaf rubbings, and they did it that way some of the time and with the pointy end the rest of the time.

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Crayon Leaf Rubbings

After finishing the leaf rubbings, I got out our favorite liquid watercolors and the girls painted over the crayon.

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Here's the finished banner, before the paint dried. I love how it looks, but the leaf rubbings got a little lost in all the bright, contrasting colors. You can see them, but they are subtle. Next time, I'd probably stick with a more limited color palette. Maybe dark crayons and light colored paint. Or light crayons and dark paint. (Update: We made a beautiful leaf rubbing stained glass with dark crayon and light paint for the door.)

This is a project I've been wanting to do for a while now after seeing Filth Wizardry's autumn leaf mural. Theirs is beautiful! You should take a look.

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We hung ours in the window, just because. I can't resist the sun shining through colorful art!

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Here's another detail. See the leaves?

Note: I am a Discount School Supply affiliate and the links in this post are affiliate links. I only use affiliate links for products we use and love. If you follow a link and place a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the sales price from Discount School Supply and will send you virtual hugs.

Top 10 Art Materials for Preschoolers

A while back I received this question on facebook:

I'd love some advice. My daughter is turning 3 in a few weeks. I'd like to get her some new art supplies for her birthday. Besides the basic crayons, markers, watercolors and tempera paint… what do you think are the top 10 art supplies every 3 year old should use? Thanks so much!

I responded and then decided to share my answer here (and expand on it while I'm at it).

Remember this doesn't include the basics such as markers, watercolors (We LOVE liquid watercolor paint!), or tempera paint which are really at the very top of my list and are also on my top eleven list for toddlers.

So here are my top 10 art materials for preschoolers in no particular order. Please add your own favorites in the comments!

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1.  Oil Pastels because the color is bright and they go on so smoothly.

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2. Contact Paper for suncatchers and collages.

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3.  Colored Tissue Paper for suncatchers and collages. I especially like the Bleeding Tissue Paper because you can do lots of cool projects with it.

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4.  Droppers! To use with Liquid Watercolor Paint and coffee filters. So fun! You can use these lots of ways.

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5.  Collage materials such as beans, pasta, nuts and washers (from the hardware store), cotton balls, PomPoms, Googly Eyes, Sequins, Wood Craft Sticks, Glitter, string, ribbon, and items from the recycle bin.

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6.  Mini paint rollers are great fun for painting. Also fun brushes, foam bottle cleaners, scrubbers, q-tips, matchbox cars, flowers, pine boughs, etc.

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7.  Playdough. Homemade is great! And we're late at really getting into Clay but it seems like a wonderful preschool staple.

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8.  Pipe Cleaners. Good for all kinds of twistable and sculptural fun.

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9.  An easel is awesome, although spendy. We love our Melissa and Doug Adjustable Easel (although the DSS Roll of Easel Paper is thicker and better than the Melissa and Doug easel paper). You can also make your own makeshift tabletop easel with a pizza box or other cardboard box. Or tape a sheet of paper to the wall or fridge.

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10.  Chalkboard (small or large) and Chalk. Maia has a chalkboard in her room and also one on her easel. You can make your own with chalkboard paint, or try one of these Lap Chalkboards. You can also get Chalkboard Contact Paper which sounds intriguing. Or chalkboard wall decals.

What belongs on your top ten list of art supplies for a preschooler?

(This post contains affiliate links.)


Why is art important?

Why do you think art is important for children? And why is it important to encourage their creativity?

Just asking you to help me think through the answers to these questions and to consider viewpoints that might not occur to me. So, please share your thoughts on the subject — short and concise or long and rambling…

Thank you. 


Thirteen fun art activities with tempera paint

Tempera paint is the all round favorite paint for kids. It's nontoxic and washable, bright and gooey (in a good, child-pleasing way), inexpensive and easy to use. We buy ours from Discount School Supply because I really like their Colorations Simply Washable tempera paint, but tempera paint can be purchased just about anywhere, from drug stores to the local art supply store.

And it can be used in so many ways! Here are thirteen fun art activities we've done using tempera paint:

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Painting with string, marbles, balls, and a salad spinner (clockwise from upper left):

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Painting with texture:

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Body painting and other fun ideas:

And, of course, there is simply painting with the paint!

This is one of a series (makes it sound so formal, doesn't it?) of round-up posts of past art activities. I've also done round-ups on watercolors, on felt board pieces, on suncatchers and stained glass, on printmaking for kids, on homemade art materials, and on nature art ideas.

Note: I am now a Discount School Supply affiliate and some links in this post may be affiliate links. If you follow a link and place a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the sales price from Discount School Supply and will send you virtual hugs.


Splatter painting in our outdoor studio

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We've been taking our art outside more and more lately. Our backyard is perfect for painting at the easel, splatter painting, chalk drawing, body outlines, and weaving on the garden loom.

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My latest column in the WNC Parent magazine is about taking the
art (and the messes) outside and making your backyard your art studio. I
also encourage readers to try splatter painting, whether on a big scale
with an old sheet, or on a small scale with a piece of paper or blank
card. 

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Click
here
to read the column. You'll have to enter page 56 in the search
field at the top of the page. Then click on the actual page when you get there in order to see it
large enough to read.

Have you been doing any art outside lately?


The Monster Princess: a new book

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We have a new favorite book in the house. The Monster Princess arrived last week and was read three times the first day, two the next, and continues to be read at least a couple of times a day.

This book isn't even out yet, not until early August. Someone at Simon and Schuster has started sending me review copies of books and this is one of them. We've enjoyed a couple of the others, but this one we are absolutely in love with!

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The text by D.J. MacHale (of Pendragon fame) is lyrical and magical and so fun to read. Must be memorable, too, because Maia's been reciting snippets throughout the day, especially a lovely tidbit about having princess pie (said in a deep monster voice). The way the text reads reminds me of Wild Child and Winter Waits, two of our favorite books by Lynn Plourde.

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The Monster Princess is about Lala, a sweet little monster who lives underground but dreams of being a princess. She comes up to the castle one day and sneaks into the princesses' room (there are three of them) to try on their dresses. They catch her at it and offer to dress her up and take her to the ball. The evening doesn't end well, but the book does. Lala learns to appreciate herself and her life for what it is.

The story is a good one. And it's perfect for Maia, intrigued as she is with monsters, and surrounded by princess-loving friends (and a princess-loving culture). 

A while back I posted about a couple of princess books we were reading and asked for recommendations of books that portray females as strong and smart. I think we've read just about every one that was recommended, and there were a LOT! I was going to write a post about the books we read, but it seemed like it would mostly just be a list of what you had recommended so didn't in the end.

But The Monster Princess fits perfectly into this theme. Lala is strong, smart, and resourceful and decides in the end that she is happy with who she is.

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The illustrations, by Alexandra Boiger, are wonderful, too! This book has the perfect combination of good story, lyrical prose, beautiful pictures, and a popular topic. It's a keeper. We're going to have to buy ourselves a proper copy since the one we have isn't bound.

And, in case you are wondering, I have not yet made Maia's purple monster costume. Soon, soon…