Prepping for Summer of 2012

Summer is rapidly approaching! And it comes year after year, so why do I always feel like summer catches me with my pants down? This year I refuse to be caught without plans. Of course I’ll be face painting, and I’ve decided to organize the summer by weekly science topics, starting with etymology. I didn’t choose our first topic randomly, it just happens we have a pretty cool bug collection we’ve put together over the years, and its nice to start with something that’s already somewhat prepared for!

My daughter will be entering second grade in the fall, and my middle child kindergarten. I ought to be able to provide science based material for each topic that they can each benefit from, like bug themed coloring pages and mazes they will both enjoy. We will make a paper mache exoskeleton and make small mosaics with bits of broken mirror to represent bug eyes and how they see. My daughter can work on spelling the more advanced words while my son learns to write his name on his coloring pages and worksheets. We’ll buy some big nets and hunt bugs and observe their details from how they move to what color they are to where we found them. They can each keep a journal and draw pictures of the bugs we see and my daughter can write her observations next to the pictures!

So we start with etymology. Then we’ll follow with botany, I think. Botany is a good one for kids, especially in Austin. Austin’s Botanical Gardens are amazing! Austin is also home to some amazing nurseries. Its About Thyme, The Great Outdoors, and The Natural Gardner are awesome places to visit.

Cells are pretty cool, the study of cells is called cytology, and I found a neat microscope at a garage sale with a 5″x5″ screen that shows the organism in a nice big picture vs. having to squint into  little microscope eye pieces.

Then there’s always the animal kingdoms! I’m working with local traveling petting zoo Tiny Tails To You and we’re welcome to visit the animals any time! There are tortoises and turtles, bearded dragons and gecko’s. Chicks, ducklings, rabbits big and small, hedgehogs and guinea pigs… I feel like I’m forgetting something. Well anyway, Tiny Tails does a free monthly petting zoo during story time at Book People each month, and would be an option for other parents wanting to give their kids a chance to see the different animals!

Aside from science themes we’ll of course have swimming lessons, lazy afternoons in the backyard, ice cream making, and decorating the kids’ room! Summer of 2012, I am ready for you!

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Hazel’s Honey Wax First Product Post

The best part of starting a new craft is the shopping, the discovery of all the delightful accessories that can help turn your plain, rolled beeswax candle into a work of art. My best idea so far has been Wilton Cake Accessories. 🙂 The darling little cookie cutters used for fondant are perfectly sized for cutting shapes out of wax for applique onto the completed beeswax candle. I have to say, I’m rather proud of us! Hazel and I worked on our candles for the first time since getting into business together. We not only had a lot of fun, but we completed a project worth to be put in our shop!. First we experimented with mini candles. These were considerably more intensive than I’d anticipated! And very difficult for little hands.

First we took our Valentine’s Day mini cookie cutter set and cut out a couple of hearts. The idea was to simply press the two layers together, sandwiching wick and stick, to make a mini candle!

Unfortunately one layer of hearts wasn’t enough. With just two slices of wax the shape was weak, wobbly, and transparent. The wick and stick were clearly visible, and it wasn’t particularly attractive. So we cut two more layers, and the problem was solved. Four layers of beeswax was perfect thickness for a lovely mini candle. You can really see the difference:

We really liked our end result and so got to work on the next mini candle. I handed Hazel the cookie cutter and told her, “ok, we need four pieces!” “MOM!” she shouted! Why do they have to shout when they’re sitting right next to you??? “WHAT?” I said. “Mom, cutting four is a lot of work. Look what we can do instead!” Then she folded the wax in half.

Ah! Fantastic. She’s already working on problem solving. “This way,” she explained, “we can cut out two at a time!” This was a nice trick, but made it slightly more difficult at the same time. It takes a gentle hand to mash the two pieces together, otherwise the shape is obliterated.

In order to make the two pieces meld better, we use a heating tool. Many people simply use their hairdryer, but I find this cumbersome. Hairdryers are super loud and even small ones are an awkward shape and take up space. We use a heating tool used for embossing:

It only takes a few seconds! Beeswax is very sensitive and is easy to melt accidentally! Not that we had any problems with melting our shapes, lol.

Hazel was able to do both of the heart shapes for our Valentine’s set, but the X and the O proved to be too difficult. The cookie cutters are quite tiny and the X and O were delicate, so I finished those pieces.

Hazel's Honey Wax Valentine's Cupcake Candle Set

Rather lovely, don’t you think? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think about our adventures in business! Keep coming back as we’ll continue posting about our products and processes, and coming in March we’ll be starting a candle give away! Don’t forget to check out Woo Who! on Etsy while you’re at it! We’re growing imaginations!

Deep in the Heart of Winter, Deep in the Heart of Texas

Its another gorgeous winter day in Austin, Texas. The grass is growing, the sun is shining, and its a pleasant 75 degrees outside as we creep up on the new year!

Tinkering

My boys needed amusement so I set my four year old up with a log, a box of nails with large heads, and a small hammer. TAP TAP TAP! And my two year old is going crazy digging in the dirt. 🙂

A Dirty Kid is a Happy Kid

Glow in the Dark SLIME!!!

Uh-oh. Christmas break is looming! What am I going to do with the kids?!?! Well, of course I’m going to send them to Grandma‘s house for a while, lol. But not the whole time. I’m going to have to bust out the recipe book.

Today we make Glow in the Dark Slime!

Ingredients:

Borax

Water

Glow in the Dark Craft Paint (readily available at Michael’s craft stores)

4oz Elmer’s Glue

Two bowls for mixing (we’ll be making two separate solutions and then combining them!)

First, pick a bowl for the glue mixture. We’re going to squeeze that entire 4oz bottle of Elmer’s into a bowl! This is great work for little hands: they can squeeze to their little hearts’ content! If a mom were to do this by herself she *might* take the cap off the glue all together and dump it a lot faster, but kids do like to squeeze out the glue, and if they get tired (bonus) you can take the cap off for them, too. 🙂

Then we’ll add one cup of warm water to the glue, and 2-3 tablespoons of the glow-in-the-dark paint and start mixing. We used a small whisk, but a potato masher or large spoon would work just as well! (*NOTE* The glow in the dark paint at the Michael’s by my house came in several colors, however it also came in a neutral, glows only, non-color. If you only have the non-colored glowing paint available to you, add yellow food coloring to give it a nice popping color when its in the light!)

In the next bowl we will combine 1/3 cup water and 2tsp borax. We added r two tablespoons plus one teaspoon of the borax solution to our glue mixture. However if you want a stiffer slime, add a bit more borax solution!

 

 

 

 

 

And voila! There we have it. Now shut your kids in the bathroom – you’ve got about thirty minutes before they get bored, go watch t.v. – something with a grown up theme! LOL

Kids and Cardboard

It may be September, but its still summer in Texas. Its so hot that after eleven in the morning the kids refuse to go outside, not even to play in the hose! So I tend to force them out the back door as soon as they’ve finished breakfast. Surprisingly this morning there was actually a coolness to the breeze and they went out happily. BUT they kept sneaking back in! I’d hear one door open, go to investigate, and while busy with that child I’d hear the other door open and shut. I’d tell the first child to stay while going to investigate the new situation, then the child I was originally questioning would scramble around and dash out the other door. Hmmm… In time all was revealed. They were on a covert supply gathering mission! While I would have handed over the scissors, paint, brushes, and tape had they asked they preferred to “be sneaky.” Every time a door opened and closed it meant my little squirrels were stashing paint brushes down the back of pants, paints in their pockets, and tucking scissors into the tops of socks. WHAT FOR? you may be wondering. Well, a couple of weeks ago we received a large delivery and I’d given them the box and packing materials to play with outside. The box has been a hide-away and a trap for dinosaurs, the strips of packing cardboard have been swords and walking sticks and roads for race cars. This morning the kids took it to the next level and turned the cardboard into walkie talkies. 🙂

They used rocks and shells and fake pearls as buttons:

Sticks stood at attention as “commuters” (aka antennae):

They were beaming ear to ear. So was I.

Art Museum Influenced Kid Watercolor Paintings

Last weekend we visited the Austin Museum of Art on “Family Day.” On Family Day they have reduced rates for families to enter the museum, as well as art activities and puppet shows put on by Austin Literature Live. Of course we were early and had some time to kill, so we kicked around the museum for about an hour. Have you ever talked about fine art with four and six year olds? Or tried to keep four and six year olds from touching fine art? JEEZ. My kids are so touchy feely we don’t make it to the museum much. This time we were lucky. The exhibit was about design and featured a lot of art deco furniture. We were able to really talk about the funny shaped furniture, and there were several early telephones. One phone was built directly into a desk. I pulled out my cell phone and we had a lively conversation about phones then and now! They only touched one painting and during our rounds we found these:

These are ink line and watercolor paintings. The kids thought they were “really cool,” that’s a direct quote.  We also noted that these were something the kids might be able to do. So we took a picture to remind us, and after we finished making our watercolor paints from scratch we got to work.

First the kids got their crayons and “scribbled” a line design onto their paper. Then we got the paints. In the art we observed at the museum the artist outlined the “scribble” lines and used pale colors to fill in certain sections. My kids were so excited to be using the paint they had made they couldn’t be restricted by rules or guidelines, they just went where the art took them. 🙂

Our paint had gorgeous color! And while it was thicker than traditional watercolors, it certainly layered very well. Interestingly, when you use crayons and watercolors, the crayon acts as a resist. The watercolor paint pulls away from the crayon and won’t paint OVER the crayon. I knew the kids wouldn’t want to exactly do what we saw at the museum, which is why I chose crayons for them to use in their line and water color art. I didn’t want the line part of their art to be lost. Our homemade watercolors, however, painted right over the crayon. Hmmm… Veddy, veddy intaresting…

We like to have some fresh flowers around while we paint. Hazel chose these sunflowers, talk about vivid color! The fact that the flowers had been dyed didn’t escape notice, and the kids are eager to try coloring their own flowers. Can you guess what we’ll be posting about next?

How to Make Watercolor Paint

Water colors are the best kind of paint for little kids because they are intended to be left to dry! There’s no worrying about losing lids or replacing the caps like with other paints, and they’re pretty easy on the stomach should your kids eat one or ten. As cool and convenient as store bought water colors are, I have been trying to help my kids understand that everything comes from somewhere, and by somewhere I do not mean the store! Making simple craft materials from scratch has been a great way of doing just that. Water colors are easy and cheap to make (in fact I didn’t have to leave my house, all of the materials were in my pantry), and with water colors you don’t have to worry about sealable containers. I used party cups just  because I happened to have some party cups left over from a party. Otherwise empty ice trays, applesauce, yogurt or those plastic baby food containers would have been perfect.

Googling water color recipes will give you a variety of slightly different methods to try. I went with Martha’s (Stewart, that is) because I wanted to try a recipe with the best chance of success the first time around. But there are other recipes I am interested in trying, one in particular that calls for gelatin in place of corn syrup. We’ll make a new batch and compare at some point, but for now here are your materials:

Vinegar

Baking SodaIngredients for making watercolor paint!

Cornstarch

Light Corn Syrup

Food Coloring

Small mixing bowl

Forks (for mixing)

Scoop four tablespoons into the mixing bowl, then add two tablespoons of vinegar – get ready for the fizz! Kids love fizz. 🙂 Once the bubbles have calmed down add a half teaspoon of corn syrup and two tablespoons of corn starch. The cornstarch can be difficult to blend and is the reason I recommend using forks for mixing.

When you are finished mixing your solution it will be thick and stark white. Pour it carefully in equal amounts into small containers. Our next step is to add the color. Not all of you are brave enough to put a vial of food coloring into the hands of a three year old, and that’s ok. My food coloring bottles were almost empty which is the only reason I let my kids do the squeezing. You need between five and ten drops of each color for vivid, eye popping saturation. We mixed blue and red to make purple, but only did five containers. The more containers you divide your mixture between the more fun you can have mixing colors.

And voila! That’s it! You’re done! Well, almost. Now comes the hard part – waiting for it to dry. It literally takes twelve  hours or more to dry completely, and you will have some separation as the lighter liquids will rise and settle on top, but they’ll dry eventually. We haven’t painted with ours yet, that’ll come in the next post. In the mean time, make some of your own and give it a try! I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts on other ways to do this.